Tag Archives: therapy

Tips on how to get the most therapeutic value out of psychological therapy



Tips on how to get the most therapeutic value out of psychological therapy

You are emotionally struggling – weighed down by different feelings or profound sadness/anxiety/hopelessness.. you might have been going through a number of things that life threw at you from left, right and centre. You might have just realised how sad you have been throughout your whole life. You might have just lost someone, a relationship or a sense of self/achievement/control. And you are thinking about talking to a stranger all about it. Perhaps someone said ‘you better go and talk to a professional about it’. Maybe your GP was not happy to prescribe any medication at this point. Maybe you don’t want to take any pills.

As a therapist, I can tell you that it’s not an easy thing at all. You are letting a stranger see your inner self and your life including the parts you don’t want to think about (although not all therapy will result in digging up the past or your deepest darkest secrets). You have to verbalise how you feel, which can be the most daunting thing ever. You have the right to feel nervous and apprehensive, as well as feeling relieved (because a. you have decided to get help, b. there’s actually someone whom you can unload your internal burden without feeling guilty c. Things might change. In a good way. There’s hope.)
So, it is really, really important that you get into the right type of therapy and you get the most out of it. Based on my 8 years of experience in mental health service, I thought these tips might be helpful for people who are in need of and considering accessing psychological therapy.

1. Do tell your GP how you feel and how you might need emotional support/psychological therapy from a professional. GP may not know about all types of therapy but can point you in the right direction.

2. Not all therapy is ‘counselling’. If you say you need counselling, GP might only give you option for counselling. There are Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, systemic therapy…a variety types of therapy. Bear in mind, though, CBT is the evidence-based therapy recommended for various mood disorders (depression, anxiety, panic, PTSD, OCD, phobia all included) by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. You can do a little research on different types of psychological therapy.

3. You do need an assessment if you are unsure what type of therapy would be most helpful for what you are going through right now. Accessing your local IAPT service can help you with this. Their assessment will determine whether you would benefit from short-term treatment like CBT or you require more long-term/holistic treatment.

4. It really helps if you can think of what you want to achieve from the therapy e.g you want to improve your mood so that you can deal with your life stressors better, you want to reduce fear that’s been really getting in the way in your daily life, you want to resolve your feelings around your childhood. However, sometimes we are so overwhelmed we just can’t think clearly – where to start, what we need, what to focus on first. The person who assesses you might suggest one area to focus on. You might think ‘that’s not gonna be enough’ and feel hopeless/frustrated BUT remember, you need to start somewhere and the assessor is likely to be suggesting something that you can manage with a therapist’s help so try to put aside the uncomfortable feeling and see where it takes you/how it can help you.

5. At times, therapists (especially in NHS) encounter people who ask ‘are you qualified enough? Are you a psychiatrist? How old are you?’. When we are badly injured and our life feels upside down, we wouldn’t ask the consulting doctors and nurses these questions. Therapists need the same level of trust and respect and starting your assessment/therapy with scepticism is not likely to help you with being open and honest during the assessment, which is very important.

6. Just because you are going through 10 different problems, it does not mean that your treatment has to be the most complex, intense one. There are people who say ‘my problem is really complicated, I need to see a psychiatrist only’. If you are experiencing symptoms of psychosis such as visual/auditory hallucination, frequent urges to seriously harm yourself or others, or your paranoia is significantly disabling you, you may require psychiatric assessment and medication, and therefore a psychiatrist. However, try not to jump to conclusions and, again, be open-minded when you discuss your difficulties with your GP and assessor. You may only require a short-term CBT to understand the link between current difficulties and to learn to cope with them with new coping techniques (cognitive and behavioural), for example. Psychological therapy is most often delivered by psychologists and psychological therapists such as CBT therapists, psychological wellbeing practitioners and counsellors who are trained to deliver therapy.

7. Don’t be put off by the word ‘short-term’. It is not belittling your difficulties. Breaking down your difficult emotions and working through them one by one are more likely to have long-term benefit than trying to work on everything at the same time. Think of it this way – you are injured in several different places. Rather than going through a 24-hour surgery which will overwhelm your body and could be more detrimental, you get one treatment for one area, let it heal then move onto the next treatment, so have some gaps in between. You may also find that the first short-term treatment gives you what you need to manage/tackle some of the other difficulties, which can lead to great sense of independence and self efficacy.

8. Often drinking or taking drugs is used to cope with difficult emotions. However, when there’s been this self-medicating going on for some time, it can be difficult for your therapist to get a true picture of your current mental health because large amount and frequent use of alcohol/drug is very likely to have affected your mental health e.g. Exacerbated your anxiety, caused ‘extra’ factors around depression or panic etc. You are likely to be asked to engage with drug and alcohol support service first. This is not rejecting your difficulties or simplifying your difficulties as ‘substance misuse’. It’s not beneficial at all to be stuck in the middle – Therapy trying to pull you up to challenge dysfunctional thoughts while the impact of alcohol/drug is pushing you down to more dysfunctional thoughts and poorer concentration, for example. You will feel stuck, which may lead to further frustration/hopeless feeling/fear/disappointment.

9. Once you start the therapy, imagine that you have a driving instructor sitting next to you. You are still the driver. If you don’t put your foot down on that accelerator, your therapist won’t start the car for you. If you refuse to do that parallel parking although you were given and shown the knowledge and techniques that you require, your therapist will not do it for you. It is not because we refuse to help but because
We are here to help you become an independent driver, not to help you be a passenger.
Therapy is there to empower you, not to take the control away from you.


This post was written by an experienced colleague of mine – Scarlett Gallimore. To find out more click on the links below:


Link for further info

Life isn’t fair


Life isn’t fair

cruelty photoToday I am feeling fed up. Despite all of my CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Training)  training, there are some days when life just makes me weary. Having the tools and the knowledge to manage life does not necessarily make life easier all of the time. When I attended my induction earlier this week at the University, one of the lecturers said that she didn’t always like books because they are too “clean”. Books are unable to mimic real-life situations in a comprehensive way. So as much as we like to read self-help books, there will be a limits to have this knowledge can help us in a positive way in real life.

This may seem a negative endorsement of self-help books and ideas, but I like to see it as a more realistic approach to self-help. I do tend to chastise myself when I feel unable to cope with life as I feel that all of my knowledge I should be able to cope well under all circumstances. When I’m having a down, emotional day I tend to be hard on myself. When I’m feeling reasonable and balanced I know that it is an realistic to always be able to rise above the challenges life sets us. I guess that is what makes us human.

Currently I am battling with people in my personal life (or rather one person in particular) who are narcissistic and vindictive and it makes it even more difficult when I think about how I used to respect this person. I always imagined that they would do the right thing but have been proven completely wrong on this score.

I realise that I cannot change this person or expect them to behave in a decent way, all I can control is how I react to their behaviour. Part of that reaction involves not letting other people overly upset me as this gives them power over me. One thing that we all have in common is that we cannot control other people. We may have expectations, we may wish they were different in certain ways but ultimately acceptance of who they are will lead us to quicker healing.

Thankfully, my wallowing thoughts such as “life isn’t fair”don’t last very long. In this instance I decided to blog in the moment. Perhaps it will help some readers to realise that we are all in this “soup” together and that we are all fallible. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you feel downtrodden and remember that you’re not alone. Hugs to all of you are having a bad day and I hope it gets much better!

Mandy X


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for trauma

stress photo


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for trauma

CBT can be used for all sorts of problems ranging from anxiety, depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. I found this brilliant summary of CBT and have copied it below:

The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life
By Albert Ellis, Marcia Grad Powers

Important points to remember:

“Rather than focusing on the psychology of the abuser themselves, this book looks at what you can do (as the person on the receiving end of abuse)to help change the situation. There are 7 basic ‘truths’ which form the core of this book, as follows:
1. You, and only you, create your feelings.
2. Your view of a person, situation, or event determines your reality of it.
3. People, situations and events do not upset you. It is your interpretation of them and what you tell yourself about them that cause you to become upset.
4. Thinking produces feelings, which generate behavior.
5. Your view of yourself, others, and everything that happens to you is filtered through the screen of your beliefs.
6. You keep painful feelings alive with your upsetting thoughts by repeating them to yourself over and over again.
7. You can change your feelings and behaviour by changing the underlying beliefs and thinking that create them.

Mandy X

Photo by topgold

The benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy


the brain photo

The benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy

When people read my book “Destination Delinquency?” which is all about my upbringing and formative years, they find it almost impossible to believe that the person written about in the book is the same person that they see today.

People who meet me automatically assume that I come from a privileged, happy background and I believe my positive outlook and successful lifestyle is down to personal development, a lot of it involving Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I grew up with a lot of negativity. I was called “stupid” and “useless” and was regularly told what a liability I was to my parents. The early messages I received were certainly not conducive to the creation of a happy, self confident adult. Those messages still haunt me from time to time but I was determined to find a way to lessen the impact of my parent’s destructive attitudes and find a way to lead a life using my potential to the best of my ability.

I started by treating myself with more self respect. I began to alter my inner dialogue and decrease the amount of negative self talk that I was so used to engaging in.

At first it didn’t feel right but over time, talking to myself as I would some one I loved dearly made a huge difference to my life. Try it for yourself, at the end of each day, write down 3 things that you did that made you feel proud of yourself that day. It can be minor things such as smiling at a stranger or the fact that you got out of bed 5 minutes earlier – anything that helps you to feel good about yourself. Do this for 30 days and you will be AMAZED at the results. We tend to find it harder to remain neutral about ourselves or think positively but getting into the habit of thinking positively about yourself is a great habit to get used to.

This is part of cognitive behavioural therapy – the “cognitive” part which involves noticing your negative thoughts. Once you are aware of them, the next step is to challenge them. Thoughts are NOT facts and it’s important to understand why you think the way you do – especially if it is negative and doesn’t help you in any way. Ask yourself where the evidence is for that thought…real evidence, not assumptions or mind reading. They don’t count.

The “behavioural” part involves doing things that oppose your negative thinking. If you believe that you are “useless” in social situations – find ways to prove the opposite to yourself. Start with small steps but make an effort to put yourself into social situations where you can prove that you aren’t completely useless. It has never happened before where I have found a client who has a negative belief that is ALWAYS true for them. There will always be at least one exception and if that is the case, the thinking is no longer valid.

That is the essence of cognitive behavioural therapy – challenging the negative thinking that upsets us and makes us anxious and then applying the new thinking to our lives.

Thanks to the benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy I have become more confident and like myself a lot more than I used to. I also don’t talk to myself with as much negativity as I used to. Passivity has been replaced by assertiveness and although I am not immune to life’s stressors, I have more inner resources to help me cope.

If you feel anxious or depressed and/or feel you didn’t have the best start in life, consider cognitive behavioural therapy. It’s a wonderful way to start changing the way you see the world and this in turn will help you to feel more content. I am talking from personal experience and I highly recommend it.

Mandy X


Super self confidence


winner photo

5 Tips for Super self confidence

I am in a very fortunate position in that I meet a lot of clients from different walks of life with many varying stories. I am always fascinated about  where they have come from, the experiences that have most impacted them in life, as well as what it is exactly that they think will make them happy.

Part of using CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) involves setting up ‘experiments’ in everyday life for the purpose of challenging a clients inner life script – in other words, the beliefs that they hold about the world around them. Sometimes these beliefs aren’t entirely rational yet we believe them without question. This is often because we were made to believe things by our parents, teachers and from society in general.

For example: Many of hold the belief that if we are nice to others,then they will like us.

Often a belief takes the format of “if this…then that….”

My job is to help clients challenge their thoughts that are unhelpful. Thoughts that make us fearful, involve faulty assumptions and thoughts than limit our potential in life all deserve to be challenged.

What makes a person super confident?

Think of your brain as the Captain of the ‘ship’. The messages sent from your brain will determine your actions in life and the direction that your life will take. Are your messages positive and inspiring or do you put yourself down, criticise yourself and remind yourself regularly of why you aren’t good enough?

If you do this – you will never reach your true potential.

1) They believe the best about themselves

Super confident people like themselves. They know they aren’t perfect and that there’s always room for improvement but they start from a place of self acceptance. They focus on their strengths and regularly remind themselves of their achievements in life.

2) Their approach = Positive Expectancy

They expect good things to happen. They expect that others will like them as they see themselves as being good company. Super confident people have self doubt and experience failure just as everyone else does but they do not let these thoughts and experiences overwhelm them or define them. They keep perspective and always have the foundation of self acceptance to fall back on. They trust themselves to be able to overcome tough times.

3) They live a life that’s ‘inside-out’

Instead of getting all their validation and self worth from external sources, such as the praise and approval of others, people with super self confidence are adept at searching inwards for their strength and validation. Why should someone else’s opinion of you matter more than your own opinion of you? When you seek approval from others or need a flashy car, powerful job or partner to make you feel worthy, you are subscribing to a life that is ‘outside-in’. A very precarious way to receive validation that relies on the generosity of others and leaves you ultimately in a powerless position. Refer to points 1,2 and 4 to live a life that’s ‘inside-out’.

4) Possess unwavering self belief

Super confident people do not let self doubt rule them. They make risk assessments and they are realistic about their abilities but when they go for it, they give it their all. They are not easily swayed by the critics and the nay-sayers of the world. The ‘noise’ from others does not dilute their focus. Richard Branson is a good example of someone who has taken the path less travelled, been told he will not succeed and has continued despite this. Find your inner motivation, and self belief and remember that other’s do not always know better than you do. Believe and persist…

5) Know themselves well

Super confident people know themselves well – they are aware of what they are good at and use this to their advantage. They have goals and purpose and don’t live life on automatic, going through the motions without ever checking whether what they are doing actually makes them happy and is leading them in the right direction. They actively seek out people and experiences in line with their goals and purpose.

6) There’s no need to prove themselves to others

Continuing on from point 3 – super confident people pursue goals and live their lives according to their own interests and motivation. They don’t need approval from others and this isn’t their primary motivating factor. Super confident people like approval from others but this is secondary to their approval of themselves. They enjoy looking in the mirror and liking the person staring back at them. Their inner world takes precedence over the outer world, this is where they take their lead from.

Decide on having a great life. Take time to get to know yourself and tune in to the real you, the one before you were told by everyone else what is possible for you or what you should be doing with your life. Get centred, stay focused and keep faith in yourself. Your inner beliefs have the potential to create or destroy you. Make sure you choose them wisely.

Mandy X


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

therapy couch

The Therapy Couch





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