Our work with Emma
Emma was 15 and had come into our service with what her parents described as “low mood”. We began by meeting with Emma’s parents as this allows us to better understand the family experiences to date and how this may have informed the way Emma views herself.
We understood through our dialogue with her parents that Emma often lacked self-confidence and generally keeps her feelings to herself. Her mum described her as “hard to read” and that she “doesn’t like to talk” but she can see she’s “full up of worry”. I began to get a sense of Emma as someone who was self-contained. It was this self-containment that I wanted to explore with her so as to uncover the reason why she felt she needed to keep her thoughts and feelings to herself. This can feel so isolating and daunting for children and young people, and it can also feel isolating for their family.
When I first met Emma, she was naturally reserved and unsure. She began by asking me, “am I here because I’m sad?” We explored that and her fear that she will never stop feeling sad. We talked about what ‘feeling sad forever’ would look and feel like. We were also able to explore what else Emma felt, other than sad. In talking about it together, we were able to begin to normalise Emma’s feelings and she settled into the process. This was Emma’s first experience of someone else being able to digest and absorb her thoughts and feelings without worry or consequence and she was able to trust that.
An open dialogue ensued about Emma’s belief about herself and her role within her family. She was able to talk about her fears of being a burden, her desire to feel “normal”, and her wish to be spontaneous and worry-free. She was also able to talk about what being depressed feels like, and how she sometimes cuts herself to feel ‘better’.
As a result of her honesty and bravery, we were able to relive in our sessions the times when she has self-harmed and I was able to support Emma to connect with what it feels like when she harms. The insight we gained enabled us to think about how overwhelming her feelings could be when she didn’t express or share them. She learned that sharing her thoughts and feelings allowed her to heal.
When we support a young person to understand what harming themselves (or feeling depressed, or feeling anxious, angry, isolated etc) actually feels like, we are able to walk alongside them and they essentially feel heard and supported. Emma internalised her thoughts and feelings, but through sharing them, it became liberating for her. It meant she had the experience of being heard and of having not been the “burden” she worried she was within her family.
Emma began to feel less overwhelmed and burdened by her thoughts. As a result, her mood lifted and she no longer felt the need to connect with her feelings by harming herself. She was able to do this more consciously and freely. We ended our work with Emma after 12 weeks of 1:1 therapy.
For help, advice or any further information about how to access our professional help, please email Catherine Munns.