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Ports in a storm

Three counsellors show Catherine Ormell their casebooks. Case 1

Robert, 13, was referred after repeated angry outbursts at teachers in school.

His father had been made redundant from a computer company nine months previously and life at home had become tense and difficult as the father frequently lost his temper.

Robert was angry with his dad for his unfair behaviour and with the world in which his dad had become unemployed. He didn't want to involve his parents because he felt it would add to their troubles but he chose to work on understanding and managing his anger.

He learnt some techniques he could use out of school, like shouting into a pillow, ripping up old telephone directories and running. In school, we got some teachers to understand his difficulties and become his allies.

His was a happy outcome, but many kids don't develop insight and internal resources until they are older.

From Polly Klinefelter, a counsellor with the School Counselling Service, Canterbury and Thanet.

Case 2

Peter, 17 sat in my office weeping. He was being heavily bullied by one of his teachers who was being excessively sarcastic, commenting on his appearance, rubbishing his work.

Peter had been referred to me by an educational welfare officer. He was unable to talk to other members of staff or to his parents. With his exams looming, he was losing both sleep and confidence.

I helped him identify other teachers who might be supportive towards him and we worked on ways he could stand up to the bullying teacher. I suggested he avoid situations where he was alone with this individual and change his body language and the way he talked so he wouldn't get tense and drawn into a confrontation.

We also talked about ways of helping him to control his obsession with the problem and practised relaxation techniques so he could sleep. Things settled down for him after about three months.

From Roger Casemore, an independent consultant and counsellor.

Case 3

Mark, 12, was referred because he had been lashing out at other children. He had no real friends and was achieving very little academically.

His parents separated when he was seven. He lived with his mother and much younger brother. Mark gradually gained enough confidence to tell me that he'd always blamed his mother for his father leaving. He was very jealous of his brother because he demanded so much attention and resentful that he was expected to do a lot of housework.

After several sessions, he agreed that we invite his mother in and for the first time they were able to talk about the split and the pent-up anger it caused. She recognised how little attention she gave Mark and the unreal expectations she had of him. He understood better the problems she faced in bringing up two boys alone.

They both decided the boys should visit the father more - something she had been against previously.

Relationships with the whole family improved, Mark's self-esteem grew and he started to make friends as well as make progress throughout the curriculum.

From Christine Clarke, a counsellor at Cullompton Community College, Devon. All children's names have been changed.

* The British Association for Counselling, which sets standards in counselling, recommends that schools check the qualifications, training and experience of anyone applying for a job as a counsellor. The applicant should be BAC-accredited or working towards accreditation.

* For further information about BAC or Counselling in Education contact: BAC, 1 Regent Place, Rugby, Warwickshire CV21 2PJ. Telephone 01788 550899 (office) or 578328 (information line).

* Helen Holland and Associates, 31 Chalfont Road, Oxford OX2 6TL offers counselling training to meet the needs of pastoral staff in day and boarding schools.

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