by Michelle Daly

Ten minutes into my first session with Fiona, a 14 year old teenager, she uttered the words “I plan to kill myself”, this shocked me to my core and then my training came in. I looked her in the eye and asked why she had come to this decision.  We devised a plan that included and involved her parents, her GP and the local CAHMS service.  Over the next 10 months I worked with Fiona, I joined her in her world and helped her to understand what she was seeing, feeling, and thinking about her evolving world. After 10 months of psychotherapy I asked her if she still had a plan to kill herself, she smiled back to me and said “but why should I die, Michelle”, we both smiled.


I cannot put into words the feelings and thoughts and I went through in that second. We had worked together, and the gift was Fiona had her life back. I thought of all of the concerts, dates, events, holidays, monumental seconds that she would experience in her lifetime, and I had worked with her to give her those moments.  We had created hope inside Fiona again. What a feeling.


I had my training, and this was vital when dealing with Fiona a 14-year-old in crisis. Specialised training gives a psychotherapist the grounding of a plan and the knowledge to move forward with teenagers.  Being an Integrative psychotherapist, I use a number of theories in my work with adolescents. Starrs states that adolescents are motivated by three yearnings these are physiological, psychological and interpersonal integrity (2019, p. 6). As psychotherapist we must create a space where these yearnings can be uncovered and explored. I am reminded of Charles C. Finn words when teenagers begin in therapy;

Don’t be fooled by me.

Don’t be fooled by the face I wear.

For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,

Masks that I’m afraid to take off,

And none of them is me. (Whitfield, 1989, p.13)


 We must help the adolescent take off the mask and find out who they really are. Helping the adolescent understand their internal and external world is not an easy task and Rogers (1961) core conditions always set the base for this exploration. It is a challenging space at times but I am always reminded that this a reflection of the teenagers inner world and the more I help them to understand themselves the more power they have.

Why become a child and Adolescent Psychotherapist to me it is to give the gift of themselves back to everyone I work with.




Rogers, C. (1961) On Becoming A Person, A Therapists View of Psychotherapy, Mariner


Starr, B. (2019) Adolescent Psychotherapy, A Radical Relational Approach, Routledge


Whitfield, C.L. (1989) Healing the Child Within, Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, Health Communication INC




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