The following are examples of the problems that people bring for counselling. These case studies reflect themes that we see when working with clients and are not in themselves actual or real descriptions of work with any of our clients.
Tom, a five-year-old boy, was brought for counselling because of his angry and aggressive behaviour at home and at school. His parents had separated due to domestic violence, contact with his father was erratic, and his mother now had a new partner by whom she was pregnant.
In the counselling room, Tom used toys and art materials in making stories involving conflicts and magical resolutions, where his wish to be powerful, invulnerable and in control was evident. Gradually, the counsellor’s reflections of the thoughts and feelings underlying his play enabled Tom to talk about his distress and anxiety about all the changes in his family life.
“Tom seemed much more able to think about, manage and verbally express his emotions”.
Support from our family liaison worker helped mum to think more clearly about Tom’s feelings of confusion and sadness, their relationship, and the impact on both of them of the family break-up. When the counselling ended, Tom seemed much more able to think about, manage and verbally express his emotions. His behaviour at school had improved significantly, and his mother felt that their relationship was much better.
Amy, a ten-year-old girl, was causing concern at school and home due to her tearful, withdrawn and anxious moods. Since the death of her grandfather over a year ago, she seemed ‘stuck’ in these feelings.
Aided by the counsellor’s empathic, non-judgmental attention, she was able to use art materials to express some of her more complex and difficult thoughts, feelings and fantasies about family relationships and her role in the family.
“She felt much more able to cope with her feelings, and to seek help when she needed it”.
Having a space outside the family where it was safe to express aspects of her ‘bad’, angry feelings (which were underlying some of her sadness) helped her to feel that these feelings were understandable and could be managed. When the counselling ended, Amy still had unhappy or angry moods at times, but she felt much more able to cope with her feelings, and to seek help when she needed it.
Initial assessment, reflection and consultation before counselling begins form an essential part of our work with children. For example, the mother of Philip, a nine-year-old boy, enquired about counselling to address his defiant, ‘difficult’ behaviour at home.
However, during her conversation with the counselling manager, mum revealed significant ongoing difficulties in the relationships between Philip’s parents, and between his two other siblings and actually Philip was generally well-behaved and popular at school. It was clear that the problems did not lie solely in Philip, but in the family relationships. Mum decided that she would like to try counselling herself and see if that would help, and to access the support of our family liaison worker, Claire.
“Mum felt happier and more able to cope and reported that Philip’s moods and behaviour at home improved significantly”.
Mum was able to reflect in counselling on how she was feeling and the family reflected with Claire on how they were interacting with each other, the relationship difficulties became more manageable, Mum felt happier and more able to cope and reported that Philip’s moods and behaviour at home improved significantly.