So what’s it like to see a school counsellor?
When young people first come through my door, there’s such a range of reactions - a lot of anxiety - what will she ask me, what should I talk about, is it safe to tell her, can I trust her?
Sometimes there’s an expectation that I will fix all their problems with my magic wand or tell them what they should do.
So the anxiety we talk about and most clients, by the end of the first session, tell me that they feel much more comfortable and at ease. They understand what can and can’t be kept confidential and who I will need to contact if they make worrying disclosures.
They also understand that most things they talk about, won’t need to be discussed anywhere else and that makes them feel safe.
I’m frequently told what a relief it has been to tell their story to one person, rather than bits of their story to several people. They like the fact that they can talk openly without worrying how I will react, that I won’t be angry or upset, like other close people in their life might be and that they don’t feel judged.
Often having a safe, neutral space to talk and reflect, encourages the young person to talk more openly with their friends and family, either by themselves or with their counsellor and parents together. Being heard allows young people to feel emotionally stronger and confident.
Young people’s expectations change too. Initially there can be a real desire to have their issues fixed, our society is all about quick fixes and fast results. Counselling is a process, it’s about understanding what the root of the difficulties are, accepting what can be changed and what can’t and having strategies to manage. Once they understand this and learn to trust the process, things start to change. It sounds such a cliché but it really has truth in it.
It isn’t about the counsellor telling people what to do. The client holds the answers but the counsellor helps them access them. Counselling helps to get the answers for those unanswered questions.
Sometimes school counselling services and child adolescent mental health services are so oversubscribed and the waiting list seems endless. Private adolescent counsellors can offer a quick, supportive alternative.
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About Caron Zar
I am a BACP accredited counsellor working in private practice in Stanmore, Middlesex and the lead counsellor in a large multicultural London secondary school.
I have a background in teaching in mainstream and specialist services, dramatherapy and youth work.