In this article, we will explore what child and adolescent counselling is, the different reasons why your child or teen may need therapy and what are the processes involved in child and adolescent counselling.
What is child and adolescent counselling?
Child and adolescent counselling focuses on the physical, mental, emotional, social and psychological well-being of children and teens. Counselling can help children and adolescents better understand themselves and people around them.
Similar to most adults, children and teenagers may be experiencing certain emotional and psychological dysfunctionality that may be affecting their overall well-being. They may be experiencing stress due to various reasons which inturn may be affecting their academic performance as well.
Why does your child/adolescent need counselling?
There can be various reasons why your child or teen may require professional help. The following are a list of some reasons that you child/adolescent needs some extra guidance:
- Stress and anxiety
- Academic pressure
- Dealing with loss or death of a loved one
- Parents separated or getting divorced
- Speech/visual/hearing impairments
- Trauma or PTSD
- OCD, eating disorders, or any other mental health illnesses
- Any kind of abuse
- New place, new school, new friends
- Attachment issues
- Separation anxiety
- Sibling rivalry
- Lethargy, inactivity, depression
These are just to name a few reasons. There can be many more reasons why your child or adolescent may need therapy. Use of substances such as drugs and alcohol, at a young age, can prove to be very dangerous later on in life. They are prone to addiction as well.
Contraction of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or teenage pregnancy are also a great cause for concern among adolescents. It is important to teach them about responsibilities and self-care from a young age.
Puberty in teens and pre-teens can also be a very difficult time for some children. Puberty brings along several bodily and psychological changes which some children may find difficulty coping with.
Some children or teenagers may also have suicidal or homicidal ideations. It is very important to address such thoughts before they decide to convert them into actions.
The Process of Child and Adolescent Counselling
The process of child and adolescent counselling entails the following steps:
- Goals for counselling children and adolescents
- Establishing a relationship between the child/adolescent and the counsellor
- Ethical Considerations
- Attributes of a child and adolescent counsellor
In child and adolescent counselling, setting goals that are designed to cater to the needs of every child, individually is very important. But, there are some fundamental goals that are globally applied for counselling.
The counsellor must be able to enable the child/adolescent to cope with difficult emotional issues as well as empower them to have a positive self-image. It is also important to enable the child/adolescent to achieve a level of congruence in thoughts and behaviours.
There are certain goals and expectations set by the parents of the child/adolescent. These goals are generally based on the current behaviours and attitude of the child, before bringing them to therapy.
The counselor sets their own specific goals, based on the underlying cause of the child/adolescent’s behaviour. Through observation, the therapist can speculate the nature and root cause of the problem.
Lastly, the child/adolescent also has a few goals that may be difficult for them to say out loud. A child’s goals may develop as the sessions progress so it is important for the counselor to be prepared for such goals.
Child(or adolescent)-Counselor Relationship
The counselor must work towards building a bridge between the child’s world and the therapist. To establish a successful relationship with the child/teen, the counselor must not try to change their belief system and attitude.
Once the child/teen is able to trust the counselor, it is important for their relationship to be a unique relationship without the interference of other family members. The counselor must be unbiased and accept the child/teen for who they see themselves to be.
It is the counselor’s duty to provide a safe and secure environment for the child/teen. The child or adolescent should be able to freely express and lash out without harming themselves, the counselor or destroying any property.
The relationship between the counselor and the child/adolescent should be one that is authentic and pure. The authenticity of the relationship enables the child or adolescent to reveal their inner self which in turn builds on the level of trust and understanding of the relationship.
The relationship of the child/teen and the counselor must be a confidential relationship, for the child/teen to feel safe and be able to trust the counselor. Although confidentiality is essential in this relationship, it also has its limitations.
While counselling children or adolescents, it is essential for the counselor to not ask them too many questions as they may feel uncomfortable or scared to open up. Maintaining the right level of a non-intrusive relationship is essential.
The child-counselor relationship should have a purpose. It is essential for the child or adolescent to know the reason they are being sent for counselling. Feeling confused and helpless will only limit the therapeutic process and hamper the relationship.
The most important child-counselor relationship is that of transference where the child or adolescent views the counselor as an important adult like mother, father or any other, in their lives.
Transference can either positively or negatively impact the therapeutic relationship. Sometimes, countertransference can occur where the counselor’s own unresolved issues may affect the therapeutic relationship.
When counselling children or adolescents, there are many ethical considerations to take into account. In child and adolescent counselling, it is not only important to take the parent’s informed consent but also the client’s.
Another ethical concern is confidentiality. It is important to inform the parents as well as the child/adolescent that while the session may be completely confidential, there are some aspects where there may be a need to breach confidentiality.
A counselor may break confidentiality and report to officials if the client is suicidal, homicidal or is facing any kind of abuse. It is also essential for the counselor to document each of their sessions for any future legal reasons and inform the client of the same.
It is also important for the counselor to include family members only when necessary to the therapeutic process. The counselor may also need to consult with the child or adolescent’s school or doctors for additional background information.
Attributes of the Counsellor
It is vital for the therapist to create a harmonious and trustworthy relationship with the child/adolescent. In order to achieve this, the counselor must be grounded, stable and genuine. It is important to establish a congruence in the relationship.
The counselor must also be able to empathize with the child/adolescent and be in touch with their own ‘inner child’. The counselor is more likely to be able to understand the child if they are able to view the child through their world.
When a child or adolescent is introduced to counselling, they are generally scared and are seeking acceptance. The counselor must be accepting of the child/adolescent’s true self no matter how ‘dark’ it may be.
Only if the counsellor is unbiased, unprejudiced and non-judgemental, will the child or teenager feel accepted and understood. Another important attribute for a counselor is ‘emotional detachment’.
A counselor should be emotionally detached from the child/adolescent in order for them to truly be able to fully express themselves. It is also important for the counselor to refrain from displaying any powerful emotional reaction as the child/adolescent will feel that they are the cause.
In this article, we discussed what child and adolescent counselling means. We also looked at the reasons that your child or adolescent may need counselling and the processes of child and adolescent counselling.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Child and Adolescent Counselling
What is child and adolescent counselling?
Child and adolescent counselling helps children and adolescents overcome their emotional distress and aids them to feel empowered. They help restore functionality in a child’s life and guide them towards healthier life choices.
What is adolescent counselling?
Adolescent counselors help adolescents cope with their physical and mental changes that come along with puberty. Counselors provide these growing teenagers with a safe space to help them feel secure with who they are.
What is child counseling?
Child counselors help children who are going through emotional distress, trauma, dysfunctionality and other mental health issues to overcome these challenges and live healthier lives.
Why is counseling important for children?
Counselling helps children to better understand themselves as well as others around them. It helps them cope with challenging issues that they may be facing or have faced in the past. Counselling also helps children deal with certain mental health issues and provides them a safe space for expression.
Geldard, K., Geldard, D., & Foo, R. Y. (2013). Counselling Children (Fourth Edition ed.). Sage Publications.