Blogs and items of interest

April 14, 2021
Vicki Wolfhart

Counselling FAQ

Counselling FAQ. Two hands reaching for each other representing someone reaching for a counsellor.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
When you don’t know what to expect from counselling, the idea of jumping in and getting started can be daunting. I’ve written this counselling FAQ to answer some of the questions that I’ve most commonly been asked to give you an idea of what you can expect if you decide to begin your counselling journey. If you have any other questions at all then please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.

Do clients need to prepare anything for their first session?

No, not at all.  If you’ve already thought about what you want to address then that’s great, but there’s no expectation for you to do this before the first session.  Some clients come along with a very clear idea of what they want to talk about, and others don’t. I will work with you, wherever you are.

What happens in a client’s first session?

It depends on the person, but generally, we’ll start with a conversation about how they have been feeling, what’s been happening in their lives and what’s brought them to counselling. The first session is about helping the client to feel comfortable, and beginning to show them that counselling is a place where they can express their feelings without judgement. I will encourage clients to open up, but it’s their decision how much they want to share. A lot of the problems that people have are caused by feeling ashamed of the feelings that they are having. Part of my job is helping people to accept their feelings so that they can begin to work with them. This work begins in the first session.

How long do you typically work with your clients?

This really varies from person to person. I always recommend a minimum of six sessions, because this is how long it takes to build a strong enough relationship to do valuable work and make a real difference in your life. I have had some clients who I have worked with for as long as three years, which provides them with a huge opportunity for growth. Generally, when clients first come to counselling they are experiencing some form of crisis. If they stick with the counselling process once the crisis is over, they have an opportunity to look back on their behaviour during the crisis period and learn from it. This allows them to see which behaviours are serving them, which behaviours aren’t, and have more choice over how they behave in the future.

Do you offer any concessionary rates?

Yes. It’s really important to me that everyone can access counselling, and I don’t want money to be a barrier. If you’re thinking about counselling but worried that you can’t afford it then please get in touch, as I may be able to help.

What are your clients the most apprehensive about when they start counselling?

Depending on the person, there are a lot of reasons that a person might be apprehensive about counselling. Some of the reasons that I’ve come across are:
  • Feeling that they shouldn’t be talking about the issues that matter to them, because of the shame that is attached to them.
  • A worry that if they talk about a loved one during counselling, that this is a betrayal.
  • Fear that a counsellor will be able to tell things about them that they would rather they didn’t know.
  • A lot of men, in particular, can feel shame about admitting that they are struggling. Although it’s got better over the past few years, there is a lot of stigma around men’s mental health which prevents men from seeking help.
I always reassure clients that counselling is a safe and non-judgemental space, and anything that they bring to a session is confidential.  Although I’m trained to spot patterns of behaviour that I might bring to your attention, I can’t read your mind or know anything about you that you don’t want me to.

What is unique about your counselling service?

Probably my persona! When people meet me for the first time they don’t often think I’m a counsellor. I don’t look like a typical counsellor, I’m covered in tattoos and I’m pretty large in stature. This makes me more approachable than other counsellors for a lot of my clients. I’m also not afraid to put myself in the room if I think it will be helpful. I’m happy to share my own experiences with managing addictive tendencies, and clients find it really helpful to talk to someone who has been where they are. I take an existential approach to counselling, by which I mean that I am a huge advocate of talking about our mortality and accepting it for what it is. I encourage people to think about how they want to make the most out of life given that it is limited, and support them to go for what they want and grab life by the horns!
July 11, 2020
nick

Coping with The Coronavirus (COVID – 19) and The Uncertain Times Ahead and How Counselling Can Help.

It has taken me a while to break my silence on the Coronavirus and write a blog offering COVID19 Counselling support. My thoughts have gone to every business from prettylittlethings.com to Supermarket giants such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s have all found a way to advertise using the Coronavirus as a thing to springboard a marketing campaign from.

Advertising in this way perhaps goes against what I feel is ethical. Using the vulnerability of ones’ fears as a way to get into the wants and needs of a that person. You might ask yourself, ‘So why are you writing this blog then?’

 

What are peoples struggles and can counselling help?

For me it is around the fact I honestly believe that counselling can really help during times of uncertainty, that it is a genuine thing to put out there during these times of what must be for some, horror!

Here I list a handful of some of the emotions, thoughts and events that could be being experienced during these times.

 

  • Fear
  • Isolation
  • Money worries
  • Redundancy
  • Health Anxiety
  • Separation anxiety
  • Health anxiety
  • Loss and grief
  • Domestic abuse
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Restlessness
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Loss of social life
  • Unemployment
  • Complicated grief
  • Funerals by video link

 

These are just some of the things people could be experiencing during these difficult times. There may be more than one thing on that list you are experiencing or a host of other things that are not listed at all.

 

Is everyone experiencing lockdown negative?

I have heard about positives coming out of the lockdown that has occurred to curb the spread of this disease. I have heard of love stories that have blossomed where 2 people that barely know each other have chosen to be locked down together and allowed their fairy tale to develop from there.

I have also spoke with homeless people who have not had shelter over their heads for some time, now find them self in luxury hotels funded by the local authority.

This takes my thinking to a song by Bristol’s Massive Attack ‘The Hymn of the Big Wheel’ where one of its prominent lyrics belted out by Horace Andy goes as follows, ‘One mans troubled, while another relaxes……’ This highlights the ups and downs that life can sometime bring. I definitely recommend a listen of this stunning track that offers hope and something that feels a little bit Disney Lion King.

 

The indiscriminate nature of Coronavirus (COVID – 19)

Whilst there are those that are taking some comfort out of the complete overhaul of life circumstances that have happened in recent times. I also believe the indiscriminate nature of this disease must play some part on the thinking of all of those who have considered their own mortality at some stage of their lives. This disease has killed, young, old, middle aged, healthy, nurses, doctors, community heroes it even took the prime minister down for a few days.

 

The loss and grief that has been felt by some will be life changing. Loved ones have been lost, but not only have they been lost, the chances are, there has not been a funeral. This for some will trigger something called complicated grief. This happens when the death of someone close to us is sudden, or when there is no body, or when we were not able to say goodbye or maybe the relationship was complicated. When death happens under these circumstances this can trigger complicated grief. In my work as a counsellor, I have facilitated therapy where this process has been unwound and some resolution has been found. This resolution has happened by offering the space to talk in depth about the feelings and details of the loss.

 

Advice about being stressed and anxious.

Some People I have spoken to in recent times echo feelings of fear, hopelessness, anxiety and stress.

My advice to people at this time is to stay in the present, take each day as it comes, if we look back into the past, we run the risk of disconnecting from our feelings and becoming depressed. If we look to the future, we run the risk of becoming anxious because we can’t predict the future. What I do recommend is seeing what can be rebuilt from what is an existential crisis for us all. How can we dust off look at everything that has happened or is happening and carve out the most effective way of living for our lives and the ones around us?

 

How can counselling help?

This is not me saying counselling can make everything all better, after all what is bigger than death? I believe nothing is bigger than the loss of someone we love.’ That being said I quote Irvin Yalom here when I say, ‘Sometimes there are things in life that we can never be at resolution with.’

That being said, I believe the very act of coming to resolution with the fact there is no resolution can be steps in the direction of finding some peace with circumstances of this nature. I also believe talking about loss can be a way to discover new sense of purpose and look at how we create bonds with the person/thing we have lost.

 

The loss of someone we love or care for is not all that people are losing right now. People are losing their jobs, their social lives, part of their identities’ their security, their investments and for some their pensions or business. Some are losing more than 1 of these things all at the same time.

Other ways counselling can help could be, talking about the roles we play in relationships can be a way to help improve our relationships. Talking about feeling isolated and alone, I believe that working towards resolution with isolation and loneliness can be a way to generate peace with it.

I have witnessed time after time that by offering someone a space to talk through their thoughts and feelings that this alone can create a sense of relief and healing

 

How to get in touch.

Counselling can be a way of reframing things in a way that feels more tangible. It can be a space to put in proportion the things we are feeling. Counselling is an opportunity to get the facts and truths of the challenges we face in our lifetimes, and this process alone can be a way to create mental space and reduce anxiety and stress.

I am still operating during the pandemic but by video call and telephone. When I feel the circumstances permit, I will resume face to face work if that is what you would prefer.

If you would like to get in touch about any of the subjects discussed within this blog, then either email me brighterpathwayz@gmail.com or call on 07903319318. Together we will shed light and clarity on your struggles at this time.

 

 

January 13, 2020
nick

Serenity In Grief: How To Get Better Sleep After Losing A Loved One

Serenity in Grief: How to Get Better Sleep After Losing a Loved One

 

Sleep can be one of the hardest things to come by following the loss of a loved one. Ironically, sleep is one of the things you need the most during the grieving period. Getting good, quality sleep helps elevate your mood, fight off anxiety and depression, and grieve in a healthy manner. Here’s how to get the sleep you need during this trying time.

 

Get Active During the Day

 

Very few people who don’t exercise feel that they get enough quality sleep. In fact, one survey found it to be just 11 percent. The truth is that exercise not only improves the quality of your sleep but the quantity as well. One way exercise helps you sleep better is through temperature. Exercise boosts your internal body temperature a few degrees, and when it comes down a couple hours later, it induces sleepiness. Exercise also helps regulate stress hormones and boost the production of melatonin (which regulates sleep).

 

Exercise will also boost endorphins, improving your mood — it’s a win-win. So, get up and get active during the day (not at night, as that can disrupt your sleep) for better, restful nights.

 

Be Careful What You Eat Before Bedtime …

 

It’s probably smart to avoid eating or drinking anything in the couple hours before bedtime (especially if you’re having problems sleeping). However, there are some foods you must avoid, including chocolate, red meat, tomato sauce, dairy, spicy foods, and booze.

 

… and What You Do Before Bed

 

It’s not just food you need to worry about. What activities you participate in before bed can drastically affect your sleep — either positively or negatively. Of all the things to avoid doing before bedtime, the most important is giving in to excessive screen time. Looking at a phone, tablet, computer, or TV can disrupt sleep patterns (blame the blue light emitted by electronic devices). Instead, read a book for entertainment. Listen to calming music. Take a bath. Leave stress behind by meditating and breathing deeply and intentionally. Learn how to relax without electronic stimulation and your sleep will improve.

 

Give Your Bedroom a Serenity Update

 

Your sleeping environment influences your sleep quality. This sounds obvious, but many people neglect their bedrooms. After losing a loved one, it may be smart to give your room a complete makeover (especially if the loved one was your spouse), changing things up for a “fresh start” while keeping some reminders of your loved one. It’s also a good idea to slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls — something that can have a soothing effect.

 

Get a Gadget to Help

 

There are a lot of gadgets on the market that claim they can make you sleep like a baby. Be skeptical, of course — if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. However, there are some gadgets you can try that may give you some serenity at night. Weighted blankets, sleep masks, light-emitting devices, and white noise machines can help.

 

Losing a loved one and the shock, sadness, and grief that follows will often disrupt sleep patterns — even in those who never had any sleep problems prior to the loss. If you can’t sleep or you wake up not feeling as rested as you should, you shouldn’t panic — this will only make it worse. Instead, incorporate some lifestyle changes and switch things up in terms of your bedroom environment and your nighttime routine. Although grief can negatively affect your sleep, it’s that good quality sleep that’s going to help get you through the grief.

Written by Sara Bailey. A massive thank you for this stunningly written article.

Photo by Arnold Dogelis on Unsplash

March 24, 2019
nick

The Fragility of Life

How will you be remembered when you no longer exist?

I am going to discuss what sometimes feels like the undiscussed and that is how fragile life is. This is a topic that none of us can escape and often the proof that life can be so temporary comes crashing into our lives completely out of the blue. Towards the end of this article, through existential thinking, I will suggest ways that having an awareness of our own mortality and holding an awareness of the mortality of all people and living things around us, can be useful within our life span.

 

What was the inspiration?

 

A few things have happened in recent times that have really woken up my awareness of how temporary life can be. The sad death of Keith Flint, the lead singer of The Prodigy is one of these things. His death has struck a chord in my own mortality as I will now not be able to strike something off my bucket list, to see The Prodigy live. I have recently watched a BBC documentary about Billy Connolly living with Parkinson’s disease. This really felt like Billy was winding down his life, his experiences and acknowledging what he can no longer do. This both felt like an amazing experience to see all he has done in his lifetime but also felt gut-wrenchingly sad to see this vibrant life energy winding down for the inevitable. Another thing that’s happened recently is I watched Ricky Gervais’s ‘After Life’ which is as gut-wrenchingly sad as it is brilliant!

 

Looking at my own mortality.

 

I am beginning to get signals from my body in the form of pain and restricted movement along with fatigue. This is my 30 something-year-old body telling me it cannot do what it did when it was a 20 something your old body. I play sports and sometimes go to the gym but yet I can’t do this like I could when I was younger. I can’t move like I used to and the muscle pain I experience the next day and subsequent days that follow are a suggestion my muscles now take longer to repair. Yet my experience of these things I rarely talk about and when I do it usually done through humour which is out of my attempt to cover up the brutal truth that we are in effect, to apply a metaphor (perhaps to remove the harsh edges), like a flower, we are born, we grow into a fully flourished flower, and then the petals fall off and then we die.

 

Why is thinking this way useful?

 

Sometimes we don’t get to fully flower, or we don’t get to live as long as it takes for all the petals to fall off. Sometimes tragedy strikes, and a freak accident can cut this process short. Sometimes illness or disease gets there before we either fully blossom or before our petals have fallen off. And it is because of this reality I believe holding thinking about our own death and the ultimate death of everything around us can be valuable to our living our lives more fully.

 

I think if we invite thinking like, what will be the legacy I leave behind? What will my mark of existence be?’ This can offer comfort in the inevitable. When we actively go about making our mark in the world this is called a Mortality Project. This could look like having children or writing a book or trying to do something that nobody has ever done, something to be remembered by.

How do the things we do have a lasting effect?

 

For me, there is a subtleness of existence that isn’t staring in a film or writing a number 1 hit it is more the attributes and characteristics we might learn from someone and pass these on. An example of this is when I was stroking the face of someone I cared about when she was experiencing the life-changing pain that is a loss. She experienced this stroking as nurturing. I didn’t give it too much thought at the time, but I experienced doing this small nurturing action again with one of my children which got me thinking ‘Where did I learn it?’ I know exactly where I learned it, from one of my parents. You might ask what was so individual about this type of stroking of the face? But there was a clumsiness’ that felt quite unmistakeable like a man learning to be affectionate who has been raised through a generation of thinking which didn’t teach male affection.

So now I wonder will my children caress the faces of their children with this same clumsiness? Can you see how this act has been passed on to me, I have now passed this on to my children and maybe they might pass it on to theirs. This for me is the subtle existential mark we can leave on this earth. Maybe it’s a skill we have passed on to somebody, like a certain way to tie shoelaces or knitting or how to fish. I think people often remember who taught them how to ride a bike. It is things like these that expand what our existence is and can long after we are no longer here.

 

Another way this connection plays out can be with our pets. If I think about all the little connections I have with mine. I have a dog that if I wink at her, her tail starts wagging excitedly. If I look away her tail stops instantly, the moment I look back at her and wink again, her tail comes back to life wagging frantically! I also have a parrot who dances with me, beatboxes like me and even swears like me!

 

Thinking about your own impact on the world.

 

It can be hard for us to establish what our impact is on others and communicating this perhaps in a way that is ‘How will you remember me when I am gone?’ can be hard and difficult to have with loved ones. It is this though, that is the very essence of life, the connection we have with others. So where is this going? for me it’s about;

Making that call to someone you have not spoken to for years,

Telling someone, something you find special and unique about them,

Inviting that someone for dinner and connecting with them,

Making that memory, doing something for someone that they will never forget,

Joke, smile, laugh, be there when someone needs you,

Because one day, a day that could be far in the future or could be tomorrow. When your petals have all fallen off, its these memories that that one day will be all that’s left of you.

 

An afterthought, how might I be able to help you?

 

Perhaps you would like to figure out what your impact is on others for yourself before discussing it with your loved ones, or maybe that conversation is too hard to have with them, so you would like to explore it in counselling for yourself. Or maybe you want to ask yourself questions like how you would feel about your life if you knew it was going to end tomorrow. If you would like a non-judgemental safe space to explore this thinking through the vision of a counsellor who has had the experience of this thinking not only for myself but with others that have wanted to explore this further, then please do get in touch by telephone 07903319318 or email brighterpathwayz@gmail.com or alternatively visit my website www.brighter-pathways.co.uk

March 3, 2019
nick

Why Does Being Cut Out or Feeling Lonely Hurt So Bad, and How Counselling Can Help?

In this article I am going to discuss possible reasons as to why being left out, not fitting in or when we experience loss of friendship groups or loving relationships feels so uncomfortable and hurts so bad. I am a counsellor working in the Bradley Stoke area of Bristol who has helped many resolve feelings of loneliness, rejection and ostracisation. If this is something you would like support with, my contact details are at the bottom of this blog.

Think of times it has happened to you

Can you remember a time where you have felt ostracised or cut out of a social situation, not invited to a social gathering or when you have been singled out by a bully? This is the feeling that people experience when they are alone at times of festive celebrations such as Christmas or the feeling of being left behind when someone closed to them has passed away. Can you get close to that emotion that arises from this rejection/ostracisation?

What does ostracise mean?

The word ‘Ostracise’ derived from ancient Greek times where voting tokens were called ostracon. There was a voting process that happened twice a year where civilisations would use ostracon voting chips. Ostracon was broken bits of pottery, the ancient Greeks used ostracon to vote whether to banish someone from their civilisation for 5 years.

A modern translation of the word ‘Ostracise is:

To avoid someone intentionally, or to prevent someone from taking part in the activities of a group.

Why does it feel so bad?

The feeling that arises is affectively straight from your survival instinct tapping into your stress response. Big emotions around survival is the likely response, feelings of loneliness, vulnerability and a need for action. If the emotion didn’t feel big, we wouldn’t act upon it as it wouldn’t feel serious enough.

We have an internal survival instinct to connect with others, how this plays out is through the attachment to our parents or carer giver from birth. If we decided we didn’t like our parent/carer giver from an early age that would risk our survival, hence sayings like ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you!’ We learn quite quickly that we need others to survive.

We are designed to connect with other humans, examples of what this looks like, is the contagious laugh. Those times when someone’s laughter inspires you to do the same even though you might not know what they are laughing at. Another example is when someone yawns it somehow feels contagious, this is actually ‘do I need to gasp for air too?’ So we take a gasp of air and yawn.

A key reason we need to be able to read and feel emotions is so we can read the fear in another human. This is a survival mechanism, if we see fear in another it inspires us to ask the question, do I need to be fearful also? If someone was running with the look of fear on their face, you would assess the situation to see if the fear is real for you also.

I prefer to be alone, why do I even care?

Humans have a very in-ground biological survival trait to remain connected with others due to our Hunter Gatherer days. You needed to remain part of a group because that increased your chances of survival, it meant you were more likely to feed, and less likely to get picked off by neighbouring tribes or animals that might eat you. Staying part of the group meant life or death, your survival depended on it.

Not feeling connected to groups and loneliness is at the core of a lot of the counselling work I do. If it is not genuinely feeling cut off from groups or people, I work with people that feel different from everybody else because of their experiences.

Existential loneliness, ultimately, we are all alone.

I believe another factor of loneliness is no one fully knows what it is like to be ourselves as individuals, we can get close to what that is with empathy, but we can never be fully sure. We are a guest on the earths plain, we enter the world alone and the chances are we will leave alone. We reach out to others and this connection reinforces our existence, without being able to talk to others about things you may have done in the past, our feeling of loneliness perpetuates. Think of the times you have bumped into an old friend and the enjoyment you experience talking about old times.

We learn this from a young age when we are children, we say “look at me”, “look what I have done” “watch me”. It is almost as if we are saying ‘I exist, notice me.’ The connection to others as adults is our way of soothing this wound that we exist but without others its harder to grasp what that existence looks and feels like.

Another factor in the connection we have with others is our own mortality project. Internationally famous artist Banksy says ‘I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.’ I wonder if this thinking is with us all? If we are not connected with people that somehow our existence will be shorter lived.

How can we resolve feelings we feel when we are ostracised?

When you add this thinking with ostracisation we are tapping into a wound that is as big as any we can experience in our lives. How do we heal a wound that’s so deep? I am not good enough, I don’t fit in, why don’t people like me?

For me being able to own what we are feeling is the first step to either feeling it more comfortably or choosing to respond differently. Feelings are often our bodies way of giving us the energy we need to respond to a problem. An example of this is if we feel nervous before a social situation this is actually our bodies way of giving us the energy we need to become a bit more energetic and chatty. If we reject this feeling as negative, we are fighting against our body’s responses. We then look at our responses as a negative feeling and avoid it rather than accepting and working with it.

I have on many occasions worked with people that feel socially inadequate or ostracised. By talking through the feelings one experiences, together we have been able to facilitate a more practical plan and ownership moving forward. If this is something you would like to address, then get in touch www.brighter-pathways.co.uk or contact on 07903319318.

 

 

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