When a young person walks away from their first counselling session feeling empowered and having greater self-compassion – that’s a win for Ngak Min Health school counsellor Rebecca Godfrey.
“Sometimes you only get one chance, so it’s important to create a positive and immediate impact on wellbeing,” the Gordonvale counsellor said.
As was the case recently with a young client who, like so many teens, needed a safe place and person to explore and unpack what was going on for them.
Within the safe space, Ms Godfrey said the teen was supported through a combination of strengths-based coaching, challenging of unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, and applying stress management techniques to the healing process.
“The stress management techniques included mindfulness, reframing and taking different perspectives, setting wellbeing goals, and journalling,” she said.
Ms Godfrey said journalling and writing were powerful tools she encouraged young people to use for their mental and emotional wellbeing.
“Teens often feel isolated even if support is available, so writing enables them to take troubled thoughts out of their mind with a ‘no shame’ factor,” she said.
“It can also be just as effective for emotional processing as it’s like talking to another person. I enjoy pointing out to teens that their favourite music, artist, song, or rap lyrics are often an expression of the emotional pain of the lyric writer, which is the same process.”
Ms Godfrey said she was grateful to be a part of the healing journey for a remarkable young person who embraced writing to let go of negative attitudes towards themself.
The teen shared a poem with her, which included an extremely relevant perspective on the importance and challenges to love and accept yourself.
“My initial response was excitement and pride, with the impressive factor being they had written about the issues we had been discussing, and that they wanted to share them with other teens facing the same or similar circumstances,” she said.
“I believe their writing was an expression of their own emotional freedom.”
It’s stories like this that Ms Godfrey hopes will encourage other teens to seek support for their personal situations.
Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) funds the Mental Health Services program at Ngak Min Health, which works with students of Cape York Girl Academy and Djarragun College.
“As a school counsellor, I see many predominant issues for teens that stem from poor self-worth, self-acceptance, and sense of identity, and can include internalised behaviours such as self-harm or social anxiety through to externalised behaviours such as bullying, aggression, or unhealthy risk-taking,” she said.
“At this developmental stage, teens will prioritise peer and social relationships, so it’s helpful for a young person to be anchored to a positive sense of self to weather the storms of teenage life.
“If a teen does not hold strong established and positive beliefs about who they are and what self-respect looks like, they are more vulnerable in every way.”
The biggest issue currently impacting the social and emotional wellbeing of teens is cyber and online safety.
“Cyber and online safety risks can include anything from cyberbullying to inappropriate relationships, however, extends to social media and computer game addiction, as well as the degradation of self-esteem through social comparison, and, further, the decline of essential social skills,” Ms Godfrey said.
“The online world is almost inescapable infiltrating the lives of young people at school, home, and within the community, and is difficult for adults to place and maintain controls around.”
Ms Godfrey said the teen was working through counselling sessions and had gained excellent strategies and developed a more positive sense of personal identity and a strong level of self-esteem.
“I feel humbled to be the person they were willing to share their healing journey and writing with,” she said.
“I am so proud of their achievement, that they now feel connected to a personal issue, brave enough to write it down, express it from the heart, and share it to help others.”