Some of the common questions about counseling are: What is it like to go to counseling? And, how can talking with a therapist help?
Here are a few notes I offer, to help people understand this better.
Some of the most common reasons for seeking therapy are Depression and Anxiety. These are two major, health concerns – with unfortunate effects in our families, schools and workplaces. Cognitive Behavioral and Expressive therapies can be very effective in treating depression and anxiety which often feel relentless.
A note about medications: If you are struggling with Depression, an Anxiety Disorder, Bi-Polar disorder, or other mental illness and are working through a process of medication with your psychiatrist, it can be a grueling process to find something that works. If you are going through that particular experience, I strongly encourage you to seek counseling where a therapist can come along side you and provide much needed support.
When Children come in for Therapy
Change: One of the common reasons to consider therapy for a child is to help him/her adjusting to life changes. Sometimes children have trouble adjusting to changes within themselves, within the family, within their world. School, friends, families, and the normal course of development and growing up. As I develop a treatment approach for a child struggling with adjustment, the goals would include resolution of the current problem, as well as improving those adjustment skills to help prepare for new challenges and upcoming changes.
Grief. As I write this, my heart aches for any parent or guardian who loves and cares for a child that is grieving. Everyone experiences feelings of grief and loss; children need special attention with grief because it can be complicated by confusion, guilt, and the stress of change. Ceremonies and rituals can be helpful in healing. Children also do well with something tangible to help them grieve. One technique I use with children who are coping with loss, is a grief jar. This colored sand and the messages we create, gives a small tangible item that they can keep at home as a remembrance. Our goal with children who are grieving is to help them understand the loss, cope with the changes, and help them express their thoughts and feelings.
We hear all the time that “children are resilient” and they ARE. I am constantly amazed at how our children adapt and cope. Children do well in expressive therapies such as play therapy, narrative therapy, sand-tray, art, puppets and role-plays. This allows the child to externalize the problem and use their natural curiosity and creativity to work at solving the problem.
Adolescents in Counseling
Being an adolescent is hard! Add in complicating factors such as peers, academics, and life-changes and it becomes even harder. As difficult as this time is for adolescents, it is also a critical time for growth, separating from family, identity formation, and changes in relationships. Adolescents who are struggling with adjustment, discipline, and emotional disturbance respond well to a combination of expressive therapies and behavioral changes. Those struggling to manage a mental illness such as bi-polar disorder depression or anxiety (including self-injury/cutting) do well with cognitive behavioral therapy as well as EFT/Tapping. Teens do well in group therapy with other teenagers, so I like to consider that in their treatment plan as well.
A solid, trusted, respectful relationship between therapist and client is essential for good therapy – and this is especially true for adolescents. This may take some time to develop, but once the relationship is there, teens are exceptionally good at understanding how to use that counselor/client relationship to work through their particular issues. They really ‘get it’ and usually have really good success from their hard work in therapy.