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Finding the right way to help a young person

In the past year there has been a sharp rise in the number of children needing mental health support. In many cases therapy is the answer. It can help young people cope with anxiety, depression, and trauma. But knowing what type can be challenging. What works for one child might not work for another. Here we explore some examples of how our practitioners have used different forms of therapy to help children they are working with.

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Cognitive behavioural therapy

Trauma-focused Therapy

When Isla was ten, she was exposed to sexually explicit content by someone she trusted. Someone who should have kept her safe. For years she was experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She was anxious, unable to sleep, afraid to socialise and experiencing intrusive thoughts.

Isla was referred to Olivia, one of our therapeutic practitioners. She used a trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT) model in her sessions. TF-CBT is a conjoint parent-child treatment that looks at the mental health needs of children, and families suffering from the effects of early trauma. 

Girl clasps her hands on the couch while speaking to a therapist

Trauma focused

Olivia spent time getting to know Isla and her mum and they developed a trusting relationship. Using trauma narrative techniques, Olivia supported Isla to talk about her experiences and begin to process them.  

“Before I got support, I found it hard to get to sleep. I was anxious and there was a knot in my stomach.”  

I feel much better and I don’t lash out anymore. I feel calmer.

“My relationship with my mum's a lot better. I’m a lot less angry towards her. I feel like we’re closer and I talk to her more.” 

Dialectic Behavioural Therapy

Boy sits with a paper in his hand smiling

Dialectic Behavioural Therapy

Tom works for our Checkpoint service. He provides CBT or counselling to young people struggling with a range of issues. He is also part of a pilot project with an emphasis on reducing self-harm through a specialised type of therapy called Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT).  

“DBT is almost an evolution of CBT. It was developed for people with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.” 

DBT

“A dialectic means two opposing ideas can be true at the same time. The dialectic in DBT is, ‘I'm doing the best that I can, but I can always improve’. It's holding those two things. We come back to dialectics over and over again. A big one in the series at the moment is the dialectic in self-harm. ‘It helps me to relieve stress, but it’s making things worse'."

“Every week during the one-to-one session the young person is expected to complete something called a diary card. Here they can track the times when they’ve self-harmed.”

“We'll really scrutinise it and put it in the right order. What came first, the thought or the feeling? It could be thought, feeling, thought, feeling and they might go around a merry-go-round before it gets too much and that might be when they self-harm.” 

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Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy

Eye Movement therapy

In 2017 Andrew and his family witnessed a terrorist attack in Barcelona that claimed 16 lives and injured over 100 others.

When Andrew returned home, he found it difficult being out in public spaces and suffered with flashbacks. Eventually he was referred to Jessica, one of our practitioners

boy stands in street with headphones around his neck smiling

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy

Jessica specialises in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR). A therapy that is used to help people process trauma. She explains, 

‘EMDR helps you to process any negative emotions, images, beliefs, and bodily sensations associated with traumatic memories that appear to be stuck. It involves using side to side eye movements, taps on the body, or stimulus to the palm of the hand combined with talk therapy in a specific and structured format.” 

“EMDR is used to treat a wide range of symptoms such as flashbacks, feelings of isolation and irritability. It involves revisiting memories that might be disturbing, and it can have rapid effects. It’s not suitable for everyone but in Andrew’s case he was ready to try it.” 

EMDR helped me process my memories, to not keep it lingering in my head.

Today Andrew feels happy and hopeful about his future. He has just finished his exams and has been able to secure a job as a learning support worker. 

Author: Edward Herbert

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