The approaches to working with children vary from, models reflecting pre – and perina tal experiences, systemic approaches based on family therapy, universal models of development of the psyche common to adults and children and child-centred methods of intervention based on the concept of play. The most challenging proposition is that children and adults share a common psychescape combining light and darkness and many shades in between.
Working with children does not fit easily into the commonly held model of the theraeputic contract whereby the client seeks out the therapist on his/her own initiative and reaches a mutually acceptable agreement about the parameters and goals of the relation ship. Parents or other adults normally bring children to us and their continued attendance depends as much on the agreement of those adults as the wishes of the children. In exceptional cases where children need help and their parents or guardians oppose such intervention, the state in the form of a Health Board arranges through the legal system to have therapeutic help provided, further complicating the contractual framework.
We react in horror to the dreadful attitudes and treatment meted out to children in the past. It is not long ago since children were considered to be less than human and child rearing was based on hand-me down theories from animal training. However, despite all of us having gone through childhood, are we more enlightened or do we just have new methods of animal husbandry?
Recently the Swiss Government published a Report with the intriguing title, “Battery or Free- Range Children?” The title suggests that the modern trend in child rearing is more battery than free-range. (The nursery, creche, pre-school, after-school, child-minder, summer school, quality time etc. are all ways to subcontract the child-parent relation- ships to worker bees). The British Government’s green paper on childcare strategy promises; “childcare at the push of a button”. Parents will be able to telephone a national hotline to help them find places in nurseries, playgroups and after school clubs for their children.
With the aid of technology we can create perpetual daylight and anaesthetise our guilt by limiting the dangers that children face by permanent monitoring and surveillance. Following each child/-minding scandal there is a demand to install cameras at home or in the creche to monitor child-minders so that parents can have on-line access from the comfort of their own workstations via the internet to see that baby is not being abused.
Are we helping children or helping them adjust to the requirements of Big Brother and Sister? There are some great benefits from working with children in psychotherapy. It can be like rediscovering what parenting and therapy are about.
This issue also includes tributes to our late editor, Alan A Mooney, and an article, compiled from his writings, reflecting his deep beliefs in the value of bodywork.
Our Autumn Issue will take The Therapeutic Relationship as theme and we welcome contributions on this topic.