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Facing change

7th October 2020

This quote by American writer James Baldwin was on the cover of a therapy magazine the other week. I wanted to share it because I think it beautifully encapsulates what I do.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed”

Often people come to see me because something has happened either in their recent or distant past that is affecting life in the present. Very often, be it the loss of a loved one, illness, a damaging relationship or childhood trauma – it cannot be changed. In these circumstances we work an understanding and acceptance of what has happened, which in some cases can be very hard… and then finding a way for it to be integrated into life now which is less painful or harmful. Which brings me onto the second half of the quote:

“But nothing can be changed until it is faced”

We tend to turn away from distress and pain because it feels scary, unmanageable, overwhelming and painful. We don’t want to look at it. We find ways to keep ourselves busy, distract ourselves, lock it away - or numb the feelings with things that allow us to forget for a while.

The tricky thing about feelings is that they are quite persistent when they want our attention. Turning towards those feelings, exploring them and understanding what they are and why there are there, allows us to change their impact moving forwards.

But it’s not easy. This is a really scary thing to do, especially if you feel on your own with it, or that no-one else understands.

I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) MAKE you turn towards the thing that you would like to change, but my role is to be there WITH you, so that you aren’t on your own. I listen to how hard it is and what you are afraid of. We look at what is blocking you, and whether there is anything that will help move those obstacles out of the way. I wait until you feel you are ready, and then I am there with you as you face those scary feelings in order to understand them and yourself better, and make the changes you need.

It’s a privilege to be there with you in those moments, to witness your vulnerability but then ultimately your courage. I am awed by human resilience and humbled by the emotional strength that people demonstrate time after time – even when they feel at their weakest.

If you feel it is time to turn towards something and would like some support, please get in touch.

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Love and letting go

17th September 2020

My youngest starts school this year. I’m excited for her, and proud of her, and every time I think about it my heart swells with love – and then contracts with loss. She is no longer my baby, my influence will no longer be absolute, I have stepped out of the baby and toddler phases of life for the last time. I don’t want to let go of her.

At the other end of the scale I have a preteen, who is desperately striving for independence and taking bigger and bigger steps into the wide world. Again I am so proud of him, and want to help him achieve that – whilst at the same time holding a fear of all the things in the big wide world which he doesn’t yet understand. I don’t want to let go of him.

When you love, all your instincts tell you to hold on tight. Before becoming a parent I hadn’t fully understood the “if you love them let them go” concept – and I certainly hadn’t appreciated how it is constantly present, and you have to fight your instinct to protect with a desire to watch them grow in a million small ways. It’s hard sometimes.

“Grief is the price we pay for love” is a quote that is often attributed to the Queen and I think it is true of losses big and small. At the moment, whilst I am grateful and proud of the grown up people my children are becoming , part of me is mourning the stages we are leaving behind. This is OK. This is what change is: losing what once was, in order to achieve what is to come. It allows me to acknowledge why I am crying at the school gate – and then move forward to support them in their new chapters with enthusiasm.

Big love to all of you waving your children off to nursery, small school, big school, university and first homes, especially in these uncertain times! xx

(Disclaimer: I am fully aware whilst writing this of how lucky I am to be in a position to watch my children change and grow. Some of you reading this will have suffered the ultimate loss, and would give anything to be in the position I am now writing about. I am truly sorry for your loss. The intention of this post was not trivialise grief in any way, but to facilitate understanding of complicated feelings. I sincerely hope not to have caused distress)

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I don't do normal

7th September 2020

Is anyone else getting a bit tired of the phrase “new normal”?

I understand the sentiment behind it - it is a recognition of the necessity to change, adapt and move forward, however it has been overused recently to the extent that it brings me out in an involuntary eyeroll 🙄 I just want my normal to be normal!

Do you remember when lockdown was going to be a two week thing? And then it was longer, and then still longer. I think for a while a lot of us held September in our minds as where we had to get to – hoping everything would be back to "normal" by now.

Sadly it was not to be. Although the return to school and work is happening, it is tentative and with caveats and precautionary measures which can be difficult to adapt to.

For me it feels like the goalposts keep moving. It brings out the toddler in me – I want to stamp my feet in frustration and shout “ITS NOT FAIR!”. It brings out my inner rebel teen – I want to push against the boundaries and argue with authority “WHO ARE YOU TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO?”, and it brings a resigned air of defeat and feelings of powerlessness when I realise these reactions won’t make the slightest difference.

All these responses are valid, and ignoring them or pushing them away seems to make them louder. Acknowledging them in myself allows me to respond more kindly to myself. When I am having a day that’s very toddler, I reassure myself that actually it will be ok and think about what I need (more often than not it’s to do something creative and not very adult!). When I am feeling angry and teen, I enter into a dialogue with myself to negotiate a compromise making sure I recognise what those needs are. And when I feel resigned, I remind myself about the things I can do to improve the situation a little bit and therefore feel a bit more empowered.

Once I have acknowledged all these parts and what they are trying to express, it is much easier for the adult in me to step forward, put on her "big girl pants"; adapt and make it work!

So be kind to yourself: Listen to the different parts of you and what they are telling you and (just like those other small people in your life?) once they are heard, it will stop them shouting and allow you to get on!!!

Good luck!

As always: if you or someone you know needs some support at the moment (adult or child) we can help. Please contact us.

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Young People

15th August 2020

This has been a really tough time for our young people. Some have found being isolated from their social group really difficult. The stress of cancelled exams and the saga unfolding with the results has hit many hard, and for others the impending return to school in September after so long may feel overwhelming.

Here at Kingsclere Counselling Service we have three therapists who work with teens aged 16+ and I am really excited to announce the arrival of Emma, who works with children as young as 7 years old helping them to negotiate an ever-changing world with gentleness and warmth.

If you have a young person in your life who needs that extra bit of support at the moment, please do get in touch.

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Maternal Mental Health Week

4th May 2020

This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. To my fellow mums, I want to say the following:

  1. This is tough (motherhood AND lockdown) but so are you - even if you don't feel it right now.
  2. You are doing a much better job than you think you are - and the fact that you are worrying about whether that statement is true shows how much you care.
  3. Forgive yourself for not getting it right all the time. No-one is perfect. Good enough IS good enough.
  4. You are NOT alone. It may feel like everyone has got this sorted (flippin instagram!) and there must be something wrong with you for finding it so hard - but I promise you there are mums out there who feel just the same as you, and have exactly the same struggles. Find your tribe
  5. It is REALLY ok to talk about it and/or ask for help. Family, friends, health visitors, GPs, counsellors - they are all still on the end of the phone. They will get it, they won't judge you - and reaching out does NOT mean you have failed somehow.

The current situation is magnifying feelings and emotions that are difficult anyway: the relentlessness of it and lack of space, the extra pressure to provide meals on reduced budgets and tricky shopping conditions, the school work, the responsibility of keeping a harmonious household 24/7 - Hang in there, this too will pass, keep referring to the points above!

If you need help - we are here, please don't struggle on your own. Take care of YOU as well as your little ones xx

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The Change Curve

28th March 2020

End of week 1 of lockdown…how you all doing? Don’t worry if your house is still a mess and you haven’t managed to learn Spanish yet – as long as you are all healthy, fed and still talking to the people you live with then you are doing just great!

Why do we hate change so much? Well there are two main reasons: 1) In order to cope with a chaotic unordered world, we tell ourselves that we are in control – and this reminds us that we aren’t! and 2) change of any sort (even positive) always involves a loss. In our current scenario our losses are many, big and small – our freedom, our routine, our social contact, time with loved ones (time away from loved ones!!) choices in the supermarket etc etc. And when we lose something we go through something akin to grief.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is a psychiatrist who hypothesised that when we grieve we go through 5 stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. If we take this idea that change involves an adaptation similar to grief we can see how our response to change potentially goes through similar stages….(see pic)

The important thing to remember is that there is no set pace for this, and we are all different. One week in – you may be at any point along this curve (and another change, may shunt you back to the beginning again!) – and whilst we are all in this together, acknowledge that others may be at a different point on the curve and that’s ok too.

Hold fast in the knowledge that you are responding to what’s happening in a perfectly normal way – and it will get easier. The reason we have survived so long as a species is because of our adaptability and our resilience – we just need to give ourselves time and space to process and adjust!

Good luck!

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International Womens Day

8th March 2020

Happy International Women's Day!

I am extremely grateful to the women of generations before mine, on whose shoulders I stand. They have fought hard and relentlessly (and on it still goes) to enable and empower women. Because of them I have the right to vote, own a house, have money of my own, have an opinion – and voice it!, work, wear what I like, use contraception (all things that not that long ago weren’t possible) and the fight continues – what happens our bodies, equal pay etc. One day I hope that all societies may have the same thing!

The flip side of this empowerment is a slightly wonky belief that because now we can do ANYthing we feel under pressure to do EVERYthing; we become bogged down in the idea that we have to be all things to all people all of the time.

But what those ladies have fought for wasn’t an expectation that all women have to be superwoman – it was choice. The ability to decide for ourselves who and what we want to be. So on international women’s day, shake off the pressures from society to be, act, dress, eat, live a certain way. Embrace the fact that you are doing them proud just by choosing to be YOU in the best way you can!

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Within Choice Lies Power

25th November 2019

This wasn’t supposed to be a political post - it was meant to be a post about not feeling in control. However what with Brexit, a general election just round the corner, and climate change at the forefront of our mind, it is easy to feel powerless in the face of what is happening around us; and therefore maybe it is more pertinent than I realised.

Human beings don’t like not feeling in control. We feel insecure when change is thrust upon us by others, or when something happens to us or around us that we can’t do anything about; it destabilises us and brings all our fears to the surface.

But whatever is happening, the key to feeling more in control and regaining a little of your personal power, is to find where in the situation you CAN make a choice - however small and insignificant it may seem. Sometimes the choices are is hard to find, sometimes there are many, but once you find it you can make a decision and have an influence over how the situation impacts you. This empowers you and makes you feel part of the process rather than it happening TO you

Of course knowing what choice to make can be hard. The successful ones are in tune with our individual needs and values.

If you are struggling to decide (whether election wise or any other choice) bear in mind this quote from Nelson Mandela;

“Let your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears”

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Mental Health Awareness Week

14th May 2019

This week I have done something massively out of my comfort zone. I “did” public speaking! To an actual audience. Of real people! (eek!)

I am doing this for Mental Health Awareness Week, and as you all know by now, banishing the stigma and getting people talking about mental illness and therapy is a bit of a thing of mine, but this week I was challenged to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

A company in Basingstoke approached me because they were putting together a week of events to promote mental wellbeing to their staff – including yoga, massage, and nutritional advice – and they wanted to give their staff the chance to explore therapy! WAHHHOOOOO!!! We need more of this people!

So they asked me to conduct a presentation, and offer some one on one time to anyone who wanted to talk to me. Now I was so impressed with their initiative and passion that I agreed before remembering that public speaking gives me the OMG-what-will-they-think-of-me-collywobbles! (I may be a therapist but I am also human!)

But do you know what? I conquered my fear. I put together a presentation of all the things I wished people knew about mental health and therapy - which gave me the courage to stand in front of them and share my passion - and then I met some lovely people who were struggling a bit and wanted to chat to see if therapy might be something that could help them.


Even if just one of those people leaves thinking that therapy is for anyone, and it’s ok to go and ask for help, then I am a very happy bunny.

So thank you to that company in Basingstoke for restoring my faith that mental health conversations are happening more frequently and in more places – and for communicating to their staff that it’s ok not to be ok (I feel that the workplace is the hardest place to admit that sometimes)

And let’s keep talking! #mentalhealthawarenessweek #survivingorthriving?

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International day of happiness

21st March 2019

Yesterday was international day of happiness. (whoops! missed it lol!)

Now, I am all for awareness days and weeks, whether it’s for charities, good causes, medical conditions etc but my first thought yesterday was “What a weird idea…. “ I mean we all know what happy is (little smiley emoji right?) and most of us have experienced it in some form or another, you can’t donate happy to other people - and are we supposed to spend the day forcing ourselves to be happy whether we feel it or not simply because it’s international happiness day???? Bizarre.

But then I let the thoughts sit with me a bit longer and they started to look a bit different (a bit like those magic eye posters c1995)

Actually DO we know what happy is??? When I ask clients what they want from therapy, often the answer is “I want to feel happier”. Great but what does that mean? For some it is a really hard question to answer. We are very good at reeling off a list of what SHOULD (shudder) make us happy.. Spouse, kids, house, car, job, holiday etc etc but is that really the case? Is happiness laughter, love, security, comfort or something else entirely? When have you felt truly happy in the past? - what was it about that situation that felt so good? If you realise you haven’t had that moment, what is missing? And it’s impossible to quantify….. Even if you are “happy” it is tempting to think of things that would enable you to be happIER if only you could acquire / achieve them.

So actually maybe happiness day isn’t about plastering on a fixed grin and forcing yourself to feel happy. Maybe it’s actually a chance to pause and wonder if you know what happy means to you... and how you will recognise when you are happy enough. A chance to look at the things you HAVE got that contribute to happiness, rather than the things you think will make you happier.

And as for not being able to donate happiness to others - maybe we can. A smile, a compliment, a random act of kindness would probably do exactly that!

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Nice to meet you....who ARE you?

6th March 2019

Hi, My name’s Sharon, nice to meet you…..what do you do? Arrgggghhhh!!! I hate the fact that this is always one of the first questions from people I have just met. It’s not that I’m not proud of what I do (although sometimes when I answer you can see people panic slightly that I am going to mind read all their innermost thoughts! 😆) and I understand it is a good opener when you don’t know a person, but I think it is an indicator of how much emphasis our society puts on what we do, rather than who we are!

This doesn’t help our mental health: It may manifest itself as “I haven’t done anything remarkable, therefore I am not remarkable” or “I haven’t hit the milestones I am supposed to by now (marriage, kids, job, house) so I feel like a failure”. Or on the flip side someone may present as really successful (good job, nice house, exciting hobbies) but still never feeling as though they are quite enough for that special someone. It creates fears in us - “I must do more , I must be busy, because if I am not doing - what or who am I?”

So my challenge is to stop doing for a bit and just BE. Work out how to identify with the qualities you have rather than the things you do. Let your qualities be what defines you (generous, kind, funny, passionate, intelligent etc) rather than your role (doctor, chef, shop assistant, stay at home mother) and value them!

As an adjunct. If you have a friend or loved one who is struggling at the moment, and you feel useless because you can’t DO anything, reassure yourself that maybe what that person needs most at the moment is you just to BE with them in what they are going through!

Hi, My name’s Sharon, nice to meet you…..who ARE you?

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Living with uncertainty!

16th January 2019

Wow! We are living through times like no other at the moment, and as a nation we are struggling with collective anxiety, but why is it so unsettling?!

Well, as human beings we have a very basic need to feel safe, secure and in control. At the moment, the uncertainty and “not-knowingness” of the immediate and long term future is causing all those things to wobble a bit.

Whatever decisions are made on our behalf will affect us all – indeed are already; jobs, industry, financial and housing markets all “on hold” waiting to see what happens next – we are holding our national breath.

This anxiety coupled with the fact that the people we chose (and trust?) to make those decisions, seem to be just as insecure and out of control, is very unnerving (and frustrating)- we feel vulnerable, so we ready ourselves for fight or flight ...... but this poised waiting on the edge is exhausting!

So how can we help ourselves live through this or indeed any other period of uncertainty and not-knowing? Well the serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr sums it up nicely, regardless of belief or faith.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

Whenever we feel we have no control – look for the choices. Sometimes you are unable to change what is happening, but somewhere there is always a choice which is within your power to make. The ability to find it, take control and make an active decision will empower you and enable you to control the impact the “uncontrollable” situation is having on you.

And of course, take solace in the fact that you are not alone! For better or worse, we really are all in it together!

(I have today broken the two golden rules – never discuss religion or politics! Whoops! This is not intended to be a commentary on either, or a statement of my position; it is merely an observation and a wish to offer something constructive! Thank you)

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Happy New Year!

4th January 2019

So It’s January! And social media will be full of “New Year, New You” posts. Well I don’t like being predictable, so instead I thought I would talk a bit more about that buzz phrase SELF CARE. It’s everywhere at the moment - we are all being told we should do more of it (and those of you who know me know what I feel about “should”) but many of us don’t know how to put it our lives.

So what is it?

How do you take care of your physical, emotional and mental health? Many of us can answer the first one (exercise, eating well etc) but we struggle more with the other two. Self care essentially is doing the things that recharge us. The trouble comes with a) identifying what those things are and b) fitting them in to our lives

What can I do?

It HAS to be individual to you, doing something because you think you should is never going to work. Ask yourself the following; When do you feel at your most relaxed? energised? excited? What do you like doing on those rare occasions when you get free time? What do you do occasionally that feels good but sometimes feels self indulgent? Which brings me onto my next point:

The enemy of self care is guilt!

We all too often feel guilty about anything that we do for ourselves because we are programmed not to be “selfish” and we feel we "should" (ugh!) put others before ourselves.

But to revisit the previous analogy; we eat regular meals to replace the energy we use - we also need to recharge our emotional and mental “batteries” so that we have the power to draw on when we need it.

A word of caution.....

Self Care is at one end of a spectrum, the other end of which is Self Harm. Whatever you use to recharge and feel good is extremely important but only whilst it is at the right end of the spectrum. Whether it is exercise, sleep, a glass or two of wine, escapism - these things could all be harmful if taken to extremes; the key is BALANCE so that the scales don’t tip the other way.

So if your resolution this year is better self care - identify what you need, banish the guilt, recognise the value of fitting it into your life, and keep it in balance!

(if you find something is blocking you from this, or you need help with your other resolutions - please get in touch!)

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Do what you are doing

10th December 2018

Christmas - a time of juggling more balls than ever!!! In addition to the usual family / work knife-edge balance that we all struggle to attain, there are extra challenges. For me it’s things like finding gifts, planning food, attending plays and performances, finding costumes, social engagements, booking babysitters….it’s manic.

We put great value on being able to multitask, but here’s something to bear in mind (pun intended!)…. Every time we switch task our brains use energy to flip from one thing to another (think changing train track). The more we do this, the more energy we use. And when we think we are doing several things at once, we aren’t - what we are doing is rapidly, and repeatedly swapping tracks. Result: massively depleted energy reserves.

The answer: Do what you are doing! Conserve your energy. Engage in one task at a time, and do it fully. You will get things done faster, more efficiently and feel more rewarded by it. Everytime you feel everything getting on top of you hit PAUSE, take a breath and choose the thing you are going to focus on next.

The nitty-gritties of how to help yourself with this are down to individual preference - write lists, diary your time into chunks, put all your tasks on paper in a jar and pull one out at a time. Find the one that suits you and make it work for you.

As I mentioned at the start - I too get overwhelmed at this time of year, but to show that sometimes I do practice what I preach; this blog has been written whilst at a business group, which I booked myself on specifically to enable me to “do what am doing” and focus on my business whilst removing the distractions of Christmas, housework, etc. It is a relief to focus for a morning, get all the things I have been “meaning to do” done, and then I can skip out the door into the Christmas chaos once more, with more energy and space in my brain!

I wish you all health and happiness for the festive season xx

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I cannot know you until I know your no.

19th October 2018

Huh? I hear you say. Took me a while the first time I heard it too, but the more I rolled it round in my brain the more I liked it. It is about healthy relationships, it is about boundaries, it is about self respect and self worth, it is about communication and it is about intimacy!

I used to be afraid of saying no; to friends, partners, bosses, people involved in organisations I was a part of - and for lots of reasons; what would people think of me? I must put others needs first, I should / ought to say yes. This resulted in me feeling burnt out, spread too thin, I ended up doing things I didn’t want to, didn’t enjoy and felt like things were piling up on top of me. I also began to resent the fact that people would just assume “don’t worry, Sharon will do it!” Argh!!! In hindsight you can’t blame them really; I always said yes!

After hearing this in a presentation by Clayton Barbeau I got brave enough to try saying no sometimes. The world didn’t fall apart, my friends didn’t disown me, my partner didn’t leave, and I didn’t lose my job. This is what I found:

  1. I was no longer doing things I didn’t want to do
  2. I had way more energy to spend on the things I DID want to say yes to!
  3. People started treating me with more respect (and less like a doormat)
  4. I started treating me with more respect – and valued myself and my time.
  5. It felt nice to OFFER my time and energy to others, without feeling like they were taking it from me
  6. Once people knew I didn’t say yes to everything, they really valued it when I did say yes.
  7. Those closest to me understood more about me, about what was important to me and where my boundaries were.
  8. I was healthier, my relationships were healthier.

There was a period of adjustment, people were surprised and taken aback sometimes – because they expected me to say yes, but then they simply shrugged and asked someone else! There was one individual who could not handle the fact that I said no sometimes, but that opened my eyes to the fact that the relationship was not a healthy one – that person was not prepared to accept me or respect me for who I was, as I no longer fitted with their agenda. What a relief to walk away from that “friendship” having seen it for what it was!

So, look at what is important to you. Say yes often and enthusiastically, but have courage and say no sometimes too!

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Suicide Prevention Day

10th September 2018

Today is Suicide Prevention Day, and it is a tough old subject to talk about because it involves such strong beliefs and strong emotions for people. On average 18 people a day in the UK and ROI take their own life ( and then there are the survivors of suicide attempts, and those who haven’t attempted suicide but are thinking about it, and all the friends and relatives of those people. That is a LOT of people whose lives are affected.

Those of you who have read other blogs of mine, know I am passionate about breaking taboos. And this is a biggie still. There are so many judgements, preconceptions and misunderstandings about suicide and those who think about it or attempt it which need to be challenged. And, at the risk of repeating myself the way to break these taboos is to talk, talk, talk.

Mind are a fantastic charity and have excellent information and resources for anyone who is affected by suicide or suicidal thoughts, or indeed for anyone who simply wants to learn more about it and chip away at those taboos.

Lastly and VERY importantly. If you suspect someone you know is thinking about suicide, please talk to them about it (arm yourselves with the info above if necessary). There is a fear that by talking about it you might somehow encourage them to act on it, but in fact the opposite is true. Enabling someone to talk about their deepest feelings openly without being judged can be a really valuable first step on the road back.

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September, a time for new beginnings

7th September 2018

Apologies for the radio silence, I am back! And that got me thinking. Whilst New Year is traditionally a time for new beginnings, I reckon September gives it a run for its money. There are many reasons for this:

  1. Our school system teaches us from a very early age that there is a big “start” in September. It’s a time for new classes, new teachers, new challenges, new shoes, new clothes, new friends and new stationary!!! And this can be true from the age of 3 or 4 to finishing uni in your 20s!
  2. Traditionally, the farming year (something very close to my heart!) begins with the planting of next year’s crops in September, following the culmination of harvest. The very definition of new starts!
  3. Many people wind down or take time away in the summer months whilst the weather is good (or because of the break in school) and come back to work more fully in September.
  4. There is the change in the seasons, and that very ingrained feeling of preparing for winter and all the challenges that may bring.

All these things leave us with mixed emotions similar to New Year. There is the need to say goodbye to the summer and what it brought us before turning towards autumn and winter and what is to come. For some this is really positive and motivating, but for others it can be really disheartening and full of anxiety. Whilst these emotions may be about returning to work, or sending the kids back to school, it is very possible that there is also a layer to these emotions that comes directly from what September meant to us when we were small. It can help to look at this and work out which emotions belong to now, and which to back then, to make sense of them and turn September into what you want it to be.

I like to see September as a second chance at a new beginning. What were your goals at New Year? Have you achieved them? If so, how can you celebrate that or expand on them? If not, what has held you back or got in the way? What can you do to get back on track / change direction?

.....and if you would like help with this, you know where I am!.....

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FAQ#8 Am I broken?

4th June 2018

No!!!! (shortest post ever!)

But seriously, This is not intending to dismiss anyone’s experience. Some people are in a place where they have been badly damaged or are seriously ill and it can be a very bleak and scary experience. They may have felt overwhelming, frightening thoughts and emotions that they seem unable to handle, and unable to see a way out of.

At this point, it can understandably result in feeling broken. However I would never use that word because it implies a finality, being “unmendable” and a lack of hope - and there is always hope! The solution to the issue may well be found through therapy, sometimes it may not be that the problem goes away, but that you live with it in a very different way, sometimes it may require referral or signposting to other services, but there is always something that can be done.

So in summary; you aren’t broken, you are human - but being human can sometimes be really really hard.

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FAQ#7 There’s got to be so many people who are worse off than me. Why can’t I cope?

25th May 2018

A lot of people who sit opposite me berate themselves with “why I am finding this so hard, I know someone who...(tells story of something awful that has happened to someone else)” or “I don’t know why I can’t pull myself together, you read horrible stories on the news of people who...(tells story of something awful that has happened to someone else)” And very often they go on to give that judgement to me: You must have clients who are much worse off than me, I bet you wonder why I am wasting your time….”

There are a couple of things that I notice when people say this:

Firstly it suggests there is a secret list of problems somewhere ranked from easiest to hardest to deal with! How can you rank divorce / loss of a family member / crippling anxiety / caring for a disabled relative etc in relation to one another? They are all very unique situations and the person going through it is unique too. Everyone has varying levels of resilience and coping mechanisms that allow them to deal with a lot, but sometimes these are not enough - and that is when they seek my help.

Which brings me to my next observation: Beliefs around coping. We all have beliefs that will have been shaped by family members, society, and our previous life experience about what it means to cope. What we “should” be able to handle or how we “should” respond to certain situations. When our actual response doesn’t match these, it can feel like somehow we are getting it wrong. If we then tell ourselves off for this, we end up feeling worse!

Lastly it tells me something about how that person values themselves. it implies that they do not see their experience as as important or valid as someone else's. Again this can go back to early messages about ourselves that we have absorbed. “Don’t bother people” “Don’t complain” “no-one wants to hear that”

So what I tend to say in response is: If you are are struggling! That’s it! I do not compare your struggles to those of others, I see YOUR struggle in YOUR context, it is as valid and as valuable as anyone else’s and that’s our starting point to help you get what you need.

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World maternal mental health day

2nd May 2018

Today is world maternal mental health day. There is soooooo much I could say on this topic as a therapist. But instead, today I am posting as a mother. To any mum who is struggling I want you to know:

  1. It is tough, but so are you (even if you don’t feel it right this moment).
  2. You are doing a much better job than you think you are, and the fact you worry about whether that is true shows how much you care.
  3. You are NOT alone. It may feel like everyone else seems to have motherhood sorted but somehow you can’t seem to get it, but I promise you – there are mums out there who feel just the same as you and have exactly the same struggles. Find your tribe!
  4. It is REALLY ok to talk about it or ask for help (family / friends / health visitor / GP / counsellor) They will get it, they will want to help you not judge you, and it does not mean you are not doing a good enough job!

Please don’t struggle on your own.

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Stress Awareness month

20th April 2018

April is Stress Awareness month and that got me thinking; When does stress become something else? In other words;


Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is your stress disrupting your sleep? (struggling to get to sleep, waking early and being unable to return to sleep, recurrent or exhausting vivid dreams)
  2. Are you relying on alcohol or food to control your mood?
  3. Do you find yourself unreasonably short tempered and snappy with those closest to you?
  4. Are you experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, stomach or digestion issues?
  5. Are you struggling to maintain focus on tasks that need doing because you are so preoccupied?
  6. Are you getting less enjoyment from things that you used to love doing?
  7. Have your usual standards of self care slipped regarding eating well, tidiness, hygiene etc?

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing - it can motivate and drive us, it can help us step out of our comfort zone and achieve things we didn’t know we could. However when it is impacting our physical and mental health it maybe something that needs talking about, and if you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, then it may be something you want to look at further.

Often stress is a part of our life because of the roles we fill - at work, or as a parent for example, and because we cannot remove the source of the stress it can feel there is nothing you can do about it. However, there IS always something that can be done. Sometimes just understanding your triggers and providing some self care can be enough.

If you would like to know more, please contact me!

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FAQ#6 What I am struggling with happened a long time ago. I can’t change what happened so how can therapy help me?

11th April 2018

We are all products of our past. It is what makes us and shapes us – for better or for worse!

As we move through life we pick up messages about ourselves and our environment, we develop coping strategies, and we do what we need to in order to survive when things are tough.

But what has happened to you does not need to define you (or your future). It is impossible to turn the clock back or change what you have been through, but what counselling WILL do is give you a safe space to look back and explore the impact of past events on you, and how they are continuing to effect you.

Counselling then empowers you to choose. How do you want the past to inform and feature in your future? Together we look at what you need in order for that to happen and work on getting you to a place where you are much more comfortable with the part the past plays in your life.

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FAQ#5 Is there any mind-reading / voodoo / scary stuff involved?

28th March 2018

Let me reassure you about what happens in my therapy room!

There is always a fear of the unknown and because therapy isn’t widely talked about, people can understandably be nervous about the process. And I have to say, it’s not helped by some of the portrayals in the media!

The vast majority of my work is listening! You tell me why you are coming to see me and I listen, and I mean REALLY listen. Not just to the words, but the emotions behind the words. As you talk I try to understand what it is really like to be you. I may notice patterns or themes in what you tell me, and I offer these back to you. Between us we explore your issues, and shed light on areas that may have been hard for you to see.

Occasionally we may work in a creative way, in order to look at things from a slightly different angle. This engages our brains and our emotions in a different way and can often provide amazing insights and alternative perspectives which can be very enlightening. This may be writing something down, drawing something, or using some of the objects in my room BUT (and this is the really important bit) I would only ever do this if it felt appropriate to our work and I would never force anyone to do anything they were uncomfortable with. Sometimes clients hesitate because they are afraid of being analysed, but there are no “right” or “wrong” answers, and there are no trick questions, it is ALWAYS a collaborative exercise which we do and look at together.

All therapists are unique, so again this is about MY way of working, and others may do it slightly differently. But all the therapists I know would be only too happy to describe their way of working, so if you or someone you know is contemplating therapy, but nervous about what it involves. Please ask!

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International Women’s Day

8th March 2018

Today is to International Women’s Day! As women we are fed a lot of “shoulds” (sometimes disguised as “oughts” and “musts”) about what it is to be a woman by friends, family members, society, religion, and the workplace – amongst other sources. We internalise them and without thinking make them the rules for living our lives.

Adhering to some of these “shoulds” can tie in nicely with our personal morals ethics and beliefs, however adhering to others may repress and squash our true selves or cause us inner conflict.

My call for international women’s day is that every woman should be free to pay attention to their “shoulds”, evaluate them, challenge them, and chose whether to keep or dismiss them!

My top tip for evaluating “shoulds” is; re-word the sentence in your head! If you are hearing “I SHOULD......” change it to “I WANT TO......” and see if it still applies? You then have the choice whether you are going to act upon it, or take a different approach.

Let me know some of your “shoulds” that you struggle with.....and we can challenge them together!

Disclaimer: I am aware that there are also a lot of “shoulds” around what it means to be a man too, and my advice is exactly the same. Listen to the inner voice, evaluate it and challenge it!

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FAQ#4 Why would I tell a complete stranger my deepest, darkest thoughts!?

2nd March 2018

Good point! It can feel weird telling a stranger things that you may have not told anyone else – but in some ways it is easier. I don’t know you, your life, your family or friends. You don’t have to impress me or pretend to be something you’re not; you can just be you. I don’t have any other information about you apart from what you tell me, which can be really freeing. You can tell me as much or as little as you like. Hopefully as the trust begins to grow, you will tell me more and more. That helps me to understand you better, and I can therefore help you more effectively, but the important thing is that you chose what you say, when you say it and the words are yours.

It can feel risky putting yourself out there in front of someone else like that. My role is not to judge or tell you what to do, but to help.

Everything you tell me is confidential so you can tell me whatever you like safe in the knowledge that I am not going to be talking about it to my family, friends, or people in the corner shop. (There are a few exceptions to this due to certain legal and ethical responsibilities I hold, but these are made clear the first time we meet)

Then of course there is the fact that I am a fully trained professional who deals with similar issues on a daily basis, and knows how to help you. I won’t give you platitudes or tell you to pull yourself together – and that can be the big difference between telling me and telling other people in your life.

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FAQ#3 How does Counselling work?

19th February 2018

The answer to this question is really simple and yet really complicated! It is simple because research has shown that the most accurate predictor of how successful therapy will be, is the quality of the relationship between the client and their therapist. It is complicated because every client is different and every therapist is different and will approach the cultivation of that relationship in a different way. There are various different schools of therapy (I will try and address this in a later FAQ) and even two therapists who trained on the same course will work very differently because of who they are as individuals.

As a consequence I can only speak for how I work, rather than all therapists. But my first goal is to get to a point where you and I can work together. For this to happen, I need to get to know you. I need you to trust me enough to tell me things that you may never have had the ability or opportunity to say before, and in return I will always try to be real and honest in my responses. I am a great believer in the fact that YOU are the expert on YOUR life, so I will not try to guess or interpret what you have been through, or to tell you what to do. Instead I want to work WITH you; a true team effort! You put in your experience, I put in my expertise and together we work on a solution to your issue. The analogy of a journey is a common one in therapy – but I will never try to push or lead you down a certain path, but to walk along with you, providing support, and helping you to move any obstacles blocking your way.

Sounds simple right?! If only! Building a safe relationship can be hindered or complicated by things we have experienced and developed throughout the relationships we have had with all the people who matter in our lives – be it family, friends, or partners. Therefore the time it takes to get to that therapeutic point can vary, but when we do, it can provide immense amounts of healing – which then filters out into those outside relationships for the future.

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FAQ #2 How many sessions will I need?

9th February 2018

Ah.... I get asked this a lot! And it’s almost impossible to answer! The first thing to say is; you can have as many sessions as you like - I will keep working with you for as long as you feel you need me. Sadly there is no prescription as to how many weeks that will take. Everyone is different; some find that once they have got everything off their chest, they feel a lot better, whereas others find that what they thought was a one-dimensional issue, is actually more complicated and needs more work than they had first anticipated. My approach is to ask when we first meet what you hope to achieve, and then approximately every six weeks we can review how you feel it is going, and of course you may stop at any time.

One of the reasons I am asked this question is because of the cost, which is perfectly understandable. Paying an extra £45 per week can seem like a big commitment, particularly when I cannot tell you how long for! If money IS tight, what may help is to work out how many sessions you can afford to commit to at the beginning (eg 6,12 etc) and then we can work with that time frame in mind.

There is probably a cynical perception that of course I want you to keep coming, because you are paying me! Yes counselling is my business but in all honestly, I would NEVER tell someone to keep coming if I didn’t think there was a therapeutic need. Firstly it is against my ethical beliefs (and the professional code of conduct I adhere to) but also, if someone is there when they don’t want to be – it quite simply won’t work!

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Conversations: Mental Health vs Dental Health

1st February 2018

Today is Time to Talk Day – set up by the charity whose mission is to get people talking about Mental Health and begin to chip away at the stigma surrounding it.

This is something I am REALLY passionate about. My analogy is that I would love to hear people talk about Mental Health the same way they talk about Dental Health! Dental Health conversations go a little like this:

  1. “My boss understands I’m going to be a bit late this morning because I have a Dentist’s appointment”.
  2. “I’ve been really struggling with toothache, I think I might need to go and see someone”
  3. “Can you recommend a good Dentist?” “Oh yes, mine’s great, been going there for years, let me give you the details!”
  4. “I made an appointment with my Dentist because things were getting bad”.
  5. “I have regular check- ups to ensure I stay on top of my Dental Health”.
  6. “I talk to my kids about the importance of Dental Health”.

Judgement free! No fear! Just Imagine how wonderful it would be if the same was true for THESE conversations:

  1. “My boss understands I’m going to be a bit late this morning because I have a counselling appointment”.
  2. “I’ve been really struggling with anxiety, I think I might need to go and see someone”
  3. “Can you recommend a good Therapist?” “Oh yes, mine’s great, been going there for years, let me give you the details!”
  4. “I made an appointment with my therapist because things were getting bad”
  5. “I have regular check-ups to ensure I stay on top of my Mental Health”
  6. “I talk to my kids about the importance of Mental Health”

You get the idea! Mental Health struggles are hard enough without having to worry about what people will say, whether your boss will find out, or keeping it a secret from friends. Please help start these conversations and banish the stigma! #timetotalk

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FAQ #1 Who can benefit from therapy?

26th January 2018

Well the glib answer is; ANYONE can benefit from therapy! But in all seriousness a lot of people think that you have to be suicidal or sectionable to have therapy (“oh I’m not that bad!”).

Now, absolutely I can and will help those who are really ill, or at a real crisis point in their lives, but they are not the only people who benefit from therapy. There are lots of things that can make day to day life unbearable: It might be feeling low, not being able to motivate yourself or enjoy things fully. It may be anxiety about a certain event or situation you find yourself in, or it may be problems in a relationship with someone in your life be it a parent, child, spouse, sibling or colleague.

Lots of people who sit opposite me say something along the lines of “I feel a bit of a fraud because there must be loads of people in worse situations that me” but my reply is always this; if there is something you are struggling with, which is preventing you from living your life the way you want to, then that is as valid as any other struggle - and I am here to help.

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