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Counselling Children and Young People

Counselling Children & Young People

Entrusting your child or young person to a counsellor is undoubtedly one of the most difficult processes a parent or carer can go through.

There can be so many unknowns and unanswered questions, but hopefully, the information provided on this page will be useful in helping reassure you and to begin building a sense of trust.

This section has been written around Kirsty Bilski's approach to working with Children and Young People, as the founding Director of Way Forward Counselling Services she is particularly skilled in this area.

She also supports and trains other counsellors in her approach, particularly surrounding the use of creative methods.

Your child will only be offered an alternative counsellor if their level of training and experience is appropriate for the needs of your child.

Kirsty Bilski is a qualified 'Integrative Counsellor' which means she trainied in a number of different theoretical approaches to counselling; therefore, in counselling children and young people she is able to be responsive to each individual adjusting her therapeutic approach accordingly.

Through gentle exploration within a non-judgemental, valuing and empathic relationship, Kirsty empowers her young clients to express their feelings and bring clarity to their experience.

Following professionally qualifying as a counsellor, Kirsty went on to gain additional training in working with this client group and now holds a Masters Degree in Counselling Children and Young People (MA).

She has also gained a scholarship to study to Doctorate Level (PhD) with the University of South Wales, Newport. Kirsty therefore academically supports the very careful work she does and aims to be mindful, gentle and ethical in her approach at all times.

Counselling offers your child the opportunity to talk through whatever is going on for them in a private and safe setting. As a parent or carer this may feel strange as you would wish they could talk to you.

Kirsty is professionally mindful of encouraging clients to build positive relationships with the significant individuals around them, she will therefore always work towards empowering and building the life skills necessary for the client to develop more open communication within their family.

A counsellor is someone who listens carefully and deeply to your child’s experience, they will not cast judgement, tell your child what to do or give them the answers to their questions but they will empower, teach and invite them to make their own decisions within safe and ethical boundaries.

Kirsty will encourage your child or young person to find a positive way forward and to strive to reach their full potential.

Kirsty will help your child or young person to identify a ‘therapeutic aim’ to work towards which will help give focus to their counselling sessions. It is worth noting that children and young people may have very different aims than those their parents or carers might set for them.

Listening and adhering to their own wishes is the beginning of inviting them to develop appropriate autonomy and recognising they have their own tentative choices they can make. This is particularly important if, as in some cases, aspects of life have seemed out of their control for whatever reason.

Sessions can be planned around your schedule with appointment times being available during office hours, evenings and Saturdays too. Counselling sessions are most often booked on a weekly basis but Kirsty realises that this can be a difficult approach for some and is willing to adjust to fit in with the family as a whole.

For those of you who want the theoretical detail Kirsty's approach is largely Humanistic (Person Centered, Gestalt and Existential), with the core conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard very much at the foundation of her work.

A lot of her creative approach is placed within a Gestalt frame although she also integrates aspects of Psychodynamic Theory, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Systemic Theory, Solution Focused Approches, Motivational and Psychoeducational Techniques.

What is the process?

Central to Kirsty's approach is building a mutually collaborative counselling relationship which will empower, develop, inspire, encourage, teach and invite new perspectives to develop. By understanding feelings and being aware of choices, your child or young person may decide to invite change into their life...counselling therefore has the potential to be a journey of discovery...their journey.

Through talking and maybe taking part in some creative activities your child or young person will explore their experience and may gradually begin to ‘put the pieces together’…like a jigsaw puzzle.

In time they may begin to improve how they feel about themselves, adjust their behaviour or make more positive life choices, find difficult activities more manageable and find it easier to engage at school.

Of course, there are no guarantees with counselling, however the most important start is that your child or young person is happy to attend and ‘wants’ help. In the first session Kirsty will assess whether they wish to attend and will give your child or young person the choice whether they want to return or not.

This can feel frustrating for a parent or a carer but this process places the responsibility in the hands of the child or young person and marks the beginning of them taking control of their experience, it is fundamentally important to the therapeutic relationship that they realise they have choices and the right to make them. If they are attending because they ‘have to’ it creates a very different dynamic.

Kirsty often uses art, Sandtray and other creative strategies to engage children and young people in being able to express their life story or emotional experience. For some, it can be hard to put things into words and working creatively is an empowering way of 'showing' how it feels to be them.

However, Kirsty is aware that creativity is not for everyone and she will be sensitive to their needs...it can be just as powerful to gently and mindfully talk through their unique experiences. Particularly older teenagers often prefer just to talk although it can be surprising to parents and carers just how creative even these older clients can be!

Sessions take whatever form your child or young person requires and there will be no pressure to be creative however, if they naturally enjoy creative expression then they will more than likely find Kirsty’s approach useful…and fun!

How long?

Sometimes clients attend counselling for only a few sessions, sometimes they choose to attend for much longer.

Kirsty will be led by your child or young person’s needs in terms of how long they attend however it is important to talk this through carefully together, it is usual to have ‘an ending’ which is an arranged conclusion to therapy whether after only a couple of sessions or a longer period of time.

There is theoretically no limit to the number of sessions they can attend although Kirsty is bound by ethical requirements not to continue with therapy for longer than required.

Kirsty will do a regular review roughly every 6 sessions to check progress and to make sure they are still benefiting from counselling.

It is useful to review progress in terms of the original aim, generally ‘an ending’ usually occurs naturally and is mutually discussed as the aims are hopefully gradually achieved.

Kirsty uses a specific ‘outcome measure’ (YP Core), which she will explain in your first appointment, this is a measurement of how your child or young person is feeling week to week and forms a part of the decision as to whether to bring sessions to an end.

This page explains confidentiality more fully further on but Kirsty will gain permission to share enough to help decisions about continuation or cessation of therapy to be made.

Hopefully, as a parent or carer, you will be aware of improvements and may notice a gradual change over time which will also inform your decision. Where a child or young person is likely to be attending for an extended period of time and this is financially difficult for the parents or carers, speak with Kirsty about the concessions which are available particularly for families in receipt of benefits.

Contact, Boundaries and Confidentiality

When you meet with Kirsty for the first time she will run through a counselling contract with you and your child or young person together. This will explain the professional boundaries which surround counselling, it will help you to understand what you can expect and for your child or young person to begin to build trust in Kirsty.

For instance, she will talk with you about practical issues such as parking, cost and length of each session as well as asking for information about previous counselling or any specific mental health treatment or diagnosis which may be relevant.

Any information she asks you to disclose will be held with the deepest respect and within the usual boundaries of confidentiality, it will enable Kirsty to assess how best to help your child or young person and to be mindful of their individual needs.

Kirsty will also talk with you both about confidentiality and how whatever is disclosed in each session will remain confidential unless there are concerns that your child or young person may be at significant risk of harm, or someone they know may be at risk of harm.

Kirsty will explore confidentiality in more depth with you when you meet so you are clear about the established and lawful limits of confidentiality.

She is aware how important this aspect is to clients and how central this is to building the foundations of a trusting relationship.

Your child or young person has a right to confidentiality which will mean you won’t know what has been said during a session unless a significant risk has been identified.

However, they will be invited to realise they can speak to whoever they want to about their sessions, the work isn’t a ‘secret’ but it is their choice to do this or not.

Kirsty will always aim to encourage clients to build positive communication with their families however it is most effective when they make the choice for themselves.

Sometimes Kirsty will identify the need for a piece of information to be shared which may not be surrounding a significant risk but it could make a big difference to the child or young person if their parent or carer knew.

In this instance Kirsty will first empower them to say for themselves, if they don’t feel able to do this then Kirsty will seek permission from them to share the information appropriately instead.

If you feel you would like to know more then please telephone, text or email with your enquiry (contact), Kirsty understands that everyone’s story is unique and she will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.