Tag Archives: Counselling

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

 

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What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Past events and our upbringings shape the way we think. As we progress through life we begin to make assumptions about ourselves and others – some of these thoughts will be helpful and others will be unhelpful. In the same way, some assumptions/thoughts will be accurate and some will be inaccurate. The longer we have thought in a certain way, the harder it is to shift and change. We end up over time having core beliefs about ourselves and the world, also referred to as “rules for living”.

Rules for living often take the form of “if this…then that”. For example: If I go out and socialise I will end up making a fool of myself. Or…if I get into another relationship I will get hurt or – If I don’t please others I will be disliked and rejected. Core beliefs are often in the form of:

“I am not good enough”; “I am a failure” and so on.

So, our past experiences create our beliefs and assumptions about the world which appear as “if this ..then that” thoughts or “must and should” statements.

Becoming more aware of your “must and should” statements is one key way to begin uncovering your rules for living. We can’t change the past but we CAN update our beliefs about the worldand ourselves as many of the core beliefs we hold are often outdated and incorrect.

We learn false beliefs from other, especially our parents and we internalise these thought. If your parents were critical, we begin to see ourselves in the same way (eg. I am stupid, fat, ugly, etc) and we act in accordance with these thoughts by withdrawing, avoiding or finding ways to hide our assumed failings and inadequacies.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a brilliant way to identify inaccurate thoughts and start to replace them with healthier, more helpful thoughts. CBT also involves setting up behavioural experiments to test  out our faulty assumptions to show us how they aren’t true.

If you find yourself repeating negative patterns of behaviour, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might work for you. CBT is available in many areas and most CBT therapists offer skype sessions too – so it can be offered from anywhere in the world.

I offer CBT online and if I cannot help you I can refer to another CBT therapist who can.

Mandy X

 

How to have a successful relationship

happy man and woman photo

How to have a successful relationship

Stop scoring points

A successful relationship always involves acting with integrity, Even if your partner doesn’t. Respond in the best possible way and treat them as you would wish to be treated. Stop keeping score as this leads to resentment. Communicate about what isn’t working rather than using this resentment to get back at the other person in order to even the ‘playing field’.

No game playing

They didn’t test, so I not going to text them either. This is short lived nonsense that will only temporarily make you feel better. Act as you wish to continue in the relationship. Game playing is the beginning of the end if it becomes a habit in the relationship and it reduces trust.

Be honest and open

Speak up when you feel the need. Talk about what’s on your mind as it fosters intimacy and a stronger bond. Be human. Be vulnerable. Take that risk for excellent rewards of a successful relationship.

Communicate as much as possible – don’t suppress

If something bothers you don’t let it fester. Pick the right moment and clear the air. Try to communicate regularly and dissipate any inner tension in doing so. You will feel closer and do better as a couple in the long run.

Pick your battles

Not every indiscretion needs to become a point of conflict. Decide on your boundaries and your ‘deal breaker’ areas and stick to those. Regular bickering and arguing ruins relationships.

Don’t try to change the other person’s fundamental characteristics, personality traits

If they are outgoing and lively, let them be that way even if that’s not how you behave. Stifle someone and you suppress their spirit and dilute their essence and they will end up resenting you for it. Give them freedom to be who they want to be and they will love you more for it.

Treat each other with respect

When respect goes you may as well give up. Respect means you still honour that person and don’t want to hurt them. When respect goes, the gloves are off.

Be assertive, don’t use passive aggressive tactics

Ask for what you want – don’t expect the other person to guess if you have not explicitly told them. Use assertive script to get your needs met: “when you….I feel…so what I’d like is…”

Using this format fosters cooperation rather than a defensive reaction.

Always work towards the ultimate goal of the relationship – to be close, intimate and best companions

When you feel the urge to do something that might damage the relationship, ask yourself if that action will contribute to a happy healthy relationship or not. Use this to guide your behaviour.

Healthy happy and successful relationships are within the reach of all of us. Tread carefully and be thoughtful and love can be yours forever.

Mandy X

 

Cognitive behavioural therapy and anxiety

 

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Cognitive behavioural therapy and anxiety

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a great intervention for anxiety. Understanding where anxiety comes from is extremely useful in being able to tackle feelings of fear and doubt creeping. Cognitive behavioural therapy looks at the interaction between the thoughts we are having, the feelings that arise from these thoughts, the behaviour that ensues as well as physical symptoms associated with the thoughts feelings and behaviour. Anxiety is part of the normal response when we feel fear. The moment we feel threatened our bodies go into “fight, flight or freeze mode”. This mode consists of physical sensations such as sweating, heart palpitations, dry throat and so on. This is the body signal that something is wrong. Researchers refer to the old part of our brain as being the part that reacts without thinking-the part that our Neanderthal ancestors used. The newer part the brain include the frontal lobe which separates us from other organisms. The frontal lobe is responsible for reasoning and allows us to think things through rather than react instinctively. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps us to use the newer part of our brain by stopping and thinking.

We all have ways of reducing anxiety but sometimes the habits we gain end up complicating matters even further. For example, someone who is afraid they will lose their job may begin drinking more alcohol in an attempt to reduce their anxiety. This unhelpful behaviour will compound the initial problem rather than resolve it. Cognitive behavioural therapy examines our unhelpful and irrational thoughts helps us to replace these dysfunctional thoughts with more realistic ones.

For example: a recent client told me that they are a failure in life. When we look for the evidence of this we may find some examples that led to the client to believing this but they will also be just as many examples that refute this idea. Cognitive behavioural therapy teaches us to reframe our core beliefs. An alternative way to think might be: I may make mistakes in life that does not mean that I am a complete failure.

Part of cognitive behavioural therapy also involves looking at the behaviour that comes from the unhelpful thinking. Typical examples of unhelpful thinking are-over generalising, black and white thinking (a.k.a. all or nothing), catastrophising and negative filter (where we only look at what is wrong and ignore the positives). The above thinking will lead to unhealthy behaviours. Cognitive behavioural therapy involves challenging thinking by setting up social experiments to challenge the thoughts. For example: if someone feels anxious about going to a movie on their own because they worry about what others might think, a behavioural experiment might involve taking small steps towards going to a movie on their own. Usually what happens is that the anticipation and the thoughts of what might happen never arrive and this helps a person to reframe the thinking. This is also known as cognitive restructuring.

Challenging thinking and doing what you fear of great ways to reduce anxiety. Having goals and purpose in life are also a great way to keep anxiety at bay. When we have direction and purpose it is more likely that we will spend less time ruminating and obsessing, often over things we have no control over. Unfortunately anxiety is part of life for some of us is far more intrusive than it used to be. Thanks to cognitive behavioural therapy, there is now an effective method to counteract the distressing effects of anxiety.

Mandy X

Photo by spaceodissey

What happens in therapy

 

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What happens in therapy

I have been a therapist in private practice since 2009 and have come across a variety of people with different problems and troubles. Counsellors and therapists may have similar training but we all have our own particular style and that is why it is important to feel at ease with the person you choose to reveal your personal issues to.

My personal approach is collaborative – what I mean by this is I see the ‘relationship’ between me and my client as a joint effort. Kind of like holding hands and walking down the road together. I guide the client but they do all the work. Most of my sessions are light hearted and we often have a giggle when appropriate. My sessions focus on empowering the client and helping them to uncover where they are getting stuck in life.

Of course, certain ethical boundaries should always be in place such as not engaging in a romantic relationship with a client – this is a big NO-NO. Nor should a therapist have a secondary relationship with a client, for example – where the therapist and the client are school governors together.

I practise cognitive behavioural therapy mostly and this focuses on how we perceive what is happening to us as opposed to what is actually happening to us. What are we telling ourselves about what is happening in our lives – do we have many negative thoughts that make us unhappy? Do we have many wrong assumptions about life? CBT looks at the inner monologue and gets us to challenge ingrained way of thinking that may no longer works for us anymore. CBT deals mainly with current issues but does look at relevant issues from the past as well.

An example:  life event: a person loses their job.

Person A’s perception: This is awful. I will never find another job. I am ruined.

Person B’s perception: I’m not overjoyed about losing my job but this is an opportunity to find a job that possibly pays better and one that is closer to home.

Which person is more likely to feel happier? No doubt Person B will fare better despite the fact that the same event has happened to them both. What you think about life affects your emotions and this in turn influences your behaviour and the negative cycle continues.

The therapy room is a rare example of a safe place where you can completely focus on yourself and have someone listen who is non judgemental and has your best interests at heart. It’s a pretty fantastic experience, one I would definitely recommend!

Mandy X

 

 

 

Photo by Joe Houghton

What is counselling?

 

counselling photo

What is counselling?

I’ve been a counsellor for such a long time that I sometimes forget what an alien concept counselling can be for some people. I run a private practice 30 minutes outside of London seeing couples and individuals who are experiencing problems.

Typical issues that people seek counselling for are:

  • Relationship issues – trouble communicating, break ups, marital issues, abusive relationships
  • Depression, anxiety, panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Addiction
  • Low self esteem, low confidence, failure to thrive

What counselling can help with:

Counselling can help identify thoughts that are unhelpful and that are contributing to problems in life. When we listen to our negative thinking, we often end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy: one where the  negative thoughts begin to manifest in life.

For example, if our inner talk tells us we are fat, ugly and useless, our body language will mirror this inner world that we create and others will respond to the negative body language by avoiding us. We then use this incorrectly as evidence that our thoughts are true instead of seeing that our faulty thinking may have helped create the situation in the first place.

Counselling offers a safe, non judgemental place to talk about issues that worry us. Often, in the real world we can’t talk about the things we can discuss in counselling. Reassurance and objective input can be extremely useful in changing the status quo.

Counselling also helps us to understand where the issues/behaviour might be coming from and how we can go about changing things for the positive.

What counselling can’t help with:

Counselling needs input from the client to work. It requires effort to change bad habits and can be quite exhausting in many ways. Part of counselling involves ‘unlearning’ habitual patterns of behaviour (many picked up in childhood) that work against us.

Counselling can’t make life 100% perfect. It can help you be more resilient and find better ways to cope when life gets tough.

Counselling is a fantastic way to understand yourself better and improve your self awareness. We can all learn more about ourselves and challenge our existing ways of doing things.

Mandy X

 

Photo by Joe Houghton

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The Therapy Couch

 

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The Therapy Couch

I talk a lot about my clients in my blog posts so I thought it would be a good idea to show you where my clients come and relax. I am an unusual counsellor as I always offer my clients a drink before we start the session.  Tea, coffee or water just in case you were wondering. No alcohol available 😉

Clients talk about everything with me from family/relationship troubles to seeking clarity on their thinking about certain situations. When we are too emotionally involved in something we sometimes lose clarity and irrational thought takes over. The emotional brain is extremely powerful and can overwhelm the thinking/rational brain easily.

The view from the couch:

therapy room view

 

One of my favourite quotes above the window:

happiness is an inside job

 

It makes sense to offer a less clinical environment for someone who is about to open up to a stranger about their innermost fears and personal troubles. Professional boundaries are still adhered to, but being personable and creating rapport are an essential part of the package I offer.

Mandy X

top 10 reasons people get counselling inforgraphic

Top 10 Reasons why people get counselling

 

Top 10 Reasons why people get counselling

I’ve put this infographic together which shows the top reasons why people get counselling.Many clients have come to see me over the past few years for counselling and psychotherapy and these ten reasons have been the most common.

 

top 10 reasons people get counselling inforgraphic

 

positive thinking

How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has helped me

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

CBT cannot remove your problems, but can help you manage them in a more positive way. It encourages you to examine how your actions can affect how you think and feel.

Talking and changing your behaviour can change how you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour). This can make you feel better about life.

I use CBT in my work with clients and have used it in my own life. It hasn’t been an overnight success and it is still a work in progress but I do believe cognitive behavioural therapy has helped me personally in the following ways:

1) I don’t take my thoughts seriously

Thoughts lead to emotions which lead to actions/behaviour. It all starts with a thought. When you learn to challenge your thinking, you experience different emotions and the ensuing behaviour tends to be more productive and effective.

CBT basic counselling

cbt consequences

Before CBT I paid attention to and believed every thought that came into my head. There was a lot of distorted thinking going on and I felt miserable a lot of the time. Not that I never feel down now but it doesn’t last long.

Becoming aware of negative automatic thoughts (NAT’s) is the first step in challenging them. Ask yourself where the evidence is for your thinking then try to reframe the negative thought into a statement that allows you to feel less stressed/anxious.

Example NAT: No one likes me

Reframe: There will always be some people I can’t please but there are also people who like me. It’s not true that NO ONE likes me.

2) I Stop and Think

I have become more measured in my responses to others. This is probably a combination of getting older as well as the Cognitive Behavioural Training. I don’t jump to conclusions as much as I used to and seem more able to keep an open mind about life and the intentions of others.

3) Mental ‘Shelving’

I am better placed to let my thoughts work for me. I can choose the positive thoughts and push aside the negative ones. It’s almost like having a thought library in my mind and I feel happier because of it. In the past I used to buy into my thoughts about the world being a bad place where you could trust no one. I repeated negative statements about myself daily..if not hourly! I still have negative thoughts about myself and others but they aren’t nearly as frequent as they used to be.

4) Rational Thoughts

I am more aware of irrational thoughts such as over generalising, black and white thinking and catastrophising. The more balanced and rational our thinking is, the more positive our perceptions of life will be which inevitably leads to a better quality of life.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has taught me how crucial my thinking is in determining my happiness levels. I began by filling in thought record sheets every time I found  was wallowing and experiencing negative emotions. This process taught me to identify, challenge and reframe thoughts.If you’d like to give it a go, here is a copy of a thought record sheet:

thought record sheet

thought record sheet

Think of the physical world as your canvas and your thoughts as the colours/paint. We all have the same physical reality but what we choose to see or believe can be very different.

Mandy X

 

Photo by symphony of love

Photo by jakerome

Photo by symphony of love