Jeanine Connor writes articles for publication in professional journalsThe themes are always real, while the characters, dialogue and events described are always fictional.

Where Lunatics (still) Propser

I maintain that children living in an environment furnished with chaos and violence are likely to present as chaotic and violent, or emotionally shut-off, or socially isolated, and sometimes this can resemble the characteristics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autistic spectrum condition (ASC). I remain troubled by the popularity of 18+ games among under-18s, and by both the computer-generated and off-screen chaos and violence which furnishes many of their worlds. This isn’t about attacking gamers, or jumping on the overcrowded bandwagon peddling the notion that gaming is the root of all evil, and nor is it

about diminishing the value of thoughtful, holistic assessment and diagnosis. Misunderstanding often fuels sensationalist headlines, and I don’t want to fall prey to that either; I want instead to encourage a consideration of the internal and external realities of young people whose presentation resembles ADHD or autism.

 (First published in BACP CYPF December 2023)

(copyright Jeanine Connor)

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Barbie Girl  

Gender equality is an international human right – but is it a reality? UN Women was founded in 2010 to accelerate progress in achieving international gender equality. Their key goals are empowering women, reducing economic and political disparities and reducing violence against women and girls. But the organisation’s findings are stark. Globally, women earn 20% less than men; only 25% of all national parliamentarians are female; and at least 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Reading these statistics prompted me to reflect on what it’s like to be a woman at this moment in time. 

(First published in Engage, Steve Sinnott Foundation, October 2023)

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In transition

Melanie was referred to me for psychotherapy by her GP because she was displaying symptoms of anxiety, depression and social isolation. I invited her to attend a first session, so she could decide if I could help her. Melanie was sturdily built and tall for her age. Her hair was dyed green, cut short and mostly hidden under a black beanie hat, pulled down over her eyebrows. She wore no make-up and her skin looked sallow. Her eyes were bloodshot, as if she’d been crying or had a late night, or maybe both. Melanie’s clothes were nondescript and shapeless and didn’t seem to fit her...

I heard that Melanie had no routine in terms of sleeping or eating and that she seldom left the house. When I enquired about social contact, she told me that she had friends who visited her at home, but she rarely went out because she was too anxious and had experienced panic attacks in the past when she was away from home. I asked if she had any idea about what might be causing the panic and low moods and she said everyone stared at her because she was a freak.

‘That’s quite a statement. Why would they think you’re a freak?’

‘Because I am.’

I’m wondering why you think of yourself that way?’

‘Because I’m trans.’


This is an edited extract from Stop F*cking Nodding – and other things 16 year olds say in therapy by Jeanine Connor (PCCS Books). 

This extract was published in The Frame, January 2023

Do you have a book in you?

was flattered and surprised, in equal parts, to be asked to present a session

on how to get a book published at this year’s BACP Private Practice

Conference. This isn’t an unusual response for me to being asked to present anything to anyone, but the theme, ‘Beyond the room: finding your inner entrepreneur’ made me wonder: why have they asked me? The dictionary definition of an entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.1 I think that if your main motivating factor for writing a book is financial richness then, unless you’re JK Rowling, Jamie Oliver or Terry Pratchett (the top three most valuable British authors since records began),1 it’s probably not for you. But the conference theme was inner entrepreneur and, as a psychotherapist and wordsmith, I was interested in that concept. In relation to writing, I interpreted it as putting, not your money necessarily, but your pen (or computer keyboard) where your mouth is, in the hope of reaping some sort of subjective reward...

(First published in BACP Private Practice December 2022)

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I once worked with a girl who…

I’m sometimes asked how I, a psychotherapist, can write about my clients without breaching their confidentiality. The short answer is, I can’t. I’m also asked whether requesting consent to write about the people I work with affects the therapeutic

relationship. If I did ask them for consent (which I don’t) how could it not? These answers inevitably raise more questions. If I can’t write about young people without breaching their right to confidentiality and I don’t ask them for consent, how is it possible that an important string to my professional bow is as an author of books and articles about my therapeutic work? I’ve written about hundreds of young people, parents, carers and professionals, and they all have one thing in common – they’re not real. So, when I write something along the lines of, ‘I once worked with a girl who…’ you can be certain that I didn’t, and that whatever comes next is a figment of my imagination...

(First published in BACP CYPF March 2022)

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On noticing and being noticed

‘I’m bored.’


‘This is so f**king boring.’

‘I know.’

‘Life is so f**king boring.’

‘You’re so right.’

‘There’s literally nothing to do.’

‘I know, right.’

‘Life is like – So. F**king. B-O-R-I-N-G.’

This was the opening gambit in my first session with this new group of 16-year-old girls. Connie was bored. Saskia was bored too. Chantelle agreed that life was boring. So did Mo, who literally spelled it out for us. Mercedes was seemingly too bored to say anything, for now...

(First published in BACP Therapy Today July 2022)

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Entering their world

This is f**king weird,’ exclaimed one adolescent lounging on his bed. I’m not keen,’ grumbled another from the Wi-Fi hotspot halfway up the stairs. As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, I, like lots of other psychotherapists and counsellors, was given a bird’s-eye view into the private homes of young people as I shifted my practice online. I’ve worked this way before; it’s a service that suits some people for a variety of reasons: young people who have moved away to university, people I’ve never met in person who live overseas, those who are unable or unwilling to leave home for reasons such as illness, anxiety or agoraphobia. These individuals have benefited enormously from choosing to work online. And therein lies the rub; what’s happening now is not a choice...

(First published in BACP Therapy Today June 2020)

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Feeling the feelings

Confession: I experience feelings about clients during their therapy sessions, and I know plenty of respected colleagues who also do. We are human after all, and it’s part of the human condition to feel, particularly in relation to another.

 feelings towards clients can include boredom, rage, repulsion, fondness and something akin to love or hate. They can be difficult to bear, but bear them we must because they contain vital information about the dynamics at play between our client and us. Our feelings might be understood cognitively, for example ‘I feel irritated by him’, or they could be experienced in the body, perhaps as an ache or a sickness, and can range from subtle to overwhelmingly powerful. I’ve been encouraged to acknowledge my feeling response to clients from day one of my psychodynamic training, but I’m aware that not everyone is comfortable with this. I’ve debated with counsellors who argue that it’s unscrupulous to have, let alone admit to, feelings about clients. I believe the contrary; that it is disingenuous to deny such feelings, and to do so is to miss a significant therapeutic trick that can lead to a deeper understanding about our clients’ worlds. In  article, I present the case for feeling our feelings, with a particular emphasis on those felt in the body. I illustrate my assertion that feelings are communicative, informative and invaluable therapeutic tools through the use of vignettes borrowed and disguised from my clinical experience...

 (First published in BACP CYPF December 2018)

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Making sense of fetishes 

I've had plenty to say, in training and in print, about adolescent sexuality. I’ve contemplated ordinary sexual development, troubling sexualised behaviour, and issues affecting young LGBT clients, with a particular emphasis on T. I’ve ventured

into more challenging arenas by reflecting on adolescents who engage in bondage, dominance, and sadomasochism (BDSM) and/or sugar-daddying. This article ventures further still by considering adolescent sexual fetishes. In order to protect the anonymity of my clients, what I present here are amalgamations of therapeutic experiences with young people of various ages and genders, consolidated into four unidentifiable clinical vignettes. Working with this client group provokes a tension for me between developing a psychodynamic understanding of the sexual fetish, and employing an ethical need to maintain

my clients’ safety...

                                                         (First published in BACP CYPF June 2018)

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What's the harm?

When was the last time you knowingly did something harmful to yourself – smoked a cigarette or nicotine substitute; drank a glass of wine over the recommended allowance; swallowed a couple of paracetamol above the prescribed amount; took a recreational drug; skipped a meal or binge ate? Usually we do these kinds of things because we think they’ll change our mood in some way by helping us to unwind, de-stress, or relieve psychological pain. On occasion, we might do things we know are harmful in order to manage our emotions or dissociate from them. Is this self-harm?...

(First published in BACP Therapy Today February 2018)

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The T word

I am on record as saying that sexuality is the biggest issue for adolescents and pre-adolescents and I maintain that its exploration takes up many a therapeutic hour. Sexuality is a broad church, incorporating questions about physical development and intercourse, intimacy and relationships, normalcy and perversions, gender, transgender and various sexualities. Younger children (7, 8, 9 year olds) bring questions about their bodies and other peoples’ bodies, as might be expected, but I also get asked about the factual stuff by mid/late teenagers, the age group that are presumed to know it all already. But how can they know if they have not had a thoughtful parent or parent figure to ask and reflect with and if their only points of reference are sneakily looked at porn and ill-informed playground banter?...

                                                 (First published in BACP CYPF December 2016)

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Keeping up with our clients: a response to the new ethical guidelines

When was the last time you read the BACP Ethical Framework? In my experience, formal documents such as these are read on a need to know basis; something goes wrong, or has the potential to go wrong, and members turn to an official lodestone for succour. According to Andrew Reeves, BACP Chair, the revision of the Ethical Framework is in part a response to ‘scandals and service failures in health and social care that have inflicted significant harm’. So it too could be described as a reaction to things gone wrong, or an attempt at reparation, or an effort to develop our learning within the wider social and political context, and an endeavour to ensure that things go less wrong in the future. ‘Our commitments to clients’ serve as a reminder that our overarching aim is to do good, not harm, and there are some interesting amendments...

(First published in BACP Therapy Today July 2016)

Where Lunatics Prosper

The title of this piece is the tag-line from Grand Theft Auto (GTA) III (1), a console game marketed at young men aged eighteen and over. Regrettably, the appeal of this, and similar games, covers a much wider demographic and is the primary pursuit of many children as young as eight years old. One of the mainstays of this type of game is violence; injury and death is portrayed in graphic detail as dying bodies hurl through the air and bullets cut through flesh, splattering blood across the screen. The character in Call of Duty (2), for example, opens fire in a busy airport killing innocent bystanders in order to progress to the next level. I was informed of this by a boy of eleven who, reflecting on his hobby in a therapy session, told me; ‘I don’t know what I would do if I was ever in a real airport with a gun’. God forbid, I thought. The latest blockbuster in the Call of Duty series is Black Ops (3) which sold more than 7 million copies within 24 hours of going on sale. In this game, the marketing hype informs us, players are able to ‘turn down the blood and turn off the profanity to suit their needs’. There can be no argument that the amount of blood and profanity a child ‘needs’ is zero, yet the prepubescent boys who spend their free time playing these games seem most unlikely to censor them.  Equally as concerning is the sexual content of many console games played regularly by young children. In GTA III the character acts out sexually explicit scenes. In GTA IV (4) he picks up prostitutes and selects from three levels of service; masturbation, fellatio, and full sexual intercourse. Many of the boys who access these games are still in junior school and spend several hours a day playing them in bedrooms, behind closed doors, often with their parent’s knowledge and consent. I wonder if these parents would be as consenting to their young sons watching pornographic films...

                                                (First published in BACP CYPF September 2011) 

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Lies all Lies

Our aim in working with young people psychodynamically is to help them to unravel the many and varied realities they bring to therapy. These realities have both physical and psychological manifestations and they are carried consciously and unconsciously into the therapeutic space. My use of the term realities is intentional as I would argue that ‘lies’, in the traditional sense, never exist in the therapy room. My patients know, perhaps unconsciously, that I am not an arbiter of the truth (although I am often a detective!) and I think that this allows them the freedom to express their real and fantasised experiences and to explore them with a mindful ‘other’. Therapists might think about patient’s fantasies, or unconscious phantasies as Melanie Klein (1) called them, but in my view these are quite distinct from lies. I think that fantasies are similar to dreams in that they allow latent desires, fears and anxieties to become manifest in a more manageable form. Play, drawing and creative writing are used by children to express themselves in a way which words sometimes fail to do. These are more tangible vehicles for carrying unconscious fantasies into the realm of conscious awareness and they are valuable forms of communication about internal worlds...
      (First published in BACP CYPF March 2011) 
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Letter to Therapy Today published April 2018 

I’m all in favour of a debate and I welcome hearing and reading opinions that differ from my own; it helps me to challenge my existing beliefs, learn, develop and avoid getting stuck. What I didn’t welcome was the publication in the March issue of the three letters in response to ‘Putting gender on the agenda’ (News feature, December 2017). 

The letter from Transgender Trend argues that contributors to the news article, of which I was one, ‘have no idea of youth culture’ – I beg to differ – and that ‘trans’ has become the highest-status identity’. Transgender is not about status and is not an identity choice any more than cisgender is. My extensive experience of working with ‘youth culture’ over the past two decades illustrates that transgender young people put up with a lot of ignorance and hate – no-one would choose that. The letter goes on to name and quote me as saying that parents who have had a son for 15 years and now have a daughter can find it mind-blowing. What I also said was that ‘I do my best to acknowledge how difficult it can be for them to support their child while managing their own feelings of confusion and loss.’ Transgender Trend does the opposite: their raison d’etre is to campaign against supporting gender diversity in young people. The letter, and our organisation, failed to mention that. 

The letter has been removed from BACP’s website but the proverbial horse has bolted all over social media. The vast majority of comments on Twitter rallied against BACP for their apology rather than Transgender Trend for voicing their non-affirmative stance. Tweeters shared ignorant and anti-trans opinion, contrary to our code of ethics and the MoU. Many were BACP members working with CYP who must have felt vindicated in their prejudicial views following the publication in their professional journal of anti-trans propaganda. I worry for young people seeking support, as it is evidently a lottery as to which side of the ethical/affirmative fence their counsellor resides. 

Another of the letters was written by a BPC/UKCP member who shares the position and values of Transgender Trend. He has re-tweeted both letters repeatedly arguing that they contain ‘irrefutable truths’. On the contrary. His letter states that ‘Self-identification as trans may seem to offer a magical solution to’ … ‘issues related to emerging sexuality, family break-up, social isolation, autistic traits, self-harming and/or traumatic memories’. Really – a magical solution? I find it deeply concerning that a registered psychotherapist holds such a viewpoint. The letter also states, erroneously, but as if it were fact, that ‘medicalisation with hormones and surgery [is the] default treatment’. Any transgender person who has decided to transition (and many do not) will tell you that the long road to transition is paved with assessments, therapy and questions. It concerns me that BACP have failed to remove and apologise for this contribution as they did the other. Yet the writers of both share the same non-affirmative stance and say they specialise in offering therapy to young people who identify as transgender and training to those who work with them. 

The only letter from a bona fide member of BACP makes some valid points. I agree; it is not ok to compare a young person identifying as transgender – a reality – to one identifying as a panda – a fantasy. However, she goes on to state: ‘The Tavistock takes a controversial and extremely conservative line’ [in]‘…never’ giving up hope that the […] trans person in front of you might not actually be trans’. This is not my experience of supporting young people with community-based psychotherapy alongside their treatment from Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) and nor is it theirs. 

I don’t know why Therapy Today decided to publish two anti-trans letters from non-BACP members. I accept that letters are published with a disclaimer that they contain the views of the author, not the organisation, but we’re talking about a code of ethics here, not merely a difference of opinion. My hope is that BACP will take better care of us and our clients in the future, regardless of gender.

Jeanine Connor (MBACP)