This is a valid question. Therapy is strange enough for most of us, however, it can be especially strange for younger people. For children, teens or young adults, the idea of counselling can often bring up a lot of questions. Parents seeking help for their kids can often have a lot of questions too. Please know that all of these questions are probably normal and valid. However, counselling with young people is one of my favourite things in the world to do. So, I’d love to share a little bit about what it’s been like for me.
1. It doesn’t have to be boring
This one is very important to me. No one likes a boring counsellor. One of the most important things for me is to make sure that whoever is in the room with me, old or young, isn’t getting bored. Young people especially get bored enough throughout the week, they don’t need another hour of boredom to get through! But each person is also very unique, so what one young person finds boring, and what they find fun, can be very different to others. So how do counsellors keep it engaging?
My favourite way is just encouraging the young people to tell me if they’re getting bored. I also let them tell me about what works best for them, is it artwork, writing or just talking? Would they prefer to talk for a bit, and then play a game? Would they prefer to talk whilst playing a game? Children tend to have a lot more control than they expect, and having choices tends to make it a lot less boring.
2. It doesn’t have to be scary
Counselling can be scary, especially for young people. And not only for them, but parents can also have fears about their children being in counselling. This could probably be a blog of its own. However, in my experience, the first session tends to be the scariest for people. This is because they have no clue what it’s going to be like. But once a child has met their counsellor, and has started to understand the environment, it generally becomes less scary.
In other cases, children or teens (or adults) can be scared to talk about certain things, (e.g., traumatic or challenging events, or highly personal problems). This is another very valid fear. Trusting a stranger to handle your most personal information can be terrifying. However, counsellors are also often very sensitive to this. They tend to approach these things gently and give lots of opportunities for young people to stop the conversation or refuse to answer questions, without any consequences or judgement from them. This tends to make the experience less intimidating.
3. It doesn’t have to be complicated
Maybe you’re worried about how complicated counselling can be. Understanding emotions, thoughts, relationships, and all that stuff. We might feel like we’d be out of our depth in counselling.
For those that feel this way, it’s important to remember that counsellors tend to go at your pace, and tend to explain things in straight forward terms. They also prefer to help you figure things out in your own way, rather than explaining things to you. That’s because research continues to show that when we figure things out for ourselves in counselling, rather than being told something by our counsellor, we tend to make longer-lasting changes. This approach tends to make counselling simpler and more manageable than we often expect.