The variety and versatility of Online Counselling


Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post on the advantages of online counselling.

We are living in a day and age of high tech. It keeps changing and being “smarter” and more accessible and affordable to all of us.

I remember when the internet started. I was a teenager and it was exciting to meet people on the other side of the world, even keep up with music from over the Atlantic!

I never felt that those friendships I built online were very different from my face-to-face, local friendships.

Maybe that’s why I feel that online counselling makes sense, and is no different than face-to-face counselling in many aspects.

Of course, there are some things that I’ve needed to do to work online – further training, and thinking about some obvious differences, like less non-verbal cues to work with, but adjustments can be made and I’m pleased to say I’ve helped lots of clients through online counselling, and hope to continue to do so.


What do you think of when I say “online counselling”?

Maybe you think video calls.

That would be my first guess if I didn’t know about the other ways of working online!

There are many ways to work online with your therapist.

The way that works for you, and possibly the online therapist you choose to work with, will depend on your personality, lifestyle, available free time to attend sessions, and other aspects of your life that might get in the way of accessing face-to-face or synchronous (“live”) sessions.

Let’s go through a few creative ways in which you can look after your mental health through online counselling…


A live video call means you schedule a time with your chosen therapist, and try to meet regularly (usually every week), at the same time and using the same secure platform.

I use Zoom and Instahelp for private clients, but there are other safe platforms that keep your conversations encrypted and completely confidential.

If you prefer to see your counsellor, almost in the same way you would if you went to their physical office, then this might be the best way to work on your current situation.


Live audio calls happen in a similar way as described above, except you’d only be hearing each other’s voices.

This can be done using the same platforms, but with video turned off, or using the telephone.

If it’s easier for you to speak without being seen, then this might be the best way for you to have therapy.

Sometimes, internet connections might fail, and turning video off might be the only solution so the session can continue. These are things to discuss with your therapist – they would probably bring this up – in case technology fails and you have to adjust to using audio or telephone, or rescheduling.

Completing further training in the differences between seeing and not seeing my clients has really helped me when working with audio calls.


In this type of counselling, you and your therapist are using the same chat room, and are messaging back and forth, at the same time.

This would be for an agreed period of time – 20min, 40min, and hour.

If you’re a millenial or really enjoy using text-based communications in your daily life, then text-based messaging might be the best option for you right now.

Usually, therapists that offer this type of service can offer the other ways of working alongside text-based counselling.

Working online is so versatile!


I’ve used this type of therapy before, and it’s really helped me.

I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything, in fact, because I’m a fast typist and love to write anyway, I could get a lot out in one go.

My therapist was very good at catching what I was writing and replying sensitively and in a timely way. I felt really held by her, even when I’d only ever seen a photo of her and her text responses.

The great way about asynchronous messaging is that you can do it at anytime from anywhere.

Of course, you will have to wait for your therapist to log on and read your message, but you’ll usually have a good idea of what times they work and when you are most likely to expect a reply.


This is similar to text-based counselling, except you are going to be using email for this.

I would use a password protected word document to exchange your messages with your therapist, so nobody can open it except you two.

The responses would happen in a similar way to asynchronous messaging, as you can send emails at any time from anywhere, and wait for your therapist to reply at agreed times.


As you can see, online counselling opens up lots of possibilities for people to access good therapy, in a way that works for them.

Distance is not an issue any longer, and neither are some of the other barriers that might stop us from getting in touch with a counsellor – shame, fear, time, “what will people think”, amongst other things.


If you’d like to catch up on past posts, click the links below:

Accessibility

No Commute, Free resources

Anonymity

Confidentiality and Risk

Guest post: Would chronic illness benefit from online counselling? – By Olivia Djoudadi


See you next week!


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Would chronic illness benefit from online counselling? – By Olivia Djoudadi

Hi and welcome to this blog post collab with Olivia Djoudadi.

I’ve had a couple of collaborations through the years from people living with chronic illnesses or therapists that work with these.

You can read these here:

Self Care When Living With a Chronic Illness

Living with a Chronic Illness and Working as a Therapist

In this post, Olivia answers the question of whether online counselling can help people with chronic illness.

I think you know my answer will be a resounding “yes!”

Over to you, Olivia


When first diagnosed with a chronic condition it can be quite a shock for some people.

It may need medications, a newer type focus on the foods people eat and a shift on how life is lived.

This isn’t always realised until later as obvious affects on the person or family take time to realise.

Lets take a look at a fairly common condition like diabetes; the statistics show 63% of people with it may have either anxiety or depression.

That statistic can have quite an affect on how someone with diabetes looks after their medical care needs.

One might feel a doctor is the person that deals with the medical needs however psychotherapy or counselling can really help as well.


Dealing with a chronic illness and going out even to weekly therapy appointments can take its toll however there are options such as online counselling.

You can see your therapist online by either email, IM or video sessions.

Some therapists work online because they also have a chronic condition just like you.

Some conditions may be painful or cause a lot of fatigue making getting out to counselling much harder.

Research on the person you may see to see if they have worked with chronic illness before as that can help with trust.


How many medical conditions are there in the population of the UK? Do all conditions need therapy?

In the UK according to chronicconditions.co.uk over 15 million people in the UK live with a chronic condition yet not all need emotional support.

Some may have family support or don’t go through shock that accompanies some conditions.

Not every illness is obvious so people may assume that someone is completely fine when they actually have a condition that raises their likelihood of say a medical crisis.

If medication is not used then people can get incredibly unwell or even die and that can have quite a big effect on one’s mental wellbeing.

They may go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance; some reading may realise that these are actually the 5 points to the Kübler-Ross grief model.

People may lean towards one of those or have a mixture of all or as one clinician noted as a Munchian Scream which is a painting depicting a screaming man by Edvard Munch.

It may seem like its awful to get any kind of condition but the truth is that many people cope very well living with a diagnosis.

So, one may ask why that is the case.


According to Harvard Medical School dealing with a chronic condition can improve by:

  • Beware of depression or anxiety. These can occur when someone is newly diagnosed or when they have lived with a condition for a long time and see the ongoing effects on self or family.
  • Build a team. This can be medical as well as psychological to help keep you at your best, keep in mind to include yourself as part of the team.
  • Coordinate your care. You may need to be cared for by a number of medical staff and access to each other’s notes may not always happen. You may need to highlight what has changed so your doctor is aware. Yes, they may have the notes from other departments but a five-minute appointment with a GP may not have realised changes.
  • Get a prescription for information. It can help to know what side effects medication may cause so you know what is normal. Use information from a site that has a medical reputation so you don’t get scared by other information then discuss with your doctor what is your normal on that medication. It can be useful to discuss in therapy how to handle these changes or the effect it has on you or others.
  • Make a healthy investment in yourself. Treatment for almost any chronic condition involves changes to lifestyle. A doctor may ask you to eat healthier, stop smoking or drinking, exercise more or seek counselling if you are having trouble coping. As well as taking care of your medical needs it may help to have selfcare times such as walking in the park or having tea with a friend, some people find support groups helpful.
  • Make it a family affair. When learning about your own condition it can be helpful to include family members as they may need to assist at times even if it’s to pick up a prescription or adjust to a healthier way of eating meals. Some maybe quite active and others maybe distressed so talking with a therapist may help them as well as the person with the condition.
  • Make your doctor a partner in care. When you leave the doctor’s office you are the one who needs to track changes such as symptoms or medical input. You may also need to assist the doctor by saying your finding it hard to cope.
  • Manage your medications. One may need an adjusted eating plan, pills, injections or medical devices so one can function well. Knowing about the drugs you take can be helpful as they may cause other noticeable issues such as tiredness and that’s important for your medical team to know.
  • Reach out. Medical input can be really helpful but so can therapy and support groups so it may help to seek online or face to face counselling.

I’ve learned quite a lot from reading this post by Olivia.

If you’d like to contact her for therapy sessions, or read more of her great blog posts, do follow her blog at this site.


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Hoarding Intervention: Step 1: Get yourself prepared


Hi, welcome to this week’s blog post on hoarding. Our next topic is about staging an intervention and we will be breaking it down into 4 steps.

This post is dedicated to the relatives and friends of hoarders, which are usually the ones that are aware of the problem, sometimes a long time before the hoarder realises what they’re doing.


The first step which we will be focusing on is getting yourself prepared for an intervention as a family member or friend of the hoarder.

Do please take the time out to learn more about hoarding, what it is, the possible consequences that hoarding can have on the person and how hoarding can be used as a coping mechanism for an underlying issue. Please read our previous blog posts, we cover all of those topics.  


Betterhelp mentions that TV shows about hoarding may spread awareness about the disorder, but many experts say these shows paint an incorrect picture about hoarding and how to help a person who hoards.

Don’t get us wrong. Awareness is great, but these shows only show a part of the process.

We imagine that there’s a lot of psychological and other support for the hoarder and the family behind the scenes.

Look for credible sources like the charity Mind. https://www.mind.org.uk/ and other websites.

You can also contact Stacey directly for more on how we work together to provide both practical and psychological support for you and your loved one.


Betterhelp also advise not to enable the hoarders behaviour.

While taking items against a person’s will is not helpful, adding to their clutter by buying or giving them things or taking them on shopping trips is just as bad.


Let’s be honest, nobody likes their stuff taken away without their permission. This is no exception, no matter how hard it is to watch what it’s doing to them.

Take it step by step. You’ll all get there!

Avoid adding to the clutter by showing your love in other ways and spending time doing activities not related to consumption.


Engaging in activities that have nothing to do with buying or adding to their stuff will deepen your relationship, allowing the upcoming intervention to be received in a better light, as you’ll be a trusted individual in the life of your hoarding loved one.


According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) at a prearranged time, family members should approach the hoarder to talk about the effect of clutter on their lives and explain that help and support are available.

This is something we’ll be talking about in the next posts.

For now, let’s focus on preparing you for the day of the intervention.


Perhaps for now, just meeting as a group and practising with each other how you are going to approach the person and rehearsing what you are going to say and how will be helpful.


We understand that this intervention will be a big step for everyone involved, and we’re not sure how your hoarding loved one will respond yet.

Managing that anxiety with lots of preparation and possibly input from professionals such as Stacey and Karin will help.


Every step you take, whether they’re aware of it or not, is you showing them you care.

You are showing them in subtle ways that you care and they can receive help if they are open to it.


If you are living in a similar situation or know anybody that is, please do not hesitate to contact us today so that we can provide you with the support that is needed.


Declutter & donate your unwanted items to Shelter.

You can make a difference to improving someone’s life.

Contact Stacey for more info!


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Confidentiality in Online Counselling


Hi, and welcome to this week’s post on online counselling.

Natalia and I are both passionate about offering alternatives to face to face counselling. Her platform, Chat2Us, aims to grow its list of counsellors available for you to choose from, including myself.

I also work in private practice, and the focus of my practice is now going towards offering online counselling through different mediums – live or asynchronous messaging, Zoom video call, Zoom/Telephone voice call, and soon also email.

If you’d like to know more about Chat2Us or my private practice online services, click on the hyperlinks or message us to find out more.


In this week’s post, we’ll be talking about confidentiality.

When we talk about personal matters, confidentiality is a must.

This rule applies to online counselling too. Especially online counselling, with all the safety issues that might compromise the content of our sessions.

Before we start offering online counselling therapists need to make sure we can provide a safe and confidential online space.

We do this by using very high-end protocols.

These days, where technology offers unlimited options, finding the best way to provide safety and confidentiality should be straight forward.

Let’s go through the most known options.


Skype

It’s easy to use. Many of us use it to keep in touch with friends and family. with a handset, microphone and speaker we are ready to go.

I (Karin) still use Skype for some sessions, but am aiming to move everyone over to Zoom.

There is a major issue with Skype, that is enough to warrant moving to a more GDPR/HIPPA compliant platform, like Zoom or VSee (there are many others that are good to!)

The Issue: Skype is encrypted, but once you’ve signed the terms and conditions, you give up the rights to your sessions’ content.

Zoom

An alternative to Skype, but safer as it’s encrypted and your content is secure.

It’s great for one-to-one meetings, which have unlimited time, so it’s great for individual counselling sessions.

If you have a group meeting, the free version only allows 40 minutes per meeting.


Another great thing about zoom is that it can be used to record video conferences, present webinars and share your screen to show a powerpoint presentation and others (This is something that Karin has been doing alongside counselling and supervision!)


There are lots of other applications out there that could offer the encryption required to secure the confidentiality, but we won’t go into all of them here.


As a provider of a mental health service, such as online counselling, confidentiality is an ethical concern (Read BACP’s guidance here).

The fundamental intent is to protect a client’s right to privacy by ensuring that matters disclosed to a professional are not relayed to others without the informed consent of the client.

Of course, there are exceptions as to where confidentiality could be broken or not applied (risk to self or others for example).

This is easier to establish with face-to-face clients, but is also necessary to establish the boundaries with online clients.

Sometimes, we might not have the information necessary to call emergency services and direct them to the client’s premises.

We might even be in different countries!


Some online services don’t take more than email and client’s name.

Online therapists might have an online counselling clause that states the limitations of how they can support their clients, providing information on services that might be able to support them in case of crisis or additional support.

Keeping ourselves safe as therapists is important. It keeps clients safe as a direct consequence. Which is a great thing!


Online counselling should offer the same frame of security, confidentiality and trust as face-to-face counselling.

And more.

There are so many more things to take into account regarding confidentiality and client safety when working online.

By providing anonymity to the client, the disclosure of emotional content and thoughts could be easier, but this disinhibition effect might mean the client might be opening up to a lot more than they would face-to-face, and in a very short period of time, with the potential risk increasing.


Before starting any online sessions with a new client, therapists should check that the client is a good candidate for online counselling at this point in time.

This means checking for risk, which is important because we won’t have as many details from the client if they want to keep their anonymity.

This limits our chance to keep them safe from a distance.

We might need to refer on to someone in their local area.


As you can see from this post, we back up our claims that online counselling is a great alternative to face-to-face counselling, but there are limitations to the work we can do when it comes to assessing risk and considering confidentiality issues.

Hopefully our options for platforms and ethical suggestions will help you with your search for an online counsellor; for therapists, we hope this gives you more insights into how the counselling therapy world works.

Make sure you sign up to this blog to get updates when we post a new blog about this topic, as well as catch up with previous posts.


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Hoarding as a coping mechanism


Hi, and welcome to our series on Hoarding – practical and psychological support.

In this week’s blog post we will be looking at other mental health problems which were mentioned here: possible causes (and consequences) for hoarding.


Mental health issues aren’t straighforward to spot, and neither is it straightforward to pinpoint their causes, consequences, or what might have triggered particular behaviours or conditions.

Dealing with the topic of hoarding is a sensitive issue, as it’s not just about “the stuff.”

It’s about the trauma, the life story, the way the individual is dealing with their past and current life issues, and how thing might have gotten out of hand and overwhelming for them and their loved ones.


The mental health charity Mind mentions that a person might start hoarding due to another mental health problem, for example:

In these situations, hoarding is usually seen as a symptom and acts as a coping mechanism and is not the main or “precipitating” issue.

Note: Diagnosing is good in some cases, but we work with the individual as a whole. A diagnosis is helpful to frame the work somewhat, but the main issues discussed in the therapeutic work are the issues the client brings. The client leads the work, and this means we are addressing the aspects of hoarding and their current life situation that need to be worked through.


According to Jo Cooke of Hoarding Disorders UK

“Hoarding is a coping mechanism.

There can be a number of reasons, but it’s about filling a void, an emptiness, with stuff.

Bereavement is one of the biggest triggers.

It acts as a sort of nest, a security blanket, a form of emotional insulation.

You can’t just put a skip outside someone’s house and tell them to get rid of stuff.

You need to work in a sensitive way, because it’s very much anxiety-based.”


Dr. Jessica Grisham (University of New South Wales) has found that the link between hoarding behaviour and traumatic events – such as losing a spouse or child – is especially important to consider in individuals exhibiting a late onset of hoarding symptoms.

This is especially important if those symptoms first appeared at the time of the event or shortly thereafter.

It’s also important to note that people react to different events at different paces, so there might be a delayed reaction to a life event that might mean the link to hoarding might not always be as clear as mentioned above.

Still, looking at the immediate aftermath of a life event will still help us start to pin-point a possible cause.


Accumulating “stuff” fills the emotional hole left by the trauma and allows individuals to avoid dealing with the pain.

Later removal of these items can trigger high levels of anxiety, especially if someone else gets rid of these items without the hoarder’s permission.

When discussing their behaviours, many hoarders describe the “rush” they experience when purchasing new items, especially if the item is free or on sale

They can also go to great lengths to justify purchases when questioned by friends or family members.

This reinforces the fact that hoarding as a coping mechanism is a complex issue that requires time and working through different aspects of the hoarding experience so that they are replaced with healthier habits.


It’s important to understand the things mentioned above are very sensitive and personal to each individual hoarder.

Removing items without the person’s permission are a breach of their autonomy – even if we believe their decisions to keep seemingly useless or value-less things aren’t the right ones.

Something I learned during my (Karin) time in care work, was that we can’t stop people from carrying out actions or making decisions just because they might not seem like the best for us, or just because we know the consequences will affect them negatively.

We all take risks every day in our lives. Some result in positive things, others we might regret or want to amend or take back somehow. But we still go ahead and test them out without anyone stopping us.


Hoarders deserve the same courtesy, even if it’s harming them – the work might take a long time, while the hoarder comes to terms with the reality in front of them, and the imminent dangers they might be putting themselves into by not having clear paths to leave the house, or a safe place to sleep or relax, or even do work.

Be patient, as you support your loved one through the hard process of coming up with better coping mechanisms than hoarding and it’s consequences.


If you are living in a similar situation or know anybody that is, please do not hesitate to contact us today so that we can provide you with the support that is needed.

Declutter & donate your unwanted items to Shelter.

You can make a difference to improving someone’s life.

Contact Stacey for more info! 


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Advantages of online counselling: Anonymity

Welcome to the 3rd post of our joint series with Natalia from Chat2Us.

On this post, we will continue with the advantages of online counselling, focusing on Anonymity.

What are the benefits of people feeling anonymous when speaking – or typing – about the things that worry them or that they’re struggling with at the moment?


We might feel comfortable talking to friends and family about our current situation.

We don’t need to be anonymous to do so. They know us better than anyone else!

But sometimes we get to the point where they might not be the best people to talk in depth to about the issues we are going through.

Maybe because we don’t want to worry them, or simply because, let’s face it, we all have problems we deal with on a daily basis.

There’s also the other aspect of not being able to get a neutral response to what we are telling our friends, by no fault of their own.

After all, they’re not our therapist!


This is why seeking the support of a counsellor will help you process your current situation in a way that is limited when talking to a friend.

By all means, use your support system to vent and get help. This is one of the first questions we ask clients when starting therapy.

A good support system in place will help you through the tougher times – and will be there to enjoy the happier ones too!


Now, let’s go back to the anonymity issue…

You might be lucky to feel comfortable in sharing your issues openly, and talking about how you deal with them, with people you know; but you may be like so many others who simply are not as comfortable.

This might be remedied to a greater or lesser extent by seeking one of the many forms of online therapy.

Text-based therapy would provide the most anonymity, and might be ideal for some of us, but others might still prefer to see someone that lives miles away from us, and speak to them via video link.

It’s all about what works best for you!


Choosing to seek therapy online might reduce the chances of you feeling socially stigmatised if you wanted to keep the fact that you’re attending therapy between you and your therapist, and maybe a handful of trusted friends or family.

Unfortunately the social stigma attached to therapy is still alive and well.

Bumping into a friend at the therapist’s waiting room and feeling like you might have to explain why you are there might be an inconvenience and make both of you feel awkward (or it might just be absolutely fine! – there are more and more people accepting the fact that attending therapy is good for us, for many reasons!)

This inconvenience can be solved with online counselling.

You will save your energy for self-care and focusing on the process of therapy you’ve started, saving yourself the potentiality of having to explain why you are going to a counsellor’s office.

Once the social stigma attached to it vanishes, it will eventually reduce the hesitation to seek assistance.

Natalia, Chat2Us

Through online counselling, you can keep your privacy protected and engage easier with your therapist from home, even in the comfort of your pyjamas.


If we look at the different age brackets of people that are seeking therapy, younger clients may prefer the online version as most of them are very good with IT and may embrace the efficiency and convenience of using their devices to look after their mental wellbeing. 

Whereas older clients may prefer to opt for face-to-face therapy, as they might not be too literate with computers (although many do surprise us and are very tech-savvy!).

There are alternatives to online therapy that would also work well for someone that’s not very tech-savvy.

For example, a phone call might be great to retain a degree of anonymity but still access good therapy, with similar benefits to online counselling.


Something to take into account with online therapy, and something that happens more in this type of therapy, is the dis-inhibition effect.

Face-to-face social interaction may get in the way of the client fully opening up in a counselling session.

Some factors that can interfere with the client’s involvement in the therapy process might be paying attention to the therapist’s, and their own, body language; they might also get distracted by room furniture and other aspects of the face-to-face set-up.

Some clients do get inhibited by these things.

Think about autistic clients, for example, where feeling like there is too much sensory stimulation, which might distract them or not allow them to focus on dealing with their emotions, as they might feel overwhelmed by everything else going on around them.

– Karin

Choosing online therapy can therefore allow the person to focus more on the therapy than the surrounding interference.

It will also allow them to talk about sensitive issues quicker and with more detail than they would in a different setting.


Both online and face-to-face therapy are equally effective, but the real question is this: where will you be able to work through your issues the best?

As we are talking about anonymity, the online option seems to keep any interfering factors in check, allowing you to focus on the things that you need to work through.


Finally, we hope that you have gathered from what we’ve said in this post, that online therapy allows for a greater openness for some clients.

The absence of face to face contact can also prompt clients to communicate more openly without concerns for a bias of race, gender, age, size or physical appearance.

This may lead to an increased level of honesty with themselves, and therefore greater and quicker self-disclosure.

This might not be the case for everyone, and we do advise that if you’re more comfortable with face-to-face counselling, then please do follow what’s best for you.


We offer both face to face and online counselling, but seeking to work more online as time goes on.


Until next week…


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Causes and Consequences of Hoarding

Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post, which is a continuation of last week’s post (focusing on the individual).

In this post, we will focus on the possible causes (and consequences) for hoarding and understanding that everybody is different and there could be many reasons as to why the person is hoarding.


Different people will have different explanations for their own experiences and causes for hoarding and it is likely that there is a a combination of reasons.

These reasons are not clear-cut and they might be influencing one another, at different points of the individual’s life.


According to the Mental Health Charity Mind, the following could be the possible causes for hoarding (click on each of the links for more on those particular issues):


According to healthline:

“A person may begin to hoard because they believe an item that they have collected, or are considering collecting, may be valuable or useful at some point in time. They may also connect the item with a person or significant event that they don’t want to forget.”

This quote points towards the person’s reasons for hoarding, which might be something as reasonable as “I might need it later”, even though they don’t really ever use it.

Other times it might be the way a person grieves the loss of a loved one. Collecting items they might have liked or that they link to their loved one is a way to keep them a part of their lives.


Mind mention that, through working with a therapist in sessions, a person may be able to link the start of their hoarding to a stressful event or period in their life, such as:

  • being abused or attacked
  • breaking up with a partner
  • becoming very unwell
  • someone close to you dying
  • feeling extremely lonely.

For some people, experiences like these can also lead to an increase in existing hoarding, when hoarding has already begun.

Also, hoarding might have started with a trauma or another untreated mental health problem, but it might also bring up other mental health issues that will need to be addressed.

Some of these are:


In these situations, hoarding is usually seen as a symptom and acts as a coping mechanism and is not the main diagnosis.

As we mentioned above, it’s not as clear-cut as it seems.

Sometimes hoarding can be the symptom, other times it’s the mental health issue or traumatic event that take precedence.

Listening to the client’s story, paying attention to the triggers of hoarding AND of the mental health issues will help us deal with them in a timely fashion, addressing all the aspects of the individual’s life that need our support, in order to get the client back to living as healthy a life as possible.


With our collaboration, we will focus on understanding the person as an individual, getting to the root cause as to why they are hoarding, through in-depth therapeutic support, as well as providing thorough practical help in order to help to create a safer environment, both physically and mentally.

If you or your loved one need support, don’t hesitate to contact Stacey Sabido from Serenity for You, to start the process.


Declutter & donate your unwanted items to Shelter.

You can make a difference to improving someone’s life.

Contact Stacey for more info! 


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Ditch Traditional Resolutions – Self-Care all the way

ditch New years resolutions.jpg

Hi, and welcome to the last post of 2019!

As you can see from the title, I am going to be challenging society yet again. I love doing that!

It’s so freeing to learn and know that we don’t have to do everything society dictates!

Of course there are things that we must do as law-abiding citizens, but I think it’s safe to say that not complying to coming up with insane New Year’s Resolutions is not one of them.


Book Cover


But before you throw them out the window altogether, think about what you can do this year to live a better life, with better relationships and more happiness and calm.

try these out:

  • spend more time in nature
  • spend time alone
  • spend time with your loved ones
  • disconnect from technology
  • exercise more
  • eat healthier

If we focus on these, then we can definitely have some resolutions for 2020!

In my book, 20 Self-Care Habits, I talk about 20 ways to improve your life and relationships.

If you haven’t got it yet, now is as good a time as any!


Of course, there are other great self-care books out there.

They all have different aspects to them. We are not competing, we are complementing one another.

Some focus more on mindfulness, others on the body, others on the spirit. Mine focuses on the mind.

Through working out what your needs are and how to set clear boundaries, you can achieve calm, happiness within yourself and your relationships.


Book Review Here

I encourage you to get my book, and look for more resources in my blog or others’ that I follow, or you might already be following some amazing self-care coaches and professionals out there.

I look forward to seeing you in the facebook group if you want more support with your self-care and other aspects of your life, in 2020.

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2020. See you on the other side!


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ditch New years resolutions

Hoarding and the importance of focusing on the individual


Hi, and welcome to this week’s post on hoarding.

We’ll be talking about some causes of hoarding (next week’s post) and why focusing on the individual is important.


As a therapist, I (Karin) am aware of the medical model, which focuses on making a diagnosis in order to help the person.

I work with the social model and person-centred model when working with my clients, which works with the whole individual.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes a diagnosis is important – to get people the support they need, like benefits, medication or social services.

There are other times where diagnoses aren’t that helpful.

This is why I work with an awareness of a diagnosis, but don’t put the client in any diagnostic boxes.

Putting the individual in a box will limit the work and lead me to focus only on an aspect of the whole person sitting in front of me.

I will keep the diagnosis in mind, but I won’t make it my first priority when the client is sitting in front of me.


People usually seek counselling with a main reason for consulting, but it turns out that things aren’t always as black and white.

I use the spaghetti bowl analogy.

When a client sits in front of us, overwhelmed by their distress and current situation, there are a lot of layers – or strings of spaghetti – muddled up that need to be explored in order to gain a better understanding, and support the client to get back on track – looking at each spaghetti string and straightening it out, one by one.

Each topic that comes up might seem unrelated, but whatever the client brings to the sessions is linked to the main reason for coming to see me.

After all, it’s all about the same person.


Person-centred work involves providing the client the empathy and acceptance required for them to open up and ask for help.

None of this will happen until and unless the client is ready.

In regard to hoarding, it’s important that the client is involved in the process throughout.

Therapy and/or the de-cluttering process won’t be long-lasting unless the client is ready to do the work.

The reason I emphasise this is that many times, the hoarder’s family or friends are the ones that contact a counsellor or a professional organising service like the one Stacey offers at Serenity for You.

This might be the first step for the client to realise that things have got out of hand.

Or they might be aware of this, but a gentle nudge from family will help them start thinking about getting help.

It might be a hard process – dealing with shame, guilt and difficult emotions that – so working sensitively will be key.


Meeting the client where they are means we will be able to help them, by working at their pace, and enable them to move into a place where they can take charge of their own wellbeing, both through tending to their mental health and their physical environment.


In next week’s post, we will discuss the causes of hoarding that will most likely come up in therapy sessions, and that need to be addressed in order to move forward from hoarding.


Declutter & donate your unwanted items to Shelter.

You can make a difference to improving someone’s life.

Contact Stacey for more info! 


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Blog Post Showcase, Christmas Edition: Loneliness Reflections, by Paula Newman


Hi everyone, and welcome to our Christmas blog, by one of the graduates of my Practical Steps to Blogging Workshop via Onlinevents Experiential Workshops.

Over the Christmas season, we have many emotions. Some of us really enjoy this time of the year, whilst others struggle with everything that this holiday season entails.

In this post, Paula talks to us about her reflections on loneliness…

From relationships to mental health…to how we deal with our inner self and our shame…and finally to how counselling can help us address loneliness.

Click on either of the images, or here, to read the full post.

Whatever you’re doing, however you’re feeling this holiday season, know that you’re not alone.

There are many of us that understand and are here to help.


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Advantages of Online Counselling – No Commute and Free Resources


Hi, and welcome to this week’s post about online counselling and the advantages this brings.


Before we begin, we’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, from Natalia at Chat2Us and Karin at KB Bilingual.


Today we’ll be talking about a couple more advantages we can get from online counselling: saving on travel and additional resources that online therapists provide to their audiences on social media and through their websites.


We’ve had some comments and conversations in social media about our posts already on social media.

Most have been positive, some have been giving us more ideas for blog posts on things we might have missed.

For example, the fact that accessibility relates to the client, but also to the therapist.

There are great therapists out there that have mobility or accessibility issues, or need specific locations to be able to work comfortably and see their clients.

This shouldn’t stop a client from seeing them, as it might be the perfect match to work through their current situations with!

Choosing an online therapist opens up unlimited options as well as advantages!


Embarking on the journey of becoming a therapist is varied and requires patience, perseverance and dedication.

Therapists promote their practices in different ways, and providing valuable resources to their audience is one of the ways we do this.

Therapists nowadays write blog posts to reveal what their interests are, which is important as it might lead the right client to the right therapist (for example, Karin writes about Autism because she works with this client group, and sometimes clients find her through these posts when searching on google).

Blog posts and social media posts also show a bit more about the therapist’s personality, and more importantly, what their therapy approach is.

This certainly gives potential clients out there a rich idea of what they are going to be getting with a particular therapist, and who they are talking to.


Some people could think this is impersonal or cold.

Far from that!

Social media these days is one of the best ways to show your community what you are about, and how you can help potential clients.

Potential clients might like to find some common ground with their therapists before they book a first session.

Feeling like they connect with their potential therapist’s blog post will help them make the decision to contact.

It can be terrifying to make that first contact with an online (or face to face) therapist, so having as much information as possible about what to expect will be reassuring and helpful!


This is also why we’re writing this series: to “de-mystify online counselling”, how it works, and to tell you a bit more about what Chat2Us and KB Bilingual are about, without any expectations on you to contact us.

Just knowing about us might help you or your friends and family in the future, whether through counselling or sharing these blog posts and others that we’ve published on our blog pages.


Although face to face offers many more options in regards to having the therapist in front of the client, and there’s more than verbal language to work with, it can also work against those clients with a shy character, or those that want to keep quiet about attending therapy.

A face to face appointment could make them freeze at the thought of opening up to an unknown person for the first time.

The anonymity and diverse types of online therapy (from text based to video) will provide solace to those that don’t want to talk about in person.

Also, the comfort of your home will create the right environment to let you open up and have a productive therapy process.


You can find out more about accessibility advantages when doing online counselling by reading our post on this very matter.


Another important advantage to consider when you go online is saving in both time and travel expenses.

In these fast times, where we have to juggle between work and family…saving time is a priority.

Take also into account the privacy that booking therapists online gives us.

Bumping into someone you know on your way to therapy, while trying to keep it a private and safe space might not be ideal.


In future messages we will be writing about the different types of online therapy.

For this post, we will just mention other advantages in regards to time: online counselling offers the choice of synchronous or asynchronous sessions.

This means you can have “live” sessions with your therapist via text, audio or video sessions, but that there’s also the alternative of sending text based messages from the bus, the office, the supermarket, or anywhere else, at that moment when you need it, and expect a reply from your therapist within an agreed time frame.


We think it’s wonderful that we live in an age where we can have a variety of options to look after our mental health and wellbeing.

What do you think?


Again, Natalia and Karin would like to wish you all the best during the Christmas break, whether you celebrate or not, and however you celebrate!


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Advantages of Online Counselling – Accessibility


Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post, where Natalia from Chat2Us and myself will be talking about the accessibility advantage of online counselling.

For the next few months, on on a fortnightly basis, we’ll be sharing a number of advantages that comes with Online Counselling.


You might want to check out Natalia’s online counselling service, to sign up as a therapist or to search for therapists for yourself.


Accessibility in this post will refer to both people living in rural areas, where the population might be small, and therefore they might not be able to find a therapist nearby.

The town might be so small that the person accessing counselling might be self-conscious of people knowing they’re going to therapy, for whatever reason that might be.

Therapy needs to be a safe space, so if keeping it to themselves helps, then online therapy is a good solution.


The issue of accessibility also applies to people with physical disabilities or difficulties accessing transport to a face-to-face therapist.

Some of us work on a first or second floor, without lifts or accessibility, so cilents that need support with their wheelchairs or other support might not be able to reach us, unless they do it online.

What an option, to be able to meet with your chosen therapist, through encrypted, secure online platforms like Zoom, VSee and others!


Natalia will now talk to us about empathy in the online environment, as it relates to accessibility.



Like everything in life, we are only able to empathise as far as we have experienced a similar situation.

And this is human, by the way.

Our abilities to empathise depend on whether we are sensitive to what’s in front of us.

Empathy is important as an online counsellor.

Being aware of the practical issues of accessing counselling will allow the therapist to come up with the best solution for their clients.

Online therapy is one way of paying attention and providing an alternative therapy service.


Let me discuss a bit further what people with physical disabilities or logistic issues (living in rural areas or small towns, like Karin mentioned above) could benefit from online counselling.

Imagine a person going to a session in the centre of London.

They might be from a rural area or use a wheelchair and the closest therapist might be 50miles away!


The burden of going from point A (this person home) to point B (therapist location in central London) is massively inconvenient!

What to do? Online counselling.

Why?

“Logistical Convenience”.

It simply covers the whole spectrum of people’s travel logistic difficulties.


What was once impossible – accessing therapy with our chosen therapist – is now made possible through the medium of the internet and the wonderful platforms available to do so safely.


Sadly, this simple issue can get in the way of the individual acquiring the much-needed, long-term, sustainable engagement that would give them the therapeutic support that they so desperately require.

This could be anything from an extra 30 minutes of travel after a hard day’s work, to living in the country and possibly having some kind of physical disability, which is why this technology can now really serve as a convenience to the client.

What is best is that the client can also feel more comfortable in their own home.


So, going back to the topic of empathy, the fact that more and more therapists are offering online therapy, tells us that counsellors are thinking about how to reach those clients that would otherwise never find their way to them.

Understanding people’s needs and living situations in an empathetic way, allows us to support more and more people than we could have imagined even 20 years ago!


Are you living in a rural area or have a disability that keeps you from accessing therapy freely and comfortably?

Have you considered online therapy?

Visit Chat2us or contact me to book an online session today!


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3 consequences of hoarding on the person’s well-being


Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post on hoarding.

In this post Stacey and I will be focusing on 3 consequences of hoarding on the person’s well-being.


Many aspects of well-being can be impacted when someone has too much clutter and keeps acquiring material belongings to meet a partly unconscious need.

We’ll start by defining well-being from three perspectives, then we’ll give some tips into how you can support yourself as a hoarder, or your loved one who’s hoarding.


What is well-being?


There are many ways to define the meaning of well-being, a few examples are below:

Physical well-being

A person’s lifestyle and behaviour (making sure that you eat and sleep well.)

What we do (or not do) to look after our physical bodies can have an impact on our mental health.

If we exercise, we will be releasing endorphins, dopamine, and other hormones that make us feel good. The opposite will happen if we don’t exercise.

If we get enough sleep, we are allowing our mind to repair and process what went on throughout our day, allowing us to wake up refreshed and ready for what the next day will bring.

Physical well-being also refers to our environment. Where we live and how we organise our space can mean we are thinking clearly or otherwise have “cluttered” thinking, which will mirror the way our home is filled with clutter.

Clearing the clutter will help clear your mind. It’s a parallel process!

Emotional well-being

Being in control of your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

When we are in control of our emotions and behaviours, we feel good and we can function in our daily lives.

When things start getting on top of us, we can’t manage simple requests or make decisions that used to be easy for us.

Finding a therapist to work through these things will be helpful in figuring out what’s going on and how to get back on track.

Social well-being

Low social support can also lead to health consequences such as depression and high blood pressure.

Healthy relationships are really important.

A good support system means we have people to turn to in our times of need.

We might turn to family or friends, or professionals such as doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, counsellors, or people at day centres and other health-improving environments.


All 3 types of well-being mentioned above can be affected if you are a hoarder.


To have positive well-being we might need to start seeing life positively and therefore feel good about yourself, your life and relationships.

We would prefer to have the presence of emotions and moods such as happiness and feeling content as opposed to feeling anger, depression and anxiety.

All emotions are valid. All emotions are human.

If we experience our emotions, whatever they are, when they happen, we have a better chance of being happy than if we bottle them up or ignore them.


Hoarding can have a serious negative impact on your well-being.

It can cause anger, resentment and depression within the family and relationships thus affecting your emotional and social well-being.

The negative impact of hoarding can be remedied.

It might take time, effort, mindset change and lots of courage and support from your loved ones, but there is a way to make things better for your life and your relationships.


The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, quotes the following example of a person that is suffering from hoarding and it shows that it is having a negative impact on her emotional and social well-being.

Ive always had trouble throwing things away. Magazines, newspapers, old clothes What if I need them one day? I dont want to risk throwing something out that might be valuable. The large piles of stuff in our house keep growing so its difficult to move around and sit or eat together as a family.

My husband is upset and embarrassed, and we get into horrible fights. I
m scared when he threatens to leave me. My children wont invite friends over, and I feel guilty that the clutter makes them cry. But I get so anxious when I try to throw anything away. I dont know whats wrong with me, and I dont know what to do.

This lady is suffering from hoarding and this could consequentially lead to her husband divorcing her. It is already causes great stress to her children. Therefore, this is seriously affecting the emotional and social well-being for not just her but also her family.

Her social well-being is being affected due to the fact that her husband is not showing any support and her condition is affecting their relationship. This then leads to a negative impact on her emotional well-being as this will cause depression and she already mentions feeling anxious at the thought of throwing anything away. She clearly needs a strong support system around her.


If you are living in a similar situation or know anybody that is, please do not hesitate to contact us today so that we can provide you with the support that is needed.


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Online Counselling Blog Series (with Natalia from Chat2Us.Online)


Hi everyone, and welcome to this blog post series where we will be talking about online counselling.

It’s been a few decades now since the first online therapy session took place. Things have moved quite a lot since then.

The internet has become a hub for many businesses and services, and counselling has not been left behind.

There are many aspects to take into account for therapists working face to face, and these are also included when doing online counselling.


As you can imagine, there are more variables to take into account when working online, which is what we want to bring to you in this series.

We will be discussing the ethical, practical and other issues and advantages of online counselling.


You can find out more about me via my About Me page.

For now, I’ll let Natalia from Chat2Us introduce herself and tell us a bit about why she’s collaborating with me in these posts, and also having me on board her page as resident blogger.


Hi everybody , I’m Natalia Obregon from Chat2Us.

I’m a bilingual counsellor living in Spain but with a close link to the UK, which is why I’m offering a platform for English and Spanish speakers.

I’m hoping to add more therapists that speak even more languages so we can reach more people living in the UK and all over the world.

We have started this blog collaboration with Karin to provide value to our readers, regarding online counselling.

Also visit Chat2Us blogsite for more interesting blogs about psychology, well being, benefits of therapy, healthy habits.


Chat2us is born after realising the limited time we reserve to take care of ourselves.

A good chunk of time, is dedicated to our main job and another good portion to our personal and family time.

Why not take care of our mental health using the great technology at our disposal?

Of course, there are pros and cons to consider, but the end result is achieved: supply a live service from the comfort of your home.


The options for support are broadened this way: you can start only by telephone if you feel more comfortable than showing up with video, as in a face to face therapy…

…later on, once you gained some trust with your therapist, you can unveil yourself and do a video therapy instead…

Regardless, of what option you go for, it must be chosen wisely and with some previous research about who is to going to be your trusted therapist…


Karin is being a great support these days and she has opened unlimited options to help me grow Chat2us.

For it, I have to thank her and continue our growth together collaborating with each other’s blogs.

What a fantastic way to show your public who you are!

I am open to suggestions and requests anytime, so drop us a line through our web with all your contributions…


Also, you can sign up with us and become a member!

You would be able to create your profile and publish your posts!

Is it not the best way to get to know each other?

Check out our website now and find out more about us!


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What is Hoarding?


Hi, and welcome to this edition of our Hoarding mini-series.

In this week’s post we’ll be talking about what hoarding is, from a psychological and a practical perspective.


The psychological effects of hoarding are intertwined with the more tangible aspects of hoarding.

For example, when someone that’s hoarding collects more possessions, they have an emotional reaction to this.

They get something new for their home, they get a strong reaction.

Some of the reactions are positive – an adrenaline and endorphin rush that gives the hoarder a happy feeling, which reinforces the behaviour of acquiring more things to continue getting that happy feeling.

For others, it might be frustrating to be buying more things they know they don’t need and really don’t want but can’t stop themselves from buying.

There’s a pull towards that accumulation of material things, which most likely has an underlying, mostly unconscious origin.

The unconscious pull is strong and undetectable unless talked through with a counsellor or psychotherapist that will help the hoarder to work through their difficult past (distant or recent) that might have led them into hoarding.


There are more emotions that hoarding can bring up for the hoarder and their family and friends.

The consequences to the environment are also important because they might impact on the hoarder’s personal and professional lives.

Stacey now will talk to us about this a bit further.


Hoarding is when a person is saving lots of different items within their home regardless of whether or not those items add any value to their lives.

According to the mental health charity Mind, if you hoard, you might:

  • Have very strong positive feelings whenever you get more items added to your home   
  • Feel very upset or anxious at the thought of throwing or giving things away any items that you have accummalated   
  • Find it very hard to decide what to keep or what to get rid of

The charity also states that, hoarders may believe the following:

  • That they need to keep things for the future
  • That they will not be able to cope with how they feel if somebody were to start throwing things away
  • Throwing things away will harm other people or the environment
  • You have to keep things because you must not waste them
  • You should arrange or dispose of things perfectly or not at all
  • Your belongings are making you happy or keeping you safe
  • Your belongings are all unique and special, even if they are very similar
  • You simply need more storage space, or more time to sort things out.

Lots of people share some of these beliefs to an extent, but don’t feel them as strongly or as part of hoarding.   

Hoarding could affect you in lots of different ways, some examples below are:

  • It can lead to health and safety issues such as being unable to leave your home quickly in case of an emergency.
  • Feeling embarrassed and ashamed of your home which could lead to feelings of isolation. This feeling of isolation could happen because you do not want people to visit your home and to not know about your situation.
  • You could struggle to stay on top of paying bills or finding important paperwork that you need to stay organised because of the clutter that you live in.
  • Buying the same items that you already have but you do not realise this because you cannot find them.
  • Avoid letting visitors into your home which could lead to housing or safety problems as those visitors could be trying to carry out repairs or safety checks in your home.
  • Your personal hygiene could be affected in extreme cases where you cannot access your bathroom or washing machine.
  • Your health could be affected in cases where you cannot access the kitchen properly or there is no space in your fridge to store, prepare, cook and eat healthy food for you and/or your family.
  • You could be restricted from accessing areas of your home due to it being very cluttered for example, your bedroom or hallways.
  • Children could be affected by a person with a hoarding disorder. Where severe hoarding exists, families rarely have any space at all and are forced to combine bedroom spaces inappropriately, for example an older child could be forced to sleep in the same bed as a parent. Sometimes children can be forced to live in one space that serves multiple functions. For example where there is space on a sofa, this sofa could be used for sleeping, doing homework or eating.

If you recognise any of the things mentioned in this post, for yourself or a friend or relative, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We can help with the practical – Stacey is a professional organiser – and the psychological – Karin is a counsellor working online.


See you next week!


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Blog Post Showcase: Successful Private Practice – my ‘why’, by Antonia Higgins


Hello everyone, and welcome to Wednesday’s new ongoing series, where I’ll be showcasing the blog posts that the graduates of my workshop via onlinevents experiential workshops have written.

In this week’s post, Tonia writes to us about her own workshop, Successful Private Practice, and tells us a bit about why she’s offering this workshop.



Why you’re in great hands with Antonia supporting you via this workshop

Why is she offering this workshop

Why Antonia is qualified to present this workshop

Find out more about the meaning of success in private practice

Get some practical tips and know-how

And of course, how to book.



I’ll be updating these Wednesday posts as I receive links to colleague’s blog posts. Keep an eye out for these!

You can also subscribe in the form below if you want to get them straight in your inbox as they are published.


(psst, the video in the post was created by yours truly)


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Hoarding: Psychological and Practical Support for you or your family member (blog series intro)


Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post, where I’d like to introduce a new partnership with Stacey Sabido from Serenity for You.

In these posts, we want to raise awareness and provide informative posts about hoarding, their effects – both practical and psychological.

We will be working holistically, which is why we have joined forces. I’ll be discussing the psychological aspects of hoarding, while Stacey will be discussing the practical aspects.

Of course, there will be points where these two meet – and it’s important that they do! – so we will both be touching on both aspects of hoarding.


In the next few months, we’ll be talking about the following topics:

What is hoarding?

Consequences on wellbeing

practical steps to help someone who’s hoarding

helping your loved one to move forward from hoarding

getting hoarding under control

responsibility and hoarding

support but don’t take over the process

distance is sometimes more helpful

and more!


I’ve decided to join forces with Stacey for a few reasons.

The first one being that the topic of hoarding is something I’ve come across in my therapy room, and even though it might not be the main topics in my clients’ therapy, clutter does impact on their wellbeing and mental health.

It is important to do the practical stuff that Stacey will be doing, but without the emotional support, the root causes will remain the same and the individual will most likely “relapse” and begin hoarding again.

A while back, I wrote a post about Spring Cleaning, which relates to de-cluttering. It doesn’t address hoarding as such, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now, and I’m working on de-cluttering my house as we speak.

It’s a work in progress – papers under control, clothes organised and I really don’t need to buy any more in a long time, so I won’t! Everything has it’s place and not many extra things are around.

It feels good to do it, and I want to support a business that wants that for her clients.

I’ll let Stacey introduce herself now. For more about me, please visit this page.


Stacey Sabido – Serenity For You

Hi, I’m stacey, and I’m happy to be here!

I am kind, caring and compassionate and have always found happiness in helping others.

I am a strong believer in being in a free state of mind.

Serenity For You was established for the purpose of helping others to create SERENITY:

“….the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.”


I have a natural gift (if I do say so myself!) in keeping things in order and a passion for helping to improve the lives of others with my skills. 

With a background in HR and customer service, I am very organised, efficient, warm & friendly!


What Serenity for You offers:

My aim as a Professional Organiser is to turn my clients chaos into serenity.

I offer a personal service that also cares about YOU as a person and not just your physical surroundings.

I want to inspire people to not only help themselves but by doing so also help others in need….

…de-cluttering your home and getting rid of items that you no longer need which would benefit the less fortunate.

I have teamed up with Shelter – a registered charity that campaigns to end homelessness.

I can remove your unwanted items and donate them to this charity which would be contributing to an amazing cause.


I offer decluttering and organising for any area of your home and I also work in offices if help with paper management and filing is needed.

I can assist with helping with home moves to take away the stress and ensure a smoother transition.


I have recently started a new and exciting partnership with KB Bllingual Counselling services. which will provide you with the support that you need if you are struggling to cope with stress and anxiety around hoarding (for yourself or your loved one).


Here are my social media platforms for you to find out more on a regular basis:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter


We will work together with the aim to transform your life physically and mentally, reduce your stress and increase your happiness!

We will be working particularly close with the friends or family of hoarders, with the aim to providing a team effort support network.

Together, we aim to offer professional organising (Stacey) and mental health and wellbeing support (Karin) in a way that ensures that everything is covered and you’re getting the right support, when you need it.


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Private Practice Mini Series — Ghosted: the private therapist initiation rite


Hi, and welcome to the third post in my Private Practice mini series aimed at practitioners in private practice, and anyone who works one-to-one with clients.

In the first post of this series, I wrote about creating the mental space that leads clients to find us.

Last week I wrote about calling things into being.


This week I want to talk about those difficult times when we book clients and they either don’t show up, or they have their first session and never contact again.

This is a very tricky situation, that can leave practitioners feeling insecure about their capacity as therapists, or bringing that impostor syndrome to the forefront…or even more, wondering what it is they did that made the client “ghost” them.


I am speaking from personal experience here.


As someone that also had a start in private practice and all that entails, I can say that ghosting happened to me too.

As a supervisor, I really like Scaife’s model (read my post on that here). He talks about responsibility and gives the supervisor, the therapist and the client a set of responsibilities.

I will start with what I’ve experienced as a therapist starting out in private practice and generalise it to other practitioners. Then I will discuss what I think happens from a client’s perspective (some not all possibilities).


In regard to the therapist, I would say that our responsibility is to hold the space for the client, where it’s safe to process and work through difficult stuff.

When we are starting, we are “desperate” (my own words, not calling anyone that although I’m sure some of you reading this can relate) – urged might be a better word, to retain and find clients to fill our time slots and help us start earning an income from what we trained so hard to do.

This urge might communicate over to the client. Unconsciously of course.


I am psychodynamically trained (now working integratively) so I believe that the unconscious to unconscious communications are very powerful.

We might not verbally be saying to the client “please keep me as your therapist, I need you”, but that’s what we might be communicating in many other ways we’re not aware of.

Now, just being aware of this is a great starting point to not put that burden on our clients.

A burden that might lead them to leave.

Apart from this, I don’t think there’s anything else that I can say right now to point the responsibility of a client ghosting a therapist, on the therapist themselves.


Let’s turn to the client’s responsibility.

Sometimes a client books a first session and never shows up.

It might have taken all of their energy and might to contact and book the appointment, but might have realised that they’re not ready yet, or that it’s too scary to attend, or something might have happened that led them to not need therapy anymore.

Sometimes they let us know, other times they don’t. It can be enfuriating, but we can’t take it personally. We might never find out what happened. We might have to live with the “not knowing” of why we were forgotten by our new potential client.


I find that as we spend more time as private practitioners, we get better at setting boundaries and trusting ourselves, and valuing ourselves as practitioners, and this happens less and less.

But when we are beginning, these things might not communicate as much through our contract, or our verbal and non-verbal communications. It’s an art and it’s developed slowly and gently, as we work with more clients and spend more time acclimatising to the realm of private practice.


Other times, a client arrives for their first session, it seems to have gone well, and they never book another session again.

For some clients, the catharsis that happens in a first session might have been enough.

Or it might have been too much to start talking about something that was only in their minds up to the point they started talking about it with their new therapist.

Ideally they’d let us know. But as above, sometimes they don’t.


We must err on the side of trusting our abilities and capacity as qualified and experienced therapists (we have, after all completed quite a few hours in placements before setting up our private practice!), and consider what is our responsibility and what is our clients.

Taking it to supervision and getting reassurance and clarity about what happens when we’re ghosted by clients will build us up, help us set clearer boundaries, possibly rewrite our contracts (I’ve rewritten mine many times, mainly adding stuff as time goes on!) and work on our initial contacts with clients, and how we feel about ourselves as therapists.

I hope this post has been helpful, or at least food for thought. I welcome your feedback and comments.


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Private Practice Mini Series: Calling things into being by speaking them out.


Hi, and welcome to the second post in my Private Practice mini series aimed at practitioners in private practice, and anyone who works one-to-one with clients.

Last week I spoke about creating the mental space that leads clients to find us.

Next week I want to talk about something that I see happens a lot when we start private practice: clients “ghosting” practitioners.


This week I want to focus on something that I see as “working in the background”, in our favour.

I was chatting to a colleague once and I said something about a plan I had for the next year.

Now taking into account that this colleague didn’t know me for long, what he said marked me.

These are almost his words, verbatim: “yes, I am sure you will achieve that. Everything else you’ve said you’d do, you’ve accomplished so far.”


That got me thinking…


What is it that I’m doing – apart from taking steps towards fulfilling what I’ve said I wanted to do in the first place – that is getting me to achieve that goal?

In having conversations with other people, I started to piece things together and realised a very valuable lesson:

When we call things out….when we name the things we want in life…they will come to us, sooner or later!


Everything we do gets us closer to our goals.

Everything we say gets us closer to our goals.


There is a lot of power in what we say and confess to ourselves and to our friends, family and colleagues!

I really do believe that trusting that what we want to happen will happen is a great way to achieve our goals and live more fulfilling lives.

This is how I’ve been building my practice.

I guess it’s been discussed before in books like The Secret an the Law of Attraction, and such. But until you experience it yourself, it won’t mean much.

This goes hand in hand with what I wrote to you about last week – if we create space and name the things that we want to pass, they will most likely happen.


Another thing I live by is this “what I’m doing now, will help in the future, somehow”.


A clear example is a colleague I’ll be partnering with soon. I met her nearly 7 years ago now at a training session, and she remembered me from that, and now we will be working together!

Yes it’s 7 years later, but the point it, we plant seeds and they grow and flourish when it’s their time to do so.

The key is to plant the seeds, either by doing something, saying something, while taking the steps and planning towards what we want for our lives and businesses.


So get talking, get confessing openly with yourself or with your tribe, those things that are dear to your heart, that will bring your goals to fruition, and your lives to be more fulfilling and more like how you want them to be.

Whether that means having 5 clients, 10 clients, 20 clients…working only 2 days a week…having various sources of income and ways of supporting people with your business…whatever it is…speak up and see it happen!


Until next time…


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Private Practice Mini-Series: Creating the mental space that leads clients to find us


Hi, and welcome to this mini series aimed at practitioners in private practice, and anyone who works one-to-one with clients.

This will be a three-post series where I’ll be talking about

1. Creating the mental space that leads clients to find us

2. Calling things out so that they become a reality in our lives and businesses

3. Ghosting: a private practitioner’s initiation rite of passage


I’ve been in private practice for nearly 7 years now, and I’ve learned a lot.

Some things I wished I’d learned when I’d started, but that’s not always possible.

It is because of this that I’ve launched some services (free and paid), like this blog, to support practitioners that are just starting out now, to know about things that will get them started with more knowledge than I had when I started.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like how things have panned out. I love how my practice and life are going. But I know this might not be the case for everyone.

Keep reading if you want to find out about this week’s topic and what I mean by creating mental space.


I’ll write a bit about how I started out and how I got to where I am today.

In 2013, I decided to launch my website and get online on directories so I could get clients. I was also working 37+ hours at a care job (which I enjoyed, but my sights were changing more towards full time private practice, only a dream at this point!).

From that point onward, I had started to lower my hours at that job and spending more time on counselling.

The first two years I didn’t have that many clients. Which was fine because I was renting a room and finding it difficult to find the right times to fit clients anyway.

In 2015 I got a Senior Care Officer contract at a children’s home, which was temporary until November. When that contract finished, it gave me the freedom to work as relief staff, which meant I could choose what days to work and what days to dedicate to my private practice.


This is where it starts to get good!


A month or so before my Senior contract ended, I started thinking more and more about dedicating Mondays and Thursdays to private practice. Just thinking about it did something…

It was almost magic!

By the time my contract ended, I had quite a few more enquiries.

I booked them in, and by the end of the year I’d gone from 1-2 regular clients to 4-8 regular clients!

I got a contract as a support worker in the same children’s home on February 2016, but took only 16hrs per week, which meant I could still dedicate Mondays and Thursdays to counselling and building my business.

My manager there has always been kind enough to accommodate my other responsibilities outside of that job. And as I was working very part time only, it was all good.

That year I did my last waking night shift. That’s how I started letting go of doing extra shifts and focusing more on my private work. By mid 2017 I stopped doing extra shift.


Another dramatic shift came about when I decided to finally give blogging a good chance and take it seriously. This meant taking promoting my blog seriously as well.

And this in turn meant posting regularly and consistently on social media.


I was still counselling Mondays and Thursdays, but decided to start offering sessions on Wednesdays as well.

I got more clients. I also started offering supervision.

I created the mental space for those clients and supervisees, and lo and behold, they contacted and booked!


My last two years at the care job were spent daydreaming about only running my own business.

I planned for it.

I made the mental space for the clients that I needed – a mix of counselling, supervisees, coaching and tutoring clients.

I also started thinking about other services and products to offer.

I wrote 20 Self-Care Habits, which came from a series of blogs I wrote.

I began planning other avenues of income and work.

In July 2019, I left the care job. I miss the social aspects of it and the young people I worked with.

But it wasn’t for me anymore.


I worked 11 years as a support worker in different areas. It gave me lots of knowledge that includes being able to offer counselling to autistic and other neurodiverse people.

My practice is now full to the brim. My products and services are being created slowly but surely.

More books are in the pipeline, as well as collaborations with colleagues and companies to create more mental space to help more clients and colleagues with their lives and careers.


Those who know me will know that I didn’t write this to brag. I’m more in awe of how things are going than anyone else!

I wrote this to show my fellow colleagues what is possible when we work hard, when we get the training, CPD, support from one another, and put ourselves out there.


I hope this post has been helpful to those starting out, and allowed those more seasoned practitioner to reflect on the amazing journey we’re all in…

…doing what we love, whilst at the same time helping our clients and colleagues get back on track, or get their businesses going.

I look forward to writing to you next week.

Until then…


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20 Self-Care Habits – Colleague Collaboration (Book Review)

Hi everyone!

I’ve just been given a brilliant review for my book, 20 Self-Care Habits, which was published 31st July 2018.

It’s been quite a journey and it’s always nice to hear how someone is benefiting from what I’ve written.


Everything I do is aimed at helping people. Helping them get a head start, learning from what I’ve learned in the past, from personal experiences but also from others’ experiences of putting my suggestions into practice.


In this occasion, my colleague, Pat Capel, reviewed my book for his website, and I’d love you to read it.


I think it’s better to hear feedback from others than from the author themselves sometimes – cause I would be biased to say it is a good book 😉

Anyway, I trust that you’ll enjoy reading Pat’s review and other stuff on his page – it’s really good stuff! (see, now I’m giving you feedback on Pat’s stuff, which is really good to be honest!)

If you haven’t read 20 Self-Care Habits, or my other reviews on my website, then have a look at Pat’s take on the book.


Here’s a snippet of what Pat had to say…

“If you are someone who is wondering what “self care” is or what you can do to take better care of yourself, I would suggest giving this book a read.  In this book, Karin explains and guides you through what it means to take care of yourself.  Our modern world can be tricky and yet she explains simple and practical strategies that you can start your new self care regime immediately. “

Pat Capel, http://www.patcapel.co.uk

Enjoy reading the review and spend some time exploring Pat’s page, and my own book page, reading even more reviews on the book.

I look forward to hearing your feedback after you’ve read 20 Self-Care Habits.


For more on Pat, follow him on Social Media:

Pat CapelPsychotherapist and Counsellor

Website:    https://www.patcapel.co.uk/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/patcapelpsychotherapy

Twitter:      https://twitter.com/pat_capel

LinkedIn:    https://www.linkedin.com/in/pat-capel-b9b176b7/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/patcapelpsychotherapist/?hl=en


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Total Health Summit – 10th October



Experience “Total Health” by balancing body, mind, emotions, and spirit.


Total Health Summit™: Join us and explore tools and techniques to attain equanimity and unity of body, mind, emotions, and spirit.


Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post!


This week I’d like to share with you about a project I’ve been collaborating with.

I’ve been talking about boundaries, meeting our needs and responsibility with Keith Engelhardt, the mastermind behind the Total Health Summit.

It’s been fun to record the interview with him and to interview a couple of colleagues!



So what’s this summit about?


The aim of this year’s online summit is to get more people to experience “total health” by balancing body, mind, emotions and spirit.


Achieve work/life balance and total health by:

Learning how to reduce stress.

Envision decreasing being overwhelmed by work or life.

Visualise learning how to find balance.


The varied knowledge and experience of each of the speakers will allow you to target different areas of your life: physical, mental, and spiritual.

The best part is that it is free to watch for a limited time!

The silver and gold passes are affordable and they come with yearly access community where you can continue to learn and share with like-minded people.


Find out who more about the speakers by clicking here.


Learning how to deal with stress, stressful situations and find balance in life is important, and there is more than one way to achieve it.

This is why I highly recommend tuning in on October 10th to the Total Total Health Summit.

I hope to see you there!


Counsellors Working with Neurodiversity – Facebook Group


Hi, and welcome to this week’s post.

I’ve been posting about Autism in my series, and I’d like to end this part of it with letting you know about a Facebook group that has been set up with the aim of supporting neurodiverse clients in the therapy room.


We created this group with the aim to bring counsellors to get together to discuss neurodiversity in a safe space.

Our goal is not only for therapists to know how to work with the neurodiverse population, but also to raise awareness of what neurodiversity and autism actually entails.


I watched a show yesterday and the guy was talking about diversity, but he said he like the word “representation” better.

It was very timely that I saw this, I think. He was talking about race but it applies here as well.

We want to represent the autistic and neurodiverse population in a positive and empowering manner.


It is because of the imbalance in information and inclusion of neurodiverse groups that we believe in working together, without creating an “us” and “them” environment.

With that in mind, in our group we use “I” statements when we are expressing ourselves, in order to keep away from it becoming polarised.

We encourage conversations, and using “I” statements, helps avoid confusion, misunderstandings, and provides a safe space to have all kinds of conversations, without the need to stop them or “close commenting”, which might happen but it’s been rare with the way we’re running the group.


We purposely sought out Lisa Cromar to be part of the group, as it would be silly to create a group for neurodiverse counsellors without having that voice in the group.

It brings that power balance back to just that – balance. We don’t know everything, we don’t have “insiders” experience as “NTs” which is why, behind the scenes, we ask Lisa to let us know if we’re on the right track or not.


We believe that, as admins, it’s important to keep communicating with each other.

We all have roles in the group, and communicating about each action that we need to take, is making it a safe place for us to admin but also a safe place for counsellors and psychotherapists to further the conversations and cause for the neurodiverse population.


As a group, we understand that there is completely justified anger from both autistic and neurotipicals about the treatment of autistic people – the misunderstandings, the backchat, the looks.

General discrimination and lack of knowledge doesn’t help either.
What we are trying to do with our lovely group is work as a team, a mutually respected team of NDs and NTs.


This is a safe space to feel and be equals. We are all counsellors after all and that unites us firstly.

We are united in the cause to support and remove barriers between society and neurodiversity – this of course will take time, but if we change our attitudes and channel our anger and discomfort in a joint endeavour, then that will bring us further than if we “divide and conquer”.


This group is all about empowerment – to state your opinion, to be supported (within the limitations of a facebook group – it’s not a support or therapy group, or supervision).



If this group is something that sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, feel free to join via this link.


Before I let you go for today, here’s a bit on all the admins of the group:


Lisa Cromar

Lisa is a Person-Centred (PC) counsellor who specialises in working with autistic clients, she provides counselling at a college in the Northwest. Lisa also supervises and trains placement counsellors working at Cheshire Autism Practical Support (ChAPS), a charity which supports autistic people and their families. Additionally, she provides autism awareness workshops training counsellors in how to make counselling more accessible to this client group, increasing counsellor confidence in working with this group which is currently known to be generally low. She has Aspergers and has children with Aspergers and autism. 

Lisa is the author of the pioneering literature review: Exploring the Efficacy of  Person-Centred Counselling for Autistic People, published in the spring 2019 edition of The Person Centred Quarterly (PCQ) . Lisa’s eventual career goal is to assume responsibility for pioneering a version of person-centred counselling for autistic people, Lisa has just embarked on a PhD at The University of Chester to help to realise this dream


Sarah Williams

I’m Sarah and I work in a person centred way, in simple terms this means that I listen with empathy, and I will always regard you and your experiences with compassion and understanding. My approach is real and genuine. I am a specialist trauma counsellor, with over eight years experience working with survivors of rape and sexual abuse. Since qualifying I have counselled adults with autism (sometimes referred to as Asperger’s syndrome)

https://www.indigocounselling.co.uk/


Heidi Brown

I am a Person Centred Counsellor working in Manchester city centre, who enjoys empowering people to make the best decisions for themselves.

I work alongside people as they unlock their potential.

I love to see people grow and develop.

My specialities are autism and work related stress.

Www.heidibrowncounselling.com

Karin Brauner


I was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where I lived for the first 25 years of my life. I am now settled  in Brighton and Hove, which I love – I have access to the countryside, the city, the sea, and a melting pot of cultures and activities.

I have a private practice in Brighton and Hove and Online, working with Spanish and English speaking clients with a wide range of life difficulties.

My approach is psychodynamic at its base, but I adapt my therapeutic approach with each individual client, drawing from other modalities and work experience. I believe building good rapport and a good relationship with my clients will help both of us work together to gain insights and freedom from feelings that might be stuck in the past or left unprocessed or repressed.

You can find out more about Karin via the AboutMe page at the top of this blog.

Facebook Group Description

Welcome to ‘Counsellors working with Neurodiversity’. Set up as a resource and a meeting place for UK counsellors to share their knowledge, expertise, events, CPD courses and/or workshops. In the areas for example of Autism, Dyslexia, ADHD; although not exclusive to these aspects.

This group will not be discussing client work, please take it to supervision or contact www.k-brauner-counselling.co.uk/clinical-supervision. Admin will be monitoring strictly to ensure that confidentiality is protected. This rule is for client and counsellor protection alike.

Any posts that are deemed unsafe will be deleted. We hope that counsellors working with neurodiversity can come together here to help and support each other. With the aim of promoting the acceptance of cognitive difference, that seems to be stigmatised as negative within a more standardised model. If you join this group you are agreeing to the terms of use.

This Facebook group will use as default the term ‘autistic’ when describing a person with autism. A survey by the National Autistic Society (NAS) of 3470 which included 502 autistic adults found that the term ‘autistic’ was preferred by a large percentage of the autistic participants.

Please see below an extract from the NAS website which we support:-

‘The language we use is important because it embodies and can therefore help change attitudes towards autism. To reflect the findings of this research, the NAS has begun to gradually increase the use of the term ‘autistic’ – particularly when talking about and to adults in that group.’ We recognise, that there will be autistic people who prefer the term ‘person with autism,’ and it is obviously important to use each individual’s preference at those times.

For more information on the rationale behind this preference, please see links below:- https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/describing.aspxhttps://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1362361315588200


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Autism/Aspergers – Working together in the therapy room (mini-series- pt.6)



Hi, and welcome to this week’s post, part 5 in my series about working together in the therapy room with autistic clients.

This week I’d like to talk about what goes on in therapy. There might be “set-backs”, there might be a need to set clear goals in order to set the client up for success, and using problem-solving approaches might help with this.


Read part 1, 2 , 3 , 4, 5 here.

I’ve also written a few posts about what to expect on your first counselling session (read part 1 and part 2 here).

You can also click here for my other posts on Autism.


For these posts, I’d like to reference Katherine Paxton and Irene A. Estay’s book called Counselling people on the Autism Spectrum (chapter 3)


In the intro for this post I wrote “set-backs”.

This is something that I don’t consider the correct wording, but clients might use this language, so let’s go with it.

I trust in the work that we do in each session with my clients.

Sometimes therapy is counter-intuitive.

Clients might get worse before they get better, and riding that out might be tricky to understand or grasp.


Explaining – psychoeducating – an autistic client about the fact that this is going to happen and how it might look like, in general terms, might help keep the anxiety about these “set backs” to a low level.

Working through the anxiety of feeling like we took some steps forward and coming back for a future session thinking that the work has been undone is something I’m familiar with.

It happens with both autistic and non-autistic clients. It’s all part of the process.


Using visual aids or diagrams might help clients understand this and trust that what they’re doing is getting them ahead rather than falling behind.

I trust that, in the way we work in the room, once we have taken steps forward, we can never go back to square one.

There might be the chance of going back 3 steps but never the 10 we’ve already walked.

The change that happens is organic most of the time, and if it hasn’t “clicked” yet, then it just means we need to continue working until we have reached the full depths of the origin of the issue.


Therapy is like an archaeological dig or a police investigation. We are connecting the dots, putting things back together in order to get a clear picture and set goals to move forward.

Setting clear goals is something that I don’t do in an overt fashion with my clients, but it might actually be very helpful to focus the mind of an autistic client.


Using problem-solving approaches might be ideal to support an autistic client with what they want to work through.

There might be the need for some flexibility within the goal and how to reach it, following my usual way of working (free association) but having that goal will allow us to focus and possibly measure the changes as we go through the sessions.

Figuring out in therapy how to get from A to B, and what will be helpful to each individual client is important and is something that we learn together as client and therapist.


Until next week…


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Autism/Aspergers – Working together in the therapy room (mini-series- pt.5)



Hi, and welcome to this week’s post, part 5 in my series about working together in the therapy room with autistic clients.

This week I want to talk about transitions, anxiety, autonomy, self-esteem and self-talk.


Read part 1, 2 , 3 and 4 here.

I’ve also written a few posts about what to expect on your first counselling session (read part 1 and part 2 here).

You can also click here for my other posts on Autism.


For these posts, I’d like to reference Katherine Paxton and Irene A. Estay’s book called Counselling people on the Autism Spectrum (chapter 3)


Transitions


I’ve been working with autistic adults and young people for 11 years now in the care sector, and 5 years with counselling clients.

Something that’s clear from this time, is that transitions can be hard!

Staff change-overs might cause distress as there might be more people walking around and therefore maybe more noise and uncertainty for that half hour.

It has been easily alleviated by staff coming in straight to the office, to keep the environment calm and familiar for the individuals.

A social story (mentioned in the previous blog post) might be used to inform the residents about who is leaving and who’s taking their place. This brings reassurance and calm to them.


In the therapy room, it might help to stick to the same time and day for sessions, as well as having a routine set for the hour.

I’d say the best way to do this is ask the client what would work best for them at the start of the session, during the session, and at the end of the session.

At the start of the session, the therapist might have arranged the cushions in a particular way, left some stimming objects (like a stress ball or playdough or something else) near the client’s chair which they can access if needed.

The client might bring their own, which is very welcome in my room as it will be helpful for the client to have familiar things, especially at the beginning of the process.

Leaving the windows open or closed has also come up in my sessions, and I make sure I ask the clients what’s better for them. This will change as the therapeutic relationship changes and the room becomes more familiar to the autistic client.


During the session, checking in often about how the session is going and how the client is feeling, what needs changing or working on, will be helpful and reassure the client that they’re being heard and understood.

At the end of the session, the client might need a transition “ritual” or a few steps that might help them close down what was opened up during the session.

Maybe some processing time or some checking in with the surroundings and the next steps.

It is all person-centred, so this will be different for each client, as their transitioning needs and experiences might also be very different.


Anxiety


I’ve previously written some blog posts on anxiety, which you can read here (part 1, part 2, part 3)


Anxiety with autistics can be linked to transitions.

Sometimes an advanced warning with plenty of time to process might help the client with the transition by helping keep the anxiety at bay.

Other times having such an advanced warning might be anxiety provoking in itself. Keeping the warning to just before the transition is happening might be helpful in these cases.

Keeping clear on what’s going to happen next, and sticking to what we say, can be really helpful.

In the therapy room, if we say the session will last 50 minutes, make sure you stick to this time.

Ask the client whether a 5 or 10 minute warning would help, or whether you just end the session at 50 minutes without much warning.

A cue such as grabbing my diary to schedule the next session might become a transition clue for the client that the session is ending. This might develop naturally or as part of the conversations and agreements in session 1.


Do read my series on anxiety for more on this topic.


Autonomy


As part of the ethical frameworks I work under, respecting the client and providing a space for them to be autonomous is essential, and ethical, in the therapeutic relationship.

By asking questions like the ones described above, we are setting the client up for going from depending a bit on the therapist to understand their inner world and their relationships, to learning how to tap into these on their own, as time goes on.

The goal with therapy is not to keep a client forever, it’s to enable autonomous behaviours and thoughts, through practice.

By observing what goes on in the therapy room, which is usually a reproduction of what goes on in the client’s everyday world, and discussing their everyday events and past situations, the client becomes able to process their thoughts, emotions and events on their own, slowly through their therapeutic journey.

Seeing clients come into the room and talk about their progress with setting boundaries or asking for their needs to be met, or having an “a-ha” moment about something we’d been discussin in therapy, is so rewarding and it is great to see the therapy taking an effect in the clients’ lives.

Autonomy is essential in the client’s self-esteem and ability to live their best lives. Of course other aspects are also involved.

Estay and Paxton call this self-monitoring in Chapter 3 of their book.


Self-esteem and self-talk.


Focusing on the positive things clients say to themselves can be helpful when negative self-talk has been taking a hold of the client’s life.

Self-esteem can increase and the client’s moods and how they go about their daily lives can be impacted greatly by focusing on the positives.

I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that thinking that is not reinforced will be come extinct.

The same goes with thinking that is reinforced. It will be at the forefront of the client’s mind.

So if we don’t reinforce negative thoughts, then we can focus on the positive ones.

This seems to work well for autistic clients, and I tend to use it with many of my clients, in one form or another.


Keep speaking positive into your life, and I’ll see you again for next week’s post.


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Autism/Aspergers – Working together in the therapy room (mini-series- pt.4)


Hi, and welcome to this week’s post, part 3 in my series about working together in the therapy room with autistic clients.

This week want to talk about some alternative ways of working that might be helpful when communicating with our autistic clients in the therapy room.


Read part 1, 2 and 3 here.

I’ve also written a few posts about what to expect on your first counselling session (read part 1 and part 2 here).

You can also click here for my other posts on Autism.


For these posts, I’d like to reference Katherine Paxton and Irene A. Estay’s book called Counselling people on the Autism Spectrum (chapter 3)


Carol Gray’s writings (In Paxton and Estay) highlight the fact that using visual aids in the sessions might help our clients process what they’re bringing to their sessions.

In my past role as a support worker, I have used social stories for things such as transitions, staff changeover, leaving the house for an activity, room changes, and other similar things for the young people and adults I’ve looked after.


I have created a pictorial contract in a similar fashion, which has been received well.

When I send my contract to autistic clients, I might send the pictorial version along with it, and it’s in the client’s choice to open it or just read the non-pictorial version.

I’ve had positive feedback and I’ve been really careful as to not make assumptions over whether the client will be able to read one or the other. I send both and that way the client decides what is most helpful for them.


I have a whiteboard in my therapy room, which is generally for my tutoring students, but it’s been very handy in my therapy sessions too.

I have drawn or made diagrams of what we’re discussing, or clients have used the board themselves to explain how they process information and how they understanding something.

This helps me gain some insight into how best to relay what I’m trying to say, and meet my client where they are.

It’s amazing how visualising something can bring so much clarity! Sometimes words escape me – or my clients – and drawing it or making a diagram might help.


A third thing I use is physical tools and games. I have stress balls where the clients can see them, and I offer them if they seem to need them (some might not want to go near them as they don’t know who grabbed them beforehand! others are quite happy with talking and squeezing the stress balls during the sessions).

I also have playdough, skittles, draughts and a tiny bin where clients can write what they want to process or get rid of and put it in the bin (of course it’s not that simple, but the concrete, observable act, is a start and part of the process).


I’ve not done this yet, but if requested, or if I think it might be useful, I can make a summary of the session, either with the client or send it after the session, for further thinking and processing.

Another way of working is to use emotional thermometers, bar graphs and other tools to facilitate identifying and measuring emotions in a more visual and concrete way.

In my work, I try to bring clients (autistic or not) to think more in the “greys” rather than just black and white. Using the emotional thermometers and similar tools might help achieve this.


Estay and Paxton (pg.79) point out that some of these aids might be rejected as clients might feel that these are being used because of their autism rather than as a tool to help them. As I said before, I have used these techniques with all my clients, and I’d make sure that they knew this before using the techniques.


All of these will help with the thinking process, as well as with the processing of emotional content that the clients might be bringing into the room.


Have you got any more ideas that have helped with your own clients?

If you are autistic and have other ideas that might help counsellors understand what you need from us in therapy and how best to support you in your therapeutic journey, do let me know and I’ll be happy to add them to this post.


Until next week…


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Autism/Aspergers – Working together in the therapy room (mini-series- pt.3)


Hi, and welcome to this week’s post, part 3 in my series about working together in the therapy room with autistic clients.

In this post, I’ll discuss how autistic people might benefit from thinking about how many of their behaviours might be due to the fact that they are human, and not because of autism, although they might still be tinted by the different wiring that comes with autism.


Read part 1 and 2 here.

I’ve also written a few posts about what to expect on your first counselling session (read part 1 and part 2 here).

You can also click here for my other posts on Autism.

For these posts, I’d like to reference Katherine Paxton and Irene A. Estay’s book called Counselling people on the Autism Spectrum (chapter 3)


Let’s start with what I mean by some behaviour being nothing more than human behaviour.

There have been many instances where I’ve been talking to an autistic person and I’ve thought “hang on but I do that too”.

Now I’m not saying that our experiences, even though similar, aren’t experienced in very different ways.


(I felt “over-sensoried” the other day, but that was just because I hadn’t slept well and had lots to do and was getting overwhelmed to the point that I couldn’t have the radio on while working, for that few hours in the day. This is different from having a sensory sensitivity as an autistic, which doesn’t go away with a bit of sleep).


It is all about meeting the person where they are, and understanding how the situation led them to react a particular way, which might be similar to how I’ve responded but not with the same considerations.

It might be because I’ve been around autistic people, young and old, for many years now, and I can relate and really understand what’s going on.

It also helps building a relationship with my clients and getting to know them, their triggers, the systems they’ve created to help them with daily life, amongst other things.


For example, I know that when I’ve said to a client something like “I think this might be because you’re human”, it has been reassuring.

Sometimes clients will say they wonder if they’re that different, if it was their autism that led to that breakup or that conversation turning into an argument.

If we go with the thinking behind theory of mind, it might be a possibility that a social cue was missed and that led to the argument. But it might also be the case that the argument was going to happen anyway, cues or not, because the relationship was going in that direction.


We have to take these a situation at a time. Without context, what I’m saying might be misinterpreted as being dismissive of the autistic person’s experience.

As I write this, I realise that what I’m doing is seeing the person in front of me as a whole individual, yes with different “wiring” but still a human being.

And this is why it makes sense to qualify behaviours as “human” because we are all humans, with our particular individual differences.


Until next week…


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What’s the Whack-a-Mole have to do with my emotions?


Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post.

I’m thinking, you’re either a regular reader of my blog or you got curious about the title.

Either way, I’m glad you’re here!


In this post, I’d like to address something that I believe in and that colours the therapeutic work that I do. It also colours my life if I’m completely honest!

I didn’t go looking for psychodyamic theory or its way of working, it kinda found me! (That’s part of my academic journey and for another post, if you’re interested.)


Firstly though, let’s talk about the link I’ve made between the whack-a-mole game and our emotions.

In this classic game, what happens is, you have a mallet and the aim is to hit the mole (sometimes a crocodile or another thing/animal) when it pops out of the hole. You never know where it’s gonna pop out so you’ve gotta be quick! You’ve gotta be on top of it and thinking very quickly indeed!

Our unconscious works in a very similar way.


If we have a situation, a set of emotions, an encounter with someone, or anything that affects us emotionally, it will continue to do so until we address it.

There is no time in the unconscious, so whatever happened 40, 30, 20, 10, 5 years ago (or more recently) will continue to affect us until we do something about it.


So just like the mole, the unresolved stuff won’t stop popping up in different ways in our life, until we look at it straight in the face and work through those difficult emotions and thoughts, and possibly relational difficulties, that it might bring us.

It can get tiring trying to think fast to keep these things under wraps…

Working through the difficult stuff will help in a massive way.

It might take a few months or even a few years, but once the change that happens when we process emotions comes to pass, then you’ll be forever changed.

It might be a massive change or a little change. But change nonetheless will help you live a better life, where you’ll be able to manage those difficult emotions with more resilience and calm than you were able to before you worked through them.


Now the whack-a-mole will forever be popping moles up and down the game. In a similar way, the unconsicous will always be trying to bring stuff up from within the deepest depths of itself.

But once we know what’s there (the mole) and how to get it under our control and it becomes manageable, smaller (through therapeutic processing), its effects will become less taxing or overwhelming in our day to day lives.

For lack of a better analogy, before working through, the emotional “mole” might have been big and overwhelming. After working through, it becomes small enough to hold in our hand, and therefore more manageable.

I tell my clients all the time, that we don’t get amnesia from therapy.

And that’s a good thing, because the things that make us who we are, with the strengths we have now, are sometimes those difficult things we went through and worked through.


Until next week…


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Trust your intuition…

Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post!

I’ve got a few mini-series in mind, and one that’s in progress (Counselling Autistic People), to which I’ll get to in due course.


Today I want to talk about intuition – or what’s also known as our “gut feeling”.


Depending on how we were raised, and the events that we’ve experienced in life, we will be more able to trust our own gut without even thinking twice about it.

Others of us might have more difficulty and need to re-train our minds and bodies to listen to our gut.


As a counsellor/psychotherapist, I’ve been trained to trust my intuition in the therapy room, which generally helps my clients, as what I’m feeling might be a reflection of what’s going on for them.

Call it counter-transference, projective identification, empathy, it all leads back to our gut communication something useful to us.


Trusting our intuition isn’t reserved only for therapists.

It is a tool available for all of us, at one level or another.


So, how do we develop that trust that what is coming up for us, a gut reaction, a “walk away” thought, a “be careful” thought, or goosebumps all over our body, is something we need to listen to, for our own good?

Here are some ways I believe we can develop this important skill:


1 – Start small


Changing our mindsets and the way we do or think or react to things will take time and effort.

Tackling the big things might not be the best idea to start with, as we are not yet able to use our intuition in the best way possible.

Start small…for example: someone asks you for a cup of tea, and your first instinct is “I’m busy, I can’t possibly be making you a cup of tea, this is not the right time for this”.

It might be easier to trust your gut telling you “just say no right now” with something as small as making a cuppa for someone, than it would be something bigger.

The results of saying “No, sorry, I can’t make you that cuppa right now, can you get it yourself please?” will be massive!

You won’t resent your friend/colleague/relative for making you do something you didn’t have time for right now, and you won’t resent yourself for saying no.

Your intuition might have been telling you “if you do this, you’ll resent yourself and them! avoid that resentment and say no.”

I know this sounds trivial but building on this will help you with the bigger things in life.

Maybe you’ll need to trust your gut when driving – Do I go left or right, where is there usually less traffic? which road is safer for me?

Maybe it’s about accepting or rejecting a dinner invitation with someone you know deep inside will make you feel something you don’t want to feel (uncomfortable, judged, belittled, etc).

Why put yourself through things that you clearly don’t want to do and that your instincts are telling you “don’t do it?”


2 – Work it through in Therapy


In therapy, I believe is where we can really put this into practice.

Talking through situations with my clients is something I do on a regular basis.

Going through what happened and seeing things from a different perspective, as well as thinking about what we could’ve done differently in order to get the results we actually wanted…

Sometimes what we could’ve done differently is just listen to our gut…

Developing that keen ear for what we instinctively know is best for us is part of the therapeutic process.

At least when you come see me! Other therapists might work differently.

Listening to our gut is one way where we can learn to meet our own needs, prevent resentment of ourselves or those we love, as well as learning to set clear boundaries that will keep us safe from the things we really don’t want in our lives.


If you want to find out more about this, you can find my book and my facebook group via this link.


Until next week…


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Why have therapy in your own language? (and why I offer this service)

Hi, and welcome to today’s post, where I’ll be focusing on the importance of our native language when going to therapy.


I will focus on Spanish and English in this post as those are the two languages I speak fluently and to a native level.

This applies to other languages as well – substitute these as is convenient throughout this post.


The importance of having therapy in our native language will depend on many factors, such as when we started learning and speaking English (or another language), and how comfortable and confident we are with the language.

But we must be more than comfortable and confident speaking it fluently.

This comfort and confidence must also be in relation to our emotional language.



There are some things we learned to process in our native language that will be tricky to translate into our second or third language.

Here are some things to consider and think about, that point toward the importance of having therapy in our first language.


The use of language varies from very simple, to more complex, and being able to do this might require time and effort and practice.

As mentioned above, our ability to process emotional and more complex information in a second language will take time.

I was lucky enough to have moved here with a high level of English, but I know that this is not the case for many people that choose to move to another country with a language different than theirs.

I see clients that speak Spanish because they want to be able to fully express themselves and that means using emotional language that they’re used to since they were children.

It is not that they can’t communicate it in English, it is just that there might be no emotional link to the words in this second language, and that is an important aspect of processing emotional stuff.


When we are distressed, the last thing we want to do is try to find the words in a language that is not our first.

Moving to a new country with a new language that we might or might not be familiar with, is daunting in itself.

The culture might be radically or slightly different to where they moved from.

This in itself can cause a great deal of anxiety and worry.

Add to that trying to find services in a new country that we have no idea how it works (I had this when I moved here, not with the language, but with how to find a GP, how to sign up, where to go for this or that, and I had the language, it was everything else that was new! As time passed, my confidence grew and it was all fine, but it took time…)

Trying to navigate new surroundings and ways of doing things might get us into fight, flight, freeze reactions, and finding someone to speak to in our own language, that fully gets us, will be helpful in moving forward with our new lives.


Feeling understood might mean we feel like we are sitting in front of someone that understands our culture a bit better because the common language, and also will understand our nuances, if we were to go into “slang” or more colloquial wording that a non-native speaker might not grasp unless we explain it.

I also teach Spanish, and with more advanced students I sometimes forget myself and start speaking in slang. They generally like this as they get an experience from a native’s perspective. They can see how people might speak when in the company of other Spanish speakers and they generally find it insightful and amusing.

In the therapy room, speaking in this same manner to a client, in a colloquial, culturally similar way, might help them feel less alone and at ease with their new lives.

Adapting to the changes might become more manageable if there is someone around that can help them through the uncertainty, distress when navigating these new ways of doing things and speaking in a new language too.

I’ve also done interpreting work for people, working with them through a benefits claim or a GP appointment.

Latin Americans in particular have a way with words that means we tell a long story about many things – not everyone, not all the time, I’m generalising – it is important that, in the case of myself as an interpreter, that I explain to the professional that I will let them know what the person is saying once they’re done telling their story.

It might be my therapeutic background, but I’d never interrupt and tell someone “get to the point” or “just answer the question” which is probably what the professional wanted at that point. Instead, I can explain to them “we are very wordy in our countries, it’s all fine, you’ll get your answer in a moment”.

Normalising for both sides might be important at this point.

If it’s just me and the client in the room, we can have a chat about the culture and how it might be different, what they’re finding tricky and how to navigate these new ways of being and relationg.

Realising they are not on their own many times brings peace of mind.

I have to say not all of my clients come in this kind of distress about the language or the new culture. It varies and it depends on where they’re originally from or what issues they bring to therapy.

It might be not related at all to the language, apart from the initial bond of cultural understanding and emotional processing.


Depending on the depth of knowledge of the language, therapists will be confident in working in a second or third language, and clients will be confident in coming to see them.

I’ll give you a personal account of my journey with the English language, and why I feel confident and comfortable working in both languages.

I went to a bilingual school, where the emphasis was more on speaking and writing in English – I can write much better in English than I can in Spanish because of this!

I also went to practice my English in the United States from the age of 9 until 18.

I therefore can speak, write, and connect emotionally in both Spanish and English.

This is why I have been able to work and study and set up my private practice with English and Spanish speaking clients.

It is a great feeling to be able to offer this service, and a relief for companies and clients alike that there is someone like me around for them to talk.

Distance isn’t an issue either as I work online, so people can contact me for sessions from anywhere in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.


In order for me to work in a third language (if I wanted to learn German or move to Germany, for example), there would need to be years of experience and practice, and even then it might be tricky for me to understand a native German’s emotional language in German.

I am of German heritage and “should” really get into my German learning, but I find it so hard to do at this older age. I might try to do it again soon. Who knows!

People have said to me, what if you moved to Germany and worked with German speaking clients?

Well, I could if they spoke to me in English, but then we have the same second-language emotional barriers as above!

Also….Why would a German client see me in a second language (unless they spoke English in the same way I learned it and were emotionally comfortable and confident in both languages!).

I would not be able to do so, I would not be confident or comfortable counselling someone in German, with basic knowledge of the language, and even less knowledge of how they process or talk about emotional stuff in German.

It would be very tricky and take a lot of time!

Add to that my aclimatising to the way things are done in Germany, which I imagine are very different from what I’m now used to in England and even more different than how I remember things from Guatemala.

Interesting experiment though, but not one I’m willing to try right now as I’m quite happy living here in the South of England.

More food for thought….


So, to sum up, therapy in our own language is very important for more than one reason.


Have you found any more reasons that I missed in this post?

Leave me a message and I’ll be happy to update or write a post on your comments and suggestions.


Until next week!


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