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Imagine yourself in a world where you have no control over what is happening around you… You cannot make a decision and act upon that decision… Your thoughts and opinions are not respected and listened to… You do not have the resources or skills to express what you are thinking… You have no voice but you are expected to follow others obediently, even when it has not been explained or made clear what is expected from you…

In many cases, this is the experience of many children and young people who are not listened to or given a voice. Many children do not have the opportunity to discuss and verbalise what is happening not only internally, but also externally. Counselling for children and young people offers the space for them to be able to make sense of their internal world vis-a-vis their external world.

Through counselling, the child or teenager, is able to form a safe relationship with an adult who offers presence and respect. This adult is giving them importance and giving them time to unfold their story and process anything that other adults may not have the time for. In this way, the child feels more confident about themselves and understands that they too are important. This helps the child to believe more in him / herself and to understand themselves and their reactions better.

Another aspect of counselling children is that they lack agency; the ability to change or do specific things in their lives as they are dependent on the adults in their lives. In the counselling session, the child is given the responsibility to choose how to spend the time, for example by choosing a game or a creative medium. This encourages them to try out a different way of relating with others which they do not usually experience. Through this interaction, many things may be expressed and the counsellor is in a position to collaborate with the adults responsible for the child. Thus, the counsellor may explain to the parents about the child’s needs in a way that doesn’t break the client’s trust.

Confidentiality may be more tricky when working with minors since adults need to be involved in order for them to support their child in the required change; to change any external factors which may be hindering their child from developing or engaging in healthy behaviours; to encourage their child to adapt and deal with their emotions and conflicts. Thus, it is important for boundaries to be established and made clear to the child or young person and also to the adults involved. Collaboration is important however the child’s privacy must also be respected and protected. Children quickly learn to apply what they have achieved in the therapeutic environment and patterns of relating with their therapist to other relationships outside the therapeutic setting. This also holds for adults who need to be aware of their own processes and reactions as a parallel process to what their child is going through in therapy.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.