Niki Lemon is our specialist in Solution Focused Hypnotherapy for children and young people and comes from a long and varied teaching career. She describes teaching as “my first passion” and the immense satisfaction she gets from being able to help students overcome barriers and reach their potential. Conversely, the frustration at being unable to overcome some barriers to learning and personal development that can’t be solved in the classroom. In conversation today, Niki talked about the types of difficulty she sees young people struggling with, how her passion for teaching led her to Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and why she feels it is the best approach to helping our young people progress and thrive in their lives.
Growing up can be tough and school days are not always the happiest days of our lives. Recent studies published from surveys carried out by the NHS have highlighted a relatively recent, and alarming, rise in children with mental health and emotional difficulties. Across all age groups (5-19yr olds) as many as 1 in 8 have a reported mental health disorder.
The type and frequency of these disorders vary between ages and genders, with younger boys and older girls being the most commonly affected. Particularly worrying was the number of teenage girls reporting self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
Despite these figures, fewer than 1 in 4 kids with mental health difficulty were reported to have accessed support services. Many were relying on friends, the internet or, in the best-case scenario, their teachers for support.
Niki is dismayed, although not surprised by these figures. They mirror her lived experience in the classroom and, over her years of teaching, she has encountered more and more children who are unable to become engrossed in learning as they are weighed down by anxiety, stress, fears and mood disturbances that at times feel overwhelming.
“I wanted to teach to support and encourage children and young people to investigate the world around them and thrive, but this is an almost impossible job if they are full of fear and anxiety”
The same NHS survey found that children of parents with a mental health disorder were statistically more likely to have emotional problems themselves. This did not, however, investigate any causality and Niki suggests that the effect may go both ways. “As a parent of two children I can totally understand the awful stress of seeing your child suffer. You just wish you had a magic wand to take it all away”
There are certainly reports of parents of children struggling with mental health problems where their own stress adversely affects their work, relationships and even physical health. Niki believes that although her Solution Focused Work is child-focused, the benefits for the whole family can be huge. “That swell of pride you feel when your child overcomes difficulties is incredible,” she says, “Parenting can really be both the best, and the most difficult, job in the world”
So how can Solution Focused Hypnotherapy help children and young people?
“Well firstly,” Niki says “It sounds obvious, but it focusses on the solution, rather than the problem. Children who have been recognised as having mental health problems can sometimes feel like the attention the problem receives obliterates everything else. A child who has issues with school attendance, for example, can be overwhelmed with the pressure as the adults around them try to find effective strategies. Actually, school avoidance is a good example” she says “A solution-focused approach would involve encouraging the child to recognise and acknowledge the exceptions. What are the activities that the child does attend? What are they good at? What do they enjoy? When do they feel most confident? How do they manage to join in? The problem is just the problem” says Niki “ but it’s not the whole child”
Solution-focused therapy relies on the individual child finding their own coping strategies and helpful ideas. Niki’s face lights up as she talks about the creative and interesting ideas some of her young clients come up with. “My job” she says, “is to ask them the right questions, the interesting questions that keep them out of the primitive part of (all of our) brains that evoke flight/fight/anxiety reactions and into the intelligent, forward-looking part of their brains that comes up with the good ideas. That means it's meaningful to them, they've invested in the solution, because it’s THEIR solution”
“Do people ever get worried about the ‘hypnotherapy’ part of your sessions?” I ask. “Not the kids!” Niki replies, but she does acknowledge that it can put some parents off. “and it’s a shame” she says, “because trance is really very ordinary, humans use it all the time… and especially kids. It’s essentially the most positive form of daydreaming, and daydreaming is when we come up with the best ideas. Modern educational theory fully understands the importance of allowing kids time to daydream, to digest and process information.” And this, says Niki, is why she loves Solution Focused Hypnotherapy “some of the lessons I teach in the classroom will be forgotten, and that’s fine… but the work I do in the therapy room makes positive changes that last a lifetime, and beyond, as troubled kids grow up to be thriving adults and parents themselves”