There are many challenges to finding your own way as a young person. It can be an exciting time of change: full of new possibilities and opportunities. When experiencing so much change it is normal to have times when you feel anxious and confused about things. There are all sorts of new situations, choices and pressures to face. Usually with enough support from friends, parents and other important people, you find your way through the more stressful times.
However, problems can sometimes become overwhelming and prevent you from getting on with things in the way that you would like. In such a situation it could be a good idea to consider whether therapeutic help might be needed.
feeling at a loss
Difficulties that start to feel overwhelming could be about many different things and can be expressed in many different ways. You might find yourself struggling with distressing feelings that are hard to cope with. It could be intense sadness, anger, worry or fear. You might be having problems sleeping. You might simply be finding the everyday demands of your life really hard to manage. In such circumstances young people often seek help for the following problems:
- low self-esteem and lack of confidence
- difficulties with learning
- friendship/ relationship problems
- suicidal feelings
- eating difficulties
Such troubling problems for young people often relate to difficult experiences that usually have not been fully recognised or understood. Below are some experiences that could be contributing to the problems that a young person is having:
- emotional difficulties from childhood
- parents separating or divorcing
- experiences of abuse
- family conflicts or breakdown
- the break-up of a relationship
- parental mental health issues
- problems over starting at a new school or college
- difficulties coping with university
a creative space of your own
Child psychotherapy offers you a new creative space of your own. In this space you and the therapist can find different ways of understanding the difficulties that you are experiencing. As a greater understanding develops between you new ways of being able to move on with life start to emerge.
A Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist's way of understanding difficulties is shaped by psychoanalytic ideas about how people develop emotionally. As therapists they have a long and intensive training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy that enables them to help young people overcome emotional difficulties. They are specially trained to work with young people up to the age of 25 years
A key psychoanalytic idea is that emotional development is shaped by unconscious and conscious mental processes from beginning of infancy. The child develops their own 'internal' world of thoughts and feelings. This 'internal' world is shaped by their experiences and, in turn, affects how they experience the world around them.
Emotional problems tend to happen when difficult experiences get stuck inside this 'internal' world of thoughts and feelings. Helping things get better involves getting to know what the 'internal' thoughts and feelings are. Once understood these thoughts and feelings can then be worked through with the therapist. The young person will begin to feel that they are able to move on with their life in a new way.
how does psychotherapy work?
In seeking help the first thing is to arrange a consultation meeting with the therapist. If you are under 18 years of age either one or both of your parents would normally come with you to meet with the therapist. Often a young person would have some time during the consultation when they would meet with the therapist on their own. However, this would only happen if the young person was in agreement and if it seemed the most helpful thing to do.
The purpose of the consultation is to get a detailed understanding of the difficulties together and to work out whether having some help would be a good idea. Sometimes more than one consultation meeting is needed.
If you are over 18 years of age, you would be coming to have a consultation meeting with the therapist as an independent young person in your own right. However, if you decided that you wanted to come with one or both of your parents this would be fine.
Should you be interested in having further help the next step would would be to have some individual meetings with the therapist to explore whether psychotherapy feels like the right kind of help for you. The meetings, usually 3-4 in number, would take place on the same day and time each week for successive weeks. Each meeting, which is called a session, lasts for 50 minutes.
At the heart of psychotherapy is your therapist taking the time to get to know you. The therapist will be thinking with you about how your 'internal' thoughts and feelings might relate to the problems that you are experiencing.
These thoughts and feelings will naturally come to mind as part of your talking together. Some young people also find it helpful to draw or write as another way of expressing what they are feeling and thinking inside. As you explore things together you should find that you are beginning to get a fuller and deeper picture of your concerns.
These initial sessions should enable you and the therapist to work out whether psychotherapy feels the right kind of help for you. If you decide that psychotherapy is not for you the therapist can discuss other options for help that you might prefer. You might decide that the initial sessions were enough help and that no more help is needed. Or you and the therapist might conclude that an on-going period of psychotherapy would be a really good idea.
On-going psychotherapy can be for a brief period of a few months or for longer periods of a year or more. The sessions continue at the same time on a weekly basis. When problems are severe and longstanding it is possible that coming for more than one therapy session a week is needed.
Psychotherapy can feel really hard at times. Thinking about difficulties is challenging. You will sometimes experience intense feelings about the work that you and your therapist are doing together. Psychotherapy is also exciting with it being about new growth and opportunities for life. Real change and new life that you can have confidence in takes time to develop. As a part of your psychotherapy you and your therapist will be carefully reviewing how things are going for you.
For young people under 18 years, and occasionally for older young people, there are usually regular meetings for parents with another therapist alongside the psychotherapy. The purpose of the meetings for parents is for them to be helped to work out how best they might support their son or daughter.
It is important for young people to know that their sessions are confidential. The therapist does not talk about the sessions to other people: the sessions remain private. The only exception to this rule is if the therapist was concerned about an issue of safety. In such circumstances the therapist would discuss the issue with the young person and explain why they were needing to discuss the matter with parents or other people such as a GP.
Moving on with your own life
Psychotherapy should enable you to feel more confident about moving on with your own life. You should feel that the difficulties that were troubling you have been overcome and that you are freer to grow and develop in new ways. Hopefully you will feel more positive about the future and experience life as having many more possibilities and opportunities.
As your psychotherapy comes to an end it can feel difficult to say goodbye to you therapist. You will have been working closely together for a significant period of time. It is important to realise that you will take all the work that you have done together with you when you leave. Research has shown that the psychotherapy will go on helping a long term after it has finished. The therapy will have become a part of you and will go supporting you moving on with your life.
Often young people like to let their therapists know how they are doing after they have finished their psychotherapy. This might take the form of writing to the therapist or it could happen through arranging a follow-up session.
Sometimes young people who experience a further period of difficulty get back in touch with their therapist. The therapist would meet with them for a consultation. A consultation might be all the help that is needed or a further period of psychotherapy might be a good idea.
Young Minds is an organisation that provides a great deal of information for young people on mental health issues. Their website might be of interest to you.