Natalie was referred to us with low confidence and poor self-esteem and she was struggling with low mood and poor motivation. During lockdown she had fallen out with her mum and following a big argument her mum had kicked her out of the house. Natalie’s dad had come to pick her up and had taken her back to live with him. Natalie’s mood and confidence then plummeted even more and she retreated further into herself. When she did interact with her father, they mostly argued and she felt he was “getting at her” all the time. Natalie didn’t see mum for several months after the argument that led to her leaving.

Arguments with both mum and dad followed a pattern and had a tendency to escalate and involve lots of shouting, and there was rarely an apology or a satisfactory resolution. When schools reopened, Natalie often refused to go, sometimes saying she was unwell. She started spending more and more time in her room and in bed, which caused further conflict with her father. Things reached a climax one weekend when Natalie had another big argument with dad and said she didn’t want to live with him anymore but didn’t want to live with mum either. She tried to go to school but ended up leaving after bursting into tears in class. This knocked her confidence further as she felt nervous that she might start crying again at school so she stopped going at all.

Natalie’s dad expressed concern that she was disengaging with everything and everyone, saying she had no hobbies, no interests and only one friend at school, she didn’t do anything at home and didn’t want to go to school but just seemed to want to lie in bed. One night when Natalie’s dad had returned to find her in bed once again and challenged her on this, Natalie burst into tears and acknowledged she needed help.

The next day we met for a one-to-one session, and we explored what happens when arguments escalate, and what coping strategies she already has that she might not recognise.  We discovered that arguments didn’t tend to escalate with her brother in the same way, so we explored what was different there. We helped her plan to replicate these responses such as apologising quickly for outbursts, taking time out when tensions get high (returning to the conversation when calm), distracting herself when angry, focusing on building a close relationship outside times of conflict and having fun and laughing together with her parents.

In our session the following week we asked if there had been any change. She immediately said there had hardly been any arguments. She was able to link it to the fact that she'd been making an effort to help around the house, her dad had been making an effort to say things in a calm voice instead of shouting, and the family had spent time watching films together. Natalie smiled as she told me about their movie night. We celebrated the fact that what Natalie had identified last week was really working. She now feels confident they can keep this up as she understands what she needs to do and has seen and felt its impact - everyone has been so much happier, so she is highly motivated. We asked what she would do if she had a blip. She said she would just acknowledge it and go back to doing what she’s doing now. Natalie’s improved mental state life has impacted her school life as she is now going to school every day and generally finding it ok. One of her teachers wrote to both mum and dad this week to praise her on her sudden progress, and she got excellent results in a maths test. She looks visibly brighter and her confidence seems to be growing in all areas as a result of her progress. Her father also mentioned the positive change he had seen in Natalie and commented how much better they were getting on.

For now, Natalie’s focus is on maintaining the positive changes at home and doing her best at school. She has already mentioned some areas she would like to work on next in our sessions, such as time management with homework and avoiding procrastination stemming from perfectionism. She enjoys art and history. She is in Year 10 now and her main focus for the medium-term future is doing well in her GCSEs.