Category Archives: Counselling

Is your teen struggling with self harm?

I think that being a parent of teens in 2017 can be quite terrifying. Never has the world been more connected and yet families are becoming more disconnected. Children are subject to many influences each day through social media. Trends spread like wildfire. In my experience, people cut for several reasons:

  • They do not have the coping skills for dealing with strong emotions
  • They may feel worthless and angry with themselves and therefore cut to release the pain
  • They may make mistakes and cut to punish themselves
  • Some feel emotionally numb and the pain from cutting is temporally stimulating
  • Their families are in turmoil and the cutting releases anxiety. They may be the ones that are showing stress because of what is going on in the family circle
  • They have periods of intense sadness and seem disconnected
  • There friends are doing it, so they try it and become almost addicted to the sensation and adrenaline rush

Primarily, cutting is a maladaptive response to emotional problems and should not be taken lightly. Your teenager could also be suffering from symptoms of depression and should be checked out by a mental health professional.  Cognitive behavioural therapy may help to change thoughts and behaviors.   Do not just hope that they will “grow out of it”.  They need to learn better coping skills and the matter should be immediately addressed.  With better coping skills, their symptoms can be remedied.

Keep the lines of communication open with your teen. Have open discussions with them.  Canvas their opinions.  Practice empathy. If you are cutting, talk to your parents and ask for their help.

         

         

         

 

 

 

You will marry the wrong person

This headline caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. Don’t we go to great length to marry the right person?  We date for a while, get to know them, get to know their families, colleagues, friends, etc.  We try to ensure that we share their interests – and even after that – we have zero chance of marrying the right person?

Why? Because unless we married a clone of ourselves, there is no person on this earth that will understand all our needs, wants, desires, etc.  We marry, then throw two family systems into the mix, add a couple of kids, and expect that we will grow at the same rate.  Events can and will alter our lives completely.   There will be times when we need comforting and our partner is not really conscious of this need.  The idea that all needs will be fulfilled in a marriage is totally unrealistic – as we are married to a person who has diverse wants and needs of their own.

Before marriage we rarely delve into the complexities of living closely with a partner. We are hopeful, optimistic, romantic and so is our partner.  However, marriage moves us onto a different plane – admin and financial planning, running a suburban home,  giving up our independence, learning how to bring up kids, navigating life events, work frustrations, etc.   The only ingredient that we have in common when we embark on life as a couple is our partner.

Do we fully understand ourselves, anyway? So how can we fully understand another?

If the above is true, it follows that we will probably choose a so-called “wrong” person. However, this can be good news.  Alain de Botton states  that all we need to do is “let go of the romantic idea upon which the Western understanding of marriage has been based for the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.”  Once we let go of that notion, we stop expecting all our needs to be met, and become used to the idea that sometimes they won’t be.

We need to choose our partner carefully and then hope that we will marry a “more right than totally wrong” person, who is good at negotiating differences in taste, and tries to be “more right” for you. We must avoid rushing into unions because we are lonely or feel that “time is passing us by.” We need to be aware that the nice feeling of romanticism will not last, but can be replaced by understanding, open communication, and a willingness to try and satisfy our partner’s needs.

The good news is that you can make it work. Get rid of the notion that your union is not “normal” and learn to accommodate the “wrongness”, and strive for a more forgiving, respectful and kind perspective.

Taken from an article by Alain de Botton in the New York Times. May 28th 2016.  Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) is the author of the novel “The Course of Love.”

 

A LOOK AT RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK

There is a lot of information available about what can damage a relationship, but very little on what to do to have a good relationship.  These are some of the things I have noticed about couples in good relationships.

  • They have open communication – they take time to talk about their relationship and ask what part they can play to make the other happier. They take turns to find out what the other needs. They have the courage to be open and truthful. Avoiding issues often leads to frustration and estrangement.  They practice constructive discussions. If you can’t discuss these issues without getting into arguments, have a one off session with a counsellor.  Inform him/her what the agenda is.
  • They commit to the basic values underlying the relationship or the “relationship rules“. These mutual agreements are the foundation on which any relationship is built. They reach agreement on what is “kind” and “respectful”   and update these “rules” when new issues arise.   Think win = win.  I often have couples that come to counselling within the first year or two of getting married. Most of their issues arise because of a lack of discussion on basic values and how each sees the way forward.
  • They try to feel their partner’s pain. They care about what hurts each other. Put yourself on the back burner and offer empathy, compassion and caring, even if it does not particularly resonate with you. Hopefully they will return the empathy when you need it.
  • They try not to be selfish and endeavour to put their partner’s needs before their own. This can be a difficult one. After all, whose needs should come first? Sometimes we have to sacrifice our needs for what the other needs at the time.  Partners who love each other deeply constantly keep their mate’s needs in mind.  Unselfish emotional chivalry usually is rewarded in kind.
  • They keep an emotional hotline open at all times. They are emotionally receptive and in times of trouble, offer emotional support and compassion, without expecting anything back.
  • They are courageous and strong when needed. Let your partner know that you have got their back. Capitalize on each other’s strengths and your relationship will feel emotionally safe.
  • They believe that their partner is committed to doing his/her best, even if sometimes it does not feel like it. Great couples believe that their partner is doing the best that they can under the circumstances. Trust each other’s good intentions instead of being critical.
  • They do not kick the other when they are down. Be tuned into their failings and self-criticism and do your best to lift them up. Tell him/her what you love about them.
  • They appreciate each other and keep in mind that the “now” is all there is. True security is often an illusion. Treasure each other and be thankful for their presence in your life.  Tell them!
  • They keep confidentiality and honour individual boundaries to build trust. Keep your partner’s secrets for a lasting relationship. No one likes to feel betrayed.  If you are unsure about what can be shared, ask permission.  That is respectful.
  • They validate their partner’s desires. You may have different needs at different times, and commit to being fair. Whether it is sexual frequency, external shared interests, family obligations, etc. Give in sometimes and give them the space that they need – when they need it.
  • They practice resilience and commit to the relationship for the long haul. People in great relationships literally don’t want to lose each other. All relationships have some heartbreaks and ruptures, but the winners are those who navigate the speed bumps and let their partners know that they will not shut each other out.  They commit their energy to trying harder to work out their problems and keep the emotional connection alive.  Remember, change starts with you.[i]
[i][i] Thanks to Randi Gunther for her excellent article on the 14 secrets to having a great relationships – it inspired this blog.

Continue reading A LOOK AT RELATIONSHIPS THAT WORK

What you can expect from your therapist

I often find that individuals enter therapy with certain worries.  They worry about the therapist judging them, perhaps telling them to do something that they don’t want to.  Often couples fear that the therapist may “tell them to get divorced”.

I do my best to dispel those fears, but I thought that it might be a good idea to explain the therapy process because there does not seem to be much education in that regard.  Most insights into the therapy process are gleaned from the experiences of friends and family.

First of all, according to Carl Rogers – it is the relationship between the therapist and patient that heals.  Not all patients can relate to a particular therapist, so it’s a good idea to go to the first session with that in mind.  If you do not relate, then look for another therapist.  Trained counsellors are aware of this fact and are quite open to recommending a colleague if you feel it could be a better  fit.  Nothing takes precedence over building a trusting relationship with the patient.  In fact, the effective therapist relates to the patient in a genuine, unconditionally supportive and empatic manner.  For a creative session to take place, the counsellor needs to abandon a position of certainty.  No therapist can predict the outcome of the therapy and needs to adopt a position of “not knowing”  or learning.  The patient is the expert on their lives, and the therapist functions more as a companion or guide than an expert.

In his memoir, Karl Jung, commented that therapist need sto invent a new therapy language for each patient.  I strongly agree, and often I will adopt the patient’s “language” to build a strong  connection.  We also may, at some point, as long as it is in the best interests of the patient, alsoreveal certain details of his/her personal life, in an effort to be authentic and genuine.  I often get complaints from patients who have found their therapist too removed, too remote.  I have never heard of a patient who complains that the therapist is too engaged, too interactive, too personal.

So we:

  • Do show unconditional positive regard. That is the first step.
  • Rarely give advice. Often sketch different scenarios, to illustrate alternatives to the patient.
  • Don’t judge or take sides in a couple’s therapy session.
  • become the partner on the journey in a safe, confidential space with the patient.
  • Are bound to a strict code of ethics and confidentiality
  • Can be objective as a patient sketches a scenario. We do not have an emotional investment in the outcome.
  • Do enter the patient’s world, wholeheartedly, and provide a safe space where alternatives can be explored
  • We enter the patient’s world where they are, go at their pace and collaborate with them to make the changes they desire.

 

 

 

 

How to become a more loving partner

Do you put as much effort into your relationship as you do in your work?

 We are in a relationship to fulfil the needs of our partner – not our own.  Do you ever think of that?  If your partner concentrates on your needs and you concentrate on his/her needs, then everybody should be happy.  Makes sense, doesn’t it!

However, much of the time we are in a “me, me me” frame of mind, focussing on what we need, want or long for.  Try switching this around and take some time to grasp what your partner feels and experiences when interacting with you.  Be kind and engage in behaviour that meets their wants and desires.  In fact, do you even know what your partner wants or desires?    Take the time to communicate and find out.

Listen; truly listen – with your ears, eyes and heart.  See that your partner feels heard and that what concerns him/her really concerns you.  We live in distracting times with a lot of sensory overload, so when listening, we need to tune out any distractions.

When your partner says that are not feeling well – how do you react?  Do you say “Oh, no, not again – or do you show some care and concern? Little acts of kindness can go a long way.  Just giving your partner a hug – or bringing them a cup of tea -can change the dynamic of your day and theirs too.  Try a little tenderness.

Don’t play tit for tat!  You do not have to win every argument.  Sometimes it is okay to say “it is more important for me to stay close to you and it is to win the argument”.  If you start feeling angry, take hold of yourself and calm down.  Next week, you may not even remember what the argument was about.

Above all, treat your partner as you would like to be treated – and if you are unsure of how they would like to be treated – ask them!

 

Should I visit a Therapist?

Are you thinking of going for therapy?  Preferably not the long term kind?  While identifying and diagnosing conditions rests with the psychiatric profession, short term help with distress, trauma or difficulty with relationships is the domain of the therapist or registered counsellor.

There are some signs that it may be time to seek professional help.  They are:

  1. You have suffered a traumatic incident, and you cant stop thinking about it.  This need not necessarily be linked to something violent, as trauma comes in various forms, and death of a loved one,  divorce or a break-up can be equally traumatizing.
  2. You are feeling a bit “down” and have done for a while.  You also may have varied physical ailments i.e. headaches, gastric disturbances, etc.  There is often a link between the physical and the emotional, which can manifest as physical symptoms. Have yourself checked out by your GP to rule out a medical condition.
  3. To cope with your life, you are self medicating with substances such as over-the-counter tablets, alchohol and cigarettes.  Life in SA is particularly stressful, deadlines are looming, and you have been neglecting exercise, healthy eating, mediatation, etc.  If you are constantly feeling anxious, you need to get help.
  4. You are irritated and snappy most of the time and are pushing the boundaries of your most cherished relationships.   Perhaps it is not the relationship, but your view that is causing difficulties.  It is often easier to externalise, than look at yourself with a critical eye. Perhaps some of your friends have shown concern?
  5. You have been missing deadlines and have been underperforming at work. You may feel a bit disconnected from the job you used to love, and your attention and concentration are suffering.
  6. You are not enjoying your activities as much as you used to.  Often a session with a therapist can help you regain your focus and assist you to see new possibilities.
  7. You have been living with strained or uncomfortable relationships for too long.  Visit a solution focussed therapist to discuss, review and look at possibilities.

As a solution focussed therapist, I collaborate with the client to isolate the difficulties and work towards solutions, all the while taking a warm empathic, non judgemental stance.  Call for an appointment on 0117873486

 

 

 

 

 

Why be mindful?

water lily reflection

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. This involves thinking present tense, paying attention on purpose, being curious and being accepting of what is going on around you.

To train your brain to be mindful, you need to :

♦️Pay attention

♦️Focus on the feeling of your own breathing

♦️Be conscious of your thoughts and focus on what is most predominant in your awareness. For example, the sounds, sights, feelings, the weight of your body, and the rythm of your breathing.

♦️Acknowledge the awareness of the present moment, giving yourself space to heal, reducing stress, anxiety, intensity Of pain and feelings of depression.

Why is self knowledge useful?

According to the Indian Sage, Ramana Maharshi:
“Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s Self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes”