Young people’s preferred ways of interacting are diverse but some generalisations can be drawn from.

Young people, particularly early and middle stage adolescents, are most likely to learn through direct experience rather than through vicarious experience or counselling. This is consistent with the view that behaviourally-oriented interventions focused on development of skills have been identified as more effective than purely cognitive and talking-based therapies. Whenever appropriate young people should be encouraged to ‘do’ for themselves. The degree to which health and social care practitioners undertake tasks on behalf of young people should be determined through continuous assessment of their capacity to manage (see Section c above).

Workers should strive to work alongside clients, positioning themselves to provide clients with direct, real-time feedback that recognises pro-social participation and interaction with others. This approach also enables workers to identify, highlight and facilitate naturally occurring rewards for pro-social interactions that occur in the lives of clients. Through guided experience clients can develop the emotional, cognitive, and behavioural skills that reinforce healthy development and promote pro-social behaviour.

Working with young people demands a high level of flexibility and adaptability from practitioners. The adolescent transition is not linear and consistent, rather, individuals move back and forth between orientations towards childhood and adulthood. In their comprehensive text book ‘Counselling Adolescents: A Proactive Approach’, Geldard and Geldard (2004) discuss the importance of counsellors being able to connect with various personae within themselves of different developmental stages – inner parent, inner adult, inner adolescent and inner child – in order to work flexibly with the adolescent according to the issues being explored at the time. Being able to ‘join’ or connect in a more personal way at the adolescent level is viewed as particularly useful, as is an ability to model deliberate switching from adolescent to adult communication modes (Geldard & Geldard, 2004).