A voice for the voiceless: How therapy influenced a podcaster

It feels like the impact of Covid-19 is going largely overlooked, yet in my therapy room, it continues to loom large, especially for young people and their families.


Teenagers are in their fifth academic year of disruption following the pandemic. In addition to individual stress, their support networks have been disrupted.

According to many reports, depression and suicide ideation are at a record high with the pandemic exacerbating pre-existing problems. As well as the many transitions which have taken place, these changes have not only affected the individual but also caused changes in the lives of their families. Friends were not able to offer support like they normally could, and many were stressed when the safety net was gone. There may have been hope that once the lockdowns came to an end, life would pick up where it left off. However, for many, it hasn't worked out like that.

It is not uncommon to find a parent or caregiver who isn't deeply concerned about teenage girls in their care because so many seem anxious, unhappy and socially withdrawn. Poor mental health shows up in therapy as sadness, hopelessness, thoughts of suicide and unprecedented levels of stress. Young people are struggling with depression and anxiety, self-harming techniques and issues with food. Teenagers need to socially protect themselves from the pressures of a stressful life. Isolation can drive sadness and loneliness, along with indiscriminate social media usage.

How therapy can help

Mo (not her real name) came for therapy, with her Mum. Early sessions were quiet and Mo seemed withdrawn. Before our working together, Mum had provided me with helpful background information which provided me with useful material regarding Mo's mood and general outlook. When Mo felt able to share how she felt, she struggled - understandably. She couldn't explain how she felt and she didn't know who she was. This is what I recall of Mo's comments about her feelings:

"I don't know how to explain it, I feel empty all the time... don't know who I am, wake up with a heavy heart, every day is a chore... it is draining... I hate myself at times and I get angry. Why can't people see me, it just gets worse and I feel like a burden."

Several sessions into our work, I thought if Mo could find a way to express how she felt - art, writing, podcasting - this could kick start her into having a purpose in her life. We explored what she enjoyed (or had) and reflected on what would help her now.

Sessions focused on Mo and provided a personal space, a place where she could be heard, to feel safe enough to talk without fear of holding back. It was also important for me as a therapist to find a connection with Mo in order to build trust and open up the communication channels so we could work together. As it turned out, all three of us shared our experiences of depression which I believe helped with establishing a connection and showed that finding ourselves in a dark, lonely place can happen to anyone at any age.

In therapy, it emerged Mo needed to find a focus, something which would provide a healthy escape whilst at the same time providing a connection with the outside world and her own community. Why not model the sharing she had experienced within the therapy room? Discovering what that could be would take time. The search was on. I suggested to Mo that perhaps she couldn't do much just now, but exploring her feelings and working things out. Given time, she may find a solution.

In time, Mo (along with a friend) set up a podcast, the name of which she wanted to keep confidential until she was ready to reveal its identity (out of support for her friend and fellow podcaster). This provided a useful discussion about respecting confidentiality and to be comfortable with being ok with her decision.

I had the privilege of listening to the podcast. What struck me was how the podcast had reflected our therapy sessions. Mo had put her own words and feelings into the public domain and she had found a way to express herself safely with a focus and purpose I had not heard before. She had built her own podcast and was now sharing her own mental health struggles with a wider community. This was a brilliant start to helping Mo feel that life is worth living and for Mo to feel believed and understood. 

This sensitive and emotional individual had found a vehicle (i.e. a podcast) to give her a voice which is authentic, compelling and inspirational.

In her podcast, Mo demonstrates the importance of memories. An episode about choices, preferences and differences conveyed, by way of a conversation between two podcasters, that whilst they didn't always agree with each other, they did have respect for differing opinions and demonstrated it is possible to disagree without getting angry. (Adults please note.)

The key takeaways for me were the importance of being honest and authentic. The podcasters showed a lot of imagination: think big, have dreams, be aspirational. They talk intelligently about the power of social media which, they debate, is neither all bad nor all good - but it is importnat, they say, to find the right platform. They informed their listeners there is considerable evidence that social media can become an issue if we are concerned about our reputations. For example, one of the podcasters preferred YouTube because 'they could be themselves', whilst the other felt TikTok was more negative because it could be a 'big hate' platform without much thought or reflection.

Working with Mo and her Mum showed how we can transcend the generational divisions and unite as human beings. We are all trying to find our own way on our own unique journey with our mental health. Therapy was a good first step for Mo to develop strategies moving forward, to make her own choices and begin to believe in herself.  The possibilities are endless, and it is a privilege to have been part of Mo's journey. In addition, Mum's engagement in our sessions has been vital, showing her concern and support for her daughter. We worked together on the simple yet challenging things when faced with depression: how to structure the day, personal self-care and above all, remembering recovery can be one day at a time and is not a linear process.

Finally, Mo's podcast referenced the continuing impact of COVID-19 on young people. I believe the pandemic had an impact on Mo's mental health as it reinforced an already embedded high level of anxiety. Mo came out of the lockdowns less confident, more anxious as they chipped away at her mental health.  This is reflected in the content of her podcast.  Working through such a disruptive experience and its aftermath takes time and we need to learn new ways of coping.

Teenagers and young people often need help moving forward. It is also important to acknowledge more widely in society that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have had a major impact on this generation, and will probably do so for some time to come.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Walsall, Staffordshire, WS6
Written by Lyn Reed, MA,MBACP,Pro.Adv.Dip.PC, Pgd.Cert. in Supervision
Walsall, Staffordshire, WS6

I offer a supportive, confidential therapy service especially for those living with anxiety, stress and depression. Connection is the key to providing good therapy. I have a down-to-earth approach to my work. My focus is you -the most important person in the room. Good therapy can help us to discover renewed hope as we move forward.

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