Understanding Emotions

Understanding Emotions

I had been working with a teenager for some time, she’s had a life filled with meddling adults: social workers, family support, charities, multi agency panels etc. She’s understandably dubious of more ‘help’ and very used to keeping her emotions close, it has become normal not to express them.

She’s always ‘fine’ regardless of how difficult her week has been. I’d tried emotions cards and phototherapy cards as well as a multitude of different tools to help understand those emotions but hadn’t got far. We were both feeling frustrated.

Some sessions later and the emotions cards were sitting on the table, I decided on the spot to try something very different, I used them to show her the emotions I read in her, from learning her body language and tone. I picked out some cards that I thought she felt but hid very well and explained how they may fit in with her experiences. She looked at them for a while, moved them around the coffee table and reordered them. She looked at me with some shock; “you are so right”. She wasn’t ready to talk about them but without having to find the words, she had been understood. It was one of those moments that gives you goosebumps.


Practically not much has changed since, but in terms of the relationship everything has changed, relaxed and become easier. Her life is not in her control for now but she has space where she is held, heard and understood… and that is everything.

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