It's not easy to build trust and empathy with young clients, especially those who've experienced attachment trauma and are already wary of adults, let alone ones who eagerly rush in to help. According to Martha Straus, the author of No-Talk Therapy for Children and Adolescents, the key to getting through to these clients lies in creating an atmosphere of familiarity and reliability.
Predictability, it turns out, actually promotes change for these young clients, making them feel safe and appreciated—something an adult may have never provided for them before. After several sessions, Strauss notes that the therapist can establish themselves as a safe attachment figure and build a stronger bond with their young client. "For a lot of these kids, people haven't really been reliable for them," Straus says. "For many, I'm the only grown-up they know."
In the video clip below, she shares a simple method you can use to establish yourself as a safe attachment figure. You may be surprised at how simple—yet important—this procedure is.
Martha Straus, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology at Antioch University New England, and the author of No-Talk Therapy for Children and Adolescents and Adolescent Girls in Crisis: Intervention and Hope.
As Martha explains, even small steps like calling, emailing, or texting a young client ahead of time to confirm an appointment can make a big difference in how they feel, and how they feel about you. “It’s not incidental that we make set appointments,” says Straus. “These kids need reliable adults. Especially for those who have chaotic lives, this kind of structure is incredibly important.”
This regularity is part of a ritual between therapist and client that’s crucial to effective therapy. You may be surprised, Straus adds, to know your young clients value it as much as you do.
Did you enjoy this video? You might also enjoy Straus's "Getting Unhooked," in which she explains how to bring compassion and understanding to even your most hot-headed young clients. You also won't want to miss "Bungee Families," in which she explains the growing trend of young adults moving back home, and what it means for their development, happiness, and the modern family as we know it. Want more blogs on working with kids and teens? Click here to read more.
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