Sometimes children and young people (and their families) may need extra support if they are finding it difficult to deal with or understand their emotions and/or behaviour. Schools often provide professionals to help young people and their families, such as learning or behaviour mentors, family liaison officers or professionals from external services. However, some children and young people, or their families, may decide to seek further help in the form of counselling.  

How is counselling for young people different? Counselling for children and young people may differ from counselling for adults, and will depend on the child’s age, specific difficulties and their development. Different methods may be used to encourage young children to be able to express their difficulties, such as play and art. For example, reading stories and talking about feelings of a character in that story may help the child to discuss their own feelings, or drawing/painting/drama may help children to express themselves. These methods all give the counsellor a great insight into the unconscious mind of the child.


Older children may prefer talking therapy, or a mixture of both, and the counselling approach will depend on a particular individual. Although different methods may be used for counselling children, the aim of counselling for both children and adults is ultimately the same; to help the individual cope better with their emotions and feelings.


How can counselling benefit young people? Counselling children and young people involves helping the child to develop a positive attitude to life, recognise their strengths and express themselves. It does not involve making decisions for the child, imposing beliefs on them or preaching. Counselling may be provided to children and young people on their own, or it may be provided to a child as part of a family (family counselling).


Child related issues  Child related issues may include:


family and step-family relationships bullying

bereavement/loss emotional problems behavioural problems literacy and numeracy problems     What should I be looking for in a counsellor or psychotherapist? Whilst there are currently no official rules or regulations in place that stipulate what level of training a child/youth counsellor needs, it is recommended that you check to see if your therapist is experienced in this area. While some aspects of counselling remain the same regardless of age, there are certain issues and developmental intricacies that often require an alternative approach.   A Diploma level qualification (or equivalent) in child/youth counselling or a related topic will provide assurance and peace of mind that your counsellor has developed the necessary skills.   Another way to assure they have undergone this type of specialist training is to check if they belong to a relevant professional organisation representing child/youth counsellors.