Off the Record offers a telephone support service for parents & guardians of young people. Our counsellor will provide up to an hour on the phone for you to discuss whatever challenges you’re experiencing, offer support and listen. This can be particularly helpful when the child/young person is unsure about or doesn’t want counselling. To take up this opportunity or find out more information please contact our office on 020 8744 1644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It can be hard for young people to manage and talk about difficult emotions, and their lack of life experience can make it more difficult to cope. Having someone who can really listen to their feelings makes all the difference to helping your child cope well instead of going into panic. It’s surprisingly hard to really listen, but it’s a skill everyone can learn. We hope these ideas may help:
Making space to listen
Find a good moment when things are calm to ask your child how they’re doing or if they want to talk. Don’t be put off by a ‘no’. They’re probably not used to you offering. Try again another time.
If they’re willing, let them talk. Don’t jump in, even to help or comment. Do put aside all your own opinions and feelings, temporarily, to properly listen. Remember you’re listening to them NOT you.
It will help your child to speak more openly if they know it’s private and you won’t share with anyone else.
Problem-solving for your child can make them feel more helpless. Just be curious about what’s going on for them.
Asking ‘Why did you do that?’ can sound judgemental, but ‘what happened next?’ or ‘how was that for you?’ is engaged and interested, and gives them space to explore. Asking ‘what did you want to do’ can also help.
Check if you’ve understood right – ‘It sounds like this…. is this right?’ and let them correct you. If you’re really trying to understand, your child will forgive any mistakes.
Ask what they need – Do they just need to vent? Or to brainstorm solutions? Trust that they know what they need and can work this out.
Listening to emotions
Only 10% of communication is through words. It requires careful attention to pick up what’s not being said. Your child will read a lot from your expression, posture and tone too – it’s helpful to listen to yourself when you reply.
Being allowed to have and express feelings is always a relief and takes out the panic. Naming feelings helps us understand what’s going on and feel more accepting of ourselves.
Anger can arise if we feel unheard or scared, so being able to express anger is important too. It’s also very natural to feel anger whenever life isn’t how we want it.
Come back to them later to see how they’re feeling. They may feel anxious about what they shared and wonder what you’re thinking. Let them know you are still available to talk.
It can be very hard to listen to your child struggling and not have your own feelings or reactions. It’s okay to ask for help if you feel your child is at risk or you feel ’out of your depth’.
Counselling at Off The Record is for young people who are having problems. Whether it’s depression and mental health concerns or issues with parents, friends or school, talking to a counsellor can help.
The young person needs to live, work or study in Richmond borough and be between the ages of 11-24 to be eligible for counselling here.
When a young person contacts Off The Record they can expect a friendly welcome, to be treated with respect and given support to make their own life choices. A young person can expect to be helped by a supportive and non-judgmental counsellor. Many young clients have told us that they feel happier after they have seen a counsellor and that counselling has helped them to feel better about their problems.
Contacting Off The Record
When someone contacts OTR we take basic details including availability for counselling, school and GP details (although our service is confidential and we will not contact either of these).
Young people can be referred by a GP, teacher, social worker, or parent or they can also self-refer. The fact that they request to see a counsellor is confidential, as is what they say to the counsellor, unless the counsellor is worried for their safety.
If the initial contact is made by someone else – like a parent, carer or other professional, we then ask that the young person also contact us. This is because, as a service for young people, we are very much led by them. We want to know that it is their choice to attend counselling and our experience is that involving them in the process from the beginning leads to a better outcome. However, if they are very young or nervous of speaking to us we can be more flexible about this requirement, so just let us know.
After the young person has contacted us confirming they’d like counselling we can then offer an initial one-off counselling session usually within a couple of weeks, while they wait for a weekly slot. When a slot becomes available we offer 12 sessions of weekly counselling. There is usually a wait of a few months for a suitable slot to become available.
How does counselling work?
Once the young person is assigned a counselling slot he/she will see the same counsellor for 12 sessions. Occasionally a young person and a counsellor are the ‘wrong fit’ and if happens we encourage the young person to request to see a different counsellor. All our counsellors are trained, in a variety of counselling disciplines, and attend regular supervision as required by their professional body. Our counsellors also have extensive experience of working with young people. Our approach to counselling could be described as person-centred which broadly means that the young person is at the core of the support offered. That support includes choice and is holistic and tailored to the young person’s needs and wishes.
Counselling offers a safe space for a young person to share their difficulties. It isn’t always easy to talk about what is worrying them. Often they don’t know what the problem is, they just don’t feel ‘right’. Counselling offers them a space to think; to look at their life and how they feel, and to gain some support as they ‘reframe’ their life and work towards making choices that are right for them. Counsellors do not offer advice or opinions about what path to take; they are there to facilitate and support the young person as they think about their difficulties. Off The Record Counsellors create an environment and relationship with their client that allows for supportive engagement and helps young people learn to cope with and solve their own problems.
How are parents involved?
We understand that parents are concerned for their children, particularly when they are struggling and in need of extra support. Sometimes parents can find it difficult that their child may need help outside the family. But even within a supportive family it can help a young person to talk to someone independent, as they often worry about the impact of their emotions on their family. It can be empowering for a young person to share what is going on for them with a non-judgmental person outside the family, and this usually has the effect of improving family relationships too. Remember, you can always contact our Parent Support Line for some one-to-one advice from a counsellor.
We are always happy to talk to parents about the process of counselling and offer them any support we can, however we are unable, due to the confidential nature of the counselling relationship, to discuss anything that your son/daughter has talked about in their sessions.
If we are worried about the young person’s safety we follow procedures laid out in our Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy, and this reflects our commitment to provide a safe and confidential counselling service for all our clients. If we believe that a young person is at risk of serious harm (or may seriously harm someone else), we would then make a decision as to who the best person is to share information with in order to support them – this may be parents, GP, police, or other appropriate services.
Our policy incorporates many aspect of current legislation, government statutory guidance and BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) guidelines.
What can I do to support my child?
There are many ways that a parent can support their child, both generally and in relation to having counselling:
Be available to talk if your son/daughter wants to talk, but try to listen rather than give opinions.
Hold back from offering solutions and trust that your child can find their own solution. You can be interested and caring without intervening. Reflecting back what they say can be more supportive than making suggestions e.g. “that sounds like it was very challenging” not “why didn’t you say something back?”.
Be patient – life problems do not disappear overnight, particularly if they have been around for a long time – making change is challenging and can take time. It’s okay to make mistakes and get it wrong – this is an essential part of learning.
Having confidence in your young person’s ability to cope, and telling them you are proud of them for getting help/staying with their struggle will boost their confidence.
Let them know that you support them seeing a counsellor. Be understanding if they do not want to talk about what happens here
Focus on other aspects of life; schools, friends, sports, social etc. and point out what they are doing well. They don’t always see this themselves, and it can strengthen their coping skills.
How to talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will talk – Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
How to talk so Teens will Listen and Listen so Teens will talk – Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
Raising Boys – Steve Biddulph
Raising Girls – Steve Biddulph
Feeling Like Crap: Young People and the Meaning of Self-Esteem – Nick Luxmoore
Supporting Off The Record
The counselling service is free (though we ask those over 18 who work and can afford it, to make a contribution of up to £10 per session).
However, we are a charity and we’re very much reliant on raising yearly funding; community fundraising is a vital source of our income. If you are happy with the service and would like to make a one-off contribution we’d be very grateful; you can do this through the Donate page on our website or the donations box at OTR.
Perhaps you would like to organize a fundraising event, run a marathon or anything else – if so please do get in touch with us to talk about this.