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Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Health.
Postive thinking
Self expression.
Positivity
"Once in a Blue Moon".

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Stigma, Discrimination and Mental Health.


 
1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with a mental illness. 

 
 
In 1994 I went to LA  for a girls holiday, it was one of the best holidays ever.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Although I experienced a number of wonderful things, such as Venice beach, meeting celebrities, partying etc, one situation that really stood out for me occurred when a couple decided they would give us a lift to the beach.  Whilst in the car, the couple disclosed to my friends and I that they had experienced a number of problems in their lives and had received therapy to curtail them.

Upon leaving the vehicle and thanking the heavens that this couple had not murdered us, my friends and I talked about how candid this couple had been about their past struggles with drug addiction and use of therapy.
Now 19 years have passed, I'm a qualified therapist and the couples disclosure has even more significance to me.  I applaud and embrace their overt discourse regarding mental health and therapy.

However, here's the question, how likely are you to tell someone that you are in therapy or suffering from a mental illness?

The stigma that is attached to mental illness and therapy is still prevalent in British society.  I believe that more needs to be done to stop this epidemic.  It remains tacit and the need to talk about the myths that surround mental health is necessary.
 
Campaigns such as  time-to-change, a collaborative venture with Mind, Rethink and funded by the Department of Health are avidly working upon eliminating the stigma and discrimination attached to mental illness.  They drive their message home through various means such as ads, pledges from celebrities and lay people and candid blogs written by those living with a mental illness.
 

 
As a qualified therapist, at SW11 Counselling, clients that have talked about their mental health often highlight the  fear of talking about it  with friends/family members; they express concerns about the possible rejection/blame they may experience if they do disclose to significant others, employers or educational providers.

Let's review those statistics again.  1 in 4 UK residents will experience a mental health issue. In 2012 the estimated population in the UK was 63.7 million, thus it could be surmised that 15.9 million people that reside in the UK would have suffered from a mental health issue last year.  That is a considerable amount of people who not only feel debilitated by their mental health, but also by society.

How likely are you to tell someone that you have a mental health issue?
Could you be as candid as the American couple were 19 years ago?

Thanks for reading this blog and as always your comments are welcomed.

Postive thinking

 
 
 
This idea of positive thinking is really interesting to me, especially as a therapist.

As mentioned in some of my previous blogs
,
e.g. positivity, trying to assist a client who is automatically inclined to use their cognition negatively, is no easy feat, however, there is something that intrigues and interests me about their processes.

Ok, let us assess your cognition/processes with am incident that occurred to me and probably copious amounts of you.

On Tuesday I went to the local cashpoint at Tesco's, (other supermarkets are available) to withdraw some money.  As I approached the screen, I noticed a message saying "transaction void, please press cancel".
I carried out the screens request and was directed to a normal screen, however, at that moment I thought to myself, "maybe I shouldn't put my card in".  So instead of listening to my inner voice, I ignored it and I put my card in the machine.  As I followed the directions typed upon the screen, I got to the stage where I could hear my cash being counted....JOY!
 
 
 
 
I waited for my card to arrive, shortly after my cash would follow.
 
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.
 
....Right, I'm sure it's not normal to wait for your card for 30 seconds. 
 
There you go...no card, no money.  As my demeanour began to turn sour, I walked into Tesco's and spoke politely to the manager, who informed me there was nothing he could do and that I needed to contact my bank...

Ok it's clear at this point....
I'm not a happy bunny...
 
How do you think, you would be feeling at this stage?

I retreat to the sanctuary of my home, poised, frustrated, victimised by a cashpoint machine and itching to call the bank, knowing full well what will happen next.  My dear old card needs to be cancelled; a new one needs to be issued along with a  pin number and of course, I will need to physically enter a bank to retrieve money...(Breathe)...oh the inconvenience of it all.

How would you be feeling now?

As I speak to the operative, Claire, on the phone, I begin to laugh and tell her that I'm old enough to remember the days when you actually had to go into the bank to get money... (ok, stop trying to figure out my age....and concentrate on the blog).  At this juncture, I'm feeling a little less agitated and accept that for up to  7-10 days I'm going to be without a cash card and will definitely have to step foot into a bank to retrieve money.  Yeah.... it's inconvenient, but worse things have happened at sea.   At his stage I've accepted my lot and remind myself to listen to my instincts more often. 
 
How would you be feeling at this stage?

The range of emotions I experienced were of, denial, frustration, anger, inconvenienced, thoughtful, accepting and positive.
By employing some positive thought, I was able to turn a frustrating situation into one less so and all in the space of 30 minutes.  Furthermore, my positive disposistion was further improved when a friend insisted I sample some of her rum collection.  I thought it rude to refuse, thanks Geri! DOUBLE JOY!!

As a therapist I have worked with numerous clients that would dwell on an incident similar to this for a long time.  Procrastinating, negating, blaming, victimising, employing a cycle of destructive cognitions....the list is endless. The power of positive thinking is invaluable and can definitely assist in defusing certain situations.

SW11 Counsellinghas assisted many clients towards looking and thinking about things more positively.  For more information about the services offered by SW11 Counselling, or to read otherblogs, please visit the website at: www.sw11counselling.co.uk.

Many thanks. 
Your comments are welcome.

Self expression.

How do you express yourself?
 
Through Art?
 
 
 
Music?
 
 
 
 
Dance?
 
 
 
Sport?........
 
 
 
 
 
 
Are you one of those types who are comfortable:
 
  1. expressing how they feel?
  2. asking for what they want?
  3. engaging in dialogue with novel people....?
  4. using a loud speaker, whilst driving to tell someone you like their hair...?
 
Yes... Number 4 happened to me two weeks ago. 
 
Whilst I waited to cross the road at a set of traffic lights, a white van passed me and an individual announced through a loudspeaker (...yes I did say a  loudspeaker) "NICE HAIR!". 
 
 
The other pedestrians, now privy to this broadcast, smiled in my direction.  I wasn't embarrassed, more amazed because the event was just so random, so unexpected.  On the other hand, maybe it's more common than I think and I've just lived a sheltered life.....?
Me thinks NOT!
 
 
Anyway, I love my hair and agreed with the announcers observation, however, as I processed this episode further, I smiled.......you know, one of those internal smiles.  I smiled at the wacky, random, uninhibited act of this individual.  I smiled at their confidence, their individuality, their spontaneity.  The therapist part of me smiled; it made me think about some of the clients I have worked with, who felt unable to express their selves freely.... solution? Easy! ......Issue them all with loudspeakers.
 
Hope you enjoyed this blog.
As always your comments are very welcome.

Positivity

 
Buddha; Buddhism: The state of perfect enlightenment through ones own efforts and insights.Fairly recently, I decided that it would be great to send positive messages out to family and peers via a social network.  I had no ulterior motive, I just wanted to share the positivity I had within..........outwardly.
Nothing too heavy, just little things like:
 
  • "Top of the morning to ya."
 
  • "Just gazed out my window and was greeted with a clear sky.  I can see Jupiter, right next to the moon.  It's great to be alive innit? Nite peeps!"
 
  • "Had a great day yesterday!! Here's hoping for more of the same. Enjoy!"
 
 
Responses to my goodwill and happy to be alive messages were interesting.  I got several messages from my brother calling me a "loser!" 
and a couple of messages from others saying "what drugs are you on?"
Fun and jokes aside... the majority of the comments I read were positive and wished me well, however, I did note that a small minority had a tinge of negativity, usually attributed to feeling over-worked or over-tired.
 
My thought processes  are usually positive, hopeful and optimistic.  I'm fortunate to be able to generate 'positive automatic thoughts.'  Although I have always been a positive person, it must also be  recognised that I'm no Mother Theresa and  I do my best to maintain my positive environment.  Put really simply, I tend not to sweat the small stuff because:
 
 
Smiley face.  Denotes feelings of happiness, joy, laughter, fun, ebullience.
  • firstly, it gives you frown lines and
  • secondly, holding onto good stuff generally feels much nicer. 
 
 
 
 
At other times I may utilise certain tools or reserves, such as: 
 
 
Night Sky: Visual interpretation: Peaceful, positive image.
  • Remembering special moments,
  • Watching a clear night sky, decorated with stars, planets and of course,the moon.  (Any opportunity to talk about the moon and I will seize it!...hehehehe.)
  • Listening to great music.
  • Doing things that make me laugh.
 
Individuals whose thoughts patterns are full of worry, angst, doubt and/or anxiety are likely to have a stream of 'negative automatic thoughts'.  Many aspects of their inner dialogue is fuelled by negativity, never allowing any space for positive processes to be filtered through and housed.
 
 
 
Loud speaker.  Visual representation: 'Melody of Mayhem.'Saxophone:  Visual interpretation: 'Sweet Symphony.'When you stop and listen to that inner dialogue that you have within,  what do you hear?  What kind of noises are being played?  Is it a sweet symphony or a medley of mayhem?
 
 
 
 
 
 
Listening to ourselves is extremely important, it helps us to learn and to grow. Talking therapies such as Psychotherapy and Counselling gives an individual experiencing a medley of mayhem, a safe space to be candid about theirthoughts and feelingsAt SW11 Counselling, the client and the therapist work together to explore destructive thoughts.  The aim is to work towards assisting the client in finding and housing their own sweet symphony.
 
Thank you for reading my blog.  Your comments are valuable and always welcome.
 

"Once in a Blue Moon".

It's August 2012 and this month the night Sky has some great things on show.  I'm pretty excited because I love watching the sky at night.  Sometimes living in the city makes it difficult to see things clearly.  However, there are some occasions where the sky at night is so clear, free from congestion and clouds.  During those moments you get the chance to see a myriad of stars decorating the sky.. simply beautiful!...Mmmm,Bliss!
 
My favourite, FAvourite, FAVOURITE though is......the MOON!  For some reason it fascinates me, makes me reflect on how amazing it can be to exist; to connect; to feel. This month we see something that doesn't happen that often.......
 
Wait for it............
 
Instead of one full moon, we get TWO!  I know... Can you feel my excitement?......I can feel yours!
 
For those of you into Astronomy, two moons in one month is known as a  Blue Moon and only occurs every 2 - 3 years, hence the phrase "Once in a Blue Moon." (doesn't happen often.)
The last time there was a blue moon was in March 2010.  We expect the next blue moons on the 2nd and 31st August 2012.
 
The idea of the blue moon not only got me EXCITED (night sky watcher mode); it also got me thinking (ok..... back into therapist mode);
thinking about our existence on this planet we call earth. 
 
I overheard a conversation where an individual felt they were 'plodding through life'. Plodding through life is a reality for many and after a while it can become tiring, isolating and disheartening.  I want you to try and think back to the last blue moon in March 2010; What were your goals or issues back then?  Two years have past and we are now in 2012 with another blue moon beckoning.  What are your goals or  issues now? What is it like comparing , reflecting and analysing the self you were two years ago to the self you are today?
 
There will be another blue moon in September of this year, however, after that we won't expect another until July 2015.
I wonder what kind of person we will be in 3 years time, whether we are able to press on, or will we just be plodding on?
 
"It's true some things happen once in a blue moon
but,
we don't have to wait for the next blue moon to make things happen."
Taken from Antoinette Prince (in therapist mode).
 
 
Thank you for reading and your thoughts are always welcome.
 

Thoughts

 
In May we looked at "feelings"
 
This month I "thought" it would be interesting to look at certain attributes that are linked to our feelings.  One attribute in particular that interests me is the idea of thinking or thought.
 
Thoughts and  feelings are closely connected because the thoughts we have can definitely trigger our feelings and emotions.  Equally important however, is how our feelings can be the catalyst for many thoughts...albeit adaptive or maladaptive ones.
 
Please believe me when I say that I am not an ogre, however, I love to watch my clients cringe when I ask them "How they are feeling?" or "What are they thinking about?"  More often than not, those that cringe are those that find it difficult to access their emotions and thoughts.   What  really pleases me though, is watching the change in a client who once found it difficult to express themselves.  As they continue to work on themselves they find it easier and more comfortable to describe, assess and monitor their thoughts.  
 
As a therapist I am aware that clients come to me with their experiences and entangled within those experiences are a vast array of feelings and thoughts.  The work within the therapy is about being able to explore these thoughts, to entangle them; make sense of them.  This of course is not easy, but essential for ones development and existence.
 
At SW11 Counselling it is important to me to assess how a client is feeling; acknowledge their thinking patterns.  Of course I am a huge advocate for talking therapies and strongly believe that Psychotherapy and Counselling  are excellent tools in getting an individual to understand their inner world.
 
 
Right.............that's enough from me, now I turn the tables toward YOU!
 
I have a few thought provoking questions below that I want you to try and answer.  I understand that answering these questions may be more difficult for some than others.  Have a go anyway....it'll be interesting to see where your thoughts and feelings take you to. 
 
As per usual your THOUGHTS and comments are always welcome.
 
Thankyou.
 
What makes you smile?
 
What makes you frown?
 
When are we self-improved enough to accept ourselves?
 
What impact are you wanting to leave on the world?
 
What does it mean to you to allow another person to fully love you?

What in life, is beautiful to you?
 
Where do you find inspiration?
 
What is your quirkiest habit and how long have you had it?
 
Give your 5 favorite songs. Why do you like each one?
 
What is your saddest memory?
 
What is your happiest memory?
 
Can you describe your life with a six word sentence?
 
 
 

How are you feeling?

 
 
 
 
Feeling Happy?
 
Feeling Sad?
 
Feeling Good?
 
Feeling Bad?
 
Those  feelings just keep on thriving, living off the triggers we hold within and those that exist outside of us.
 
Now if you are feeling pretty happy and confident with yourself  it could be said that you are more self aware, therefore,  better equipped to express your feelings.  This statement however, can also be applied to those of us that are feeling sad or angry.
 
Feelings, be they positive or negative in their stance are very important  because they are indicators, they let us know that we exist;  For example, these are some of the feelings that I experienced today (in this order too!  Yes! (sighs) Therapist can have anal tendancies too!) :-
Energised, thoughtful, tired, grumpy, pissed off, bored, less grumpy, calm, happy, fortunate, thoughtful, playful, cheeky............etcetera! etcetera!  Now the day isn't over and I am sure that I will experience a whole host of feelings and emotions before my head hits that pillow.  The marvellous thing, however, is that I have access to my feelings; am able to interpret them; understand them and express them. I am fortunate to be able to understand what triggers them, which in turn assists me in employing better ways of dealing with them.  
 
Psychotherapy/Counselling is an important process as it offers the individual the tools  to learn who they are through understanding and being able to express their feelings.  For example, when I ask a client:-
 
Therapist: "How are you feeling?"
 
and they answer
 
Client:  "Ok".
 
I will respond
 
"That is not good enough...You need to give me another word." 
 
(Gosh it makes me sound like an ogre...... I assure you, it's all in the tone!)
 
 
I promise you, I am no ogre.  If you click on the picture above you can read the testimonials clients  made regarding their experiences of therapy at SW11 Counselling.  You will see that being able to express their feelings was a beneficial part of the work we did together.
 
Through my own experiences, those of clients and my professional training I believe using the word ok can be interpreted as a way of saying,
  • "I don't know" 
  • "I don't want/need to share my feelings" or
  • "I am unable to share my feelings".
 
 
What do you think?  Your views are always welcome.
 
BTW, as I end this blog I am feeling
"Content and proud".....
 
...."How are you feeling?"
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Easter

 
When you think of Easter, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
 
Easter Bunnies perhaps? Easter Eggs;  Fluffy yellow chicks; The resurrection of Christ or maybe even his death?   You can probably think of more examples, however, strangely, I was able to see some similarities between the  Easter celebrations and Psychotherapy/Counselling. 
 
 
 
Firstly let us begin with Lent.
Lent is the period before Easter that last for 40 days.  It is the time where those of certain faith, give up or fast from certain types of food and drink.  During this time the individual not only fasts, but they embark on deep prayer, self-analysis, meditation, repentance, personal improvement, restitution and confession
 
 
 
Images of Jesus carrying the heavy cross and being nailed to it are reminders of the heavy load, physically and mentally, that Jesus had to carry.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Symbols such as the Easter Egg illustrate the start of a new life.  Thus, while visually the egg is still and appears lifeless, inside the egg a new life is developing and growing.  In certain faiths it is said that the egg is equivalent to the boulder that covered the entrance to Jesus's tomb.
 
 
 
 
 
So how does Easter have similarities with Counselling and Psychotherapy?
 
Talking therapies are far from being a religion, however,when making a decision to choose these types of therapies, the individual and the practitioner, must be committed to the process, just like a person of faith is to their religion.
 
The period of Lent is interesting because as in therapy, the individual may have to give something up...fast.  For example, if someone has come to therapy to address their addictive behaviour, at some point learning to live without the addictive element is necessary....although difficult.  Approaches such as CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) are extremely beneficial in assisting this process. 
 
During sessions discourse between the client and the therapist address areas such as: personal improvement, confession (by confessing we mean to be candid about one's inner world, thoughts dreams desires etc.), repentance, restitution and self-analysis.  This process assists the individual in
re-/establishing a clearer sense of self, of being, of interacting.
 
As a therapist I don't make judgments or assumptions.  However, through the experiences that I have had with vulnerable people, I have come to learn, that the person that has come to therapy is in some way burdened....is carrying a heavy mental/emotional/physical load; is someone who finds existing difficult or a struggle.  The hope is that through Psychotherapy/Counselling the individual can be like that Easter egg..... a symbol of resurrection.
 
Thanks for reading this Easter blog and as always your comments are welcome.
 
Happy Easter!

The top 5 regrets of the dying.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Firstly, I want to thank my 15 year old nephew for posting this article on facebook recently....... "Very impressed dear nephew!"
 
 
The article written focused on data collected by a palliative nurse in Australia.
 
The top 5 regrets are:
 
  • I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life     others expected of me.
 
  • I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
 
  • I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
 
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
 
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.
 
I found these results particularly interesting for several reasons.
All of the regrets are based on factors or issues that clients have brought to me in therapy.  For example when a client is feeling fragmented or depressed, they sometimes find it difficult to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas.  By having counselling/psychotherapy the client has the opportunity to express their feelings in an environment which is confidential, safe and non-judgmental.
 
 
 
 Imagine it!..................someone has lived their life, are about to die and their regret in life is that they wished they could have been happier!!!  Gwhizz!.... to me, this seems very sad.  There are so many strategies and/or techniques that could enable an individual  to be happier in this world.  Look..... I'm not here to ram counselling/psychotherapy down your throat, but, funnily enough, I do have evidence that counselling and psychotherapy works excellently.  I view them as enriching processes and  excellent tools in which to empower an individual.  If the therapist and the client are fully engaged in the work, then counselling/psychotherapy will help to diminish/eradicate negative thoughts and feelings.
 
I feel that the article in the Guardian,  connects beautifully with a popular blog I wrote back in October 2012 titled, "To Live".  In that blog I looked at the notion of living/existing.  In short, I explored what it would it take for us to live happily,  bearing in mind, that after we live, we die;  The article in the guardian goes to the next step, it explores the regrets that people have actually shared, near their death.
 
I'd like to think that those of us that are experiencing some personal, interpersonal and professional concerns, wouldn't wait until their death bed to explore, assess and treat.  You are alive now! Please don't wait until it's too late.
 
If you knew you were about to die, what regrets would you have about your own life?
 
Your comments are always welcome and thank you for reading this blog.

2012

                                                                                 
 
2012!  Time to make New Year resolutions,
time to change.......blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!
 
Every New year we are bombarded with images, adverts and the like with messages of making a change.  TV adverts have a myriad of activities, designed to get us, fit; into shape; healthy!
 
Now I'm not adverse to change, how could I be...I'm a therapist, assisting change is a significant part of what I do.  However, change which is force fed and designed as a money making venture doesn't sit well with me.  A person who wants to give up smoking will do this when they are ready, not just because it's a new year.
 
Therefore, I won't be saying to you all:
 
"You must have counselling because we have started a New Year and you need to sort your life out". 
 
However, what I have noticed recently, indicates that some of you are looking and searching for something! Therefore, this blog, will focus on my observation...something I've been paying attention to throughout December. 
 
I'm fortunate, because my website provides me with daily reports about how many of you visit my site and what pages are being read.  My blogs appear to be pretty popular and throughout December 2011, one particular blog has been extremely popular.  In October  2011, I wrote a blog entitled "To  Live" (if you click on this link you can have a little read) and it appears that it has been really popular throughout December and into this  New Year. 
 
WHY?
 
Having the investigative mind that I have...I wonder and question, why that blog would conjure up so much interest.  Could it be as simple as we think? Are some of us finding it difficult to live and exist? Maybe, but more importantly why?
 
Now I'm gonna ask you three simple questions, the same questions my therapist asked me when I was training to be a counsellor.
 
1.  What do you spend most of your time doing?
2.  What do you do in your spare time?
3.  What do you spend your money on?
 
Ok, now the same questions, just phrased slightly differently
 
1.  What would you like to spend your time doing?
2.  What would you like to do in your spare time?
3.  What would you like to spend your money on?
 
The answers you give to these simple questions may indicate what kind of life you are currently living. 
 
Yeah it is 2012....however, regardless of the New year, how do you want to live.
 
Your comments are welcome and Happy New Year!