Most of us know about using a substance or experience to alter our mood. It may be a coffee to wake us up or shopping for a treat to cheer ourselves. For the vast majority, these behaviours are manageable. Our morning coffee does not turn into a 20-cup-a-day unstoppable habit. Our shopping does not turn into huge credit card debt. Knowing when our relationship with a substance/experience has become addictive is not as obvious as it sounds. Often, when we are in an addictive pattern, we can be unaware of how our behaviour is impacting ourselves or others. If you have questions about your own behaviour, or are impacted by another’s addiction, therapy can help.
At the heart of therapeutic work on anger is understanding the separation between feeling anger and angry behaviour. Angry behaviour – shouting, hitting, or saying mean things in the heat of the moment can compound our difficulties. Anger as an emotion, however, is essential: it lets us know we have a need that has been unmet; it provides us with energy to act in a way that works for us. Many of us have grown up with messages about anger: we could have been told it’s a bad thing that should never be expressed; we could have been told that it’s the only way to get what we need. Working in therapy to understand more about our own unique relationship with anger builds awareness and from there we can start to make choices about our behaviour that work for us and choices that work for our relationships.
Bereavement Grief and Loss
When we lose someone close to us it can be devastating – managing everyday life when we are grieving can feel like an insurmountable task. Bereavement or grief counselling provides a space to talk about our loss and explore how to manage our feelings.
Often, we will experience a whole range of emotions when we are grieving. We can feel sadness, but also anger, and the shock of a death can lead to numbness. Some of the time we need to shut down our feelings of grief as they are so intense, and talking to a skilled therapist means we can gently explore what we’ve shut down. When a relationship ends through bereavement, we grieve for the things we didn’t get from that relationship, as no relationship is perfect. It can be difficult to accept that, now, we’ll never get the things we yearned for. This aspect of grief can be particularly intense in grieving the loss of parents.
Mourning the death of someone we love and value honours them and the relationship we have had with them. We can grieve for some time after a loss; as we are all unique, there is no normal grieving period.
Grief can also happen at the end of a romantic relationship or a close friendship – we grieve deeply at the end of a marriage.
Conflicts within relationships can stir up individual experiences of relationships in our original families. These experiences can define the relationships we choose and so can be helpful to understand. Factors such as work, family, money, sex and health can also cause tension in relationships.
Couples counselling can enable you to discuss these conflicts together, making it easier to recognise the issues that arise and to solve them. The added support of a counsellor as a witness can help us communicate better and effectively resolve the conflict. Often, couples therapy will include learning new tools for communication, so that our differences can be explored fully without blame or confusion.
Issues that are often worked through in couples counselling include affairs, separation, divorce, conflict, sex, money and self-esteem. Learning to manage and respect our differences is an important part of couples work.
Sometimes in couples therapy, we conclude that the relationship is no longer working. Couples counselling can help in creating a positive ending for the relationship.
Fluctuations in mood are a natural, everyday occurrence, but a low mood can sometimes persist for weeks at a time and become depression. Counselling for depression seeks to find the root cause or causes, and find ways for us to get past the fog or feelings of despair.
When we are depressed everything can feel like an effort, and it can be difficult to imagine how anything will ever improve. Counselling will help you to explore the root causes of depression and to support you in finding ways to manage your experience of it.
When in counselling for depression, a therapist may support you in developing a programme of self-care to combat the particular kind of depression you are experiencing, and to help you build resilience against spiralling downwards again when you have recovered.
Eating Disorder and Food Issues
Many people experience difficulties in their relationship with food at various times in their life. We may use food to comfort ourselves, punish ourselves, or as a way of suppressing difficult feelings. This relationship with food may manifest as an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia or overeating. Living with disordered eating can have an adverse effect on our self-esteem and interfere with our ability to live life to the full. Therapy for eating disorders helps by exploring the root causes of our unhealthy relationship with food and helps us to tackle the issues.
Counselling for eating disorders is likely to include exploring the reasons for your difficult relationship with food, building self-esteem, and looking at negative thoughts and beliefs that may be triggering and sustaining your issues. This may support you in developing a healthier and more satisfying relationship with food.
Sometimes, we will find ourselves in an intimate relationship that feels difficult, and we are not yet ready to explore this with our partner. This is when individual counselling, focusing on our experience in that relationship, can help. We all learn how to be in relationship from what’s modelled to us by our parents and carers as we grow up. Often, we are not necessarily aware of what relationship models we’ve taken in as children – we just go ahead and act them out with our current partners. Talking through our histories and how we have been impacted by them with a skilled therapist can be an illuminating process.
Counselling for low self-esteem explores how we are in relation to ourselves. How do we talk to ourselves? Are we aware of our critical voice? How do we care for ourselves, through thought as well as action? Learning how to appreciate ourselves is a skill that we all need, otherwise we become dependent on others for appreciation and care. Counselling for low self-esteem or a lack of confidence will focus on listening to your critical voice and learning to engage with it, challenging rather than accepting mean statements.
Neurodiversity, ADD and ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, and Tourettes
In a world where accepted social norms and learning institutions are all tailored to work for neurotypicals, our experience of having a neurodiverse brain can be deeply confusing and often lonely. We are all hardwired from birth to need and want to be part of a group, so if we find ourselves on the outside it’s a frustrating and painful experience. Counselling can help by talking through these experiences, healing from the trauma of exclusion and learning more about how our neurodiversity impacts us. Often, an important aspect of the therapy, is to recognise and celebrate the benefits of our neurodiversity, for instance appreciating the phenomenal memory of the dyslexic brain, the talent for straight talking of the autistic brain, or the capacity for keeping multiple plates spinning of the ADD/ADHD brain.
When we survive abuse in childhood, whether it is psychological, physical or sexual, the impact on our adult lives is always significant. We can find it hard to trust in adult relationships, both emotionally and physically. Counselling for survivors of childhood trauma aims to support us to come to terms with what we’ve survived, understand how it has impacted us, and how to build healthy and satisfying relationships as adults. Often, we can feel shame about what we’ve survived and blame ourselves. Counselling helps us to put the shame and blame where it belongs – with the abuser. Sometimes survivors need to talk about the detail of the abuse; at other times, this is an unhelpful restimulation of the trauma. Speaking with a skilled and experienced therapist helps us decide which approach will work best for.