Articles

Exploring Feelings by Writing a Journal

February 23, 2018

Keeping a Journal – for Self-care and reflective healing

When we are struggling with something difficult in life and feeling depressed or anxious; we can often be so caught up with feelings and thoughts in our mind, it can feel like a churning washing machine going round and round with no formulation of clear ideas. Writing a journal can help disrupt this cycle of thoughts.

journalI often suggest journalling to my clients when they are finding it difficult to process painful emotions and thoughts and when dealing with anxiety. The very act of getting some of these thoughts onto a page can allow structure to form and release us from the inner repeating thoughts. It can effectively provide some freedom from the noise and the pain. It can allow us to begin to explore the ideas more succinctly and clearly and extrapolate important relevant feelings from negative ways of thinking. This in turn helps the healing process to begin.

How to Start Writing your Journal

how to start writing a journalThere is no right way or wrong way to do this.
You might want to set aside as little as ten minutes or more than thirty minutes a day, possibly at the same time or when you are pulled to do so. It generally helps to write a little every day to keep the momentum going.

You may choose to write by hand on paper – and therefore unable to edit and change your initial thoughts – a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’. It’s important to be able to freely write without your ‘internal critic’ rubbishing your writing. Brainstorming or mind-mapping ideas can be a useful way to link ideas and thoughts if it feels a bit too much to write on a blank sheet of paper. If you very much prefer to write on a computer, then switch the grammar autocorrect off and resist the urge to read and edit as you go along – this might not be easy as we are so used to this editing process when using a keyboard. It’s important for you to recognise that all your ideas and thoughts have value. If you haven’t written by hand for some time, experiment and try it that way – you might surprise yourself and find enjoyment in a new experience.

What to Write in the Journal

What to write in the journalThis is the opportunity to write about anything that comes to mind. You may have jotted a few words down earlier or have a few thoughts that have been repeating throughout the day. This is your chance to explore more and expand on the thoughts and feelings. You could write about feelings from conversations had during the day, emotions you felt, things people have said to you. Give yourself permission to be honest. You may find it difficult to be honest with yourself or with others at times and this is an opportunity not to self-censure.

You might find it helpful to write to a particular person (without necessarily wanting or needing to send or give it to them). It could be something you find extremely difficult to say to someone and writing it down may help you to deal with the pain. It could be that the person is no longer with you or you’re unable to talk to them. Try not to plan or think too much about what you are writing, just allow the words to flow. Don’t worry about spellings, grammar or meaning – this is private unless you choose to show someone else. Editing and considering sentence construction will stop the flow and block the emotions. Consider using drawings if you are able to communicate easily that way.

Allow Time to Reflect on your Writing

Reading and reflecting on what you have written allows you to revisit, remember and see your journey forwards.

Write a date on your entries for when you return and reflect.

  • Do you still feel the same way about the issue/decision/feelings etc?
  • Do you need to challenge your original thoughts?
  • Are you able to look back and analyse whether your thinking was accurate/ misguided or biased for example?
  • Can you identify particular triggers for certain behaviours or ways of thinking?

Perhaps a little time to move on from the thoughts allows you to reconsider and feel differently.

Writing a Journal when ‘Everything is Ok’

Writing a journal provides an opportunity to explore thoughts and feelings even when it feels nothing much is an issue, everything is moving along smoothly. If you know you are the type of person who bottles up emotions to enable to you cope and carry on, you may find that writing about current or past painful feelings and troubles can allow you to move the pain from somewhere deep inside you, to outside of you and can also help with the healing process.
journal

Some people like to buy a special book to use and like to find a place where it can be kept private.

Journalling should also be an enjoyable process. If it is causing you more pain, perhaps discussing this further with a counsellor or psychotherapist may be useful.

If you would like to get in contact with Claire at Insight Counselling, you may use the Contact Form or email info@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk

 

Staff Well-being – Looking after Mental Health in the Workplace

February 20, 2018

mental healthCounselling for your Employees

Do you own or manage a business?
Do you have a team of staff who you care about?
Are you concerned about staff well-being?

To create a mentally healthy workplace you need to develop a comprehensive strategy that:

• promotes wellbeing for all staff
• tackles work-related mental health problems
• supports staff who are experiencing mental distress.

By doing this, you will create a place your employees want to work in and where they can perform well.

Some questions to ask yourself and others:

Do you think that work has an impact on your mental wellbeing?
Do you think that your mental wellbeing has an impact on your ability to do your work?
Have you noticed work having an effect on your colleagues’ mental wellbeing?

Organisations such as Mind produce information to help employers find the right way to introduce healthier work environments and make a big difference.

As well as developing a mental health policy and building awareness, you may at times wish to provide access for your employees to a BACP registered, experienced counsellor.

Contact Insight Counselling for counselling for your employees

Claire works in private practice in Hove and Brighton. She has frequently taken on clients who are introduced by the employer, manager or HR department. A contract for number of sessions and fees can be agreed in advance and the employee is then treated as a normal client with full confidentiality.
Get in touch via the Contact form or by email to info@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk.

 

 

Masculinity – exploring the concept of being ‘man enough’.

February 8, 2018

We are Man Enough

I have recently come across this discussion series – We are Man Enough. It’s an insightful, interesting discussion about what it means to be a man and about showing vulnerability and being authentic about thoughts and feelings. I recommend finding 30 minutes and watching an episode or two.

Why Don’t Men Talk?

#wearemanenough

West Hove Therapy Room

January 8, 2018

Exciting News for Insight Counselling Brighton & Hove

The new therapy room in West Hove is now in use and Claire will be working from here, whilst also remaining at Hove Therapy Rooms a few days during the week.

 

Get in touch if you would like to arrange an introductory session. The contact form is here

info@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk
07967611736

For more information about Claire and the counselling process go to the About page

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Befriending and Volunteering

December 7, 2017

I often talk to people who are interested in working in the community in some way, perhaps volunteering with the elderly or young people or with homeless organisations.

Volunteering can be an incredibly powerful way to help improve your own confidence, self-esteem and feelings of worth. You can clearly see the impact your time and effort makes with the people or organisation you work with.

Here are a few links to help you make a choice about where you might provide assistance or time. Some of these are specifically aimed at people living in and around Brighton & Hove. I have included more general UK links at the end. Please feel free to contribute other suggestions in the comments.

Befriending an elderly person in Brighton and Hove

“For many older people loneliness is an unwelcome feeling of loss. The fear of loneliness alone is said to cause more anxiety than a lack of money or deteriorating health. In fact, loneliness is proven to cause early loss of life which is why services like ours are needed to help elders to feel connected with their community, with volunteer befrienders and each-other.” ( www.tttb.org.uk).

Contact Time to Talk to discuss ways you can help.
Time to Talk Befriending – Hove Tel: 01273 737710          http://www.tttb.org.uk/
email info@timetotalkbefriending.org.uk

Volunteering and befriending vulnerable adults across Brighton and Hove.

Brighton and Hove Impetus are an independent organisation delivering a range of services aimed at improving the wellbeing and quality of life of vulnerable adults across the City. They support people with learning disabilities, people with mental health issues, older people, people with physical disabilities and people with autistic spectrum conditions.

Volunteer roles include: Home visitor, volunteer drivers, phone support – further information can be found on the BH Impetus website http://www.bh-impetus.org/

Brighton and Hove Befriending Coalition “a group of organisations that provide befriending services to a wide range of people at risk of isolation and loneliness in the city” http://www.bhbefriending.org/
Call 01273 229005       email contact@bhbefriending.org

Volunteering with organisations working with homeless people

The Clock Tower Sanctuary provides a friendly, bright, centrally-located, safe space for homeless young people to engage with their peers. t: 01273 722 353

Details on how to volunteer with CTS here

BH Community Works has a volunteering search platform for local volunteering opportunities in Brighton and Hove.

UK wide links:

vinspired is the UK’s leading volunteering charity for 14 – 25 year olds. vinspired helps young people to make their mark on causes that they care about, whilst learning new skills and talents along the way. vinspired recognises that volunteering can help young people thrive, and transform the communities they live in. It teaches them vital skills, like teamwork and problem-solving. It prepares them for their future.” (https://vinspired.com/ )

Age UK – https://www.ageuk.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/

 

Do ithttps://do-it.org/

Fear of abandonment might be the driving force behind your toxic relationships.

September 26, 2017

Intimacy can be difficult as an adult, it’s something we can easily become afraid of due to failed relationships and difficulties such as anger, jealousy and co-dependency. Without intimacy, it’s difficult to maintain a relationship, but when that relationship comes to an end, feelings of loss and abandonment are often triggered.

It’s these unconscious feelings of abandonment that can cause our problems with intimacy, low self-esteem and hopelessness – a vicious cycle that often stems back to our childhood.


healthy childhoodHealthy childhood development relies on adequate physical and emotional care. Without that continuing love and attention, a child may feel unsafe, even unwanted. Emotional neglect can be deliberate or simply caused by parents being unable to look after their children effectively. Sometimes, tragic events such as the loss of a parent through death, or even divorce, can have a negative impact on that child’s ability to relate to others.

It’s not unusual for non-traumatic events to have the same effect on us child, and the adult we become, but without any obvious signs or symptoms – making it even harder to understand why we might be the way we are. Whereas we can see how the loss of a parent could affect us emotionally as adults, or how childhood neglect or abuse can have an impact – what happens when we thought our childhood was ok?


Let’s take a fairly common scenario, we’ll name our hypothetical client Andrew. Andrew didn’t have any particular trauma as a child, his parents are still married and alive, living just a few miles down the road. Andrew recalls that growing up was hard though, both his parents worked long hours and were out of the house a lot. Andrew had to take care of his younger brother when they got neglect, abandonmenthome from school, make sure he wasn’t hungry and that their homework got done. Andrew’s father had high expectations that Andrew found difficult to live up to and there was very little praise or emotional support. Working such long hours left his parents feeling stressed and Andrew often felt that he wasn’t good enough as the eldest son.

When a child doesn’t get the emotional support and warmth they need from a parent, that child may not develop healthy self-esteem as they grow older.

Andrew’s experiences were common for many children growing up in the last few decades. Andrew doesn’t recognise it as neglectful – he says his parents were simply doing their best under difficult circumstances. But they were absent from his childhood, Andrew can’t recall many intimate moments or shared memories, and he has a difficult relationship with them today.

Andrew suffers significantly with his self-esteem as an adult and admits that he pushes people away before they can find out he’s not ‘good enough’ for them and leave. He’s aware that his behaviour alienates his friends and potential partners, and that he’s not going to get the intimacy he craves until he can deal with his mood swings and anger.

Andrew’s situation is not uncommon, and I’ve had many clients like him seek help from me as a counsellor. Sadly, many have found themselves in abusive relationships because they are desperately trying to avoid the feelings of abandonment once again. An abusive relationship doesn’t necessarily mean domestic violence. Partners might be controlling, demanding more than we can give, manipulative and always making you feel second best – sometimes, without an awareness they are doing it.


The need to feel loved and the fear of the being abandoned can lead to these toxic relationships lasting far longer than they should.

It can be difficult to trust people when you’ve been let down in the past, even when that let down was accidental or non-intentional, the feelings that result are the same. A level of co-dependence can develop with a partner, or even a close friend that provides the emotional support sought for. Though this can quickly turn to jealousy when they try to foster new friendships and relationships of their own.

So, let’s consider how counselling can help people like Andrew, who are struggling on a day to day basis with feelings of low confidence and self-esteem as a result of childhood abandonment or neglect.

When you are able to recognise that your fears are rooted in your past you can begin to develop coping mechanisms that restrict the way fear controls your emotional responses now. This, in turn, enables healing from those experiences in the past, and be able to enjoy the experiences of today without those negative thoughts constantly playing in the background.


Counselling can help a person distinguish and separate the fears of the past from the reality of today.

Counselling or psychotherapy where abandonment features involves the client learning how to be self-compassionate, especially to the inner-child that still dwells within us. We were all children once and metaphorically the child is at the core of our unconscious thinking, driving our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. By holding on to or suppressing negative feelings and memories from childhood, that inner-child can effect our emotional balance and cause relationship difficulties in the present.

One of the key tools that therapy can give the client, is the ability to communicate their needs successfully within an intimate relationship. As we saw with Andrew, he had to learn to put his needs aside as a child to look after his younger brother whilst his parents were at work. Despite forsaking his own needs to meet those of his brother, he still didn’t feel that he could live up to his father’s exacting standards. Subsequently, every relationship as an adult, he’s put his own needs aside for his partner’s, believing that would prevent them from leaving him. Clearly, without his needs being addressed there was an imbalance of power in the relationship and that led to continued feelings of low self-worth, esteem and anger. Exploring and identifying the unresolved feelings are the first step to understanding the impact they have had and making changes in current relationships.

It can be difficult learning to trust again when we’ve been let down in the past, and continued difficult relationships can lead to a lack of resilience, depression and anger. Counselling can help you discover the root cause of your fear of abandonment and relationship difficulties, enabling you to care for that inner child and move on to enjoy intimacy, trust, and respect as an adult.

Claire ScottIf any of this resonates with you and you would like to arrange counselling, get in contact by email at claire@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk or use the contact form on this website.

Mental health apps – daily tools for stress and anxiety

August 22, 2017

Are you the kind of person who uses their mobile phone to organise, keep notes, sync calendars and even check step count? You might find using a mobile phone app to support your mental health journey could also be beneficial.

Mental Health Apps

There are lots of different types of apps that you could try. At Insight Counselling, the mental health app Pacifica has been trialled over the last six months with some really good results. Clients find it easy to use, helpful to record moods and feelings and to carry out CBT thought experiments. There are also audio mindfulness meditations and self-help CBT advice.

It’s free unless you wish to delve deeper, so worth taking a look.

Me and my therapist – how can a therapeutic relationship help me?

June 6, 2017

strong relationshipA relationship can be defined as the way in which you connect and engage with other people. Relationships can take many forms – from the shopkeeper you exchange pleasantries with whilst making your purchase, to your next door neighbour; they don’t have to revolve around family ties or love.

That’s why it is important to consider the relationship you will have with your counsellor or therapist.

You’ve probably thought about it so far as the same as a doctor/patient relationship – you turn up for your sessions, they deliver the counselling, and you start to feel better. Not only could this way of thinking be further from the truth – it could actually be preventing any real progress being made in terms of recovering from your anxiety, or depression.


So what is a therapeutic relationship, and why does it matter so much?

When you are around people that you trust, you can truly be yourself and aren’t afraid to open up, or feel the need to hide things. Sometimes, anxiety and depression can prevent us from feeling that way with anyone – which is why we might turn to counselling.

In truth, trust can be a difficult concept for many people. How you were raised can impact on your ability to connect with other people, if you didn’t experience being loved for yourself and were reliant on others for validation. Or perhaps everyone you’ve trusted has let you down in some way and you can no longer allow yourself to get hurt like that again.

Your past experiences can impact on your ability to form connections and relationships in the present.

So the idea of forming a relationship with a stranger can be difficult to grasp, but the ‘bond’ that develops between you and your therapist, is one of the most powerful tools in making the changes you want to see.

How you connect and engage with your therapist is the ‘relationship’. As you get to know each other better and trust starts to develop, the relationship will strengthen – enabling you to address your issues and concerns in an easier and different way than you could before.

You’ll feel able to drop the mask, stop ‘acting’ and feel safe to challenge that vicious circle of negative thoughts and actions.

In truth, the relationship is crucial to the therapy process and getting you to where you want to be, but it has to be seen as an equal power exchange – an alliance, between you and your therapist. Counselling and therapy isn’t ‘top down’ treatment, where you do what you’re told and you’ll start feeling better, unlike conventional western medicine which is exactly that!


Therapy can be about finding the answers together with your therapist and finding a way to act on them.

Using the relationship you’ll develop with your therapist, you’ll be able to be your authentic self in a safe environment. Enabling you to try new ways of thinking, relating to others, and sharing your thoughts with someone impartial and genuinely interested in helping you.

So it is important that you find the right therapist for you – and that means you may need to visit more than one for a consultation. Again, this goes against everything we understand of health care today – you visit a doctor and they tell you what to do. Counselling and therapy is very different, and because the relationship you’ll develop is so important, taking the time to get things started right is crucial.

therapy roomCounsellors, and therapists, all have different ways of working. For example, I work from a relational therapeutic style – so you can expect me to react to what you say, and actually be engaged with you throughout the session with the aim that your emotional well-being and capacity is enhanced. The best way to decide what will work best for you, is to visit as many counsellors and therapists as you can – ask them lots of questions, see how they react to you, what’s your gut instinct telling you?


Dealing with difficult emotions or traumatic memories can be easier with an objective therapist.

You may have heard about transference in therapy – possibly from film or TV. Rather than a stereotyped Hollywood portrayal of a patient falling head over heels in love with their therapist, transference occurs without the client being aware. It’s an unconscious process, beyond our control, where issues we have with others are transferred to the therapist.

Transference can be a very positive process within therapy, as it enables you to challenge and address the issues without affecting your relationship with the person concerned. For example, if you hold anger towards your mother for a painful childhood, this can be transferred to the therapist. Though you might not be aware it’s happening, your therapist will be able to use the transference to respond or challenge what you are saying – or even point out what’s being said and how that relates to your past experiences. This enables you to process the anger and pain in a safe and controlled way.

As with any good relationship – consistency is important.

therapy diaryIt’s called continuity of care, but essentially it means attending sessions regularly. Unlike the NHS where cancelled and re-arranged appointments can seem to be the norm, counselling sessions are usually at the same time every week. Your therapist will have blocked that time off from their diary for weeks if not months ahead.

Whilst having a weekly routine of being able to discuss issues on a set day works well, this may mean that you’ll keep hold of issues that are bothering you until your next counselling session. If you were unable to attend that session you could be holding on to them for a lot longer. This could impact on any progress you had made and affect the therapeutic relationship.


All relationships can be difficult, and you will find the therapeutic one no different at times.

However, it is a relationship that you can change and use for your own benefit. It’s a practice model for how you want to be able to engage with the people around you, without any of the issues, bias or history attached to it.

the therapeutic relationshipThe key differences you’ll find with a therapeutic relationship is that it is objective. How we see others is coloured by our own experiences and perspectives, we lack objectivity when dealing with other people. A relationship with a counsellor or therapist is designed to be challenging – to pick apart those perspectives and why you see people a certain way, often through the therapeutic relationship itself.

The other side to that is that you’ll find the relationship to be an empathic one. Your therapist is there for you. Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others. Loved ones and friends can find it difficult to be empathic because how they respond to you is often determined by their experiences and perspectives. A therapist has no pre-conceived ideas about you, enabling you to talk about things openly and safely.

Though it’s important to understand that you will be challenged by your therapist as part of your relationship; although empathic, your therapist isn’t there to be a sounding board and reinforce your negative beliefs.

Don’t worry, challenging isn’t about being confrontational and aggressive towards you. It’s actually a way of supporting you effectively through picking up on how you describe things and people affecting you. For example, “I always hate that” , “I am hopeless at” might be challenged. Do you really mean ‘always’? Effective and empathic challenge enables you to develop your thought processes and move on from what’s affecting you.


Finding the right therapist to build a rapport and strong relationship with is the key to counselling or therapy being successful in addressing your problems.

counsellor Claire ScottYou need to feel safe, secure and that there is an empathic rapport that can be built on to enable effective challenge and support.
To arrange your initial consultation and discover if I’m the right therapist for you, get in touch with me today at: info@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk or use the Contact Page.

How can therapy help me and my anxiety?

February 25, 2017

fear-1940184_1280

Anxiety is a word that gets thrown around a lot and can mean different things to different people. Essentially, it’s used to describe feeling uneasy, worried and afraid and the mental and physical effects this can cause. For example, before sitting an exam it’s natural to feel scared, worried, sick, have stomach cramps, etc.

So when does anxiety stop being a natural response to a stressful event and turn into something more significant?

Anxiety is caused by the ‘fight or flight response’. A normal biological reaction to when we feel threatened, and something that has been with us since the dawn of man. When your body feels under threat it automatically releases hormones that physically prepare you to fight the danger, or run away from it.

mammoth-1127772_1920

Although we don’t have much use for the fight or flight response anymore – we’re unlikely to be charged at by a woolly mammoth any time soon, our biological reactions to it remains.


Anxiety becomes a problem when the fight or flight response stays switched on and the physical and mental symptoms have an impact on your quality of life.

Long term anxiety can be extremely difficult, and is often experienced alongside other illnesses such as depression and chronic pain. One of the key difficulties is that anxiety can lead to you feeling trapped within a ‘vicious circle’. When you’re feeling low and run down you tend to avoid activity because you don’t have the energy for it, or just can’t muster the motivation. This can lead to you feeling guilty and that you haven’t achieved as much as the ‘healthy’ you would have – you don’t feel like the person you used to be anymore. This makes you feel worse and you avoid more activity and you seem stuck in this never ending circle.

As anxiety can affect your health and wellbeing in numerous ways it is important to figure out the causes and find a way of resolving the anxiety whilst managing the symptoms. Although self-help and medication are useful in reducing symptoms, research has shown that therapy is usually the most effective option when it comes to treating anxiety.

Therapy looks at the causes of triggers and any underlying issues that might aggravate it rather than just treating the symptoms.
One starting point to be used in combination with other therapeutic approaches is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT uses the basis that it’s the way you think and react to a situation that’s causing the anxiety, rather than the situation itself. CBT challenges the way you think in a process called ‘cognitive restructuring’.

It’s a three step process that involves:

  1. Identifying the negative thought processes
  2. Challenging the negative thoughts
  3. Replacing the negative thoughts with realistic thoughts

CBT may also include learning to recognise when you’re anxious and what that feels like for you – often there are some signs that anxiety is going to kick in that when you learn to recognise what they feel like, can help you prevent the anxiety from kicking in.

Therapy gives you the tools to be able to manage the symptoms of anxiety and employ coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques to lessen its impact on you and your life.

Whilst self-help alone may not be effective in treating your anxiety, it is useful when combined with therapy. From writing a journal or diary to help figure out patterns of thinking, or even identifying triggers; through to mindfulness and breathing exercises that can help you through a panic attack. For some great tips and ideas for self-help visit the Mind website


CBT is best used as a ‘holding approach’– it’s useful for managing the anxiety and lessen its impact with a supportive counsellor guiding you through and challenging the negative thinking, but often there are deep rooted issues causing or aggravating your anxiety. So in the long term, it’s important that these issues are resolved through exploration and discussion with an experienced counsellor.

There are various kinds of therapeutic approaches that can be used to discover these causes which are tailored to your needs, problems and requirements ensuring that you get what you really need out of therapy.

room3Having an open mind is important when starting therapy as the process can be a difficult one with long-term thoughts that have to be challenged and adjusted. However, it is effective in treating anxiety and can mean the difference between coping with your anxiety and living your life how you want to.

 

Claire ScottFor a more in-depth discussion about how therapy can help you contact Claire at claire@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk to arrange your initial consultation.

 

In the meantime, check out these YouTube videos that you may find useful.