6 Strengths to Activate When Working with Youth

By Dr. Donna Mayerson

As a counselor or therapist using a strengths-based approach with your youth clients, it is important that you also explore your own character strengths. Which strengths do you activate in counseling children and how does the expression of those strengths impact the counseling session? For example, how can your strength of hope help your client see the positive side to a negative situation? Can you use curiosity to make them feel valued and validate their thoughts?

While we all have the 24 character strengths in different degrees, there are particular character strengths that are especially important to lean into when working with children.

• Authenticity/honesty- children are especially sensitive to whether or not adults are being honest and straightforward with them. They can feel manipulated or managed when adults skirt the truth.

• Kindness- Expressing compassion helps children feel heard, understood and accepted. This conveys caring and concern and can pave the way to self-forgiveness.

• Social Intelligence- Reading and responding to nonverbal and verbal cues of the child can help facilitate communication and move treatment forward.

• Perspective- Children can become narrowly focused when they are distressed or unhappy. It can be difficult to see the forest through the trees. Having the ability to expand the frame around problems can help children begin to gain perspective for themselves.

• Self-control- It’s important to provide space for children to work through issues and find their own solutions and strategies. This requires holding back on giving advice or readily offering solutions.

• Humor- Humor and playfulness can ease the tension when talking is difficult or strained. It also takes the weight off the subject matter.

If you bring forth these 6 strengths, and consciously infuse your top strengths into your client interactions, you will be well-equipped to help them activate their own unique strengths.

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