In my role as head of counselling at Mable Therapy, I speak to parents every day who are worried about their child’s mental health, and they’ll ask me ‘does my child need counselling?’ I always think this question is a bit like ‘do I need to go to the gym?’ Counselling still gets viewed as something that’s needed when we reach a crisis point, when in truth, it’s something that everyone could benefit from. If we rephrase it to ‘would counselling be helpful for my child?’ then the answer is almost always a yes.
Counselling is a brilliant opportunity to explore thoughts and feelings that we may not fully understand or that may be causing us distress. This can be particularly difficult for children. Quite often they’re not sure what they’re feeling or why, and they’re reluctant to express their feelings out loud. This could be because they’re embarrassed, ashamed, or they’re worried it will upset their loved ones.
Counsellors are experts at building a relationship with the child so they know they can say anything they want without being judged. The sessions then become a safe space where they can explore their feelings without the worries they’d have in the ‘real world’. All our counsellors work to the BACP’s ethical framework, meaning if they didn’t think counselling was right for your child, they’d tell you straight away.
What if my child says they don’t want counselling?
This question comes up a lot with parents. There’s a big difference between a child who is 100% certain that they do not want to try counselling and those who are a bit reluctant and unsure about what’s involved.
If they’re positive they don’t want to try it, then we can’t offer them counselling. Counselling only works if the person wants to give it a try, as we need them to be willing to open up. If they’re not on board they won’t share their thoughts and feelings and if we try to force them, all we’ll do is give them a negative view of counselling. This might make them less likely to use it in the future, at a point when they really need it.
If your child is reluctant to try, then perhaps by reassuring them, we can get them to give it a go. One of the first things I do when I start working with a child is show them this video, which explains more about what’s involved:
I also encourage parents to give them as much ownership of the process as possible. If your child is allowed to choose their own counsellor and even the time they have the session, they’re more likely to stick with it. You can show them our therapist directory here.
What happens in a counselling session?
In the first session, the aims are for your child and the counsellor to get to know each other, and for the counsellor to find out more about what support the child needs. For some children, they’d prefer to do this with you there, and our counsellors are happy for you to stay. Other children and young people, particularly as they get older, are often keen to have privacy right from the start and it’s better if you leave them to it.
Every child is different. Some are ready to open up straight away and they’ll be able to tell the counsellor exactly what the difficulty is. For others, they’ll not know where to start and it will take them a while to trust the counsellor and understand how to use the sessions. Our counsellors are trained in how to support children, even if they don’t want to talk directly about the issue. The Mable platform is designed with creative resources so there’s lots of ways the counsellor can explore thoughts and feelings with your child without it feeling too intense. This could be through creative storytelling, through art therapy or they may share strategies and techniques to help them feel less anxious.
Will I get to find out what’s happening in the sessions?
It’s important that your child knows the sessions are confidential, so they feel comfortable opening up. There’s lots of reasons why they might not open up fully to you, maybe they don’t want you to feel disappointed or they don't want you to worry. Part of the counselling process is encouraging the child or young person to open up more to the people in their lives so they no longer need the sessions.
We know how keen you are to support your child, so we do try to involve you as much as possible. The counsellor will book a check-in call with you every 5-6 weeks where they’ll talk about how things are going. The counsellor will let your child know they’re doing this and together they’ll agree on what’s going to be said, so your child still feels in control. However, rest assured that if your child ever says anything we think puts them or others at risk, we’ll share it straight away.
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If your child is struggling, they have the right to get support. Our team of counsellors are here to help.