Reflective practice in child and adolescent psychotherapy:

Listening to young people

Jeanine Connor
Routledge 2020

Contents

  1. Psychotherapy with children, young people and families 
  2. Fantasy and lies 
  3. Labelling children and young people 
  4. Sex 
  5. Identity 
  6. Play 
  7. Endings and loss

Description

Therapy referrals for a child or young person can be motivated for a number of reasons. The parents, carers or professionals responsible for their wellbeing might describe a sudden change in presentation, risk taking behaviour, such as self-harm or experimentation with drugs, alcohol or sex, or they might label the young person as over reacting, under reacting or attention seeking. Such behaviour prompts concern for their safety and confusion about why the child or young person is presenting the way they are. This book offers a thoughtful approach to making sense of such behaviour and encourages adults to ‘reflect on’ rather than ‘react to’ young peoples’ outward presentations.

Based on the author’s work with children, young people and families over two decades, this book shares reflections from the therapy room and illustrates how the therapist can try to make sense of mood, behaviour and presentations that previously made no sense. The content relies heavily on clinical experience as well as drawing on classical and contemporary psychotherapeutic literature. 

So often adults find themselves reacting to observable behaviour in a judgmental or punitive way, rather than pausing to consider what the behaviour might be communicating. The author aims to model a thoughtful reflective approach to making sense of what might be going on for children and young people and this book will be of great interest to child and adolescent psychotherapists, related professionals and those with an interest in young persons’ mental health. 

Reviews

This honest, bold and frank book consists of seven chapters, each focused on a theme relative to working therapeutically with young people. The first chapter outlines the nuts and bolts of child psychotherapy, shining a light on the client-therapist relationship, emphasising process over content, highlighting unconscious and non-verbal communication, transference, boundaries, and loving our clients. The following chapters discuss, in turn; the significance of children’s fantasies and lies, the nature of diagnosis and issues of labelling, the sexual lives of children and young people, identity development, the importance of play, and finally, the beautiful chapter on endings, which will leave you wanting more. 

Classical and contemporary psychotherapeutic literature underpin clinical reflections, and case studies bring themes to life. Written in a style that encompasses informality, eloquence, intimacy and elegance, the author opens the door to their therapy room and invites us in with such generosity. We get to witness a piece of the process and join the author in making sense of what’s going on for the child or young person. Every page illuminates the sensitivity, proficiency and reflexivity needed to work with this client group, yet at the same time the author offers an honesty that reassures us all that to be unsure, uncertain, and simply ‘good enough’ as a therapist is OK. 

I would have liked a chapter illustrating how the author approaches reflective work with professional ‘others’, such as school staff, carers and social workers. This book is a valuable resource for therapists, social workers, teachers, foster carers, health professionals, parents and anyone who has a desire to make sense of young people’s behaviours, moods and communications. 

Michelle Higgins MBACP (Accred) is a counsellor in further education and child and adolescent psychotherapist in private practice

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'This powerful, concentrated book captures the essence of psychodynamic practice with children, young people and their families today. These kids bring unimaginable lives of indifference, betrayal, neglect and abuse, or sometimes just incomprehension, from those charged with their care. Jeanine Connor decries lazy labelling and eschews the fairy-tale ending; rather, she leaves threads so the reader – whether student, experienced practitioner or, indeed, parent – can explore, quarrel with and unravel her insightful interpretations and interventions. Alongside are helpful references to beacon texts from the literature. These stories celebrate the role of the therapist – listening, absorbing, containing, understanding and ultimately, we hope, freeing.'

Catherine Jackson, Editor, BACP Therapy Today

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'For any aspiring therapist working with children and young people, this book demonstrates how to be both firm and kind, how to combine clear theoretical thinking with human compassion and a flexibility of approach. This is an accessible, unpretentious book, distilling many years of wise practice with young clients. I recommend it to all therapists learning how best to work with the turbulence of adolescence.'

Nick Luxmoore, Psychotherapist, Supervisor, Trainer and Author

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