I am trained and experienced in most areas of counselling, however below are a list of issue I have a special interest and extensive knowledge in.
Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices; crimes, or other types of aggression.
-Physical abuse is usually a symptom of an abusive relationship and can involve punching, slapping, burning or cutting. Abuse thrives on secrecy, and often injuries are inflicted on areas hidden from view. Where the abuse is less controlled, as in cases involving alcohol and drugs, injuries are more random. Often an injury alerts the outside world to on-going abuse, as in childhood bullying or within a close relationship.
– Emotional abuse allows one person to gain power and control over another through words and gestures which gradually undermine the other’s self respect. Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify, as there is no scars or marks, and the torment can continue indefinitely.
– If a person is pressured to do something sexual against their will, it is a form of sexual abuse. It can range from unwanted touching or photographing to rape. It can be a fine line between two consenting adults experimenting with their sexuality and then one person feeling pressured into performing an act which is degrading or frightening. Pornography, for example, can be enjoyed by adults or may be a humiliation for one. Sexual assault, sex with children under the age of 16, incest, rape by a stranger or inside marriage, are all crimes and matters for the police. Sex without a person’s consent due to drugs alcohol or unconsciousness is abusive.
‘Alcoholism’, also commonly referred to as alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction, describes the repeated use of and dependence upon alcoholic substances. This is thought to be caused by a cognitive and physiological dependence that can eventually lead to extensive tissue damage and disease across the body.
Drug users are often stereotyped with the image of ‘junkies shooting up’, and although this may be true to form in some cases, the vast majority of addicts do not measure up to this stereotype. Addiction does begin with a conscious decision to experiment with drugs, however scientific research has found that drugs interfere with normal brain functioning and have long-term effects on brain metabolism and activity. Thus changes occurring in the brain alter drug abuse to drug addiction, an uncontrollable craving that cannot be overcome without treatment. Addiction can affect anyone and both legal and illegal drugs can be addictive.
Compulsive gambling is not as well recognised as other addictions such as drugs, alcohol and smoking, yet gambling opportunities continue to grow. With the rapid development of new media, such as the Internet and interactive TV, the addiction is likely to become more widespread and affect many more individuals than it does so already. The compulsive gambler suffers with an uncontrollable urge to gamble and when the bills pile up they look back and ask themselves what they have done. Yet they continue to hide the problem, with fear that others will discover how much they have lost on a game of chance.
Tobacco was introduced to Europe at the end of the fifteenth-century, however it was not until the 20th Century that smoking became a mass habit and the dangers were discovered. Today, about 10 million adults in the UK smoke (about a quarter of the population) and smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK. Approximately 114,000 people in the UK die from smoking related diseases every year and 25% of men in the UK are smokers compared with 23% of women. About 70% of smokers admit that they want to stop smoking, however most believe they are unable to. However, approximately half of all smokers eventually manage to give up (statistics from NHS Direct).
According to The Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2010 a staggering 30.1 million adults in the UK (60 per cent) accessed the Internet almost every day. Continuing advances in technology now mean that more people than ever before are able use the Internet extensively for both work and social purposes, and research and communication which previously would have been time consuming now takes just a matter of minutes. Internet addiction includes cybersex and pornography, cyber relationships, online gambling and online shopping.
We are programmed with the ability to express our anger from birth – and then it gets complicated. Although it is a healthy, normal emotion it is probably also the most complex. It can be a creative force for change or to right an injustice.
Societies and families hold different views on how it can be used and by whom. It is often poorly managed and can be destructive when it is out of control and turns to aggression. If anger cannot be expressed it can lead to physical problems, depression and anxiety and can cause relationships to wither. Anger, like all the emotions, involves physiological and chemical changes in the body. Heart rates and adrenaline levels are affected as the body experiences anger. For some people these surges can become addictive and destructive. There is a fine line between acknowledging anger and venting it until it is out of control.
Common in all these complaints is the overwhelming effect of the body producing too much adrenaline resulting in physical symptoms which affect daily life. The apprehension of anxiety, which causes palpitations and shaking, results in the production of even more adrenaline, resulting in a vicious circle. For some people anxiety is a temporary state which passes when the source of stress subsides, while for others it becomes a long-term condition which affects their lives and those of their loves ones.
Grief can shake everything up – your beliefs, your personality, and even your sense of reality.
Bereavement is the time we spend adjusting to loss. There is no standard time limit and there is no right or wrong way to feel during the bereavement period – everyone must learn to cope in their own way. Grief, although normal, can manifest in a huge range of unexpected ways. Some people get angry, some people withdraw further into themselves and some people become completely numb. Sometimes, grief can turn into something more serious – like depression.
A bully is a person who intends to make another person feel powerless, worthless and afraid by emotionally, verbally or physically abusing them repeatedly. Experts say bullying has three main features: deliberate aggression, unequal power and pain and distress.
The experience of being bullied can be very traumatic. According to Beat Bullying, at least 20 UK children and teenagers kill themselves each year because of bullying. The number of people who have suicidal thoughts, engage in self-harm, or attempt suicide because of bullying is significantly higher. The thought that someone dislikes you enough to want to hurt you can be devastating. You might wonder what you’ve done to deserve that kind of treatment, you might start to question yourself and your value as a person – you might even begin to believe that you are worthless. If someone is making you feel worthless, powerless or afraid, then tell someone who can help and put a stop to it now.
Normally, cells gradually age and die, so they reproduce by splitting themselves and dividing. However, this process can get out of control, and the cells develop a lump, called a tumour.
If an individual experiences a personal issue about their future and wants to discuss or discover opportunities about their career plans, they can do so with a counsellor. Counsellors are experienced, qualified professionals who understand the difficulties of career choices and can offer appropriate advice to each individual.
According to the charity Carers UK, around six million people in the UK are currently caring for someone. This could include a relative who is suffering from a terminal illness, or a close friend who is struggling with a mental health problem or substance abuse.
There are a wide range of issues that affect this vital time. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million children fail to meet their full potential because many of their most basic needs aren’t met. Certain issues in our childhoods whether it is neglect, traumatic events, fears and confusion, family dynamics and much more lead to issues such as depression, relationship breakdowns, anxiety in later life. Exploring one’s childhood in counselling is a very important part of therapy and healing.
Changes in eating habits and sleeping patterns and overwhelming feelings of despair are often the first signs of depression. Many sufferers become emotionally detached from those around them and withdraw into a world of their own. Some describe it like being in a prison with no windows or doors, which can alienate friends and relatives, increasing the isolation.
The main characteristic of an eating disorder is the individual’s obsession with their weight; these obsessive thoughts can lead to severe consequences in both their health and their actions. Research has shown that females are much more likely to develop anorexia and bulimia than males. However, this is not the case with binge-eating disorder, which seems to develop in almost as many males as females.
Family life can be a place of refuge and security but for some it is a source of pain and disappointment. Our families absorb many of the stresses and strains from the outside world – and the pressures can boil over. Sometimes a personal problem, particularly in an adolescent, can overwhelm a family and there seems to be no clear way forward. At other times changes within the family leave other members confused and angry or hurt. When a crisis or disappointment happens for one member the family group absorbs the impact, sometimes helping and sometimes hindering. Sometimes the help comes at a high price to one or more members.
A family is a ‘system’ or an organisation, such as a social club or a workplace, but the rules and expectations of each one are unique and complex and often seen differently by each member. It is through examining what the explicit and hidden ‘rules’ might be in each family and how they are seen and interpreted by each member that the work might begin. One of the dilemmas of modern family life is the conflict of being an individual and
A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. Phobias are more pronounced than fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object. If a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that’s causing them anxiety. As well as restricting their day-to-day life, it can also cause them considerable anguish.
Sound self-confidence can bring benefits to all areas of your life, including relationships, career, social life and state of mind. Some people are self-confident in their work-life but not in their social life, we all differ. People feel comfortable with confident people as they are usually predictable and their behaviour is reliable.
The more positive feelings you have about yourself, the higher your self-esteem is; the more negative feelings you have the lower your self-esteem is. Our materialist world, where people continually compare themselves with those around them, highlights our insecurities and often leads us to feel negative about ourselves and the way we live. We lose sight of the value of our own individuality and then feel inadequate and unsatisfied. It can become an enduring personality trait. Working to improve your self-esteem takes time and effort. It requires courage and honesty to confront the things in yourself you don’t like but long-term it is a worthwhile task which should help you to feel better about yourself and your life.
It usually involves obsessions (intrusive thoughts or impulses) and compulsions (repeated behaviours) such as washing, checking or counting to counteract them. The repetition usually brings no pleasure, as addictive behaviours do, and is usually seen as irrational to the sufferer. Often it is an exhausting way of managing a fear and can be secretive.
It is an anxiety disorder which affects almost a million people in Britain; 2% of the population, and interferes with, or even disrupts, daily life. At a physical level it may involve communication problems between the brain’s orbital cortex and the deeper structure so that a message or thought becomes ‘stuck’. Low serotonin levels have also been detected in sufferers.
The compulsion is often carried out to prevent the obsession being true, and so the repeated behaviours can maintain the condition as the rituals appear to keep the fears at bay, i.e. the house does not get burgled because all the locks were carefully checked. Sometimes the condition seeks to control an internal destructiveness that the sufferer fears.
PTSD, and related symptoms, is one of the responses that happen to some people.
After a traumatic incident, individuals may keep ruminating over the event again and again so that it takes up valuable thinking time. It is as if the mind has been temporarily taken over with no headspace for normal daily function. They may experience a sense of overwhelming fear, intrusive images, thoughts, colours, smells and memories connected with the incident. Avoidance plays a part with some people – carefully avoiding talking, thinking or allowing triggers into their life to remind them of the trauma. This acts as a short-term safety mechanism but can lead to isolation from others. This can lead to ruptured relationships while the individual stays trapped with a sense of numbness and prolonged shock. Having a continuous startled response is another common symptom causing the individual to jump at every noise or sound.
Often individuals trapped in this way may seem as if their personality has changed, as they become irritable, have bouts of increased moodiness and episodes of ‘flying off the handle’. An inability to sleep properly or waking up regularly in the early hours may affect concentration and memory. All symptoms are normal reactions to an abnormal situation; it is the body’s response for keeping the individual safe from further danger, a primeval instinct, more profound and highly developed than any of us give it credit for.
Almost half new mothers feel weepy three or four days after the birth, which is known as ‘baby blues’. It requires no medical treatment, just support and rest and confidence-boosting by those around including partner, family and health professionals.
Post natal depression affects one in ten mothers and usually sets in two weeks to two years after the birth. It can result in the woman becoming listless and unable to cope with the demands of the home and baby. Many of the symptoms are similar to those of general depression with the woman becoming emotionally withdrawn and being overwhelmed with feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness.
Eating and sleeping patterns may alter markedly and the mother may lose interest in everything including the baby and be unable to concentrate or carry out daily tasks. Stressful events before the birth, a traumatic delivery or low self-esteem may contribute to post-natal depression. The arrival of a new baby and the unavailability of the mother can allow the partner to feel abandoned and unable to trust in the relationship.
To address problems in our intimate relationship it may be appropriate to consider couples counselling when the relationship, rather than each of the individuals, is considered the ‘client’.
Our sense of identity and self-worth rests on the strength of our relationships and often we despair when they fail. Our ways of relating are learned at a young age in the family in which we grew up and we can become stuck in unhealthy and unhelpful habits that restrict our lives. Under pressure we often revert to familiar patterns. The family scapegoat may find herself quick to accept blame when the pressure builds up at work. The assistant, who was bullied as a child, may find himself drawn to inviting criticism from an overbearing boss.
Self-respect and liking oneself are the most important ingredients for any good relationship. If these are in short supply you may consider counselling to address them. Any relationship that diminishes a person’s self-esteem should be examined closely.
The most common form of self-harm is cutting or scratching the skin with a sharp object, but it can take a variety of different forms, from burning, hair pulling, overdosing or ingesting poisonous or toxic substances.
There are numerous reasons for self-harm, but it is ultimately a coping mechanism and provides a temporary release or relief for whatever emotional or psychological problem the person may be experiencing. It is seen as a coping mechanism to deal with other problems, offering distraction, a chance to exert control over the body, and a way of releasing and expressing emotions.
Some feel self-harm is calming when they feel overwhelmed, helping them to focus, slow their emotions down and regain control of a situation. For others it is part of a ritual that helps them feel safe. Many use it to help bury thoughts or feelings, flashbacks or nightmares, numbing the emotions. Others see it as a form of punishment to deal with feelings of shame and guilt.
If a partner is hesitant about their decision to divorce it is an opportunity to unpack some of the problems in a structured and informed way. What do the hesitations mean? In this realistic phase, honesty and openness can often replace blame and anger. When did things turn in their history? What allowed things to become so broken? What earlier patterns of coping with life were re-enacted in this relationship and to what effect? What was the history of relationship, when did things turn? What allowed things to become so broken.
When one partner has decided to leave and the other does not, the work has a ‘Split Agenda’ which requires an experienced and patient couple’s counsellor. If the decision is made to separate then practical decisions might need to be thought through and channels of communication set up for future contact with children, family and property.
The couple needs closure on their lives together and an ‘ending’ to allow them to assimilate what was good and what was less helpful. This chance to minimise hurt and bitterness can allow a less bitter future. Separation counselling allows the mourning for the loss of what had once held so much promise. Understanding the loss cycle in relation to the union is a valuable way to allow individuals to move on with their lives rather than rolling over the same issues onto new relationships.
Many people find it extremely hard to recognise why they are attracted to an individual of the same sex or both sexes when it is perceived as ‘natural’ to be interested in the opposite sex. These feelings are extremely common and there are millions of people all over the world experiencing these emotions. It is normal for people to feel confused about their emotions and nervous about how others will react. Men in particular frequently feel quite isolated because of peer pressure that homosexuality is wrong. Homosexuality or being gay is not wrong, it is part of human sexuality, and individuals cannot choose their sexual orientation.
Ideology within society teaches us that homosexuality is not the correct sexual path to follow. Due to these values and pressures, some homosexuals do not realise they are gay until they are much older, or they refuse to accept their sexuality. For some coming to terms with their sexuality can be a very stressful and difficult time, leading to depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts.
In a stressful situation our brains release a range of ‘stress chemicals’ such as cortisol and adrenaline to provoke a fight-or-flight reaction. The fight reaction will have us standing up, ready to fight for our lives, while the flight reaction encourages us to flee from danger and protect ourselves. When we are immobile (for example in an office or car) these stress chemicals can build up and affect our immune system and blood pressure.
Everybody is unique and stress affects people in different ways – some thrive off it, while others find it incredibly difficult to deal with. How we react to stress depends on a variety of factors, including our personal temperament and the type of stress we’re dealing with. In life we generally encounter two types of stress; the first is the constant stream of everyday pressures like deadlines and bills, and the second is the sudden rush of stress brought on by one-off events such as death, moving house or divorce.
Sometimes, suicide feels like the only way to get away from those overwhelmingly dark feelings. Everyone has different reasons for wanting to end their lives and some people feel like they have no reason at all. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, then you should try to talk about them before making any decisions. Even if you think no-one wants to listen, the truth is – they do.
If you live in the UK, you can call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 now to talk to someone. The person on the other end of the line doesn’t know who you are, they’re not going to send the police round, they aren’t going to judge you and they aren’t going to tell any of your friends or family about how you feel. They are simply there to listen to anything you have to say, at any time of day or night. If you do have suicidal thoughts, then talking through those feelings with a counsellor could help you to come to terms with them and help you to realise that your life is worth living.
Psychological trauma is the mind’s reaction to an event and not everyone will react to the same event in the same way – for example, some people would find falling from a height traumatic, while others choose to jump out of planes for fun. Trauma also affects people in different ways and for some, the symptoms take weeks, months or even years to surface.
Work related stress is a growing problem in Britain. Increasing numbers of people report feeling undervalued, overworked, underpaid and unfulfilled in the workplace – feelings that can lead to further complications with mental health. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts can all be triggered by work related stress, along with physical health problems, relationship issues, sleep loss and feelings of self-doubt and inferiority.