Working with teenagers, too smart for psychotherapy…

When I started working with clients many moons ago I decided that I wasn’t going to work with couples or clients under the age of 16. In recent years I have seen both types of clients and am a far better practitioner for doing so!

One of the great things about working with teenagers and clients even younger is that they tend not to overcomplicate or intellectualize issues. The youngest client to date was just eight years old and Hungarian. He had already seen a therapist with zero success. One of the reasons for this is that many classic therapeutic approaches are too formalized to really engage people of that age, so often there’s not a lot of possibility of useful change. With PCW the practitioner is unfettered by many of the protocols that restrict how a therapist can work and crucially in many talk therapy approaches there is far too much time spent “talking about the issue” or analyzing past events. Frank Farrelly called this “the archeological dig” which rarely revealed any long lost treasure.

In the UK I had a 14-year-old school refuser as a client. Her mother had taken her to a therapist and her daughter sat silent for the entire session. She was a bright student and knew how to get her own way. She had already got her mum to have private lessons at home after her horseriding and was too anxious to attend school unless it was an art class which seemed absolutely fine. In most client sessions the first few moments are crucial. I instructed her mother to be silent in the session and not speak for her daughter or interrupt. I started the session conversationally with a total lack of formality which she probably would be expecting.

“I see you are at school?” (No response from the client)

“Some people say that school days are the best days of your life” (no response from the client)

“I always thought SCHOOL SUCKS!” (Big response from the client who breaks state and laughs before quickly checking herself.

However its too late, I now have a reaction to work with. At the end of the session, her mum commented

“Wow she never talks so much to people she doesn’t know”

PCW has the flexibility to provoke even the most solemn individuals and create really accelerated lasting change. I’ll be talking in the UK events about my 7000 hours experience of working 1 – 1 with clients and many instances where traditional approaches didn’t produce any useful change.




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