Why does it matter?
Because distressed children and young people are unable to flourish and grow
Our young people face many types of challenges that can often leave them frightened, pressurised and unable to cope. Unless they are given the opportunity to explore their feelings of helplessness, fear or anger this is often be displayed at home or in the classroom. There are those young people who will become aggressive and or disruptive whereas others may withdraw completely avoiding friends and relationships , shutting everyone out.
“If these children are to stand a chance of getting their lives back on track, they need our help - and they need it now, not later” “A child’s formative years have a huge impact on their long-term development and prospects.” (Place 2 Be 2011)
Case Histories: Sam (11)
Sam lives with his mother and younger sibling. Mum had requested counselling due to his behaviour at home and Sam's teacher confirmed that he had concerns over his behaviour in school as he had recently become more and more withdrawn and uncooperative and was also having difficulty with peers. Sam was prone to anger outbursts at home.
The total score assessed by the Strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) completed by mum was 25.with particularly high scores for emotional distress, conduct and hyperactivity. Sam's teacher scored his SDQ as 22 with high scores for conduct and hyperactivity.
Meeting Sam's Mum
The counsellor met with Sam's mum and took a full history of Sam's early years and recent behaviour changes. Mum shared that she had had post-natal depression when he was born and that this had affected their bonding together. Sam had formed a strong bond with his dad but dad had left the home when Sam was 2. Sam had had minimal contact with his dad over the intervening years, but contact had recently been established again. Mum and dad did not have a good relationship and Sam had recently witnessed some heated arguments between them.
This history was very useful and indicated an early attachment rupture between Sam and his mum and then the secure attachment he had formed with his dad was also broken when he left. Sam had feelings of insecurity related to his mum and dad and this seemed to have been triggered by the recent contact again with his dad.
Early sessions with YP
During the first session with Sam, a confidentiality contract was agreed. He was encouraged to select from the materials in the room. He chose the sand tray and seemed to use the materials as a means of soothing. Sam was largely verbally uncommunicative during these early sessions; it was rare to detect changes in verbal tone and facial expressions. It was as if Sam wore a mask covering up any emotional expression. The counsellor saw this as a defence for him to protect himself against experiencing more distressing emotions and was therefore respectful of his need to feel safe at this point.
YP CORE score at the beginning of therapy was 23/ 40.
Sam was seen weekly over a period of 5 months. The counsellor took an attachment approach to therapy and worked hard to build a trusted relationship. The pace of the sessions was set by Sam. The media he chose more and more to use was art work, he was interested and gifted in drawing and art work so by using this skill as a means of communication and building trust the relationship developed. Sam used the sand tray sometimes depicting idyllic scenes in one and barren, desert like scenes in the other sand tray. Sam seemed to be symbolically working through a history of his young life with the loss of the secure attachment and the empty, barren attachment from his early years.
Contact was maintained with mum and the counsellor often brought her in to see the art work and talk about Sam and general home life. By offering emotional support and understanding to his mum the counsellor was also helping Sam. A key turning point came during a phone call to mum whereby she described how she had been able to listen to Sam talk about his feelings and she had been able to show empathy by sharing that she sometimes felt anxious too and how she coped. This new dialogue about emotions between Sam and his mum seemed to strengthen their relationship.
Sam and his counsellor agreed a gradual process of ending by moving from weekly sessions to fortnightly catch ups. The fortingightly catch- ups then moved to occasional drop-in sessions over lunch. YP CORE score at ending was 0/40. Sam completed an evaluation form at the end of counselling and said "it felt good to have somewhere to go where I could talk andshare my feelings". Sam's mum and his teacher also noticed a big improvement in Sam's behaviour with their SDQ scores dropping to 5.
Case Histories: Michael(14)
Michael was referred to the Counselling Service due to his anger towards staff members at having to be in school. His attendance was a huge concern and action was about to be taken against his mum regarding this. It also transpired that a close family member had died recently and he was struggling with his feelings about this.
After 8 sessions with his counsellor in school Michael was able to express his feelings about his relative's death through art work. He was also able to understand the consequences of his school attendance for his mum. The counsellor also worked with Michael's mum who talked about her own difficulties growing up and how we sometimes replay the messages we learn as children from our parents into our adult life. Michael is now attending school regularly. Mum was happy that she'd had the opportunity to talk through some of her own issues.
Case Histories: Kayleigh (15)
Kayleigh lives with her mum, stepdad and half sister and brother. Her teacher referred her to the Time 4 You Counselling Service as she had noticed that Kayleigh was becoming more withdrawn and her school work was suffering.
Kayleigh attended counselling for 8 counselling sessions in school. Kayleigh had some troubling memories of the time when her father and mother were together. She recalled the arguments, the violence and the fear she felt when her dad was angry and in a bad mood. The counsellor was able to create a safe environment for Kayleigh so she felt able to share these disturbing memories. The counsellor used scrap booking to help Kayleigh look at her memories in a way that was less threatening. The counsellor also helped Kayleigh recall positive memories of time spent with her mum and her grandparents and also some of the hobbies that she used to enjoy. This helped her regain some positive feelings about herself. Kayleigh's YP Core scores reduced from 15 to 5 by the end of her 8 sessions and Kayleigh reported feeling "much better".