Many people ask me what I do for a living, it is usually one of the first questions after “Hello…my name is…” We are often defined by our role in life before we are defined by who we are. This is fine with me as many people find small talk challenging and this provides a really great opening for both parties and something to grasp onto. So the other day, this is exactly what happened to me and having spent many years mixing words and being confused about exactly what I do I confidently said ‘I am a child and adolescent therapist’, which immediately prompted the statement “Child & Adolescent Therapist…what does this mean? oh, you mean a counsellor!” This made me wonder about how people see the mental health service and the support we provide young people, so I thought for a moment and this is what I responded; I would be really interested to know your thoughts about my take on my role within this sector.
“Not exactly”, I said, “I support young minds develop techniques and coping strategies to understand, accept and manage their lives through a range of verbal, non-verbal, play and creative techniques. I am trained in a range of disciplines including counselling and psychotherapy but use holistic approaches for the benefit of the child.”
After a few more questions, I added “Through experience I have found and heard that not one technique suits all children and this led me to learn a variety of approaches to assist my young visitors communicate in whichever way best suits them. “
The area of child mental health is a current topic in the news and many discussions are being had about how to best support our young within the educational setting. Counselling has been chosen at this time as an answer for children emotionally struggling within the educational sector and it is great to see counsellors getting placements within educational establishments, however, through experience I have found that our young people are not quite as straightforward as we seem to hope and talking therapies can often be very challenging to them, this approach does not cover individuals with learning difficulties and/or social difficulties either.
It is very important to ensure that our young wards are provided with the best and most accurate service for them and with this in mind there is a growing network of multi-disciplined practitioners who have experience and expertise in a variety of areas and understand when referrals to specific specialists is needed. It would be great to see a growth in these practitioners being utilised to enable all types of child to access a service that suits them individually within their daily setting and to support and develop young people’s resilience, independence and self-confidence.
I am working with a range of young persons professionals to establish and develop the support of our young minds and see daily changes to the understanding of this important area and I know that one day in the future the response “I am a Child and Adolescent Therapist” will be understood to mean ‘A person that supports the development of our future generations minds.’