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

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.

“Sorry for your loss”… Coping with grief and bereavement

January 30, 2017

bereavement
Losing someone in your life can lead to huge changes and make you feel differently about much that you used to take for granted. Grief and bereavement can take you by surprise and mess with your head.

Bereavement can cause confusing emotions

How long you take coping and adjusting to the loss is not dependent on anyone else’s timetable and there is no right way to grieve. People feel intense emotions or sometimes don’t feel the strong emotions they might have expected. We don’t always react in the way we might have imagined or we can be hijacked by powerful distressing emotions that are confusing even though they might have been expected. Sometimes grief can take you by surprise after a period of time – a kick in the stomach triggered by a word, a feeling or thought, a piece of music or the smell of a familiar scent.

grief aloneIt can feel desperately lonely dealing with loss and grief. Friends don’t always understand what to say and often say nothing at all – perhaps feeling scared they will say the wrong thing or can’t cope with their own fear of death. Others say what they think should help “move you on”. Perhaps you won’t be ready to move on and their well-meaning comments will feel inappropriate or ill timed.

Family members might be going through a similar or totally different set of feelings from the same loss of family member. How do you address it within the family? Can you cope with the differences? Or are they ignored? Are there unresolved conflicts? Or is there anger that the deceased is no longer there for the ones that remain? Many of these things can lead to you to feeling lost and alone.


I don’t have anyone to talk to about my loss

Sometimes you may want someone to listen to you talk about your loss, other times you don’t want to talk at all. Friends and family can often be an amazing help, listening empathetically when they share understanding, being there on the end of the phone when you most need it – keep these people close. Sadly, some of your friends may not be able to support in the way you would like. They may be emotionally unavailable to cope with your loss on top of their own difficulties in life. At times it can feel like people call or text less often and you can feel neglected and disappointed in friends you had felt were close to you. Death and grief scares some people and often their tactic is to avoid an awkward situation, rather than considering your feelings above their own.

talking to the dogRather than talking to the dog (or perhaps in addition to), you might wish to consider contacting a counsellor to help you through your bereavement. Talking about loss and letting your feelings out can help you begin to adjust to life and to consider what the relationship with the person meant to you. Bottling up or repressing difficult feelings can maintain the grief and make
coping with bereavement much harder.


When does bereavement end?

You may have read about the stages of bereavement. While it is common for grief to move through stages, for example denial and anger initially, we don’t always stick to textbook approaches in life and you might find that your personal experience of grief differs from what you read about on the Internet – and this is normal. We might not grieve in ways we have seen others grieve, or might spend far longer in certain stages than we might expect. If you are coping alone or feeling alone with your grief, you can find yourself feeling overwhelmed with difficult feelings or perhaps feel numb and lacking in feeling. When feelings are unprocessed in this way, it can sometimes lead to complicated grief or even depression.


Acceptance

Accepting a loss is complicated. There is often shock initially, even when the person has been quite unwell and death is expected. It is common to go through a period of disbelief and confusion. The range of emotions experienced when grieving can also be confusing. Despair and sorrow are expected and are common, but guilt and anger can overwhelm if you are not expecting to feel that way. You may feel nothing at all, numbness or emptiness taking over instead. You can be left with questions as well as emotions – why am I feeling this way? You might find yourself reacting to people in your life in challenging ways as a response to the grief you are experiencing.

bereavement memoriesGrief can also allow your mind to focus on the person and your relationship at a much deeper level than perhaps you were used to when they are alive. Unanswered questions may arise, never to be answered. Unresolved issues that you had successfully buried, may be unearthed and leave you with new emotions or thoughts.


Coping with grief

Sometimes grief feels so bad, it can completely stop you in your tracks. It feels almost impossible to carry on with normal life. Relationships may suffer and it could be difficult to cope with work assignments or even to get out of bed. These are normal reactions and part of the bereavement process, but if you feel it is going on for longer than you would expect, you may need extra support. If you are coping by self-medicating, drinking more alcohol or drugs, eating erratically, behaving recklessly or becoming violent or are having suicidal thoughts, talking to both your GP and/or a counsellor would be a important step forward. If grief has moved into a general feeling of worthlessness, it could be helpful to speak to someone to prevent it developing into depression.


Moving on

moving onA few months after my mother’s death I mentioned my feelings of sadness to a friend. His response, by text said, “time to move on”. It was an ill-timed, and perhaps thoughtless reaction of someone unable to empathise with my situation. Fortunately I had others around me who were more understanding.

I did adjust and over time I found I wasn’t thinking about my mum quite as much as when I was first bereaved. I would still have my moments where I felt the loss deeply, seemingly at random moments, but often triggered by something. Fifteen years later, her life and personality have more meaning to me than her death.

Other losses may be more difficult to deal with and take longer or be a bigger part of our life after. The loss of a baby or child can be incomparable and difficult for others to relate to, leaving the sufferer more alone with their confusing feelings.

therapy roomSpeaking to a counsellor about grief and feelings may help you adjust and begin to accept the loss and help you to live your life again. You are always likely to miss and think about the person and some feelings of grief may stay with you. It changes who you are, but you can go on.

If you would like to speak to Claire about bereavement or issues surrounding grief, you can email claire@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk or call 07967 611736 or use the Contact form.


Helpful information

Cruse Bereavement Care National helpline – http://www.cruse.org.uk/

Child Bereavement UK – http://childbereavementuk.org/

Bereavement Advice Centre – https://bereavementadvice.org

Samaritans 116 123 (UK)http://www.samaritans.org/