2 people wearing hoodies sat on the beach looking out to sea

This is the story of a family that came for counselling with Relate West Surrey. The family consisted of mother, father, daughter and son, but only the mother and son took part in the sessions. It is, however, important to mention all family members as part of the counselling was looking at the wider system the mother and son were part of.

Mother and son came for counselling to improve their relationship and thus hoping to have less arguments. Part of the counselling was talking about the impact their relationship and arguments had on the rest of the family and systemically looking at how all members of the family were affected even though they were not directly involved in the conflict. The father and daughter/sister would automatically be drawn in and take sides.

There were conversations about what mother and son could do together and what they could talk about. There was very little progress as the son said, “there was no point!”.

In one of their last sessions the son asked for some time on his own with the counsellor. He told the counsellor that the previous sessions had made him realise that he would need to open up and be more transparent in order to improve his relationship with his mother and thereby the family dynamics.

He was able to disclose that for the last 4 years he had been feeling very low and had often thought of self-harming even though he had never done anything to hurt himself. Upon hearing this the counsellor asked the direct question “have you ever thought of killing yourself?” to which the son answered “yes”. The counsellor did a full risk assessment and it transpired that even though the son had thoughts of killing himself there were no plans, no intent and there were protective factors. The son explained that he could never do “it” to his parents and he also had future plans. He wanted to go to university.

This conversation proved to be a turning point in the counselling. The counsellor pointed out that she would need to tell his mother and gave the son the choice to tell her himself with the counsellor present. The son asked for the counsellor to speak for him with him present.

With the mother and son present the counsellor was very careful to use the son’s words and be his voice. The mother responded with relief as she at long last knew what her son was going through.

The following sessions were open and honest and the son’s willingness to speak with transparency meant that the relationship between mother and son became less distant and they were able to spend time together without conflict. The impact on the family was significant.

In the last family session the son was able to express a wish to have some individual counselling which was something he had been refusing up till then.

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