When adults have an anxiety, trauma or grief, talking things through with another person helps to process and resolve feelings. Often children are not able to talk about what is troubling them, either because it is too upsetting or simply because they do not have the maturity to process and articulate their feelings. Unresolved difficulties and unexpressed emotions can present themselves in the form of anger and difficult behaviours, sleep disorders,
anxiety or phobias.
Children's natural way of expressing themselves, of processing and assimilating events is through play, drawing and painting. Sandtray work (making a world with small figures and toys in sand) is an effective way for children to process life events through metaphor. Playing in this way alongside a receptive and engaged adult means that feelings and situations can be acknowledged, shared, and explored. The same kind of dialogue can take place through drawings and paintings. Some children are able to talk directly about their real life issues. Finding a vocabulary for difficult and complex feelings and being able to air those feelings safely means that they lose much of their negative power.
I invite parents/carers to attend an initial assessment meeting with their child, and would then expect to see the child on their own for subsequence counselling sessions. Because it is important to develop a trusting relationship, I explain to children that their counselling session is a special 'private space' and anything we discuss is confidential. There are, of course, situations where I would break that confidentiality for safeguarding reasons. I always reassure parents that if something comes up during counselling that I feel they have a right or need to know, I would explain to the child that we need to discuss it with Mum, Dad or carer. Parents and carers may join in with sessions if a more systemic approach seems appropriate or helpful, and this is something that can be discussed with the child or young person and parents/carers.
I have worked extensively with children in care, either during and around transition from birth family to foster care, or foster care into adoptive families. This kind of work often involves supporting deeply traumatised children and young people who have a very poor sense of self worth or self belief. I have worked extensively with children, adolescents and young adults both privately and through the NHS Community Wellbeing Service. Many of the young people I see for counselling are high risk and present issues such as suicidal ideation/attempts, substance misuse, self harm and risky behaviour.
I liaise with and make referrals to local agencies such as CAMHS, Seaside View Child Development Centre, Children's Services and other organisations. I have an up-to-date DBS certificate, and also possess a Child Safeguarding and Protection policy for my private practice.