Starting therapy can be daunting and it is still a taboo subject in some social circles. Therefore, when many young people seek help for their mental health, they can feel hesitant about challenging their therapist when something doesn’t feel quite right. If you are an individual or organisation that supports vulnerable young people, it is crucial you know how to empower your service users to take control of their therapy sessions.
POWER DYNAMICS IN THERAPY
The power dynamics of therapy can be difficult to manage, especially for young people. After all, a therapist is an expert and may have many years of training, qualifications, and experience behind them. This combined with a therapist being older and perceived as wiser may be quite intimidating for young people just beginning their mental health recovery journey.
However, young people know themselves better than anyone else. Therapy will be much more valuable if the young person can work with their therapist to meet their individual needs. It is important that they know they deserve to take ownership of their own therapy.
TIPS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Here are our top tips to help the young people in your network effectively take control of their sessions:
- Use your initial session wisely – Try to answer your therapist’s questions as honestly as possible. Making sure they understand your mindset and challenges from the beginning will make sure your sessions are as effective as possible moving forward.
- Ask questions – Your therapist should explain to you why they are asking you to speak about something or complete a task (e.g. a mood diary). Asking for an explanation if you are unsure is absolutely allowed.
- Prepare – Think about what you would like to talk about during your next session. Even write it down if you’re likely to forget it. If difficult situations or feelings come up during the week, writing them down is a great way to remember.
- Speak up – Your therapist may occasionally misinterpret what you are saying (they are only human after all). If they reach a wrong conclusion about something you’ve said, politely let them know that they have misunderstood and try to explain in a different way. Similarly, if there is something specific you want to cover, then don’t feel afraid to vocalise it.
- Do your homework! – If you have set exercises to do in your own time, try your best to dedicate a set time in the week to complete them. To achieve your goals within therapy, a lot of work will actually fall outside of the sessions.
- Be mindful of timing – Therapy can bring up difficult emotions which can be hard to manage. If you feel once a week is too much, ask to book biweekly sessions instead.
We know that young people may find taking charge and speaking up daunting at first. However, their therapist should be empathetic and understanding to any issues they raise with them. In fact, they are likely to be delighted that they are willing to take the reins for a moment during their sessions. Although the content of therapy is kept confidential, you can support a young person by helping them prepare for sessions or think of questions to ask their therapist.
LOOKING FOR MORE MENTAL HEALTH CONTENT?
HealHub is our mental health programme providing young people with free therapy. Also, LyfeproofUK, our youth engagement platform, has a whole host of mental health content, curated by young people themselves. Their YouTube channel even has a series of webinars and videos explaining how lifestyle factors can influence your mental health.
Written by Alison Fulop
For Aspire4u CIC,
The Mindset-Led Organisation
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