Adolescence is a tumultuous period characterized by significant physiological, social, psychological and cognitive changes that often cause considerable stress and anxiety, as the youth faces numerous demands from family, school and peers and fights negative ways to respond to these demands, such as truancy, drug abuse and isolation (Steinberg & Sheffield, 2001). Transitioning to high school requires the teens to communicate with a new and larger peer group and handle greater academic expectations. Counsellors clearly recognize that healthy relationships are the essence of mental, emotional, and psychological health. Many of the crises teens confront today are related to relationships -- with parents, teachers, siblings, and friends. Problems such as loneliness, low self-esteem, peer-pressure, rebellion, homosexuality, and underachievement have their foundation in unhealthy or broken relationships that can occur anytime during a youth's lifetime.
Increased stress occurs for adolescents across the board: Students who are in enrolled in rigorous academic programs, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) High School Diploma Program, have greater stress compared to those in general education programs (Suldo, Shaunessy, & Hardesty, 2008). On the other hand, lower socioeconomic status (SES) is also associated with more stress and worse adolescent health. Given the pace of life today and the increased expectations of adolescents as they graduate from high school and move forward onto their adult life, this stress will most likely grow over the next decades, and these youths will need counselling support more than ever. This is why I want to take my first student placement in the area of adolescent counselling. Organisations I would like to do my placement with are specifically the ones that deal with child youth & family services.
Today's hectic world frequently leads to teen anxiety and depression and even suicide, as can be seen in the recent large number of adolescent deaths, as well as an increase in drug and alcohol abuse. Personally, I can readily identify with this growing amount of stress and anxiety. I also had considerable difficulty adjusting to the "grownup world" when I was a teenager. The intensity of feelings during this development period is often more than I or many other adolescents could handle. Like many other young people my age, I rarely was able to talk openly to adults, including my parents, to seek advice, decide direction and solve problems. Instead, I tried the best way I could to find ways to personally deal with my own issues, and sometimes that led to problems. I would therefore like to try to make changes in the lives of troubled young people.
My educational and work background and experience is in the sciences, very different from sociology and counselling. However, regardless of the kind of work people perform, there is always the need for them to positively interact and communicate with others in their organization, as well as be a strong team player and help others. There are certain personality traits that I have thus acquired over the years, such as being a good listener and able to help others express their thoughts, but beyond this it is necessary for me to obtain counselling skills that can only be learned through education. I am pleased that my son's friends talk with me concerning issues that are bothering them; they feel relaxed around me, because of my calming and caring personality. However, due to my lack of formal education in sociology, I often feel that I am not as much help as I could be as if I made counseling my profession. I thus believe my earlier learning experiences as an adolescent along with my present educational and placement training will be very advantageous.
Although I have not yet had the opportunity for my first student placement, I have had a number of different classes in sociology that provided me with a foundation in the field. My 12 units of courses thus far are: Approaches to Cultural Diversity, Applied Social Research, Counselling in Loss, Social Legal and Ethical Issues, Counselling Methods 2, Organisational Behaviour, Counselling Methods 1, Counselling Skills 1, Counselling Skills 2, Developmental Psychology, Social Analysis, Conflict Management, Interpersonal Skills and Introduction to Psychology. Of course, in addition to my student placement with adolescent counselling, I will need to take additional courses in adolescent counselling while in this placement and later in school.
My desire to work closely with others, especially adolescents, has drawn me to the sociological and psychological development theories of such individuals as Carl Rogers (1980) and B.F. Skinner (1971). I believe their approaches can best help young people, even though their theories are quite different. Humanist psychology, or person-centred therapy, that was created by Carl Rogers, deals with the manner in which people consciously perceive themselves instead of having a therapist trying to interpret unconscious thoughts or ideas. There are a number of different components and tools used in person-centred therapy, such as active listening, authenticity, paraphrasing, and empathy. However, the main point is that the individual already has the answers to the problems, and the role of the therapist or, in my case, the counsellor, is to listen without making any judgements or giving advice, and simply assist the person to understand his or her own feelings and to feel accepted for who he or she is. Teens can seldom be helped if the counselor passes judgment against them. As Rogers said, "When you criticize me, I intuitively dig into defend myself. However, when you accept me like I am, I suddenly find I am willing to change." Too many adults wrongly believe that adolescents are too old to change their ways and cannot be helped enough to turn their lives around. Many of the problems teens face are possible to overcome. Emotional and cognitive healing is possible, although, particularly in major instances, it can take a great deal of work by the counsellor and adolescent to overcome these obstacles.
Despite the fact that Skinner's theories have been controversial, I believe that they can be helpful for adolescents who are facing personal challenges. The concept is based on the idea that learning is a function of change in overt behavior. These behavioral changes are due to a person's response to events, or stimuli, that take place in the environment. A response produces a consequence, such as closing a door, stopping unhealthy habits or solving a personal problem. When a certain stimulus-response pattern is reinforced, or rewarded, the individual is conditioned to respond. Reinforcement is key to Skinner's stimulus-response theory. A reinforcer is anything that strengthens the desired response, such as positive feedback, a pat on the back, a good grade or personal satisfaction knowing that a job was well done. A negative reinforcer is any stimulus that results in the increased frequency of a response when it is withdrawn.
Today, counsellors use behaviour modification to treat a variety of problems faced by adolescents. With positive reinforcement, for example, which encourages certain behaviours through a system of rewards, it is typical for the counsellor to write up a contractual agreement with the teen, in order to establish the terms of the reward system. This form of positive reinforcement techniques has been successfully used to help a wide variety of disorders from minor adjustments to more significant developmental problems.
As I noted earlier, there are certain traits that are essential for a counsellor, such as genuineness, trustworthiness, honesty and empathy. There are also traits from which counsellors need to refrain. 1) premature problem solving, where the youth is not given the chance to experience something but is instead told what it will take place; 2) too quick to respond, where the counselor interrupts the adolescents before they have had the chance to express themselves; this reduces or eliminates productive thought and keep the counsellor from hearing what adolescents are actually saying; 3) asking too many questions that confuse the adolescent; 4) not setting limits, for fear of not being accommodating. Teens need to know the ramifications of their actions; 5) passing judgment on actions; 6) impatience, or expecting the youth to change too quickly or too much over a period of time and 7) reluctance for a counsellor to have the youths see others for help, especially when this counsellor is new to the field and experienced.
I am pleased with the personality traits and skills that I have already acquired through my adulthood personal experiences and work in major corporate environments, where I have communicated with people in many different roles and with many different personalities. I value my ability to understand others, my unconditional positive regard and my ability not to judge others. In addition, I have accrued additional knowledge and understanding since I have begun my new studies in sociology. During my placement and in my career as a counsellor to come, I will do my best to be the most ethical person possible and prize confidentiality and a professional approach to adolescents as well as to fellow staff members. I intend to be as focused and helpful as…