Counselling and psychotherapy for children and young people takes the form of child-led non-directive play, known as play therapy. Play is a child’s natural medium to learn, communicate and explore their world. In the therapy room, through play and creative expression, the child communicates what is important to them as well as what worries them. By replaying especially difficult events from their lives, they have a chance to make sense of them, process their feelings, develop better understanding and a sense of control. They have an opportunity to get to know themselves better and develop their identity, confidence and self-worth. Depending on the age and cognitive abilities of the child, the therapist will introduce elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or transactional analysis (TA) which will allow the client to develop new skills and strategies to help them tackle their problems.
The first stage of the therapy process is an initial telephone consultation with the parents or guardians, which allows the therapist to understand their perspective, worries and fears, as well as the overall family situation. The therapist will then meet the child or the young person to get to know their perspective and their understanding of the problem and the therapy itself. The participation of the child / young person in therapy must be voluntary. This visit begins with the parent present in the room so that the child can get familiar with the therapist and the new place. This meeting, as well as all future sessions with the client, will be confidential; this means that the parents will not be given any details of what the child discussed with the therapist. The aim of this approach is to create a safe environment and the right conditions to facilitate the therapeutic process for the client. The details of the confidentiality clause will be explained in the Parent/Guardian Contract which will be provided before the initial consultation takes place.
Following the assessment, the therapist will be able to share their feedback and recommendations for therapy. In some circumstances, other forms of help may be appropriate alongside or instead of child/young person therapy, for example psycho-education for parents, individual or couples therapy for parents, or a consultation with another specialist.
When the therapy commences, it takes the form of regular, usually weekly meetings lasting 40-50 minutes depending on the age of the child. Parents’ involvement and support are also important during the child’s therapy process.
Games and resources that will be available and used during therapy, include:
– arts and crafts supplies (crayons, paints, play dough, glitter, feathers, stickers etc.)
– games such as Jenga, Connect 4, Ker-Plunk
– sand tray with miniatures and figures
– puppets and toys
– printed worksheets
and many more.
Every child/young person will have the opportunity to create and decorate their own box in which they will keep their work until they finish therapy.