Have a look at www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Victims/

I just stumbled on this site – some astonishing stories on this website about reactions to all kinds of health problems, not just cancer. Sharing these stories is a valuable message to us all to do our research and make informed decisions.

It seems to me that fear and a breakdown in communication and support networks are the themes here. So important if you have clients going through health crises that you establish who they are talking to and drawing strength from.

Our next workshop is on Saturday 5th October and will be about understanding and working with depression.

  • What is it and how does it manifest?
  • What is happening in our bodies when we are depressed?
  • How does our childhood play a part? What about genetics?
  • How can we work with clients who are depressed?

We will be looking at the major life events which can bring depression into our lives as well as the mundane influences that can trigger or make worse existing depression. We will look at techniques for managing the common effects of depression including anxiety.

The day will be interactive with some practical activities and case study work. There will be opportunities to network with other counsellors from a variety of placements and practices and a lovely cold buffet lunch is included in the price.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss or want to book your place – we keep numbers small so everyone can get the most from the day so don’t delay. We will accept post-dated cheques to reserve your place.

Click here for an application form.
Contact: Mo Smith, mosmith@btconnect.com, 07885674218

Saturday 5th October 2019

Easton on the Hill Village Hall, New Road, Easton on the Hill, PE9 3NN

10am – 4.00pm (9.30am registration and coffee)

Cost: £70.00 includes refreshments and light lunch.


Those who have come to our workshops or who know us personally know that I have a special relationship with my mum, Mo. Sometimes it’s about bantering and bickering, being a foil and a mirror. Over the years it has been explosive, sullen, hilarious and uncomfortable. There have been painful years and loving ones. Things have settled down now I think and though there are still ups and downs, we each now try to accept the other’s flaws and preferences. And now I’m an adult and we’ve both acknowledged our demons and the ever-hungry past, we try to give each other mutual respect and most importantly time.

She spends time listening to me rant and ramble about the latest anxiety in my heart or waits for me to tell her in detail why she’s got something wrong. I spend time listening to her telling me what I should do to better care for myself and sharing with me her fears and ideas. And we each make sure to pick up. “That’s why it’s called a mobile!” is a common refrain in my family. We have to be available to each other. I hated this when I was younger but now there’s a comfort in being able to check in – to know that the person in my corner is there right now and I can reach out any time I want to.

Mum’s been on holiday recently and when she came back she felt like she hadn’t spoken to me for weeks. A text and a phone call did not register as the usual and comforting amount of contact she needs from me. This is a good example of relativity with relatives. We all experience time differently. When we’re older time can seem to fly by, but it can also drag heavily. It depends on what else is going on.

Mum had so many different experiences while she was away. She’s used to downloading experience to me on a regular basis – a constant drip drip of our lives that we share with each other. On holiday lots happened and I was nowhere to be found. This is what made it seem like a long time to her. For my part, I’ve been busy and for me the time has raced by but without anything surprising or new. I honestly didn’t register the fact that I hadn’t talked to her.

So what am I saying here? I’m saying, look at the people in your life or the clients in your room and walk a moment in their shoes. Do they experience things the way you do? Is their life blurring by – in need of a mindful spoke in the wheels to gain some perspective? Or maybe it’s trudging ahead, barely moving forward with each day an interminable and endless horizon that they feel like they never reach? Time is a tool – but can be a runaway train.

We’ve just decided to cancel our next workshop in June as so many of our favourite students have told us they can’t make it because of prior commitments.

We don’t usually hold one in June and now I remember why – so much happening in everyone’s lives. There are exams, and exams finally finishing – an end to months of anticipation, worry, stress and sleeplessness. There are trips to potential universities – trips full of excitement and adventure but also heart-pulling trepidation and concern. Some are on holiday taking advantage of term time rates and early summer heat. There are weddings and parties, day trips and family outings. Everyone it seems has something to do! So Mo and I decided to bow out gracefully before our preparations got too advanced.

It made me think though about how often we all stick to our guns when we really should think again. Sometimes we anticipate the blame and fallout that might rain down on us, the i-told-you-sos and why-didn’t-you-thinks. Sometimes we look at the steps we’ve already taken down our little path and cannot entertain even the idea of going backward.

But sometimes, going backward is the forward-thinking thing to do. It enables us to breathe easy, the relief of no longer trying to force something into being. It enables us to plan for something better, having learned lessons and then to find a way to work without the restrictions that so concerned us before.

In our case, we’re going to postpone this particular workshop until next year. We’re going to do one as planned in the Autumn which will probably look at depression and anxiety, and hopefully schedules will smile on us.

For all of you who are racing around the world with families, pets, cars and studies in tow – find a space for yourself each and every day and ask yourself if you’re moving in the right direction. Then breathe in and out, think about your favourite movie star for a whole minute, and go and make yourself a cuppa.

Our next workshop is Saturday 15th June and will be a day of learning how to use crafts to explore hidden issues

You will be drawing from your own lives and taking part in activities that encourage thinking, feeling, ideas and connections. We believe in learning by doing so the idea will be to try out these techniques on yourself first before using them with your clients. Our workshops are safe spaces and only one other attendee will see your work; however, there’s nothing to stop you from choosing material from a client’s life or a made up case study if you don’t want to use your own experiences.

We are going to explore your anger – for example, how it feels, what triggers it, what associations it has. We are going to think about the people in your life and the structure they form around you, each playing a role in the whole. And we are also going to do an exercise aimed at dealing with generalised anxiety, unpacking worries and setting goals.

We will provide all the materials you need and guide you through the activities, discussing their application and giving guidance on the use of such techniques with your clients – including options for when materials are restricted.

There will be opportunities to network with other counsellors from a variety of placements and practices and a lovely cold buffet lunch from M&S is included in the price. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss or want to book your place – we keep numbers small so everyone can get the most from the day.

Please click here for an application form

There remains a stigma around mental health or therapy or counselling.

We are not the stereotypical rich white American who is in therapy from childhood.  And whilst that is perhaps a relief, there is also something to be said in their willingness to let go of all their **** so they can walk away feeling better prepared to deal with the rest of their lives.

We tend to question more and are more resistant and defensive; why do I need counselling?  If I’m in therapy there is something wrong with me.  I don’t have mental health issues.

And it’s not about that.

Counselling is about letting go, self-awareness, and moving on.

There doesn’t have to be anything wrong, although there could be.  There doesn’t have to be a need for counselling, it could be a want.  Mental health is our day to day health, not necessarily having to deal with something major.

In any case, the therapeutic relationship with your counsellorwill help you to work through whatever you feel you want to.

My first experience of talking to a counsellor was not a good one.  I was nervous and anxious about being there, and whilst the counsellor was perfectly pleasant, I did not warm to them.  The counsellor essentially said, ‘Right, here we are, off you go’, and expected me to just get on and talk, which was way out of my comfort zone.  I had no idea what was expected of me, and stumbled uncomfortably through that session, leaving with relief to get out of there rather than relief at having lightened my emotional load.

A subsequent counsellor worked better for me.  Their approach was more engaging and conversational, not making me do all the work in the session.  They were willing to give of themselves if I asked them a question, rather than bat it back to me or offer surprise at my impertinent enquiry.  It felt a better, more human interaction, and, though I often came away thinking deeply about what had been said, I always had a little bounce in my step.

The most important aspect when approaching counselling, therefore, is to find someone you feel comfortable with.  Because, after all, it is likely you will talk about personal stuff and to do that with any old Tom, Dick, or Harriet is not going to happen.

Be brave with your self as well.  If you don’t feel as though the relationship with your counsellor is working, then don’t stick with it.  It’s nobody’s fault.  In the same way as you get on with some people and not others, you will take more from working with one counsellor compared to another.

Ultimately, whatever we do to help ourselves we go into it with our own goals in mind about what we want from it.  Embrace this Americanism and take the next step; let go, learn about yourself, and move on.

Recently I was asked to give a talk on why counselling should replace mental health services.  I initially accepted this invitation, and then when I got to thinking about what I was going to say, I started to think that the question was all wrong. 

Counselling shouldn’t replace mental health services, because it is part of mental health services.

However, when we hear the phrase ‘mental health’, what do we think?  Schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar, phobias, PTSD.  Top-end issues each with their own carefully attached label.  Or the ‘crazy’ person we see wide-eyed weaving the streets who we think should be ‘locked up’.  Or those with severe learning disabilities.  Issues that are not ordinarily associated with counselling.  And yet mental health covers everything from management of daily life to psychopathy.  Counselling definitely fits in along that spectrum.

Over the last couple of years the government have made promises about providing additional funding for mental health services, creating thousands of new jobs in the sector, including having a counsellor in every school (how, when they are cutting school budgets?).  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have fronted a mental health campaign.  Sports stars, pop stars, stars of stage and screen, have all signed up to be involved, to encourage greater awareness of our mental health.  And they are not just talking about the issues listed above.

They are encouraging us to engage with our day to day thoughts, feelings and emotions.  That having a down day might be just that; we all have them and it’s okay to acknowledge it to someone.  Or it might be because yesterday wasn’t great or something happened; that happens too and it’s okay to acknowledge it to someone.  Or it might be because we haven’t really talked about anything for years and we have ended up not being able to manage the everyday issues that are not usually a problem; the little things have become too much. 

Talking about it is a positive thing to do, man or woman.  You might not have listened when your nan told you that a problem shared was a problem halved, but she was right.  Getting it out of your head, being heard, being listened to.  That’s what counselling does.  It’s not about being given a solution.  It’s about finding out about yourself. 

Every time we have a new thought the chemical balance in our body changes.  So, we are in a constant state of biological and psychological flux.  And it can take a lot to manage that every day.  So, whatever is going on in your mind, no matter how big or small it may seem, if it is there it is affecting you.  If you want to let it out, whatever it might be, talk to a counsellor.  We will listen.

At our workshop on Saturday 24th November we will be exploring the ways in which counselling brings the past into the present and looking at the effects of past experiences on future selves.

We will be thinking about clients with issues such as chronic anger, low self-esteem, and self destructive patterns of behaviour.

We will be findings ways to explore past relationships, experiences of trauma or abuse, and other influences on a client’s sense of identity. This may include parents who divorced when the client was young, prolonged illnesses while at school, family upheavals, accidents, or deaths. Or it may be about the personalities that they were exposed to during important developmental stages.

We will be using psychodynamic theory to identify issues and connections, and then person-centred theory to work with the client in the moment. We will provide a programme to follow which will lead a client toward understanding and acceptance – able to understand their triggers and coping mechanisms, and to trace their presenting issues to past (and unchangeable) experiences; thus to work more effectively at overcoming present problems.

We will be looking at Freud and Eriksson and their views on the importance of developmental stages; and at Melanie Klein’s theory of splitting. We will also include Parent-Adult-Child from Transactional Analysis as well as some other theorists.

Our workshop will include materials and activities (some personal work and some using case studies). There will be opportunities to network with other counsellors from a variety of placements and practices. We keep numbers small so everyone can get the most from the day.

Please click here for an application form

Student mental health ‘failing a generation’

BBC News

In 2016, 146 students killed themselves, and three have died in Bristol in the past month alone. Read the full story

Mo says: So many are in crisis. Whether it is stress from exams, pushy parents, peer pressure, gender identity or many more issues. I believe it is out of control because there are only a few counsellors out in schools for them to talk to. Because there are no places for them to go to except their own bedroom where they ask the internet and get bogus answers from the wrong people.

Universities offer counselling services staffed by trainees or counsellors that may not have experience dealing not only with these specific kinds of problems, but of working with young people. It is not like working with an adult.

How often do we stop and listen?

No one has time, parents are too busy. When was the last time you stopped what you were doing and really listened?

When they ask for help, how do we make sure young people actually get it?

Written by Alex Baldock, counsellor at HMP X.

What is so rewarding about working in a prison?

The short answer is the idea of helping people. But this can be ascribed to any other environment. Helping people in prison perhaps feeds into a basic childhood idea of cops and robbers, of good and bad. That being in prison is a thing, perhaps the one thing to be feared and to be avoided because of its negative connotations. So being in a prison can feel as though it is helping those who need help to right their wrongs.

This can unfortunately, be regarded as oh-so-worthy and patronising. “I’m here to help you because I’m not in prison and you are, therefore you need my help”. There is a selfish element to helping people in any context, doing the good deed, from which we can give ourselves a literal or metaphorical pat on the back.

But, as much as both of those reasons might wander around our thoughts, they perhaps don’t form the structure of why we work here and what we get from it.

That, for me, comes from recognising human beings who have their own challenges, trying to make sense of them in a challenging environment which often doesn’t offer the opportunity to talk and be heard; which doesn’t always provide space for what prisoners describe as a normal conversation, which can seem to give little in the way of encouragement or opportunity to change or grow. There is a tense mix of machismo and vulnerability in prison and not just from those who reside here, and navigating it is a daily exercise in personal security, physical and emotional.

So, the reward comes from helping, yes but also the feeling, the hope, that for one hour, in the eye of a storm, that person has the chance to just be themselves.