Kooth blog

Online Therapy: A Popular Choice for Young People


In a guest blog for Place2Be, Elaine Bousfield, founder and chair at XenZone, explores the importance of choice in therapy and talks about why online tools like their counselling service Kooth can really help young people.

The importance of choice in therapy cannot be understated. We know some people will avoid a face-to-face meeting with a counsellor, but may express themselves through music or sport or by keeping a journal.

It’s not just the medium either: some people will click with a particular therapeutic approach such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) while others will respond better to a humanistic approach.

Choice is also important for many children and young people who are used to an online environment. The anonymity and accessibility it offers is key to encouraging young people to get early help for emerging mental health issues before they have chance to escalate.

In our work with young people online and face-to-face, we see how different approaches can work – and, importantly, can work together.

During regular assemblies and workshops we hold in schools and colleges, we know that peer-to-peer support is valued highly. It has the power to normalise feelings that young people may struggle with. Moderated peer-to-peer support online sees young people talking about an incredible range of topics important to them, from coping with puberty and relationships to self-harm and bullying.

As one of our young people put it: "When I have one of my hard days (I am bullied and it makes me depressed), I like to go online and read stories from people like me."

For some Kooth users, we will work with them as they open up to family members, as they go to the GP to get an NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) referral and often as they wait for an appointment to come through.

In the diagram here you’ll see Cem’s journey. Cem* is 16 and started working with Kooth some months ago after seeing his GP with feelings of isolation and loneliness. While being referred to CAMHS and waiting for an appointment, Cem’s GP suggested he registered with Kooth for support. Counsellors worked closely with Cem using a mix of person-centred and CBT therapeutic approaches, while helping him set and work towards specific goals. Some months later when CAMHS followed up his referral, Cem decided he no longer needed his appointment. He felt he had the coping strategies and support to manage his feelings better.

Cem’s story underlines our belief in the wisdom of offering help in different ways. Online counselling can be easier for children and young people looking for an accessible and anonymous way to get support. The fact that it can lead to them getting the face-to-face help they may be working towards, or can support young people while waiting for a face-to-face appointment – or even negate the need for additional help altogether just shows that we need to preserve the principle of choice as critical to providing effective support.

*not his real name

Kooth provide online support and counselling across the UK. Place2Be and Kooth are working together to explore how our services can complement each other further. Find out more about Kooth’s work

This guest blog was written in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the view of the organisation.

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