How Can Counselling & Psychotherapy Help
Counsellors and Psychotherapists use 'talk-therapy' as the main tool to help adults deal better with their problems. These professionals are concerned with building and nurturing a positive therapeutic relationship with their clients and using active therapeutic strategies to alleviate distress and suffering, and to promote change. By listening attentively the counsellor/psychotherapist can perceive the main issues, assisting clients to work through bottled up emotions, confusion and maladaptive patterns of relating to their selves and to others. During the process of therapy, clients often obtain clarity over their difficulties, develop different perspectives and acquire new skills to facilitate problem-solving and action-taking. Therapy can alleviate feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger, resentfulness and shame, assisting the client to experience a greater sense of control and personal growth.
Counselling and psychotherapy with adolescents differ to adults' in that the therapist uses more pro-active, lively and creative techniques to connect with the young person and help them overcome their problems. Therapy is a collaborative and non-judgemental process that tends to focus on a specific problem in the present, building on the adolescent's strengths and interests through open, flexible and genuine communication. The therapist understands that adolescents' issues are different from that of adults and children as at their developmental stage they are concerned with building a personal and sexual identity, separating from their parents, and creating new relationships with peers. Adolescents have greater cognitive abilities in comparison to children, however they do not have the freedom and autonomy of an adult, therefore therapy adapts to respond actively and appropriately to their developmental needs and challenges. The therapist invites the adolescent to express their individuality and autonomy, practicing decision-making regarding the course of therapy, enhancing their sense of control and problem-solving skills. Some of the therapist's tasks are to listen attentively and with belief to the young person's story, validate their personal views, feelings and experiences, understand their world, identify themes and problematic areas, evaluate their emotional state, coping mechanisms and skills in dealing with difficult situations. Therapy encourages the adolescent to explore solutions and put them into practice, enabling them to avoid being overwhelmed by emotions. It does not give direct advice. However it offers a space to explore the situation, sharing ideas and information towards possible resolution.
Counselling and Psychotherapy for children aim to enable them to express their thoughts, feelings and needs through playing in order to reduce emotional distress. Playing is children's natural way of self-expression and a means to make sense of their present and past experiences. Playing provides a medium for a healthy development, growth of sense of self, competence, and confidence in the surrounding world. The use of playing in therapy with children allows them to project their internal world onto toys, games and the therapist, enabling them to tell their stories as they perceive it or experience it. This method can help children understand painful experiences and feelings without putting them into words. Play therapy can also assist them to exercise growing abilitites and to master complex life situations. The role of the therapist is to offer a safe, warm, stimulating and trusting environment where the child will feel comfortable and happy. The therapist assesses and responds to the child's needs, using therapeutic skills and appropriate materials to facilitate spontaneous resolution of their emotional difficulties. An important part of therapy with children is unconditional acceptance and empowerment. For instance, children who come to therapy are usually scared of their feelings or memories of frightening situations that have happened or that they fear will happen. Some children have low self-esteem and present with challenging behaviours, being unable to communicate their needs. Through therapy children can gain mastery over their difficulties so that they will no longer be troubled by excessive anxiety and insecurity. Once they share those feelings and fears in an accepting and encouraging space, they learn that the intensity of those feelings reduce and change. Consequently, children will begin to have a more positive view of their selves, engaging with meaningful activities, behaviours and social relationships. Parents are invited to participate throughout the process to give information, to plan approaches to their child, to give and receive feedback and to discuss progress.
NOTE: Dr. Tatiana Brennan is committed to the Child First National Guidelines for the Protection & Welfare of Children.