In the realm of child and adolescent mental health, the role of social workers is pivotal in providing empathetic support to young individuals facing mental health challenges (UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA, 2021). In this reflective paper, I will explore a helping experience with a child or adolescent with a mental health issue. The analysis will involve the combination of the knowledge and skills gained from the “Child and Adolescent Mental Health” course and a social work perspective. I will critically reflect on what I did wrongly or inappropriately during the experience and identify alternative approaches that could have been employed using the knowledge and skills acquired from the course. The engagement with a child or adolescent facing mental health challenges is both a rewarding and challenging task. Examining my past actions and integrating the course material, I aim to gain insights into effective interventions for supporting children and adolescents with mental health challenges. Being part of the “Child and Adolescent Mental Health” course, I worked directly with a young individual struggling with anxiety. Reflecting on this experience through the lens of social work and the knowledge gained in the course, I recognize areas where my approach fell short and how I could have better supported the individuals.
Context of the Helping Experience:
During my social work practice while at school I encountered a 17-year-old adolescent boy called Alex. Alex was my cousin and was now my colleagues. He exhibited signs of anxiety and withdrawal, and he was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. This is an abnormal disorder caused by symptoms of intense panic directly caused by a physical health problem (Mayo Clinic, 2018). I therefore, attempted to implement strategies I thought were appropriate based on my limited understanding at the time. Alex displayed excessive worry, irritability, and difficulty in concentration. This disorder significantly affected his college academic performance and social interactions at large. Initially, I approached the situation with empathy and a desire to help. However, upon reflection now, I realize that several aspects of my approach could have been improved. My cousin kept on displaying signs of self-isolation which affected his interaction with the clique. I focused on providing reassurance and creating a safe space for Alex to express his feelings. Despite my efforts being well-intentioned, they did not effectively address the underlying issues and failed to fully engage my cousin in his recovery process.
Wrong Approaches and Inadequacies:
The following are the wrong approaches and inadequacies that made my effort not fruitful and effective. The mistake I made in trying g to help was focusing more on offering solutions rather than allowing the young person to express their feelings and thoughts. From the course, I learned that the significance of providing a safe space for open communication is the critical enabler to the individual who wants to share their emotions without fear of judgment. Furthermore, I realize that my intervention lacked a comprehensive understanding of the family dynamics and environmental factors. These two factors greatly impacted Alex and can also tremendously affects any other given child’s mental health. According to Services& H (2022), being aware of the family situation and dynamics is essential in solving anxiety disorder. I failed to collaborate effectively with the My cousin family and consider his input and views about the situation. Integrating the course teachings, I now recognize the significance of involving the family in the therapeutic process and acknowledging his perspective. It also enables the tailoring interventions to the unique needs of the child.
The other wrong approach and inadequacy was the way I Over relied on the reassurance mechanism. My initial approach heavily relied on providing reassurances to alleviate Alex’s anxiety. Too much reassurance may worsen the situation in the long term because it triggers the mind that an individual can only rely on reassurance as a form of mitigation (Touroni, 2021). Reassurance can be addictive if it is oversupplied therefore becoming a danger to Alex’s replica, who is suffering from such anxiety disorder. However, this approach only provided temporary relief to Alex. It did not equip him with coping mechanisms to manage his anxiety when I wasn’t present. This showed that I failed to recognize the need to empower Alex to develop his own resilience and coping skills. Also, I had a limited assessment of the causative agent of this situation. My assessment of my cousin’s situation was insufficient and lacked a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of his anxiety. My mistake was that I did not delve deep into Alex’s family dynamics and school environment. This could also include the other potential stressors that play a part in the contribution of the mental health struggles. This limited assessment hindered my ability to tailor interventions to Alex’s unique needs.
I also solely focused on my cousin Alex as a character in this situation. My intervention was primarily centered around individual therapy sessions with my cousin. This hindered my efficiency as I should have paid more attention to the broader social context. This approach could have improved the efficiency of the intervention. This is because I neglected the broader social context that significantly influences an individual’s experiences and behaviors (Murphy & Joseph, 2016). I should have recognized the potential impact of systemic factors, which include the school environment, family dynamics, and peer interactions. These factors could either exacerbate or alleviate Alex’s condition. This realization underscored the importance of adopting a more holistic approach considering social dynamics and environmental factors. The intervention could have become more comprehensive if I could broaden the scope to encompass the larger social context. It could also have effectively addressed individual struggles and the systemic influences that contribute to them. The insufficiency of the collaboration technique also weakens my intervention. This was a shortcoming as I failed to involve other professionals who could have provided valuable insights and support. I was under isolation which contributed to missed opportunities that could have enabled me to tap into the expertise of mental health practitioners and Alex’s family. Collaborative efforts could have resulted in a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to addressing Alex’s mental health needs (Madeson, 2021).
Another issue was the limited cultural competence. In my interactions with Alex, I failed to consider the cultural factors that might have influenced his experiences and perceptions of mental health. A deeper understanding of cultural diversity and its impact on mental health could have helped me develop more culturally sensitive interventions and establish a stronger therapeutic alliance. This oversight aligns with the “Child and Adolescent Mental Health” course, which emphasizes the critical role of the cultural context in shaping individuals’ understanding of mental health issues (Ventriglio et al., 2016). My failure started when I started disregarding the cultural lens. I unintentionally neglected a key determinant of Alex’s worldview, potentially compromising the intervention’s effectiveness. Acknowledging the impact of cultural influences, as highlighted in literature and coursework modules, underscores the necessity of incorporating a culturally sensitive approach in mental health interventions. This, therefore, ensures the relevance and success of the therapeutic strategies.
Alternative Approaches Informed by Course Knowledge:
The alternative approaches informed by the knowledge gained from the “Child and Adolescent Mental Health” course could have mitigated the failure I made trying to intervene with Alex’s situation. The “Child and Adolescent Mental Health” course taught a lot. One the major lesson learnt is about evidence-based interventions that have proven effectiveness in addressing specific mental health issues in children and adolescents (Colizzi et al., 2020). With this kind of knowledge, I would have incorporated evidence-based practices into my interventions with my cousin. For example, if Alex’s anxiety disorder is primarily manifested through excessive worry, I could have employed cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques. These includes cognitive restructuring and relaxation exercises which would have helped in managing Alex’s anxiety symptoms. The other essential concept I have learned is the developmental perspective. The course emphasized the importance of considering adolescents’ developmental stages and needs when designing interventions (Nottelmann & Jensen, 1995). The application of this perspective could have been impartial. This is because I could have better understood the unique challenges and opportunities that arise during different stages of development. For instance, if my cousin’s anxiety is affecting his social interactions. I would have used developmentally appropriate strategies to help him develop social skills and build precise resilience in such a case.
The course also highlighted the significance of the family system in a child’s mental health. Integrating this approach, I would have recognized the impact of family dynamics on Alex’s mental well-being. This could have been significant since it would have involved Alex’s family in the intervention process. The collaboration with the family would have provided an opportunity to address important family concerns. This includes any underlying family issues that could have exacerbate Alex’s anxiety. Family therapy or psychoeducation sessions could help improve communication and the boy could have opened up and share his issues (Varghese et al., 2020). It also enhances stress reduction including strengthening of the family’s ability to support Alex’s mental health. The course provided insights into the prevalence and impact of trauma on children and adolescents. If Alex’s anxiety is rooted in past traumatic experiences, I would approach his care from a trauma-informed perspective. This would involve creating a safe and supportive environment which incorporate trauma-specific interventions. This approach is also mindful of potential triggers that can happen hence making it effective and applicable to Alex’s situation. The recognition of the trauma role in mental health challenges would guide me in providing appropriate support and interventions for Alex’s healing process. This approach, as supported by literature in trauma psychology (Herman, 1992; van der Kolk, 2014), emphasizes creating a safe and supportive environment. This ensures that the adolescent is intergraded with trauma-specific interventions. It also takes into account potential triggers that can reawaken trauma responses hence effective and relevant to Alex’s unique situation. The approach acknowledges the significant role of trauma in mental health challenges; hence it could have also guided me in tailoring appropriate support. This could have made me knowledgeable to effectively intervene in Alex’s healing journey and align the best practices.
The Strengths-Based Approach taught in the course could have played a vital in Alex’s disorder intervention. The course emphasized the importance of recognizing and building upon the resilience of children and adolescents. In working with my cousin, I would now focus on identifying his strengths, interests, and positive coping mechanisms. Nurturing and highlighting these strengths could enhance Alex’s self-esteem. This could have empowered him to overcome the anxiety challenges and his repercussions (Xie, 2013). The strengths-based interventions entail using artistic expression, engaging in activities they enjoy and could also incorporate into his treatment plan. Integrating the knowledge and skills gained from the “Child and Adolescent Mental Health” course has made work easier. This is because I can now propose alternative approaches to support Alex effectively. Implementing these strategies could have been better equipped to address Alex’s mental health needs. It could have also promoted his well-being and facilitated his journey towards improved mental health outcomes.
In conclusion, this reflective paper has provided an opportunity to critically examine a helping experience with a child or adolescent with a mental health issue. It has also incorporated the knowledge and skills gained from the “Child and Adolescent Mental Health” course and a social work perspective. Through self-reflection, it became evident that there were areas in which my approach could have been improved. As discussed above this area includes conducting a comprehensive assessment, promoting multidisciplinary collaboration and the consideration of cultural competence. It also includes the integration of evidence-based practices. The reflection of the shortcomings and identification of an alternative approaches informed by course knowledge was essential. It has enabled me to gain a valuable insight into how to better support children and adolescents in the matters pertaining mental health issues.
The alternative approaches outlined includes incorporation of evidence-based interventions, adoption of a developmental perspective. It also includes the employment of a family systems approach, utilization of trauma-informed care, and application of the strengths-based approach. These approaches are more comprehensive and effective framework for mental issues intervention. Moving forward, it is essential to integrate these insights into practice which includes the recognition of the impact of culture and trauma. These practices provide a more effective support to promote positive mental health outcomes. General, this reflective process has reinforced the importance of ongoing learning and professional development in the field of child and adolescent mental health. The continuous expansion of knowledge base and critically reflecting our experiences can enhance our capacity to make a positive impact in the lives of children and adolescents facing mental health challenges.
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