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Family Therapy (or Systems Therapy)

Childhood and adolescence as well as being a time of enjoyment, excitement, pleasure and happiness can also be a time of great challenge, uncertainty, sadness, transition and adjustment. For the young person and their families.

Childhood is a time of rapid physical, social, emotional and moral growth and development. There are many influences that will begin to have a major impact on your child, adolescent or young persons development due to what is learned and expected of your child at home, school and in social settings.

All of the work that I undertaken with children and young people involves some aspect and varying degrees of family work as we do not exist alone but we all exist and live within a family system. When thinking about the effect of any emotional or behavioural problems that your child is having we will also need to think about the affect any problems may be having in all areas of your families lives and think about what may be helpful for the whole system as well as the individual.

Problems and indeed any treatment solutions often spread like ripples on a pond. Changes in one area can lead to a ripple effect and lead to many changes in other areas. We will often have sessions involving all members of the family and think together about the impact and ascertain the perspectives of siblings and other significant people within the child’s system.

Parents are usually the best the best people to help things get better, often working as a coach or co-therapist. In working with younger children the sessions are often directly with the parents, although it is important for me to meet the child the difficulties relate to, any change work has to be with those that have the ability and skills to implement treatment and influence change.

Gaining a shared understanding

In trying to assess and understand meanings of behaviour we have to think about the system and culture the child exists within, the various influences of what the child is born into, their unique temperament, coupled with how they are brought up and the life experiences and events that have impacted on the developmental process.

I am often asked by parents when there is more than one child in the family, who have had the same experiences yet one of whom may be experiencing difficulties and problems more so than the other, that they are puzzled as the children have been brought up in the same household with the same amount of care and attention and management, yet how can the children be so different?

There is much written about ages and stages of childhood development that informs us what a child of a certain age ought to be struggling with or adjusting to, what behaviour we may expect to see within quite broad parameters that may give us some ideas. We must remember that we are all unique individuals and therefore do not always neatly fall into developmental models and may not always be comparable to siblings or our parents.

Considering the child in a broad and holistic way helps us to develop an individual understanding of your own child and family’s unique experience and inform assessment and critically, treatment approaches. Children within the same family may experience the same event but interpret, feel and understand this in very different ways, they may be managed differently dependant on their ages and temperament, they may have different external influences and sources of support.

All of these factors influence how a child makes sense of what is happening and how they deal with and process this.

This brings us to think about how we have been parented, how we have been brought up, which undoubtedly influences how we approach the job of parenting and guiding children through various developmental stages, milestones and help them navigate through the transition from toddlers to teenagers to adulthood.

My extensive experience of working with children, young people and families has enabled me to develop skills, experience and expertise of evidenced based practice and of how to approach, treat and navigate children, young people and parents through the minefield and rollercoaster of childhood.

How I can help?

I can provide help with a variety of common childhood/adolescent difficulties such as;

  • Understanding stages and ages of Child and Adolescent Development
  • Difficult childhood behaviours such as non-compliance, tantrums, aggression, sleep problems, hyperactive behaviour, impulsivity, faddy eating, attachment issues, and sibling problems
  • Family breakdowns, loss, separation adjustment issues and blended families
  • Trauma, adjustment reactions
  • Anxieties, worries and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD,) low moods and depression
  • Self harm
  • Anger
  • School related difficulties, bullying, peer problems and loneliness
  • Social and friendship difficulties, confidence issues
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Exam stress

My approach focuses on recognising, promoting and enhancing existing strengths, resources and resilience of each individual in the family system and providing information, strategies and techniques to help contain problematic behaviours by using behavioural modification and management principles such as praise, encouraging play and interaction, devising realistic reward programmes.

I am able to provide parents with support and advice relating to the setting of appropriate limits and boundaries and with maintaining a consistent approach. All of this with the ultimate aim of helping a child to feel safe, secure and contained which in turn leads to the enhancement of relationships, attachments, interaction and improvements in family life.

I am able to engage with children and young people across stages and ages of development to develop and establish trusting and supportive relationships, without which no meaningful work can take place.

Children and young people are unique individuals presenting with a variety of emotional and behavioural problems some of which are transient and some of which are harder to deal with and require outside help from specialist support.

Being a parent is a rewarding but sometimes challenging experience. Whether you need help bonding with your child, support managing and supporting your child whilst they have therapy, or advice and strategies for more positive parenting I can work with you to achieve your aims.

Who will attend?

The focus of therapy and with whom will be discussed and agreed upon when we meet. The age, developmental levels, understanding and capacity of the child alongside the presenting difficulties of the child will of course influence this decision.

It is my priority to make sure a safe and trusting relationship with all children, young people and families is built (without which no meaningful work can take place) so you feel confident exploring things, which are often difficult.

The first thing that will happen is I will meet with whoever in your family wants to attend that is important to you. I may meet with your child individually, depending on the difficulties, their age and whether this will be the most beneficial. Following assessment (with adolescents) I often then offer to meet with young people individually, plan family sessions or offer a combination of both.

During these early appointments I will be working with you to build up a picture of what the problems are and how to address them. Once we have reached a shared understanding and if everybody is happy therapy will then begin.

I hope this information has been useful and informative. If you would like to discuss any of the issues above or issues that your child may be experiencing that I have not mentioned please feel free to contact me so we can think together about how to proceed.

Further information can be found below;

Please note: I have no responsibility for the endorsement of any of the above particular sites nor am I responsible for the content or accuracy. I will invite you to make your own decisions on what is relevant to you and your family. The sites listed above are widely used within local health services.

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