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Motivating a young person


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I need some help with helping a young person I am working with.


I may not be able to write too much about it due to confidentiality but I would like some tips on helping him with his motivation. I have tried a couple of things but I haven't managed to have a breakthrough in any way. He has cancelled 2 out of 4 of our sessions. He is smothered by his mum, had a little trouble at school and has been unemployed for 2 years. I am trying to find things he's interested in to get him doing them and getting some excitment in his life but it is proving a very difficult task, I am not getting much back. I think I pushed him a bit at the beginning and it didn't help. I apologised and said we'll go at his pace.


I am close to giving up because he's not responsive and does 1 out of 4 tasks we agree on.


Has anyone got any tips/suggestions? I know one topic he is interested in and I plan to ask him to talk about it for the whole of our next session. Is this a good idea? The aim of our sessions is for him to complete tasks we agree on so he moves forward in his life and gets a job or gets onto a course or at least becomes happier.


I really need some suggestions. From anyone that has worked with young people/teenagers or has been a person with very little motivation, insular and stuck in a rut. He seems very averse to doing anything new or different..

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It sounds like you are feeling very discouraged, but I think given the kid's background, his behavior is typical. This counseling wouldn't happen to have been his mom's idea, would it? And you are a woman who is older than him, giving him advice on how to turn his life around . . . That he did 1 out of 4 tasks is actually pretty good. He can rebel against you in a way he never could with his own mother. I think your idea of letting him be the expert for the next session is a good one. I bet he doesn't have a good sense of self, and by drawing him out and finding out what's important to him, you can help him. And addressing the fact that you are an older woman (don't know how much older but it doesn't really matter, I'd think) in the next session and asking him how that affects your relationship might be a good thing, even.


Check out this website:


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There might be a discussion or an article on there that would give you some help. I don't work with children or adolescents, but I know with adults you have to be careful not to be more invested in their progress than they are . . . it is their job to want to change and progress, not yours.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I wonder that the number of sessions you've had might not be enough to make progress. I don't know you, but am wildly guessing you may be doing a short-term CBT approach.


I'm not sure how a short term approach will work for a teenager who has experienced a number of disappointments in his life thus far. I'd suggest treading very carefully when trying to agree homework between sessions. Also, if you're coming accross as directive in goals or goal-setting in this situation, he may be saying yes just to take the path of least resistance.


Can you let him lead a conversation about something he's interested in? I know you said there's one thing you know which he's interested in, but there may be something else. Perhaps that could start him off, and perhaps he could think of some goals, compare them to reality, think what options he might have, and then he can think up (with support, but not direction from you) some actions he could take that might help him start to reach more positive goals.


If you can... I'd suggest stepping back a bit, be careful not to push the pace, and see what happens. good luck!

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