Meeting expectations : first session experiences of adolescents in a secondary school counselling setting. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Counselling
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsSkidmore, Maryanneshow all
Currently more adolescents in New Zealand are experiencing mental health issues than ever before and often their first opportunity to access help is with a school counsellor. Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) has been shown to produce successful outcomes with young people (Gingerich & Peterson, 2013; Kelly, Kim, & Franklin, 2008; Newsome, 2005; Schmit, Schmit, & Lenz, 2016) and is a good fit for use within secondary schools. One aspect that counsellors find helpful is the possibility of altering problems in a short time period (Murphy, 1996) and the focus on strengths and the future rather than problems and unwanted behaviours (Franklin, 2012). While developing my personal practice I encountered young people who were disillusioned with the counselling they had experienced and as a result had terminated all sessions and were reluctant to access counselling in the future. Much of the feedback from inquiry about their dissatisfaction was about the lack of relationship building and the rush by the counsellors to move onto finding solutions. There is no literature that looks at adolescent expectations and experiences of school based SFBT counselling. This led me to consider my own SFBT practice and whether I am best meeting my clients’ needs or my own.
This current qualitative, practice-based research study aimed to contribute to this gap in the literature and explore the expectations that adolescents bring to their first counselling session. How those expectations are met and how the session is experienced was important as a less than satisfactory experience could result in abandonment of access to these services and a decline in mental wellbeing. The interpretive case study examines adolescent experiences and is focused on the participants’ interpretations. Conducted in a New Zealand co-educational secondary school, the participants had never accessed counselling prior to their involvement in this research. My research question was: How do adolescents experience their first-time solution focused counselling session in a high school setting? I aimed to explore what adolescent expectations in a first-time counselling session are, what do adolescents see as important in first counselling sessions, and how does my SFBT practice meet adolescent expectations of a first counselling session?
Seven adolescents attending their first SFBT counselling session participated in this qualitative research. Brief interviews at the beginning and end of the counselling sessions were conducted and transcribed. The data, including these interviews and the counselling session, was analysed using interpretive thematic analysis. Six themes emerged that indicate that adolescent clients bring different expectations to counselling, however, meeting those expectations is not always important if the experience is agreeable to clients. What each adolescent prefers within a session is unique and the importance of the relationship between the counsellor and client depends on the issues the adolescent client has. An unanticipated finding was the impact of perceived barriers for adolescents to access school counselling.
The implications of the findings are considered in relation to current literature in this area, as well as my own counselling practice and that of other school counsellors. They make a valuable contribution to current literature and are helpful in considering changes in the promotion of counselling and access to mental health services. Acknowledging how the personal approach of the counsellor is impactful on the client experience may be useful for other counsellors working with adolescents in a school counselling setting. Strengths and limitations of this practice-based research are also discussed.