Life changes all the time, and challenges us. We learn to move with these changes, adapt and move forwards. Recently, a client ended therapy rather suddenly, after reporting a major recovery. I was told how the sessions had helped, and the pivotal moment, a specific intervention on my part, was pinpointed. I was told this was what had enabled them to change and adopt coping techniques. The client explained they were aware of limitations and challenges ahead, and that it wasn’t always going to be straightforward.
Despite this positive outcome, I was left wondering if I was a good enough counsellor during the sessions as this ending seemed rather abrupt. Was there something I said or did that might not have been in the interest of the client?
My reactions in therapy are shaped by the professional experience I have acquired treating a vast range of mental health issues, my own personality and my internal supervisor. So, in the rare cases when clients make an amazingly fast recovery within a few sessions, I can’t help but question how authentic they are being. Did they actually recover from what was an important issue in their lives within a few sessions? Did they in fact take in the sessions’ content and do the much needed work outside the counselling room? Are they really able to manage their feelings much more effectively now and continue without therapy? Or is it the case they do not wish to continue their self-exploration in the sessions and are looking for a way out? I shall never know. I do enjoy empowering my clients to make the decision to end therapy. And I therefore respect their choice.
I believe that every individual is at a different level of personal development and acquired resilience. The number of sessions a client has depends on what they wish to bring to counselling, how far they wish to go, and how comfortable they feel discussing what really is on their minds. The power to change is within everyone and therapy can help to unlock this. This may happen after many sessions or after a few sessions only.
I will always be in two minds about what happened in this instance, undecided. And this reminds me that living with uncertainty and not knowing is very much a part of life. So I will choose to stay with it and accept this is how it is.
We often wonder how we are going to carry on after a loss. How to move on when all we see around us is what reminds us of what we had. It might feel like an impossible task, to reshape our life and move on.
Loss happens in many different ways and it can affect us all deeply. If grieving isn’t done in the right way for each of us it can have long lasting effects that will impact on different areas of our lives, affect our relationships and change our world completely.
There are five stages of loss according to Kubler Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, not necessarily in this order and not necessarily final. In bereavement, I believe the importance of continuing some form of relationship with the departed one is a must. This can be done in so many ways. Some may choose to even start a fund or association to honour the departed and/or protect others. For other bereaved, the simple act of lighting a candle and focusing on good memories is enough. The Counselling room can become a place where we continue this relationship – by talking about the deceased you are continuing your relationship.
Bereavement is very complex and never straightforward. The important thing to bear in mind is that you must do what feels right to yourself. This will allow you to move forward in your grief.
But loss does not only come in the form of bereavement. Significant life changes and trauma with lasting effects is a loss of our previous life style and capabilities. It means re-adjusting and this can be very painful.
In my clinic I have witnessed amazing progress achieved through hard work, which prevented relationships from falling apart, where strengths were acknowledged and adequate adjustments made to this new life.
It is important to put your thoughts into words, to try and work through the maze of your feelings, to gain clarity. Checking in during counselling on these feelings may allow us to gain more awareness of our thought processes, the source of these feelings and thoughts and lead us to make decisions to live a richer and more fulfilling life. This can be achieved.
In a society where ‘men [still] don’t cry’ it somehow feels wrong to come for help, reaching out and talking to someone. In accordance to the Men’s Health Forum, on average, 191,000 men a year report stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work. Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent. There is considerable debate about the true level of common mental health disorders in men and whether larger numbers of men than women may be undiagnosed. This means most men don’t reach out for help. But I have seen the difference counselling has made in my clients, and I encourage male clients to come for regular sessions. It is amazing what a positive impact they may feel in their lives, be it short or long term work.
Coming to counselling is one of the first steps you can take to look after yourself. I always ask my clients: I wonder how you expect others to care for you when you don’t seem to have much care for yourself… Shouldn’t it first start with you?
It is easy to look for other people to satisfy our innermost needs, only to eventually realise no one is infallible and that disappointment is a part of life. So why not start developing some care for ourselves?
In managing expectations and disappointments, we are managing our feelings and reactions. When my clients gain awareness of the dynamics in their relationships they become enabled to leave what no longer serves them behind. By expressing their innermost feelings in counselling they find their way forward.
Learning and adapting is a life journey. When we think we have it, we lose it again. Coping strategies, tools and psycho-education are essential to grow as an individual. Be it a feeling of stuckness, deep depression, inability to function, impotency or simply a lack of control in your life, where you may feel in fear at all times, this can be resolved. There are ways to cope and feel better. Just reach out.
Anxiety is a condition that can be controlled.
It may feel like you can’t talk about it to anyone because they can’t take it, they don’t want to hear or they don’t have the strategies to cope themselves. If you don’t have your own strategies to deal with the way you feel you may have to contact your GP and find that medication is your only way out. But there are always other alternatives. And the quicker you act the better.
There are so many things you can do to feel more in control. You can research ways to cope online. You can get self help books. You can do more exercise and improve your diet. You can attend yoga and meditation classes. And you can talk to a professional counsellor. You can feel actively listened to, in a relationship where care and empathy are a given. In this fast moving world you can make time for yourself. You can afford that luxury because you deserve it.
Talking through your worries and concerns and knowing everything you say is confidential gives you wings, the freedom to truly express yourself without fear of being judged, criticised, or looked down on for feeling vulnerable. Vulnerability hits all of us, at different times in our lives. It is easier to appear strong than to expose our innermost feelings and insecurities. But it is the strength to acknowledge these feelings, what some may call our shadow, that allows you to feel stronger outside the counselling room.
I have a vast experience in counselling and psychotherapy. I realised all our issues are related to our anxieties. Be it trauma, depression, bereavement or relationships. The questions my clients ask themselves are: Will I be good enough? Will I be accepted? How can I make sense of my world now? How can I carry on with my life after what happened to me?
My clinic is in my pine studio in my back garden. It is very private and it has been described as very relaxing. It is a good starting place to monitor and discuss the mechanisms to cope with anxiety.
In a world where we seek immediate answers and don’t seem to find one minute to rest, it is vitally important to introduce mindfulness in our lives. This doesn’t have to be a 60 minute daily practice. It is all about noticing, rather than judging. And this can be achieved in seconds.
Mindfulness is about pausing and becoming aware of your breathing. Try it – it will impact positively on you.