Starting work with a Psychologist can be really daunting for a child or young person. At Psicon, we try our utmost to make it as relaxed as we can. We pride ourselves on being able to make good connections with children and young people, and we don’t patronise them or make them feel uncomfortable.
When working one-to-one with a child, we believe the first (and probably the most important) goal is to establish a friendly, warm and safe working relationship. This means that, before any work on the presenting problems begins, we want to ensure that the young person feels comfortable with the Psychologist and how the work will unfold. Once this is established, we consider the type of work to do. This is often based on the problem that the child wants to work on and the child’s personality. Some young people prefer a more creative approach that involves drawing, writing and creating characters, whereas others prefer a more technical focus that involves developing specific techniques and skills to overcome difficulties. When working with a Psychologist, one or a combination of these approaches is possible and will be discussed with the young person and their family (where appropriate).
All Psicon clinicians have many years of experience of working with young people and can offer a wide range of ways to help. An example follows of a typical piece of work with a young person who was struggling with anxiety.
E (aged 13) was having panic attacks and was very worried that these attacks might preclude spending time away from home and flying. A common way of working with anxiety is to ‘externalise’ the problem so that the child stops feeling as though ‘something is wrong with them’ and instead begins to feel that there is a problem that affects them. This approach is called narrative therapy, and a key technique is to work with the child on developing a character who represents the problem; in this case the character was named ‘the purple panic monster’. We then get to really understand how the monster operates: when he comes, what he does, when he’s easier to tame and when he is at his most powerful. Once we know the monster well, we can start writing about him in story form. The following is reproduced (with permission – thanks, E!) from the work carried out.
‘I was half asleep and heard a little voice humming twinkle twinkle little star (slightly out of tune), and I knew exactly who it was. I opened my eyes a tiny bit, so I could just see what I was doing. It had stolen all of Millie’s colouring pens, and it was making a banner saying “I HOPE YOU SUVIVE ALL OF YOUR PANIC ATAKS THAT U WILL HAVE LOWDS OF AT GREASE”. I had to force myself not to laugh out loud at his bad spelling and untidy writing and the drawing of me that looked like a very ill potato. I had the perfect plan.
I woke up before anyone else and saw the monster triumphantly looking at the banner. It looked even more colourful and glittery than before.
“Is that for me?” I said, pretending to look panicked.
“It sure is!” he said, with a grin that he was trying to make look scary, but it just looked quite funny.
“I love it!” I said and scooped him up and gave him a really big hug. He looked very shocked as he tried to get free, and once he had got out the house, muttering to himself that his plan had gone wrong, he was never to be seen again that day.
I looked at my clock and it said 6.30am. Far too early, so I went back to sleep. Later that morning, when mum came to pick me up, I got into the car, yawning. Suddenly, I heard a little voice again, but this time it was signing Humpty Dumpty.
“She will never see this coming!” the Purple monster muttered to itself. I peeped over into the boot of the car and noticed the monster was slightly smaller than yesterday. He was wrapping a small book that was called “How to survive plane journeys”.
I looked over to the front of the car and saw a dolly that my sister had left lying on the seat. On the doll were a pink frilly dress and a small bonnet.
“I’ve got you a present!” exclaimed the little monster.
“I’ve got one for you too!” I said. “Really?” he said, as excited as a little child at Christmas. I handed him the present and he tore it open and an embarrassed look formed on his face.
“I thought it would suit you.” I forced the dress on the monster and at that moment, my sister came into the room, and I said, “Look I bought you a new toy! It talks.”
“I love it!!” she squealed, and picked up the monster and kissed it all over. It was horrified to move.
The furry little monster is now kept amongst all the other little pink dolls and teddies in my sister’s room and is given a daily scrub with a toothbrush, and, if it is lucky, a makeover with a pink lipstick.’
E was able to control the anxiety and enjoyed her flight and holiday.