We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”
I’ve written Facebook and Instagram posts for the last few days, about the importance of boundaries. I've focused so far on personal boundaries. ( I thought I would try and put the main takeaways into a blog ( if your anything like me and can't find anything twice, once I've scrolled past it, it's probably gone for good)
Boundaries are often thought about in terms of helping us to learn right from wrong. They can also help us to establish our comfort zones, what it is that we value when thinking about our own personal space and feeling safe.
Let's consider the workplace. This is one of the areas in life where there are likely to be guidelines, policies and procedures to help guide us, they will give us a framework, goals and targets to work towards, depending on what it is that you do to achieve the best possible outcomes.
As a counsellor/ therapist I adhere to the BACP ethical framework to help me ensure I am always working in your best interest.
Our boundaries can help set the limits for what we are comfortable with, it sets the tone for what is acceptable behaviour for us and others. They also give others some indication of how far they can put us, put you down, make fun of us and take advantage of our good nature
At times in our personal lives, we might neglect our own boundaries to please others and whilst it may make them happy it can mean we begin to feel anxious, resentful and angry.
Some common ones are:
The more that we recognise, when our boundaries are becoming blurred the quicker we can work to rebuild them.
When our personal boundaries are overstepped, it can mean that unhealthy boundaries are developed affecting the way we feel and think about ourselves, finding ourselves uncertain of us we are, before we know it our identity has become mixed up with others, lowering how worthy we feel, we can feel somewhat out of touch with our feelings.
Setting boundaries does not always come easily. It's often a skill that needs to be learned. As children, we often learn through observation and imitating the behaviour of those around us. If we didn't have anyone to show us the ropes (black country dialect) in other words model the behaviour expected from us it can be tough.
We all want to be liked, so it’s not uncommon when thinking about doing this, that we are met with some anxiety (we talk about this in our staying calm in the face of COVID blog) and feel scared that rebuilding boundaries will push people out of their lives or risk being called selfish. Putting you first doesn't make you selfish. It means you recognise that you can not ignore or deprioritise you and expect to have a self left.
Stick with it!
I know a lot about boundaries now, what do I do?
List the boundaries you want to rebuild or strengthen. This can help make the process more concrete in the form of a structured goal, consider what this looks and feels like right now, and how it will feel once it has been rebuilt.
Okay, but I wanted to be able to help myself how can I?
Begin with the following steps
Step 1 : Know your limits
Think about your experiences, past and present notice when things didn't feel comfortable for you, times when you felt frustrated with someone. This will help you to recognise when your boundaries and being crossed. You could also consider what actions you could take to lessen those feelings of discomfort to feel safe again.
Step 2 : Be assertive
Being assertive often means we need to explain what we want and need, this can be challenging if we are normally the people in agreement with others.
It may feel strange, to begin with, remember we don't have endless amounts of energy, we are human and will feel tired, don't let keeping others happy mean they take away yours
As always we are all individual, and what works for one person may not work for another. Please feel free to take what you need, adapting it to suit you and your needs.
Still have questions or want to discuss this further
People believe that positive thinking is about thinking that "everything will work out great all of the time" it isn't. It is about focusing on the present, what is going well and what they can do to make a situation better. - Will Bowen
I wrote a Facebook and Instagram post only a few days ago, about how the level of stress we can handle feels much less than usual for us right now. When we are stressed, it can affect our ability to think rationally and to regulate our emotions, meaning the way we respond to situations is more chaotic or rigid than usual.
It is often the anxiety within us that responds first to stressful situations.
It is the body's alarm and survival mechanism. Our body's way of attempting to protect us and response to danger. This happens whether the danger is real, or whether we believe the danger is there when there is none. ( I like to think of it as a button that is pushed when we are in danger that sometimes gets pushed at the wrong times or becomes a little stuck)
It's safe to say the Coronavirus has brought for many of us, massive amounts of anxiety, uncertainty and fear
Before we know it we can find ourselves caught up in what if statements where our perceptions of situations and circumstances become skewed, developing patterns of thinking that are irrational, they are so subtle that it can be difficult to recognise them.
Some of the most common ones are:
The more we can recognise that our thoughts aren’t always helpful, that thoughts are not fact and are often driven by our emotions and the way we feel.
I know more about stress and how this can influence my feelings and behaviour now what do I do?
When we are anxious we breathe shorter, shallower breaths so this it a way of calming giving our body the oxygen it needs
Step 1: Place your hand on your tummy and breathe in slowly through your nose to fill your lungs with air. Imagining there is a balloon inside your tummy. Every time you breathe in, the balloon inflates. Notice the sensations in your tummy, your tummy rising with the in-breath.
Step 2: Now open your mouth and slowly blow all of the air back out of your lungs, when you breathe out the balloon deflates. Allow your tummy to sink. Notice the sensations in your tummy as it falls with the out-breath
Remember that thoughts will come into your mind, and that’s okay.
We have that covered too!
Simply notice those thoughts, you don't have to follow them, judge yourself for having them or analyse them. Let them drift away as you bring your attention back to your breathing.
Okay, but I wanted to be able to help myself how can I?
Try and create some certainty for yourself with a new temporary routine that will help to calm any anxious gremlins that are going around in our heads.
In the morning
During the day
In the evening
We are all individual, and what works for one person may not work for another. Please feel free to take what you need, adapting it to suit you and your needs.
If you are accessing support through therapy/ counselling ask if your session can take place online or over the phone. If you would like to discuss this further or anything covered in this blog
When people think of therapy/ counselling the image that often comes to mind two people in a room talking (I must give credit where it's due) it can look a lot like that if working face to face but it doesn't have to. Therapy/counselling can and does take place online. Many people have been a little skeptical about working in this way questioning whether it is 'proper' counselling.
The journey is totally individual and what works for one person, may not work for you. Whether you have tried face to face counselling and it wasn’t what you were after or it might not feel like an option for you right now, there are other ways to access support. I work via the online and via a webcam.
The practical side of it: Telephone counselling is pretty much as it sounds. You can use the zoom software to make calls which is free or use the 'normal’ telephone we can do this, it would mean that you would need to make the call and the costs of these. Webcam Counselling you'll need a device that has a webcam. It could be a laptop/ desktop, phone or tablet with a stable internet connection. If you've ever chatted to family and friends in Facetime it is a lot like communicating in that way.
I use Zoom or Vsee which is a confidential platform, accessible either via their website or app. I send out instructions (a step by step guide) on how to do this. I can also send an email link for each session for those of you who prefer not to download apps and software
Is this suitable for everyone?
Many difficulties people are facing can be worked with online. One of the biggest challenges to working in this way would be a lack of confidence using technology. You will also need to find a safe confidential space where you won't be disturbed for each session you will be meeting with the therapist/counsellor. Many therapists/ counsellors during their initial conversations will give you the opportunity to explore if this feels like the most suitable way of working for you.
Why might I decide online counselling as opposed to face to face?
There are many reasons people choose online counselling. It offers a solution to various difficulties that can be associated with accessing counselling face to face. Check out my therapy page for more information.
Some of the things you might enjoy about online therapy are:
• You can create a comfortable and private space in your own home from which to attend therapy.
• You may find it easy to talk, focus and express yourself.
• You may enjoy wearing comfortable clothes, bringing a cup of tea and avoiding a commute after a therapy session.
Your pet is welcome to join you; however, we will need to be mindful of them distracting us (I have a soft spot for pets especially dogs!)
• There can be more flexibility with appointments
• Support can continue despite the pandemic.
What should I look for when choosing a therapist/counsellor who works online?
I mentioned in a previous blog that counselling within the UK is not a regulated profession. There are training providers such as ACTO who make sure counsellors have the right training to work online. I am a professional member of their accrediting body, so checking out where therapist/ counsellors trained to work in this way is really important. ACTO (Association for Counselling and Therapy Online) has a list of their members here.
Working online has been said to have the same success rate and positive outcomes as face to face counselling but there are definitely differences and things to be mindful of. Please check out my previous blog which covers 10 things to consider when choosing a counsellor.
Working with me online.
As with all therapy/counselling irrespective of the way it is accessed. I offer a free 20-minute consultation over the telephone to give you the chance to answer any questions you might have. It gives both of us a chance to get to know each other better. A quick chat over the phone means you can see whether you feel a natural 'click'.
Don't feel pressured to decide right away take as much time as you need. If you do decide to work with me I will send a contract which talks about how I work confidentiality. There is also an assessment section which helps me to gain a better understanding of where you are at and what you would like to gain from therapy/counselling
Still have questions or want to discuss this further
I was recently saddened by a comment made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's post ''If you’re home and feeling bored, during the ongoing coronavirus crisis doing short online training courses to become a counsellor' These comments are dangerous and have the potential to cause harm
In the UK counsellors are not under statutory regulations meaning there are no laws to prevent people without skills and training calling themselves counsellors. Many online courses can be used to fool people into thinking when these are completed they can work with people who are feeling particularly vulnerable.
Therapists/Counsellors adhere to high ethical and practice standards to ensure they help their clients to improve their psychological wellbeing
1) Do your research
Check any therapists/counsellors you've come across are a Registered member of an awarding body. You may have noticed a few logos BACP and ACTO who are the awarding bodies I belong too. The BACP and ACTO have registers you can use to check this out. It can provide reassure and comfort that you are in safe hands.
2) Ask questions about qualifications
In the UK a counsellor should have gained a degree or at a minimum, a level 4 diploma.
3) Ask about the length of the training and what it entailed
If the 'therapist/counsellor' was able to gain their qualification within 10 minutes it is not enough. Most reputable courses have minimum requirements and standards to meet before achieving the qualification. I had therapy myself for almost 2 years (the length of my training) to make sure I had processed anything going on for me. I also had to complete 100 client hours for my diploma course.
4) Check they have regular supervision
This is really important and forms part of ensuring clients the best possible care and support, that counsellors are working in the best interest of those they work with.
All therapists/counsellors should have monthly supervision with a qualified supervisor to make sure that they are working ethically.
5) Are they working within their competency level?
When people decide they are going to access counselling it can be for a range of reasons, bereavement or self-harm for example. You might want to find out about any additional training or experience they have in any areas they could be connected to what is bothering you.
All therapists/ counsellors should be committed to developing their skills and knowledge, Many awarding bodies state a minimum number of hours continued professional development they are required to complete each year.
If they don't have experience or training in an area that you are struggling with it does not mean they won't be able to support you but allows you to decide what feels right for you and make an informed decision.
6) Find out how they work.
I work face to face offering a confidential, safe environment as well as working online via webcam or telephone
There is no need to decide on one rigid approach or way of working, it is about meeting your needs so if life demands get in the way of you attending face to face, if you feeling unwell, like you could do without travelling then we could combine the two
I work short term and on an open-ended basis.
7) Don't feel pressured to make a decision right away
The decision to seek counselling can feel scary and unsettling, Finding a therapist/ counsellor that is the right match for you is really important.
It is, for this reason, I offer a free 20 - minute consultation over the telephone to give you the chance to answer any questions you might have. It gives both of us a chance to get to know each other better. A quick chat over the phone means you can see whether you feel a natural 'click'.
Don't feel pressured to decide right away take as much time as you need. Take the time to speak to at least 2 - 3 therapists initially so you have a good point of comparison to work with and who you feel most comfortable with.
8) Trust your instinct
Research has shown that taking note of your gut feeling and what feels right for you is paramount. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to defining a connection. Sometimes it’s there, other times it's not, so trust your gut as much as you can
The relationship between you and the therapist/counsellor influences the success and outcomes of the process.
The relationship with your therapist /counsellor needs to be based on trust. It's important you feel comfortable sharing time and space with them each week. It also means feeling comfortable enough to tackle the painful stuff too.
In my view it's a privilege when someone chooses me as their therapist, trusting me during those times they are feeling immense personal pain.
9) Read your contract
The contract between you and the therapist/counsellor sets out important aspects such as confidentiality, privacy policies and what happens if you can’t make a session. Make sure you read this carefully and ask any questions that you need to in order to feel comfortable going forward.
1O) Be wary of therapists/ counsellors that offer too many reassurances or guarantees
There are no guarantees with counselling! You should discuss goals and your counsellor will explore with you your hopes and where you would like to get too. One of the questions I ask in the assessment looks at this, something to consider from the outset, however, these may change throughout the process but no one can offer you a guaranteed outcome.
You may not feel you need to ask all of these questions, there are no set rules but the most important thing is that you feel that you can. Remember that there is never any obligation to continue with a counsellor, if at any point you feel unsafe or uncertain you can bring it to an end. You should feel empowered and able to take charge.
1) Do I need lots of money for counselling?
Therapy can and sometimes does take time, this though is not always the case. I believe people are unique and individual, no two people are the same and so neither will their journey in therapy. You may be saying to yourself I know [.....] he/ she has been in therapy for what feels like forever.This may be so for them.
It may not be the same for you,it is important to think about what you would like to achieve? what your goals are? what is the challenge/ difficulty that has brought you to my website right now?. If you have answers on the tip of your tongue, hold them, this is the type of discussion we will have if you decide to have a free 20-minute consultation with me and within our first session if we decide we can work together
For some, a series of short term session, between 8 and 15 sessions is all that is needed for goals which have been set for therapy to be achieved. Others may feel their goals are more complex and so require being accompanied on their journey for months or more. Remember you know yourself better than anyone else, you are the expert on yourself, you have the choice to choose how long you are in therapy for if for any reason you felt was not for you, you have the option to end therapy
I’d like to think that I am a good enough therapist, one who invests my time in helping you to cope/ manage life's challenges more effectively, by this I mean supporting you in developing your own ‘toolkit’ allowing you to choose the most suitable tool to help you cope at any given time. Hopefully, this will mean that at the end of your journey in therapy you will no longer need me to accompany you, being more independently, taking your toolkit with you.
2) Why can't I sort my problems out?
When trying to work through our problems alone it is all too easy for us to get ‘stuck’ in our head finding ourselves going over and over them. We might get caught up in believing keeping everything to ourselves makes us strong. It could be that you feel you can't get support from your family because you don't want to upset or burden them with things that are going on for you.
You may be saying people have no idea about how hard im working ‘im like a duck on the calm on the surface, moving along the water without much effort but paddling like hell underneath
Sometimes it can be helpful to speak to someone like a therapist who is not involved in your situation. It can allow you to speak about anything that is bothering you without fear of upsetting, offending anyone, you can share in a safe place knowing that what you may share will not become the topic of conversation if someone innocently tells someone else what you are going through. If any of this describe anything like what is going on for you right now,
As a therapist i am trained to help you discover your ‘blind spots’ things you are not aware of, therapy can help you to become more aware of things that are hidden which can help you to see things from a different perspective
All therapy sessions are unique tailored to meet your individual needs, interested in your personal experience
3) Is counselling for crisis?
Those who are in crisis when they have been struggling for some time to face challenging on their own, feeling as if they are no longer able to cope. However this is not always the reason people enter into therapy. Some people realise they are ‘ trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts which are holding them back from moving forward in life, others feel they need support with relationships as they feel things are going wrong. Whilst for others might want to feel better about themselves. The list is endless when we think about the challenges that life can throw at us. In my opinion talking through them with someone is a positive step to take
4) Does counselling mean I'm weak?
All too often we think that being strong is about not being affected by challenges situations in life. People can become very good at using ‘facades’. In simple terms this means showing on the outside a particular emotion or behaviour as a way of ‘ hiding’ what they are feeling on the inside.
It can take enormous amounts of strength to recognise that this right now is taking up too much effort and to make the decision to let someone in to accompany you in facing these challenges. This could not only allow you the potential to feel freer, to be the real you but also think about how you might about to use all of that extra energy
5) Will counselling give me answers?
You don't have any solutions to your problems yet! When we are faced with those times when we are struggling to cope, when life isn't moving in the direction we hoped it would our friends and family may notice and offer some advice. These people know and care about us so want to help. They often come to us with suggestions of what they feel might be best for us. If you find yourself nodding as you are reading this but find yourself saying their advice isn't working for me. I would imagine that all suggestions are well - intended
Family and friends, having people to talk to can be really positive for our well being, having said this what works for one person may not work for another, this may be because our experience of a situation are different.
As a therapist, I do not feel I am in a position to offer you advice, I may occasionally offer you information if I feel it will be of benefit to you. I trust that you have resources within yourself to find solutions to any difficulties you may be facing. You know yourself better than anyone else. I see my role as one in which I encourage you to explore what is bothering you. In the hope that you will have a clearer view of your situation, meaning you can then decide what is best, sometimes we may need help to discover this.
As a therapist I have supported people a range of difficulties, some face challenges in being able to talk about to openly speak about what they need too. A blog can allow you space to read around a topic,offer additional support when you need you. I enjoy the process of seeing client grow and develop as they make changes to their journey, begin to take a different path despite not being entirely sure about where they are going or even where they may end up.
The purpose of blogging for me is to connect with you, to provide additional support on various topics. I want this to be a place you come to when uncertainty arises or on those occasions you may be looking for some reassurance. I want to connect with you and understand the difficulties you are facing. It is important that this is a supportive environment, promoting your abilities to use intuition, reasoning and creativity trusting in the way you view the world believing in your dignity and worth
My approach to blogging is going to be similar to that if you were to choose me as your therapist by this I mean I want you to take charge. If you'd like to see a particular topic covered let me know and I'll do my best to cover it.