M Downes Counselling


Counselling Children and Young People

For those looking for a counsellor to help a child or young person, here is a little information about that side of my work:

I have been working in infant and primary schools for about 2 years and am a member of the Children and Young People specialist division of BACP (British Association of Counsellors & Psychotherapists).

I have also recently attended 2 conferences at The Centre for Child Mental Health in London: 'Healing the Traumatised Mind, Brain and Body, effective evidence based interventions', by world leading expert Dr Bessel van der Kolk, and 'Mental Health Issues and Common Distress States in Children and Teenagers: Accurate assessment to Effective Intervention - Communication Difficulties, Sexuality Issues, Trauma Disorders and Understanding Self Harm'.

Children up to the age of about 10 usually respond better to Play Therapy.  As the name suggests, this involves working with things such as cars, figures, puppets, drawing, painting, games etc. Firstly an environment of trust needs to be built and the therapist needs to facilitate the child processing their issue (for example anger, upset, loss or loneliness).

If a child has experienced major trauma they may ‘act out’, which is a term used to explain that if a child struggles to work through their experiences their body needs to do something with that and so they may try to re-enact their experiences.  The problem with this is that it is not always the right time or place!  This often results in the child being reprimanded and controlled (for very good reasons) but the child can be left even more frustrated because they have nowhere to take their inner conflicts and so it can feel as though you are going round in circles: ‘bad’ behaviour, punishment, frustration for the child, internalising their anger as it’s not able to be contained..... more  ‘bad’ behaviour, punishment, frustration for the child, internalising their anger as it’s not able to be contained.....

For parents this can be an agonising time, not knowing where to turn and often faced with complaints about their child, which can bring isolation and even a sense of failure as a parent.

I believe that it is important to work with other members of the family if possible, as everyone is usually affected in some way or other.  This can be particularly helpful if a family is facing problems that can be inherent in fostering or if a child has been diagnosed with a disorder such as ADHD, ADD, Aspergers etc

Children and young people with learning difficulties can experience great difficulty communicating their feelings and may also prefer to use drawing or figures to help them in the session and strategies can be worked out with the family around how to help each other in difficult situations, such as pre-empting an outburst of anger.

It can sometimes be a struggle to get your child to agree to try seeing a counsellor.  If this is the case it may help if they have a look at this information themselves and see what they think.... if a child is resistant to come to sessions they will probably not engage, so try to make them part of the search if possible.

I hope this information is helpful to you, but please do call for an informal chat if you are unsure about anything or simply need to connect with someone that 'gets' what you are going through...