Counselling for Young Persons

Youth Counselling

In this interview, Associate Counsellor from The Counselling Paradigm, Mr Jason Tan shared about counselling with children and teenagers in Singapore. Jason holds a Degree in Social Work, and has a Masters in Counselling (Australia). He works with a wide range of clients , including children and youth.

What are the usual needs of children and teenagers when they come for counselling?
It is more common to see children and teenagers going for counseling at the behest of their parents because youths do not see any issues themselves. This usually involves certain behavioral issues parents see in their children that do not conform to their environment or society in general. Behavioral issues such as antisocial, being rebelious, and other delinquency challenges. Again, this does not mean all youths who go for counselling fall into such category. There is a rising trend, in Singapore, where youths go for counselling because they are stressed, mostly with their studies.

How you do usually built rapport with young people during counselling?
Usually the approach would be of a position that is different from other adults in the young person’s environment. Building rapport with the youths requires letting them know counsellors are not just another authority figure, like some parents or teachers, but more of a mentor or friend. A person whom the youths feel comfortable with and allow them to have an avenue to open up. This would mean taking the initiative and effort to enter into their world and understand it, which is usually done by engaging them in their interests, or current trends or affairs that they know of.

To what extent do family support plays a part when a young person receives counselling?
Family support plays a significant role in a young person’s life because the youth sees them virtually everyday. They can impact the youth in many ways because the youth tend to witness their family members’ actions, especially parents’ actions. Family members are the people who know the youth best and tapping into this resource would benefit the youth much. This would include having a session or two with the parents and understand their parenting style, environment, and then working with them to build a positive environment for the youth.

When do you think a caregiver or parent need to bring a child or teenager to counselling?
There is no specific age range given whereby the caregiver or parent sees a need for their child to go for counseling. The main responsibility falls onto the caregiver or parent themselves to assess if there is a need for their child to address certain issues at any one time. For example it could be as early as 5 years old where a parent sees the child being closed up, or 13 years old when the child exhibit rebellious behavior. This is usually in the case if the caregiver or parent see counselling as a problem-centric approach to helping their child. However if they see counselling more of an enrichment approach or one that provides an avenue to develop the child’s self-awareness, skills, and strengths, caregivers or parents can bring them to go for counseling anytime.

Can you share how a young person can benefit from counselling?
As mentioned in the above question, a young person can learn more about himself, his strengths and weaknesses and his environment, thereby improving his awareness and learn different coping methods to deal with difficult situations in their lives. Youths are smart and creative. The aim of counselling is to bring it out and harness it, letting them know they can master themselves and face any challenges ahead.

How can we built up resilience on our next generation in the midst of a changing society and a high pressured city living?
It starts by building a positive environment for them. At home, where parents are supportive to their children and encouraging them to express themselves. Parents can also provide clear boundaries of what the children can or cannot do, explaining to them the reason behind it. Parents are also the best candidates to instil right values to them. This can also be done in schools because it is a place of learning and teachers can act as a proxy of parents to teach the children

The most important thing is to give the youths enough attention and guide them when necessary, but also allowing them the space to experiment for themselves and reviewing these with their family members on the cost, consequences and the ethics behind it.
A young person can receive a lot of knowledge, thanks to the access of internet and media. But they can be unaware of the context behind it, and thus need guidance from family members.

Jason Tan
Associate Counsellor
The Counselling Paradigm