Navigating Life Challenges Through Purposeful


As human beings have made the world a better place for them to live in and made it easier to do a lot of things the world continues to change and evolve in one way or another. The changes that occur in the world have led to more experiences being generated. According to Mcleod (2013), counseling is a wonderful twentieth-century invention in that it helps people cope with the different experiences that they are experiencing in life. Most of the time, individuals go on with life at their own pace, but at times certain events are so overwhelming for them that they need to seek help to process the situation. At times people turn to their friends, family, and spiritual leaders to help them in processing the situation that they are experiencing. Occasionally, the advice that has been offered is not sufficient and, in such situations, people tend to seek help from professional counselors. The counselor’s job is not to diagnose an individual but to listen to them and finding ways through which they can resolve the issue (Mcleod 2013). There are many definitions that have been given to understand nature counseling. For the essence of this paper, the definition that will be used comes from Mcleod (2013 p.6) who notes: “Counseling is a purposeful, private conversation arising from the intention of one person to reflect on and resolve a problem in living, and the willingness of another person to assist in the endeavor.” The key assumptions of the definition is that counseling will only occur if the other individual wants help; counseling is based on conversation; it involves the creation of a relationship between two people; the counselor is not necessarily trained, they just need the ability to listen; counseling gives an individual an opportunity to speak, to have their differences respected and the benefit of confidentiality

(Mcleod 2013). Therefore, counseling is very important since it gives people an opportunity to work through any issues that they may have with the help of a counselor. The fundamental basis of counseling is the same. What that means is that as long as another individual is willing to listen to the individual with problems/issues, a relationship is created and the individual gets an opportunity to express themselves in the context of confidentiality, then a counseling relationship can be created. However, while the theoretical basis is the same regardless of the client, the application of the theories will differ depending on the type of client the counselor had. For example, the counselor will have to apply the theories differently for young people and for adults since both groups will have different types of issues that will cause them to seek help. In the context of this research paper, counseling for young people will be focused on. A young person will present different issues to the counselor, and the counselor will have to find the most appropriate approach to help the young person deal with their issues. As such, it is important to understand the sorts of issues that might cause a young person to seek counseling and the appropriate approaches that a counselor should take.


Counseling for Young People

Young people are growing up in a very complex environment that overwhelms some of them. According to Schrobsdorff (2016), young people all over the world are being overwhelmed by the issues of everyday life to the point where depression and anxiety levels are higher in the current generation of young people. Over 6.3 million young people aged between 12 to 17 years have reported that they have had at least one major depressive incident (Schrobsdorff 2016). In the UK, Slawson (2018), notes that 3 out of 5 young people feel overwhelmed by their pace in life. Mental Health Foundation (2018), notes that 60% of young people feel overwhelmed due to the constant pressure to succeed; 47% feel stressed due to their body image and appearance; 57% feel overwhelmed due to a constant fear of making mistakes; 39% report having suicidal feelings due to stress; 29% report that they have self-harmed due to the high levels of stress. The statistics show that young people are overwhelmed by the various stresses of life; thus there is a need for counseling amongst young people. Pattison and Harris (2006) note that counseling for young people is especially important in a school context since it is linked to learning, attendance, achievement, and behavior. As such, the mental health of students within a school setting is of paramount importance. The case to increase counseling in a school context has been strengthened by various legislations in the UK with the key legislation being the Children Act (Pattison and Harris 2006). It is against the backdrop of an increasing desire for the mental well-being of young people in schools that counseling has gained traction and support.

Counseling practices have been used to help alleviate emotional and psychological problems in adults. Harvey and Gumport (2015) note that counseling and other psychological therapies have been found to assuage and relieve emotional stress and distress from adults. However, the counseling and psychological therapies that are applied in adults would not be as efficacious in young people due to the differing nature of the development of children and adolescents (Fonagy 1999). Additionally, on top of the differences in emotional, physical, moral and cognitive developments there are differences in the ethics and power issues involved when the counselor's client is a child or adolescent as compared to when the client is an adult (Robson and Pattison 2018). Due to those differences, different counseling strategies are applied in relation to children as compared to adult strategies. Therefore, the counselor must be aware of the different developmental stages that their young clients are in, while at the same time having a knowledge of the legal frameworks relating to confidentiality and capacity as it pertains to children and adolescents.

Issues that May Cause a Young Person to Seek Counselling

There are different issues that may cause young people to seek out counseling services. The issues may not be unique to young people since adults may experience the same issues too. The differences lie in the manner through which different counseling therapies and interventions address those issues. The issues that young people share with adults include but are not limited to physical and emotional abuse, depression, sexual abuse, anxiety, different eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, and having difficulties with relationships with their parents, peers, and other people (Pattison and Harris 2006). However, there are some issues that are more context-specific in relation to children and young people. The issues include but are not limited to bullying, phobia of going to school and specific behavioral problems. While it is good to note that the majority of adolescents follow a relatively untroubled path in terms of psychological development, there are those whose path is riddled with a lot of struggle. Majority of the issues that adolescents experience are intermittent or temporary. The issue lies in a lack of coping mechanisms in relation to home and school (Pattison and Harris 2006). Moreover, adolescence can be a troubling time for young people in the sense that it is usually a transitionary period between childhood and adulthood. As such, the physical and psychological changes taking place may lead to stress, body apathy, development of eating disorders, drug abuse, depression, anxiety, and suicide (Pattison and Harris 2006).

In relation to psychological development, Freud advanced the psychosexual stages of development. McLeod (2017) notes that the last stage of Freud’s psychosexual stages of development revolves around sexual experimentation and that the sexual instinct is directed towards heterosexual pleasure rather than pleasuring one’s self like during the phallic stage. In the same vein, Erik Erikson proposed a theory of psychological development that comprised of eight stages. Zastrow, Kirst-Ashman, and Hessenauer (2019) note that stage 5 is comprised of identity versus role confusion. During this time adolescents are exploring who they are, and they strive to develop their own sense of self. Additionally, the adolescent struggles to integrate the different roles that they play in life into the identity that they seek to fashion. Hughes et al. (2010), note that factors such as homelessness, lack of parental supervision and social isolation may compound the issues that young people feel which increases their need for counseling intervention practices.

In modern times, depression seems to be the primary issue that would cause young people to seek counseling. O’Hara (2018), notes that more than 400,000 young people under the age of 18 are in contact with the NHS due to depressive issues. Depression is a serious issue in young people since it accounts for more than a one-fifth of the deaths in young people (Bilsen 2018). The other common issue in adolescents lies in relation to self-harm with girls being more likely to self-harm in comparison to boys (Pattison and Harris 2006). Additionally, self-esteem issues are common in young people with prevalence rates being higher in girls (Guibourg and Jeavans 2018). Bullying is shown to have adverse impacts on the mental health of adolescents more so in young people who have issues such as learning disabilities and difficulties (Kaltiala-Heino and Frojd 2011). While the above information does not comprehensively cover the issues that may cause young people to seek counseling, it gives an overview of those issues.

Counseling Interventions

There are a number of different counseling interventions that can be applied in relation to children. Cooper (2013) notes that in a general sense the purpose of applying counseling and psychological therapies to children is to aid in deescalating problems while at the same time building up the self-esteem of the child. Moreover, applying the counseling and psychological therapies is of paramount importance since it arms the child with the resources that they need to cope with future difficulties while at the same time dealing with the current issues that the child may be experiencing. In a broad sense, the counseling therapies used to treat children can fall into three different categories each one with its distinct theoretical underpinning and assumptions. The therapies are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychoanalytic Therapies, and Humanistic Therapies.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has become a popular approach to therapy since it can be applied to a variety of issues. CBT is based on the notion that mental disorders and psychological distress are all maintained by cognitive factors (Asnaani et al., 2012). Therefore, by addressing the cognitive factors, one will be resolving the psychological distress and mental disorders. CBT is in line with the model of psychiatry since the overall goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms, improving the individuals functioning, and causing a reduction of the disorder. CBT is useful in treatment of anxiety and depression. Hofmann, Wu, and Boettcher (2014) carried out a meta-analysis of literature than involved 3,326 participants spanning 59 trials. The researchers found that CBT was very effective in improving the quality of life of the participants. The coping mechanisms presented through CBT were found to be successful in aiding the participants in dealing with their anxiety. Face-to-face interactions when delivering CBT and group settings provided a higher efficiency as compared to internet-delivered treatments. The researchers thus concluded that CBT is valuable when treating anxiety disorders. Pattison and Harris (2006) note that CBT combines both cognitive and behavioral therapy. Mcleod (2013) notes that CBT has gained traction over the years due to the fact that the end result is backed up by a lot of research evidence and behavioral observation. As said above, CBT is based on the premise that cognition is related to mood and behavior. According to Pattison and Harris (2006), CBT is one of the most used and applied research therapies for children and young people. The purpose of applying CBT in relation to young people and children is to promote emotional and behavioral change in children and young people by changing the way through which they interact with problems (Scott 2009). The techniques used in CBT are used to enhance a young person’s self-control, to improve their self-efficacy and also improve their ability to handles issues in a rational manner. Scott (2009) notes that CBT as applied to school going children and young people is used to treat depression, self-harm, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and conduct problems. Therefore, based on the spectrum of psychological and mental distress that can be solved used CBT, it is usually the counseling intervention that it is most applied. Moreover, there are many studies detailing the efficacy of CBT for both adults and young people which has increased the frequency of its application.

Psychoanalytic and Related Therapies

The other type of counseling therapies that are applied in relation to children is the psychoanalytic form of therapy. These types of therapies focus on the relationship between mental and emotional forces and the manner through which they affect and influence behavior. A key form of therapy that is applied, usually in relation to young children, is play therapy. Yogman et al. (2018) state that the definition of play as it pertains to children is very elusive. However, there is a growing consensus that argues that play is an activity that internally directed, it involves dynamic engagement, and its end product is joyful discovery (Henderson and Atencio 2007). It is through play that children learn a variety of skills and at the same time play helps in building up a prosocial brain that can interact effectively with others (Yogman et al. 2018). Play therapy is the use of children’s play as a basis of therapeutic interaction (Homeyer & Morrison 2008). It is within play which is the natural form of communication for a child that the dynamic therapy will. Children’s play is usually a symbolic expression of their world (Homeyer & Morrison 2008). In play therapy, the counselor connects with the child through play, understands what they are mirroring and then uses that form of play to advance emotional adaptations in the child to give them greater coping abilities (Pattison and Harris 2006). Therefore, psychoanalytic and related therapies are another type of counseling therapies that are applied to young people and children.

Humanistic Therapies

Humanistic therapies are formed on the basis of human psychology, and they were created as an alternative to behavioral and psychoanalytic therapies. Humanistic therapies are more person centers and oriented, and they have an existential aspect to them (Clarkson 2004). The fundamental basis of humanistic therapies is that they focus and emphasize on the development of the whole child in relation to their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual developments. Like all the other therapy approaches the counselor at the center of this approach but in this one, they have to create an environment in which the child can grow, and one in which they feel cherished. Of all the theories humanistic approaches are the ones that are least researched since little scientific information is available about them and the efficacy of the humanistic approach. There may be other counseling approaches in relation to children, young people, and school going young people but the above approaches are the ones that are most utilized.

Challenges of Counselling Young People

There are of challenges that come with counseling young people more so within a school context. Low (2009) notes that the different challenges that come with counseling young people in schools can be divided into four domains: internal, external, systems, and personal challenges. Internal challenges refer to a number of things such as the perception that students have of counseling, the presence of qualified counselors in school, and the perceptions that various stakeholders in the school have of the counseling process (Low 2009). External challenges refer to the events that take place outside the school and ones which may affect the school in one way or another. The challenges may include but are not limited to an ever-increasing diverse student population fueled by increased immigration, changes in the body of counseling and psychology, and the perception that society has in relation to counselors and those that visit counselors (Low 2009). Systems challenges refer to different systems such as the education system, social services systems, various types of counseling bodies systems and at times the legal system. The systems are often interrelated, and changes in one system will cause changes in how the counselors will deliver their services to the children and young people (Low 2009). Personal challenges refer to the counselor, and they may involve professional issues such as supervision and growth in the profession or personal issues such as attituded, self-efficacy and self-awareness. The counselor must address all the above challenges if they wish to be effective in relating to children and young people. Since the counselor cannot address all the challenges, they should seek to address the challenges that are within their sphere of control. Ethical Considerations in Counselling Young People There are several ethical considerations that counselors have to take into consideration when they are treating young people. Counseling children and young people come with unique ethical considerations that the counselor must ensure that they address. The ethical issues may have a lot of grey areas, and the manner of resolving them will depend on the counselor and the

There are several ethical considerations that counselors have to take into consideration when they are treating young people. Counseling children and young people come with unique ethical considerations that the counselor must ensure that they address. The ethical issues may have a lot of grey areas, and the manner of resolving them will depend on the counselor and the context of the counselor-client relationship. Geldard, Geldard, and Foo (2017), notes that informed consent is a key ethical consideration. The client needs to gauge whether the child has the emotional and intellectual capacity to maintain a counselor-client relationship. A key ethical dilemma arises in a situation where the child has not given their consent, but it is their parents who have brought them to the counselor. The other ethical consideration relates to confidentiality (Geldard, Geldard and Foo 2017). The counselor needs to be clear about confidentiality from the outset and the limits of that confidentiality. There are some things that the child may reveal that the counselor may need to tell the child’s parents and some which the counselor does not have to share (Geldard, Geldard and Foo 2017). It is up to the counselor to realize how they will overcome the challenge while maintaining a fruitful counselor-client relationship with the child. The other key ethical consideration relates to the boundaries within the child-counselor relationship. Setting up boundaries should happen at the outset, and it includes setting up the time for the session, length of time and availability, place, self-disclosure and what type of behavior is appropriate during the sessions (Geldard, Geldard and Foo 2017). The ethical considerations when it comes to counselor-child relationships are diverse and unique to the context which means that the manner in which they are resolved is also unique to the context.


Counseling is a purposeful, private conversation arising from the intention of one person to resolve a problem concerning living after reflection and the willingness of another person to help in the endeavor (Mcleod 2013). There are differences between how an adult and a child will be counseled due to the differences in development. The types of problems that a child or young people will have include but are not limited to physical and emotional abuse, depression, sexual abuse, anxiety, different eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, and having difficulties with relationships with their parents, peers, and other people, bullying, phobia of going to school and specific behavioral problems. There are different counseling therapies applied are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychoanalytic Therapies, and Humanistic Therapies (Mcleod 2013). There are many ethical considerations that the counselor must surmount when counseling young people and some of them are context specific. In the end, the counselor must be aware that counseling children and young people are different from counseling adults and they must take that into consideration.

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