“Like an Equal, Somehow” – What Young People Exposed to Family Violence Value in Counseling

One way for young people to reduce the risk of problems associated with having experienced family violence is to talk about their experiences with a counselor. However, little is known about how young people judge the quality of such relationships. The aim of this study was to analyze what young people describe as valuable in their relationship with the counselor with whom they talked about experiences of family violence. Fourteen semi-structured interviews with nine young people between the ages 12 and 19 years were analyzed using a thematic method. The participants were recruited within an evaluation of a treatment program in Sweden. The thematic analysis revealed four distinct themes about what the young people described as particularly valuable aspects of the counseling relationship: the opportunity to talk, a model for other relationships, and going “in and out of” the topic of violence, which was valued by the younger teenagers; and being listened to “almost like an adult,” which was valued by the older teenagers. The abstracted common thread was the importance for the young people of feeling equal to others somehow. The quality of the relationship between helper and helped is of central importance for young people and what specifically, from young people’s point of view, constitutes such quality for younger and older teenagers respectively. The results indicate the benefit of counselors being especially flexible with young people exposed to violence and being able to establish trustful relationships with them.