International Journal of
Psychology and Counselling

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Psychol. Couns.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2499
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJPC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 222

Full Length Research Paper

Making space for the adolescent unconscious: A case-based reflection on practice

Donna Marie San Antonio
  • Donna Marie San Antonio
  • Division of Counseling and Psychology, Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences, Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
  • Google Scholar
Nathan Gorelick
  • Nathan Gorelick
  • Department of English and Literature, Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah, USA.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 09 February 2019
  •  Accepted: 13 December 2019
  •  Published: 31 January 2020


Community-based psychotherapists and school counsellors work to assist adolescents through sharing resources, building awareness of cognition and behavior, and skill development in communicative competence.  However, adolescents, eager to delve deeper into the unknown territory of their being, also present us with speech and acts coming from the unconscious, in the form of metaphors, forgetting, behavioral excesses, mishaps, and physical symptoms.  As adolescents search for ways to manage childhood trauma, find meaning and purpose in their lives, and clarify an aspirational direction that makes sense to them, they rarely have opportunities to work at a deeper level.  In this article, psychoanalytically informed counselling is presented as a powerful and effective way to work with adolescents.  The authors discuss what is at stake during adolescence and they consider the determined denunciation by the adolescent of the impositions of cultural and societal mandates.  The call to “make space for the adolescent unconscious” is contextualized in an overview of the historical foundations of psychoanalysis with children and adolescents.  The article analyzes two counseling sessions in which the adolescent works with a school-based counsellor to use dreams to “interact with” his unconscious.  Drawing from their own counselling and educational experience with adolescents and emerging adults, the authors discuss the ethics upon which psychoanalytically informed work with adolescents must be grounded.  The counselling vignettes are interpreted using the work of Freud, Klein, Lacan and the analysts of Groupe interdisciplinaire freudien de recherche et d’intervention clinique et culturelle (Gifric) of the Freudian School of Quebec.


Key words: Adolescence, emerging adulthood, counselling adolescents, trauma, dream interpretation, Freud, psychoanalysis, unconscious.