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In Therapy: What to do with should do-s, have to-s and must do-s.

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to this week’s In Therapy post. Where I discuss a variety of topics that can be worked through in therapy, and also give tips and insight into how you can do something whether you are in therapy or not.

In this post, I want to talk about a peeve of mine – society dictated to-do’s.


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Have you ever wondered why we have certain unspoken rules that society asks us to follow? Examples of these are

  • This is what society expects
    • You are born, go to school, go to university (a gap year is out of the question, why waste time?), get a job and stay in it forever even if you are miserable, get married, buy a house, have children, retire, look after the grandchildren and then die (a hopefully peaceful death).
  • You should be perfect
  • You must achieve high marks in all your exams and courses
  • You should look after others and not be selfish
  • You have to have children

These are called “categorical imperatives”, which are unrealistic and very generalised ideas of how someone should live their lives.


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Well, what about those of us that are naturally inclined to not fit into these societal expectations? What about those of us that want something different than the list I’ve described above?

Does it make her a bad woman because she’s chosen not to have children?

Does it make them less successful because they don’t own their own home?

Does he deserve to struggle in a job he doesn’t enjoy, just because it is the right thing to do to keep a job no matter what?

I am an advocate for rebelling and finding our own paths in life. I have done that with mine, and even though there’s been ups and downs – who doesn’t have ups and down in their lives? – I’ve enjoyed the journey more than I would have settling for a “traditional” job that pays more.

“You could be earning more doing this and that job” was something someone told me once. My answer? “I bet I would be earning more, but I would lose the will to live working in an office, in a job that relates vaguely to what I studied and what I am passionate about.”

“Why don’t you own your own home yet” is something I also hear – well it’s expensive to start with and it’s not really a priority. I like where we live, and when the time comes, we will look into it, but it’s not something I’m going to stress over. I shouldn’t have a home, I shouldn’t have to look into buying a home if I don’t want to!

This brings me to the next point.


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We could rephrase some of those societal imperatives into questions that free us all to make the choice that works best for us, rather than what somebody somewhere in the ether decided was the be-all-and-end all of how-to-live-your-life.

Let’s go with the list above:

Being born – we don’t have much choice, so let’s make the best of life, eh!

Going to school – it’s something we can’t get out of and we should really listen to our parents in this one! It will be worth it in the end, and this is where we make our first friends and have our first social experiences, which could be the only thing some of us get out of school, and that is fine by me!

Going to University – In some countries, going to Uni is a necessity more than a luxury. But even in those cases, there are alternatives, like apprenticeships or learning a trade. Some people might frown at this but this is an important thing to remember:

They are not living your life, so it doesn’t matter if they frown or smile at your decisions!

Don’t even think of a gap year – why the heck not? There’s a lot someone can learn when going away to volunteer or just to travel around the world. It might be the best time to get to know yourself more and to figure out what you want out of life.

Get a job and stay in it forever – why? Why? Why? Whyyyyy!? If I’m not happy, then I won’t do it and plan my exit. Get a new job that suits your life better and give your notice. There’s nothing wrong with following your gut feeling and finding what’s right for you.

And besides, who says you need a job for life? What if you go into entrepreneurship or self-employment like I have? Very non-conventional but oh-so rewarding!


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So when you get that gut-feeling of “oh I don’t like this” or “this isn’t for me” or “I feel pressured to do something I don’t want”, or if your inner critic kicks off and starts judging you and finding fault with everything you do that defies the general rules of society, stop and think why you are doing something and what you really want in relation to it.

Don’t allow guilt or shame to keep you in something that wasn’t meant for you in the first place! Staying in it might lead to mental health and physical health problems, and that’s not good for you or anyone around you!

If you feel you should, must or have to do something. Stop. Let go of the urge or pressure to be or do certain things. Sit with the uncertainty of where to go next, honour where you are in your life right now, and befriend the uncertainty. All of it is temporary and you will find your truth and what you really want through letting go and just being.

What is important to you is what matters, and if you are not affecting yourself or others negatively or in any way, then go with your gut feeling when it comes to the path you want to take in life.


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Be brave. Defy the norm and be yourself at all costs!


Contact me with any comments, questions, or to book

a Counselling or Supervision session.


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In Therapy: Working through anger (part 2)

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to this week’s instalment of In Therapy.

This is part two of the mini-series dedicated to anger, one of the most difficult emotions for some of us to understand, feel and work through.

Last week we looked at what anger is, and how sometimes it is the only response to a person or situation. We also talked about anger as a communication, and how it is OK to express it and work through it.

This week I want to talk about how anger can be a motor for positive outcomes in your life, and how to work through anger.


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Anger can be a motor for many positive things in life. We sometimes have to dig a bit deeper, or spend a bit of time in the angry phase in order to get to the positive outcomes of processing our anger.

Anger gives us energy – that adrenaline boost we get and all the bodily responses we have when we get angry, all are energy emerging from our minds and bodies that help us react to a particular person or situation. In cavemen times, these responses were vital for survival. Nowadays, it’s less important that we react like the caveman would to an imminent threat (a native from a different tribe or a wild animal), but we still carry those innate reactions within us.


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One of the things that anger can do for us is help us be more creative. Here are a few things that working through our anger can help us achieve:

  • Has your manager told you to work harder or not paid enough attention to your work? Use the anger you might feel at this lack of recognition to generate more ideas for your manager
  • Think of creative solutions – problem solve in your job or in your every day life by thinking outside the box (anger can lead us to see the bigger picture as we will be less likely to think in our usual calm manner)
  • Find the motivation to do something new, something different, or something you’ve left on the side for a while.
    • That art project
    • That book you’ve wanted to write
    • That holiday you’ve wanted to take but haven’t yet
    • Apply for a new course or job
    • Make a lifestyle change
  • Find new ways of relating with people or situations that you know will make you angry
    • Use humour
    • Set clear boundaries
    • Remove yourself from some of those things that anger you and are no good for you
    • Keep a distance or get closer

Have you got any more ways in which anger can be helpful? Leave a message below!


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Working through anger can be either easy or difficult, depending on the size of the problem or issue that made us angry in the first place. However, there are some things that might apply to most situations:

  • Acceptance is a first step in many situations, or one of the first steps anyway, to freeing yourself from the burden.
  • Talk to your anger, befriend it. I know, this sounds odd, right? Weren’t we trying to GET RID of it? Well, yes, but we can’t get rid of it unless we understand and give it the airtime it needs. You don’t decide if you want to be friends with someone by avoiding them and not even giving them a chance to present themselves as a potential friend, right?
  • Can you think about what is going on for you right now, at this point in your life when you are feeling angry? Might there be another emotion that is being masked by anger? (Anger is very clever and is good at hiding away other emotions that might be the real causes of your distress).
    • Have you been hurt by someone?
    • Are you feeling afraid about something or someone?
    • Are you feeling sad or depressed?
  • Placing the responsibility where it belongs is important, as it frees up space for you to forgive yourself for your involvement, to forgive others for their involvement and decide whether to continue the relationship or end it, as well as it allows you to work through the anger by pointing it at the right parties.
  • Be angry but also find the space to be compassionate and understanding towards those who have angered you, and even to yourself if you’ve angered yourself! (read my blog post on how I did this after making a mistake).
  • Explore present anger in the present but also in relation to the past – sometimes people or situations might remind us of something we were angry about in the past, and bring up the same or very similar reactions to these. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you to feel them, in fact it’s a great opportunity to re-visit them (maybe in the company of a counsellor) and work through any unresolved and unprocessed anger and other emotions from both the past and the present situation.
  • things you can do to work through it
    • writing in a journal
    • doing exercise
    • practice relaxation techniques (Breathing, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, quiet time)
    • talk to a counsellor, we are here to listen and help you work through those difficult feelings and thoughts.

I hope this mini-series has helped you get some more ideas on how to work through anger, how to understand this emotion and also how to channel its effects into positive outcomes for your life.

For more on anger, I recomment Nathan Gould’s blog, which has even more articles on the topic.


Do contact me if you want to schedule a session, or if you want to discuss what you’ve read in this post.


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In therapy: Working Through Anger

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to this week’s instalment of In Therapy.

I have written a mini-series on working through anger, as I find this is an emotion that we as humans find difficult to understand, express and work through.

1Anger needs attention, and not just as the bad or naughty step-sister of the emotional world. There is a lot of positive to be said about anger, and in these two posts I’d like to show you what these things are.

 


What is anger?

The medical dictionary online defines anger as a feeling of tension and hostility, usually caused by anxiety aroused by a perceived threat to one’s self, posessions, rights, or values.

Anger, therefore is a response to a perceived threat. If someone insults us, hits us, breaks our things or something worse, we will probably not be the happiest and react accordingly. This would be understandable and acceptable, depending on how you decide to respond – with aggression or trying to talk to someone after a cooling off period, or taking the matter to the authorities.


2Anger is the emotion that people find the most difficult to manage, express and work through. In my practice, I like (for lack of a better word) to see people get angry when they have been wronged instead of blaming themselves or letting it eat at them from the inside.

It frees up that space and energy that has been taken over by the pent-up and unprocessed anger. It allows them to see things in a different light, and to see themselves and others with more compassion, understanding, and place responsibility where it belongs – whether some of it is theirs’ or totally someone else’s.


Sometimes anger is the only response!


We could be angry because we feel oppressed by an abusive family member or a work situation, or a change in circumstances (there are lots of examples of this – Rent goes up, Brexit, The Rohingha refugee crisis, the list goes on). We could be angry because we are trying to make a point or to ask for our needs to be met and our boundaries respected, and people are just not listening! Or we could be angry because someone cut in front of us in the queue, or there’s too much traffic and you are going to be late!

3Whatever the reason for our anger, it is reassuring to know that we can apply the same rule we apply with other emotions: it is valid and we should honour the presence of anger when it bubbles up.

Anger is telling us something. Yes, it is not a nice feeling but it is not there at random or for no real reason.

In my care job I have learned that behaviour is a communication – especially with non-verbal people and children, but it can be applied to everyone. Sometimes a child will lash out and hit, kick, scream, break things, because they are angry or upset about something and this is the only way they know how to communicate.

Anger works in a similar way to that: it is telling us something that we have no other way of processing. This is the way the discomfort with someone or something is coming out and paying attention to it is important if we want to move on with our day and lives.


4Anger can be scary, especially because of negative models – for example a father that got angry and hit furniture or family members shows a child that anger is a bad thing that is scary and shouldn’t be expressed because it hurts others.

Anger can also scare people because they might feel like they are going to lose control and do something they might regret. Even when there is no proof that this is the case – they’ve never been angry and lost control. In fact quite the opposite or it has just not been as bad as they imagine.

 

 


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It’s ok to express anger. And here are some reasons why:

  • It helps your physical health, in that it prevents a range of medical conditions that could be triggered by anger (heart attacks, high blood pressure, etc.)

  • Expressing anger in a positive way (no aggression or vengeance), talking things through with those who we feel wronged by, will keep our relationships safe and increase the honesty and openness with the person or persons involved.

  • Expressing and figuring out what anger is telling us will help us process those things that aren’t quite right in our lives and relationships.

  • We will not accumulate anger and therefore won’t blow up down the line. Working things out in the here and now allows us to keep revenge and rage at bay.

  • Expressing our anger might allow us to figure out what other emotions anger is actually masking – for example children might seem irritable and angry but they might actually be feeling sad or upset.


In next week’s installment of this mini-series on anger, I want to talk about what channelling our anger can do for us, as well as how to work through our anger when it does show up.


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In Therapy: Working Through Mental Health Stigma #timetotalk

 

In Therapy- Working Through...


This week’s post was prompted by Time to Change, who take the lead in the fight to end mental health discrimination and stigma. So today, I want to join in the movement by writing this blog post, as well as sharing on Social Media to get even more attention placed on this important topic.

Heads Together, a charity set up by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, is also active in working on removing the stigma around mental health.

There are many other charities and organisations that also deal with this very important topic. Here are links to three of them.


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Mind

Scattergood Foundation

MentalHealth.Org

#timetotalk   #TimeToTalkDay

 


It takes guts to accept to ourselves when we are not feeling quite right with our mental health. It is even more difficult to accept it to our friends, family or even a therapist.

Drop in the added bonus of being looked at as [insert negative adjectives here] and also discriminated at work or your local community because your illness isn’t visible and you are probably exaggerating or making it up anyway, right?


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    • Frees us to be authentic, honest and real with ourselves and others about how we are really feeling and what we are willing to do about it.
    • Challenges others to view mental health problems in a different light, and allowing more conversations to happen
    • From the two above stems the fact that relationships can improve and become more supportive as a result of these difficult conversations
    • Helps challenge the stereotypes that exist when someone mentions mental health problems
      • People with mental health problems are unpredictable
      • People with mental health problems are dangerous
      • People with mental health problems are incompetent
      • You are to blame for your mental health problems
      • There is no hope for recovery
      • (click here to read more) http://www.scattergoodfoundation.org
    • The chance of recovery increases significantly once the person is honest with themselves, and the support system is in place – more understanding family, friends, employers, and seeking professional help even if for a short time.tttd-1600-x-9003

 

  • Seeing someone talk about their mental health problems in an open and honest way will help normalise what ill mental health actually means
    • “if my friend has it, and I’ve known him/her all my life, then mental health can affect all of us.”
    • “actually I’ve felt my mental health dwindle in the past but have been afraid to have the conversations”
    • “I know him/her and wouldn’t say they’re unpredictable, dangerous, incompetent or that they brought it on themselves, or that there is no hope for recovery. My friend’s mental health problem challenges my view on mental health.”
  • Mental ill health should be a topic of conversation as simple as physical ill health topics of conversation.
    • It is much easier to call in sick at work and say something like “I broke my leg and will need some time to recover” than “I feel so anxious today that I’m unable to get up from bed”.
    • It probably hurts just as bad – physically, psychologically and emotionally – to break your leg than to feel anxious or depressed.
      • The difference is one is quantifiable and visible, whilst the other isn’t.
      • It doesn’t mean that one exists and the other doesn’t or that one should be taken more seriously and with more compassion than the other.

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I feel blessed to live in this day and age where, even though mental health stigma and discrimination still exists, it is easier for it to be challenged and views changed about it. There are even laws and white papers created that protect people with mental health issues from being discriminated (See The Mental Health Act 1983 and The Equality Act 2010).

tttd-1600-x-9002As a mental health practitioner, I value the conversation about mental health and overwhelming life situations that stop us on our tracks and/or hinder our everyday life. It is a privilege to listen to people’s stories and help them work through their difficult feelings, thoughts and behaviours that, so that eventually (sooner than later – it all depends on each person’s individual journey and process) they can get their lives back on track.

Whether I see clients for 6 sessions, 3 months, a year, two years, three years or more, I trust that they have the strengths and resources within them and within their support group to help them get back on track. I trust in the therapeutic process and that together in the counselling room we can work through, process, understand, feel and think what needs to be worked through, processed, understood, felt and thought of so the person can move forward.


I believe in allowing our feelings to come out – I often use the phrase “out is better than in”, which is definitely applicable for getting your anger, sadness, upset, and any other feelings, out. Keeping them in might make us mentally ill but also physically ill or make it difficult for us to heal our emotional and psychological wounds.


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Something that I find is useful for certain things but not as a therapeutic tool, are mental health diagnoses. I don’t underestimate a diagnosis (such as depression or bipolar disorder), but I won’t treat my client as a depressed person or a bipolar person. I will treat the person as a whole, and talk about whatever they bring on a particular session. I find this is more helpful and has felt like a relief to some clients. Yes they keep their diagnosis and the medication they might be taking, but they are not treated like a part of themselves or like the only thing they are is that depressed or that bipolar side of them.


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There are a few things that definitely won’t work and will do more harm than good when talking to someone that’s telling you about their difficulties with their mental health:

  • “go have a nap or a bath, you’ll feel better after”
  • “I’m sure it’s not that bad, you’re a bit dramatic”
  • “Aw, just get over it”
  • “you are just doing it for attention”
  • “you have mental health problems, therefore you are weak and broken”
  • “it could be worse”
  • “someone is worse off than you”
  • “I know exactly how you feel”
  • “go do something to distract you”
  • “stop being lazy”

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I want to end this post on a positive note. So, how can you support someone with mental health problems? It doesn’t have to be a massive thing. As you can see above, words can have a massive impact. Try these:

  • “you are not alone, I’m here for you”
  • “I’m listening”
  • “what can I do to help”
  • “have you tried talking to a counsellor”
  • “I understand if you want to be on your own, but I’ll be here when you’re ready to hang out”
  • “I believe you, I believe you are struggling”

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I hope this post has been helpful and has challenged you in regards to mental health stigma and discrimination. Do share this post and the links I’ve left around the post, so others can have this conversation as well!

 

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In Therapy: Working through our feelings when we make a mistake

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to this week’s In Therapy post!

I usually have a clear idea of what I’m going to write about well before I sit down and write (usually a week before I post). This week I wasn’t sure. Until Wednesday morning when I was triggered in a big way by something I did. In summary, I made a mistake, and this led to an array of feelings that I had to work through.


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This is what happened…


Back in December I booked a test and used an ID document that I thought was a valid one for it. I got to the test centre and was told that I would have to re-book as that document wasn’t valid for this test.


I made a mistake, and this led to an array of feelings that I had to work through.


My first feeling when the lady was telling me this was of disappointment in myself as well as embarrassment at such an oversight. As I left, without completing my test and hoping my phone would still have some charge to talk to my husband or facebook peeps for moral support, other feelings started arising inside of me.

So my phone decided to shut down, I was all on my own for at least an hour or so. Alone with my thoughts and feelings….

On the train journey back, I felt depressed and ashamed. It cost me a bit of money and time, so that brought up anger too. I was mentally punishing myself and critiquing myself so strongly, that I caught myself after 20min of sulking and self-deprecating self-talk.


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When I say I caught myself, I mean I realise what I was telling myself with my thoughts and my bodily reactions of anger and general eek-iness. So I told myself what I would tell anyone else, especially my counselling clients, and what I’ve been writing about here: work through it! let those feelings come up and do what they need to do, however awkward and awful they feel.

So, I did. I continued to sulk. Continued to be angry, depressed, ashamed, embarrassed and self-criticising. Another 20 minutes passed and suddenly reason started to kick in. My more rational mind started talking to my emotional – valid – reactions.


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I started telling myself that yes, you made a mistake, but think about it. What’s the worst thing that has come out of it? (apart from feeling all those things I’ve described, of course). So, I thought, ok the worst thing that has actually happened is that I lost the money for the train fare and the test, and will have to pay them again when I re-book and go back to take the test. It delays my application for which I need this test done and dusted, but I’m in no real rush so not a massive problem. Also, it is a pain to have to rebook it and make the journey again, but then I will have done it right and learned from my mistake, and can move on with my life!

What else has happened that’s worth you punishing yourself like this?

Erm, I thought…nothing much actually! Nobody else knows what happened, nobody else needs to know, and if they know surely they will be supportive and understanding – possibly more supportive and understanding than you have been to yourself the last 40 minutes! The lady that told me I’d made the mistake sees so many people every hour that I am a vague memory – if that! – and I don’t think she will remember me next time I come back, and if she does, well I can joke about it with her at the very least!


Then I started thinking what good things I got out of my outing. I was quite happy travelling to the city where my test was booked. It was a little bit of time to myself, self-care of sorts – me with my thoughts and just wandering around a place I hardly go to. Enjoying my surroundings and my own company. Oh! I also found a nice little place – it had a lovely name, and it was a mix of restaurant/pub/cocktail bar which I loved! Had a cuppa there before my test, and I am pretty sure I am going to go back once I pass this test in a couple of weeks for a well-deserved cocktail!


To sum up, my whole day was a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences, some which were enjoyable, some that weren’t but that led me to make the best out of a bad situation.


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I have a reason to be telling you this story, and now I want to tell you what I learned today that I can pass on to you:

  • Honour your feelings – all feelings are valid. Many of them might not be very nice to contend with or endure for long, but working through them will help clear the emotional air and allow you to move forward and see the positives in what might seem like a mostly negative situation at the start of the ordeal.
  • Work through your feelings and get to the other side – getting stuck with feelings that are left unprocessed might make us either mentally or physically ill (our mental energy will want to come out one way or another, and the brain is very clever in negotiating alternatives, like back pain, headaches and other mental or physical ailments)
  • There is at least one positive to every negative situation. Take the time to find it. – I didn’t get to thinking about the positives of my day until after I’d worked through my anger and shame and self-critique.
  • Some situations might take longer than a train journey to work through. It might take a few weeks, or even months, but with the right support – from family, friends or a mental health professional like myself – you will get to the other side and get back to feeling good about yourself and even about the situation itself!
  • Growth comes from unexpected places. – I wasn’t expecting to go through this emotional journey during my train journey home, but here we are, and it will possibly benefit you, my readers.

I hope my story and what I learned will help you when struggling with self-criticism and punishing yourself when you make a mistake, no matter how big or little. If there is anything you want to say about this, you can leave a comment below or you can message me via the contact form.


CollaborationsMy colleague, Josephine Hughes, has written a post on how to identify and soothe our inner critic, which complements what I’ve written above very well. I recommend you head over to her site and read it as well as watching her video on the same topic.

 


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In Therapy: Working through your first counselling session (part 2)

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to this second instalment of working through your first counselling session. In this post, I will talk about what the counsellor will say to you and some questions they might ask you in the first session.

This is by no means a one-sided conversation, you should be able to ask any questions you have about counselling, the contract and anything else that might come up for you either before booking or during the first session itself.


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There are two very important things to take into account when finding the right counsellor for yourself.

Firstly, you have to be comfortable with the person you will be working with. Some counsellors will call the first session an assessment session. I opt to take the first session as just that – the first session – but I am also conscious that I might not be the right counsellor for a client or they might not be the right client for me (I have to be honest with myself and you about the limits of my practice, otherwise I might do more harm than good, and that would be counterproductive for both of us). Take the initial session as an assessment of whether you can work together or whether you keep searching elsewhere. Maybe even ask the counsellor for other names you can consider. Don’t worry, we are used to these things and won’t feel bad or look at you in any negative light if you choose someone else or ask for referrals!

Second, you will most likely be nervous. You are meeting a new person after all, and you know that the things you will be talking about with them are not going to be easy. Just remember, the therapist is probably as nervous as you are – they are also meeting you for the first time!


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Your therapist will not have any expectations for you to perform in any way. Especially if you haven’t been to counselling before, it will take a few sessions to get used to the dynamics and the way your counsellor works with you. Take your time and feel free to ask questions about the process. The counsellor will explain how they work – their main modality, their role in this relationship (in brief, to help you understand what is going on for you, and how to move forward using your already existent inner strengths and resources).

The counsellor will need to know a lot about you in order to help you, so speaking freely without censorship is the best way to help them and to help yourself. Having said that, nobody will rush you or push you into talking about anything you are not yet ready to discuss. The space is a safe space to talk and process your issues – at your pace! It is your session and your process, you can decide what is ok and what is too much. Your counsellor might point out how difficult things are and that you might want to get back to that at a later point. We can’t collude with not talking about what we might already see as the key to moving forward for you.


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There are other bits that the counsellor might discuss in a first session, like endings, open-ended counselling versus time-limited counselling, and questions related to you directly.


Questions you might be asked


Have you had counselling before?

This question is important because it will give your counsellor a feel of the experience you might have had in the past. Was it a positive one? Was it helpful?

What are your expectations of counselling now?

Following from that previous question, this would be another question that would help the therapist know how to help you better and maybe clear some of the misunderstandings or negative feelings – if any – from your past therapy process(es), as well as explain how similar or different your relationship with them might be.

What brings you to counselling now?

Everything else discussed up to now will have been helpful to ease you into the therapeutic process and allow you and your therapist to get to know each other a bit better, before delving into what brings you to counselling at this point in your life. This is where you can begin to tell your story and start the healing process.

The end of the first session

The end of the first session might be tricky, as you might want to keep on talking or actually want to end the session a bit earlier as it might be too overwhelming. Using all of the time allocated is the best as it will help you build resilience from the start, and will allow you to experience your therapist’s abilities to contain your feelings of uncertainty and overwhelm. It might also give them insight into how you deal with endings, which will be important for each session and down the line when you decide to end the process altogether.


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After the session, take time to breathe, and don’t rush into making any decisions from what you discussed. It will take time to work through anything you bring to therapy and the best thing to do is hold on to it, think about it, keep processing in your mind and heart, and discuss it with your therapist on your second session.


I hope this posts have been helpful to you and I wish you the best in your search for the right counsellor for you.


As mentioned before, what I write in these blogs comes from first hand experience of being a counsellor, as well as being a client myself.

If you think that I might be the right counsellor for you, don’t hesitate to drop me a line, or have a look at my website for further information on how I work.


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In Therapy: Working through your first counselling session (part 1)

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to this week’s blog post. I have decided to start the year with this topic, as I can imagine a lot of us might be thinking about changing some things right from the start of 2018.

I will spend the next couple of weeks on this, as there is much to say about a first counselling session!

If you have any questions about what you read, or anything else I haven’t written about yet, do comment or message me and I’ll add it to my next post.


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There are many steps that take place before you even get to the counsellor’s office. All of them have their moments, some easier, others a bit trickier to work through.

From realising, and accepting, that things have got too much and that you need to reach out for  help, to going onto counselling directories to look for the right counsellor for you, to then finally making initial contact with a counsellor.

These are all potentially nerve-wracking tasks, but important ones to get your life back on track.


2


Let’s move forward to the day of your first session. You have arrived and are about to ring the doorbell and meet your counsellor for the very first time.

What should you expect?


bacp ethical framework picture for pageNow, this is a bit of a loaded question, as every counsellor will have their own ways of practicing, but we do have ethical frameworks that we adhere to, and these are in general terms, the same for all of us.

You should expect at least a couple of chairs, facing each other – mine are set up perpendicular to each other (like the title image above) so we can have eye contact but also allows you the space if you are not feeling like making too much eye contact whilst discussing a particular topic, or while you get comfortable with me and the therapy process.

Some counsellors will have a waiting room, whilst others – like myself – might work from home or smaller offices, so you might be asked to get there at the agreed starting time to avoid you waiting out in the cold, for example.

20170810_114447.jpgLighting and décor is up to each therapist, but generally there might be a bookshelf or at least some counselling related books and magazines, a desk, a clock. I have the main light on for some clients, but others prefer only the smaller lamps. Whatever is more comfortable and safe for them to speak and work through what brings them to see me.

Some counsellors have their diplomas hanging on the wall, this is a personal choice so some might have them available for you to check if you wish to do so and they are not in plain sight. I have candles in my room, which some people might or might not like, so I give a choice of putting it out or keeping it on and remember each client’s preference on this.


In regards to the initial conversations with your counsellor, they will also vary but in general you can expect the following (note: this list is non-exhaustive and I am going by how I work and general guidelines for all counsellors in the UK):

  • Contracting

  • Filling in Contact Details and other relevant information

  • The counsellor will explain how they work and other practical and process related details

  • The counsellor might ask you a few questions regarding your request for counselling

  • Next steps are discussed


Contracting and filling in contact details


The therapist will usually have a pre-written contract for you to read and agree to the terms so you can start working together. These will usually include the length of each session, the fee for each session and agreement on how you will pay (at the end of the session, bank transfer before the session, paypal, etc.), cancellation policy and the responsibilities held by the counsellor but also by yourself as a client.

You can have a look at my contract by clicking here.

The therapist will also ask you to fill in a form with your details and sign when you agree the contract terms and are ready to start therapy with this counsellor. With the internet available to us, I now prefer to send the contract and details form via email so you can read it at your leisure and in depth, so when we meet for the first time we can discuss anything that you might want to clarify or add to, and it then allows us more time to talk about what brings you to counselling now.


There are many steps that take place before you even get to the counsellor_s officeAdd heading

So far we have looked at the initial contact and possibly the first 5-10 minutes of the session.

Next week I want to delve a bit deeper into what the conversation might look like for the next 40-50 minutes during the first session.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, drop me a line below or in a message via the contact form.


Until next week..


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In Therapy: Working Through loss and grief (part 3)

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to the third edition of the mini-series on loss and grief.


In this edition, I would like to go through the possible reactions – feelings and behaviours – that we might go through when working through grief and loss. I will spend some time talking about how therapy can help work through grief and loss.


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As with any symptom, grief symptoms are telling us something. Something is not right within ourselves after a loss, and our body and mind are working through the instability and trying to reach a balance again.

So allow yourself to feel the feelings, to grieve. It is a natural process. It is a normal process. It is your process so work through what comes up as it comes up.


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Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the five stage of grief, as described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. These might appear in that order or in a different order and take turns creeping back up.

These might be accompanied by difficulties in sleeping, nightmares, dissociating, feeling numb or like you want to escape; you might also experience distressing thoughts, frustration and anxiety; you might want to be on your own all the time or wanting to escape; it might seem that people don’t understand you – or they might genuinely not understand what you are going through.

It is important to know that these are all part of the process, and that they will be less overwhelming as time goes on.

In the next few paragraphs, I will talk about how therapy can help work through the feelings described in the past few posts.


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An integrative way of working might be the best approach to helping someone work through their loss. Grief is a process, and this process will be different for everyone. The aim is to experience the loss and all the feelings it might bring – pain, depression, isolation, anxiety, guilt – and get to the point where new meaning in the survivor’s life is reached.

They can then move on to living their lives with the memory of the person they lost, without being stuck in the grief and pain as it was when they first started the mourning process.

I would work within the psychodynamic, person-centred and cognitive modalities to support my client in their grief process.



Some of the areas I would work with would be:


  • Challenging irrational thinking

    • as a way to being able to manage the strong emotions that come up.
    • Developing more rational ways of thinking- develop healthy negatives.
      • For example – “I can’t live without the person”, can be challenged with the fact that they are still managing to be here without their loved one.
    • Challenge belief systems around the loss
      • Someone going through grief might be less positive about their lives and their self-worth, they might have more irrational thoughts than before the loss
    • Attachment theories would support the person in their natural reactions to the death of their loved one. The bonds created during the relationship need to be re-thought and processed.
      • How will the client carry on with their lives without their loved one present?
      • Will they ever have a relationship like this again?
    • Review the person’s life in regards to how they feel their life will be after the loss.
      • How does this change their character and identity?
    • Allowing for transitional periods where an item of clothing, a photograph or something else that belonged to the person, might be carried around as a temporary substitute for their loved one. They might give the item up once they are able to internalise the memory of their loved one and what it means that they are dead.

All in all, the therapist must trust that their client can find their own way through the grief process,  with their support, and come out the other side with a renewed sense of self as they adjust to life without their loved one.


If there is anything I can help you with, do contact me via this link.


Note: this is the last blog post I’m writing for the year. Don’t worry, I will still be sending you weekly emails for the last few weeks of December, they might be more festive ones. I hope you enjoy them, and enjoy the celebrations!


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In Therapy: Working through loss and grief (part 2)

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to this edition of my In Therapy mini-series on Loss and Grief, where I would like to touch on other types of loss and how we might work through them.

Last week, we spoke about sudden and predictable loss and grief. There are more types of grief, and this post will help you identify them (click here to read it).


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Working through the breakup in a romantic relationship can take many shapes and forms, depending on the length and intensity of the relationship.

Questions such as: Will I be able to cope on my own? Why did this happen? How could I let him/her treat me like that for so long? Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Thoughts such as: I had the rest of my life with him/her planned, now I need to start again; I will never trust another man/woman ever again!; I will be sad and alone forever.

In practical terms, there are issues such as bumping into them at the shops and how to act or react; if you work together, how is that going to work now; what happens if you see them with someone else? What are they going through during this breakup, do they feel as bad as you? Have they found it easy to move on?

It gets more complicated if there are children or a mortgage involved. But if this doesn’t apply, then it’s just a matter of working through the pain of the breakup, whatever shape it takes, however long it takes.

I guess it depends on whether the breakup was as amicable as possible (you grew apart, you had different ideas of what your life was meant to look like, for example) or you left it in really bad terms (violence in the relationship, cheating, etc).

Re-thinking your life will start when you are ready, and you can then pick yourself up, take the things that remind you of that relationship and put them in a box and return them or give them to charity, or whatever you want to do with them.

You can start making new plans for your life without that relationship. Every relationship teaches us something. In time you can see what you can take from that relationship and use it to your advantage.

Talking through the breakup and everything it brings up in you with a counsellor might help you process the pain and move forward with your life.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has some great books on Life Lessons that might be helpful, both when working through relationship issues as well as when working through grief and loss.


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Loss of health can be a frustrating time, whether it’s permanent or temporary.

I have worked as a support worker at a rehabilitation centre, where people go when discharged from hospital after a fall (usually older people), to recover, have physiotherapy, and heal before going back home.

They were usually over-confident in their abilities and angry at having to be looked after.

I had to hoist someone back into bed after telling him that if he wanted to get up he needed to call me. He looked at me like I was exaggerating. He didn’t after he tried to get up on his own and fell on the floor! That fall scared him and made him realise that I wasn’t patronising him, that we were both there for a reason – him to get support in doing what he used to do independently before his accident, and me to support him to do just that!

It can be such a shock to need someone to help do things that we used to do so easily, like getting up from bed, using the toilet, and other activities. It is understandable that they be cranky and upset when brought to this rehab centre! (nothing a bit of patience, compassion and humour can’t fix).

Being unable to speak can be highly frustrating to someone that used to talk normally before a stroke or an accident. Manoeuvring through the feelings of having to communicate in a different way, not being understood or wanting to express your anger and fears and being unable to.

These types of loss of health and more will be significant and will need to be worked through with patience and compassion on the side of the carers and family members. Imagine yourself losing your ability to walk, talk, be independent. Working through all the emotions that might arise after an accident or medical complication will take time and lots of adjusting.


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Losing your job, your source of income and possibly career satisfaction, will bring its own complications.

How do you face yourself, your family and friends, and tell them that you lost your job due to redundancy, being fired, or quitting? What will you do for income now? Are benefits an option for you? How quickly will you get another job? Will you be homeless soon?

As with other life circumstances, we can learn from losing a job.

We can regroup and reorganise our lives so that we focus on what’s really important. We can prioritise what we spend our money on – budgeting might be necessary if you are relying on benefits or on your savings for a period of time.

Go through the feelings, see a therapist, work through what it all means and then pick yourself up and go get that job you want. Maybe it’s time for you to start your own business and this job loss is a blessing in disguise?


4


Losing a pet can be as hard as losing a family member or close friend.

Pets become part of the family and therefore losing them will bring up feelings similar to the ones described in the previous post.

So cry for your pet, miss them, talk about them, remember them. You are allowed and indeed important that you do process this loss.


5


Every change in life requires adjusting, working through the positive and negatives it might bring. Graduating highschool means you are ready for the big wide world, you can study what you want at University or you can go travelling for a year. Starting a new job means learning new skills, meeting new people and many new opportunities; it might also mean a raise in salary from your previous post. Moving to a new city is a challenge – it might be scary to be somewhere nobody knows us, we might feel lonely for a while, or we might enjoy the freedom of being anonymous!

Embrace change, but also honour your feelings of fear, anxiety, excitement at every life transition.


I hope you have enjoyed this edition and have found helpful tips and ideas to help you work through loss and grief.

If you need to talk, contact me here.


Until next week…


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In Therapy: Working through loss and grief

In Therapy- Working Through...


Welcome to this new mini-series on loss and grief – part of my series In Therapy: Working Through…


1


I’ve been thinking about the colder winter months, and everything that it entails: less sunlight and therefore Seasonal affective disorder or just feeling low, sad and melancholic; celebrations and anniversaries that might remind us of things to be grateful for, but also remind us of our loved ones that we might have lost.

So, as a way to provide information and support to you, my readers, through some difficult times, I thought I would touch on the topic of loss and grief.


2


The main type of loss that comes to mind when we talk of grief is the death of a loved one.

Other types of loss that affect us but – can be remedied – include job loss, the end of a relationship, moving city or house, graduation from school, amongst other changes that might require adjusting to. There are lots more, but I will focus on these for the next few weeks.


Some of us might have been visited by loss more than others, and therefore this topic and the feelings and process that follow are a “normal” or familiar part of our lives.

I have lost many people in my life – sister, best friend, grandparents, and others – through accidents, old age, crime, and suicide. It is not easy to write that here, but it is part of my life, and one I can’t ignore or avoid.

The feelings arise suddenly and randomly. The memories come in the same way. Some are good memories, but the worst is remembering exactly where I was when I received the calls and everything that moved inside my mind, soul and body as I tried to understand and process each loss.

I am sure many of you reading this can relate to what I’ve written. It is painful but important to understand what we go through when we lose a loved one and how to work through grief.

It never goes away as loss by death is permanent.

But the way we cope with it and the resilience we develop helps us to carry on with our lives, in spite of the heartache and in spite of missing our loved ones throughout the year – anniversaries, birthdays, yearly celebrations, bring them back to our memory and yet another grief cycle takes place. But each year it gets easier, even if only 0.001%.

It does get easier, but it needs to do so in our own time, and each of us will process the death of a loved one in a different way.


3


Death due to crimes, accidents or suicide can be some of the most traumatic losses. I speak from personal experience here.

There is no time to prepare. You couldn’t be there to help or save them. You weren’t there to talk them out of harming themselves to the point of death. You couldn’t have prevented that stray bullet to hit them; you can’t stop crimes from happening.

It is becoming more and more common to hear of terror attacks in Europe, and people with mental health and other problems committing crimes where dozens or thousands of people are killed without real reason.

Budget cuts like the oned that might have led to fires such as Grenfell Tower and other avoidable situations. The trauma that comes with these sudden attacks and catastrophes is unbelievable and unbearable. It is so difficult to understand that it complicates the process of grief.


4


There is a slight difference when loss is predictable – for example when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness and given a few months or years to live.

The difference is that we have plenty of warning to prepare, even if it’s just a week. We can start to work through how life will be like without them, what to do to make their last days more bearable. There is time to make a few more memories with them before they go.

You can prepare for the imminent death. The rest of the grieving process will take its own form, and most likely will be very similar to the process described in previous paragraphs.


5


Before I end the post for this week, I would like to leave you with a few ways to think about grief and process it in a way that makes sense to you.

– It is important to keep in mind that every feeling that we experience after the loss of a loved one is valid.

– Don’t let anyone tell you that your grief is not normal, or that you should be “over it” by now. How are you expected to get over something so final?

– You are the owner of your feelings and therefore also your grief when it hits.

– Work through it at your pace and as it comes up, however, whenever and wherever it comes up.


Next week we will talk about the typical grief reactions and about what happens when we end a relationship, when we lose our health, a job, our financial security, and what grief might look like in these cases. I will also give you more ways to think about grief and how to process it.


If you need to talk about what I’ve written about here, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Until next week….


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In Therapy- Working Through...

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