Self-Reflection in Adolescents

Jane Teverson is the author of Born Beautiful: How Counselling Theory Can Enrich Our Parentingwhich is released on 30/11/2020.  It is written from the depths of experience, and with the hope that it will raise awareness of how completely our attitudes and actions affect the children whose lives we touch.  Jane explains how counselling theory can be used by parents throughout a child’s life, from infancy to adolescence, and makes a case for compassionate parenting.  Here, we are happy to share an extract on the importance of self-reflection in adolescents.

Therapists who write about working with troubled adolescents appear to agree on one fundamental issue: the crucial need in the adolescent for the capacity to self-reflect.  That is, to have the capacity to think about how they feel, why they feel the way they do and how best to cope with those feelings.  The capacity for self-reflection allows emotions to be contained, controlled, channelled and understood.  Without self-reflection emotions can be overwhelming and out of control, possibly leading to violence and self-harm.  

So what qualities does a therapist need to make available, in order to help a young person who hasn’t, as yet, had the opportunity to develop the capacity for self-reflection?  In other words, what conditions would parents need to provide in infancy and childhood that would have allowed this crucial capacity to develop?

Most importantly, the therapist offers the troubled adolescent ongoing and consistent support and help.  It is an important part of the healing process that the adolescent experiences that support and helpfulness as being totally available to him, to his innder ‘self’; as being there because he/she matters.  What the therapist builds, and what the adolescent needs to experience, is a relationship of trust; a dependable relationship based on mutual respect, where his/her ultimate good is of paramount importance.

Breathtakingly simple, and what every infant should ‘enjoy’ as a birthright; a parent who is there for them, supportive and helpful; a parent who wasnt to ‘understand’ their child, what their child needs; a parent whose own needs don’t get in the way of their love for their infant child, for the adult in the making, and the quality of life their child will experience for the rest of their life.

The most crucial input from the therapist is to have and show and interest in the adolescent, for their own sake.  To show the child (because that is what an adolescent is) that they themselves are not the problem, but that they are carrying a problem which has been put ‘onto’ them.  With this established, the therapist and adolescent are able to collaborate in finding out what or whoe the problem is, and begin the work of relieving the child of his burden.

Jane Teverson has worked as a counsellor for over twenty years.  Her book is available from 30/11/2020.

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