Completing the Counselling with Children and Adolescentsmodule has been beneficial to raising my awareness of counselling as atherapeutic process and the benefits it has on a client. As a Psychologyundergraduate, I had minimal knowledge of what psychodynamic therapy was as weare typically taught about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I discovered a significantdifference between them; CBT helps an individual combat their problems byactively assisting them in adjusting the way they think and behave. Examples ofthis include systematic desensitization and exposure therapy.
Psychodynamictherapy, on the other hand, encourages the client to express his or herfeelings whilst the therapist attempts to understand the underlying unconsciousissues behind the symptoms, a process which is termed as ‘interpretation’.These therapists use various techniques including free association and projectiveidentification. This course has provided a greater understanding of the way inwhich psychodynamic counselling techniques are used within a practical settingand how a therapist can maximize the effectiveness of counselling sessions. Welearnt about and discussed various concepts that I was previously unaware of,including how to become a psychodynamic observer and listener, as well as the useof play and art within therapy. The other concepts discussed within the class,alongside the workshops and reflective group sessions have all contributed tomy current view of the structure of a typical psychodynamic therapy session, dependingon the capabilities and needs of the present client. This essay discusses theways a few of the concepts, the workshops and the reflective group sessionshave influenced my understanding.
It will also discuss how I currently respondto children facing challenges, in comparison to how I may have responded inprevious instances. Children may face difficulties and challenges while growingup. Completing this module has helped me understand them and their needs fromanother point of view, an aspect which will also be mentioned in this essay. Becoming a psychodynamic observer and listenerBefore completing this module, it was ratherdifficult for me to accept and appreciate the power of silence and the factthat sometimes silence can be more powerful than words. I sometimes get anxiousand nervous when I am in the presence of an unfamiliar person. During thesemoments, I feel obligated to speak and these feelings are heightened becauseprior, I was convinced that talking was mandatory during sessions. As theperson who is supposed to facilitate the session, if the individual isn’ttalking, I would have thought I was not doing my role correctly.
Filling thesilence helped me feel comfortable in 1-on-1 situations with other people, howeverthis module made me realize the importance of listening and letting the silencerun its course. This is necessary within a therapeutic environment as thetherapist must show that they are interested and engaged in the matters oftheir client. When working alongside adolescents who may feel uncomfortable orshy when expressing their emotions, the therapist must be an understanding andengaging figure to allow the unconscious thoughts of the client to successfullyemerge. Psychodynamic listening, especially duringsilences, allows the client to feel comfortable going at their own pace andhelps them see that the therapist is genuinely interested by the way they feel.Silently observing the client will allow the therapist to identify vitaldetails which may provide explanations for the clients’ unconscious feelings. Ilearnt that effective therapy will assist the client in recognizing theirsubconscious thoughts and identifying how their behaviour is affected.
The listening workshop session also consisted of areflective therapy whereby we discussed our expectations of the course and whatwe hoped to gain by the end of it. It was interesting to hear variousviewpoints on what was expected of the course, based on the module outline, andto be given the opportunity to refer to my own expectations and reasons forchoosing it. Besides initially expecting this course to provide a deeperunderstanding of skills used within therapy, I was hoping to enhance myconfidence and become better equipped as an aspiring counsellor with theinformation learnt. Listening to a client who is a child is equally asimportant because they may have struggles that an adolescent will not have,such as difficulty expressing their emotions in a way that they can beinterpreted. The thought of such circumstances occurring made me nervousbecause I was unsure about how I would deal with it, but as the coursedeveloped I was put at ease and learnt that if this happens, a therapist mustbe very patient and observe other details that emerge. Paying attention toevery detail, regardless of how minor or major they are, will contribute toboth the therapists’ and the clients’ understanding of the situation beingexpressed.I have become more of a listener in my socialrelationships and I now make an active effort to focus more on what is beingsaid to me by my nieces and nephews. Before this module I would observe andlisten to them, however, small details I noticed were only lightly taken intoconsideration.
I am now more likely to be intrigued by the conversations theyhave to discover how their childhood experiences and subconscious areinfluencing what they say and do around me. I view their stories from apsychodynamic perspective now as it allows me to develop a closer bond with them.To show that I care I listen and repeat back to them what they have said to mefor clarification. Play therapyThe intention of play therapy is to alleviatestressors beyond pain or difficulty to allow healthy development to resume fromwhere it was disrupted by internal conflicts or external issues and trauma (Bromfield, 2003). Children develop socialroles and practice life experiences through the concept of playing with toys,whether it is alone or when interacting with others. It creates anunderstanding of who they are within their society (Newman and Newman, 2017).
Roleplay contributes to their knowledge of genderexperiences relating to traditional roles, stereotypes and socio-cultural norms(Luongo-Orlando, 2010). An example of how play therapy may be useful is ifa child has difficulty identifying their role within society, I can use it tohelp them express their feelings towards societal roles and discover if subconsciously,they have already made an internal identification yet are just struggling to communicateit. Not all children or adolescents enjoy engaging in activities of play andin the past, I would have attributed the behavior or lack ofengagement of play to a characteristic or theindividual simply not enjoying play. Psychodynamic therapy has taught me thatwhen faced with such a client during therapy, it is important not to dismissthis and to raise questions that will create an understanding of what theunderlying reasons for their attitude towards play are.
I am now aware that asa therapist, I must attempt to help the child view play as a beneficial form ofnon-verbal communication that will help them verbalise any conflicting,underlying thoughts they may have and to create a meaning behind it (Yanof, 2013). As therapy sessions progress, the therapistwill develop a greater understanding of where this issue stems from, which willallow them to analyse the client’s non-verbal communication further and discoverthe child’s relationship to the objects available in the session. The therapistestablishes an atmosphere whereby they have a therapeutic hold on the child,psychologically. This means that the therapist acts as a sponge, absorbing anyexcitement and distress that the child cannot contain on their own (Winnicott, 1975). If achild is upset, I can use play therapy as a calming measure to help themrelease pressures they are withholding.
This module has taught me that the psychodynamictheory views these interactions as deeper subconscious means of expressinghidden thoughts and feelings (PhD,2010). I have learntthe importance of play therapy as it provides a safe space away from physicaland psychological harm for children and adolescents to comfortably learn aboutthemselves whilst the therapist learns about them too. During the play workshop,we used our imagination and creativity to play with various items, includingplay-doh, dolls and teddies. I used it to create model furniture inside a modelhouse which initially felt rather unusual as I had not engaged in such playwithin years. I quickly became at ease, enabling me to have a relaxed, fun experiencebeing reconnected to my inner child again.
It is important for therapists tohave this experience with play as this will allow them to somewhat relate totheir client during play sessions. Art therapyThe art therapy workshop was one of the mosteffective ones for me, as I enjoyed the practical aspect where we worked in pairs,took turns drawing on a paper and analysing what that drawing may mean for theother person. This workshop helped me view art as an unconscious process ofcommunication and discover the language of art, to an extent.
I had neverthought of art as a way for an individual to externalise their internal stateof mind, however, the realisation of this has made me appreciate the importanceof art as an expression. Through this workshop, I learnt that repetitive orsimilar themes during the drawing exercise may highlight issues within aclients’ internal world and subconscious. If a child is showing difficultyexpressing their feelings, I would use this exercise as an ice-breaker toencourage them to feel relaxed and comfortable in my sessions. Drawing activities are a great way to build rapportwith children who are impulsive, shy or perhaps from a different culture to thetherapist (Klepsch & Logie, 1982), and it is important that as a therapist,counter-transference does not have an impact on the interpretation of theartwork presented.
This could be a potential challenge for me as I mayunintentionally attach personal emotions to the pieces, despite these emotionsnot existing within the client. To prevent this from happening and tosuccessfully deal with a child who is facing difficulty, I will only makecomments on the individual’s artwork rather than my perception of their stateof mind. I will also allow them to create their own interpretations of theirartwork and help them discover the reason why they have created suchinterpretations for themselves. Art therapy is a physical and emotional processbetween the client, the art and the therapist (Callaghanand Gamble, 2015); I havetried using this therapy with my young niece as a way for her to alleviate anystressors or anxieties she may have after school and I have found it to beuseful. She is generally quiet and discussing her artwork with her has revealedsome of her inner feelings and passions that were never spoken about. This canbe used similarly within a therapy session to help a child reveal aspects of theirlife that they may want to improve. ConclusionOne of the greatest learning outcomes for me onthis course, which was discovered through doing role play on several occasions,is that every therapist has their own psychodynamic counselling style and thatis fine.
There is never a right or wrong answer when responding to a client, asindividual differences exist with all individuals. It is important for atherapist to use discretion during sessions and interact accordingly, withouttransferring their ‘stuff’ onto that client. Furthermore, I realized that it isimportant for the therapist to remember that they are human too and must havestable mental health in order to be able to successfully assist someone else. Ienjoyed doing role play as it gave me the opportunity to imagine what areal-life counselling session would consist of if I was the therapy. It forcedme to put the theories learnt in class into practice and see the outcome formyself.
When I was asked to do a role play with a classmate in front ofeveryone, we analysed and discussed the content of the pretend therapy session.Receiving feedback from my peers gave me an insight into how I applied theorieswe learnt in class. For example, when I played the role of a client talking toa therapist during roleplay my peers said they noticed signs ofcounter-transference from me however I would not have identified this if it wasnot brought to my attention. The role of a counsellor can be rewarding, howeverthere can be moments that it emits pressure on a therapist and if this is nottaken care of, the result can be detrimental on both individuals. This coursehas highlighted the struggles that a counsellor may face, whether it is beingaware of how to deal with sensitive topics or having a client be attracted tothe therapist and vice versa.
These are only two issues that could potentiallyarise and this module has made me reconsider if this occupation is trulysuitable for me. A positive aspect is that it has further encouraged me to getpractical work experience within the field before forming a final decision, asthe role plays were useful but are not equivalent to the real-life experience.