Online counselling can be a great support for adolescents. They tend to embrace the technological aspect of just being able to talk to a counsellor on SKYPE or WhatsApp when convenient without the hassle of leaving home or needing to be driven by their parents. In a way, it empowers them to seek counselling support with limited assistance or input from parents or guardians.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a relatively new form of cognitive-behavioural therapy. Rather than addressing specific psychiatric disorders, ACT posits that the nature of our difficulties is rooted in psychological rigidity: problems develop when we become stuck in rumination, painful emotions, or behavioural avoidance.
To assist us getting unstuck, ACT encourages people to develop skills in six areas: acceptance, cognitive defusion, contact with the present moment, self-as-context, values and committed action.
ACT has been growing in popularity due to the expanding body of research that demonstrates its efficacy and effectiveness. It has been especially helpful in my practice (www.counsellingonline.biz) for treating adolescents.
A great way of teaching ACT to adolescents is the DNA model which is divided into 3 sections – discoverer, advisor and noticer.
The client’s goal is to learn to move between these spaces in order to gain more flexibility.
The Discoverer mode of us involves risk taking, adventure, exploring, movement and action towards values. In this mode adolescents can grow and develop take up a new hobby, make a new friend, learn about a subject that interests them.
When we are in Noticer mode, we notice our body sensations, emotions and thoughts from the Advisor. In the advisor space teens and adolescents are better able to appreciate life around them and slow down in order to make well thought out (instead of impulsive) decisions.
Our Advisor mode is like the mind, the advisor helps us stay safe and learn useful information more efficiently. However, sometimes the Advisor leads us to be inflexible and rigidly follow rules. One of the main goals of ACT is to teach adolescents how partner with their Advisor (into discoverer or Noticer mode) when it is being helpful and how to step away from the advisor when it is being unhelpful How do we know when the advisor is being helpful? We evaluate what it is telling is in terms of values.
A benefit of treating the mind saying things as the advisor is that it reduces defensiveness. Young people learn to see the advisor as just one part of them, not their whole self. They learn that sometimes the advisor says things that are unhelpful, and this does not make the whole person defective.
With the DNA model adolescents are encouraged to actively explore their environment, try-on different values, and experiment with different kinds of behaviour. Further they are invited to attend to their social network which is a very powerful and healing force for this age group. The model is fun to learn and is excellent for online delivery.
Matthew Reynolds has a gradute diploma is Counselling and a Bachelor of Commerce degree. He was a qualified accountant before embarking on a more satisfying career of counselling.