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20th January 2021 

20 Years' Experience Working With Young People

Having worked with young people aged 10-25 for 20-plus years, it's probably clear that I really enjoy youth counselling and , not only have I become pretty unshockable, but the way I work is well-suited to establishing relationships with this age-group. It may be the case that the parent makes the first contact but it's important to establish early on that my primary relationship is with the young person. In my experience, the therapy is only effective if fully confidential, thus there are no regular - or even occasional - progress reports. Of course I adhere scrupulously to the ethical code of my accrediting body, the BACP, and will always report if I feel the young person is at risk of serious harm. I would like to clarify that for me this means either an immediate risk of suicide or that the young client is being abused by another person.

We read and hear a great deal in the media about the decline in the mental health of young people and we can all speculate on the reason for this. It seems reasonable to conclude that the social media world which young people inhabit has contributed to the increase in anxiety, depression, self-harm and so on. My work with young people in school confirms this is the case. It is also, sadly, a fact that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have lengthy waiting lists and that people have to be pretty unwell even to qualify for the waiting list.

It's becoming increasingly clear that teens and 20's are suffering higher levels of psychological distress than other ages as a result of the pandemic. This is hardly surprising given the huge uncertainty about the future, in terms of disruption to education, career, earning capacity and so on.

For Parents/Carers and Young People

Some of the issues I work with are:

  • Covid- related uncertainty about the future, including career and education dilemmas
  • Feelings of anxiety, sadness, depression
  • Relationships with family, friends or partners
  • Eating-related issues
  • Family break-up/reconfiguration
  • Coping with illness/disability
  • Loss or death of someone close
  • Drugs or alcohol issues (self or family)
  • Self-injury
  • Lack of confidence/low self-esteem
  • Bullying
  • Sexual orientation issues
  • Gender identity issues
  • And many less pin-downable issues!

    For Young People
    "There's So Much In Life I Can't Control" And now Covid-19!

    Does that sound like you? It's a fact that most young people don't have a great deal of control over practical stuff - where you live, what school you go to, what time you have to be in, and so on. Your parents might not agree, but that's what it feels like to you.
    At a time of life when freedom to be independent normally opens up, it feels to many of your age group that life has gone on hold due to Covid-19. Instead of the world opening up, it has become smaller. Little wonder then that there is a huge surge in depression and anxiety, coupled with fewer opportunities to socialise with like-minded peers and have fun. Some clients have been experiencing guilt just for feeling these feelings, when they have been told by their elders to 'count their blessings.'
    Your counsellor is not taking sides, but she is there for you to share those feelings of no autonomy, frustration and anxiety. Just doing that and sometimes exploring ways of communicating your needs can help more than you might imagine.

    Practical Matters
    I am happy to take enquiries direct from the young client if 16-plus or an initial phone call or email from the concerned adult. As soon as practically possible, all communication is direct between the client and me unless he/she is at the younger end of the age range. I know that even 18-pluses may be hesitant about making the initial approach so it's fine for the parent/carer to do that