One of the more important aspects of working with young people in a one to one relationship is that they have chosen to work with you. It seems really obvious and simplistic, however without a positive choice that someone has made it is hard to help them move towards change.
I often see young people because life has become hard, they have experienced loss, they has lost control of their emotions or for one or more of the reasons above they have stopped engaging with learning.
The issue often found when working in schools is that there is a potential for young people to be placed into a relationship because those around them feel that it is best for them and they simply go along with it. I absolutely love it when a young person asks to see me, but this is rare, especially in Primary Schools.
So the most significant thing that I then spend my time doing is building a relationship based on trust. In addition to trust I have to explore what it is that I actually do and help them to see that a therapeutic relationship is possible, where through exploring and examining thoughts and behaviours we can affect change. This idea is often alien to a young person; that they can gain control of these areas of their life to become who it is they want to be.
The ‘therapeutic alliance’, is what we call a relationship that has been agreed by both people and where a bond is created in the space in which you meet. The ability to develop a good therapeutic relationship with young people is an essential professional skill.
Within any therapeutic alliance the goal is to build a positive client counsellor relationship. In much of the work I do the essence of the counselling relationship adds to this therapeutic alliance with collaborative empiricism. This is an amazing tool where we help the young person see change through exploring facts that we can test in the real world.
All this shows how important it is that a therapeutic relationship is developed. What is clear is that none of this will happen if a young person does not want to be in the room with you. Just because they are there doesn’t mean that they have chosen to be there. Because of this I always give young person a chance to leave. Usually acknowledging that many adults think they know what is best for them but asking them how often it is that they get asked themselves what they want. The answer is usually, not often. Giving a young person permission to leave and that they know that you will advocate their right to do so with the school and parents is essential.
This in itself helps a young person know that you are on their side immediately and goes along way towards building trust so that a therapeutic relationship can be developed.
So always give a young person an option to not be there. They may stick around and thank you for it.