The counselling, CBT and coaching work that I am passionate about, is improving people's mental health by making peace with their past, and designing a more meaningful and purposeful life.
In my personal and professional experience, addiction and substance misuse, come in many forms and they are a complex area of mental health counselling. And there are many different types of addictions and behaviours associated with them and substance misuse that I have experience of treating in my mental health counselling practice.
The first and perhaps the most common being, the habitual behaviours, where over time we do things more and more when the satisfaction lessons.
The way many people's relationship with coffee and sugar is, the nature of the substance creates cravings in our minds and even bodies.
Another type of addiction pattern can be around substances such as nicotine and alcohol which do have more physically addictive qualities. Many people live much of their lives with some degree of substance dependency. Many never know or admit they are dependent, as the addiction is very subtle and they manage and control when they feed the cravings based on beliefs and rules learned through their family and society. For example not drinking before 12pm, or not smoking before 10am.
Many clients whom I have treated, who have had traumatic experiences have also frequently said that they have struggled to moderate engaging with drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling. Often this is also linked to traumatic childhood experiences. In particular where a child has experienced abuse, abandonment or neglect.
These groups of people are more vulnerable to feeling like they need to use substances to repress and control unbearable traumatic pain. This is why people who end up with antisocial behaviour problems, or getting in trouble with the law, getting sacked, being cut off from friends and family or being made homeless are more vulnerable to substance misuse. It's not a weakness in them, it's an unconscious way of managing pain or an attempt to self-sooth.
A few of the symptoms that we may wish to consider are, do you find yourself breaking promises with yourself or others around a habit, do you find yourself using a crutch more than you expect or admit, do you repeat the task/habit expecting different results only finding that in fact, you feel the same or worse than you previously did.
Sometimes it seems to me that anxiety is like the other side of depression in terms of our mental health.
For example, a depressed person can feel anxious when confronted with an opportunity to engage socially in a way they have not done for a while, or in a way that makes them feel vulnerable.
They are a bit like two sides of a coin.
In a way they can keep feeding into each other in a cycle of feeling depressed, then getting anxious and fearful about changes, then going back to feeling depressed when we decide to avoid the stress of whatever previously made us feel anxious. And so on.
It is also often present in dysfunctional working arrangements where employees and staff needs are not being met, and unsustainable demands are being put on individuals.
Often a person will experience an increase in anxious symptoms but in many cases not know why this is.
A lot of my counselling, CBT and coaching work is around uncovering how the anxious symptoms are like warning lights telling us that something needs to change.
You might notice that inside you, it might feel a bit like, your inner child is like a scared child trying to hide.
Focused breath-work can be one of the great ways of taking back control by getting our sense of self back into the body and getting balanced and grounded. Often we will not breathe effectively or efficiently when we are anxious and stressed.
Learning how to communicate effectively can help to relieve anxious feelings, as the feelings are often based on what we believe or imagine rather than reality. When we learn to ask with confidence, for what we need, this can help to shift anxiety.
Please download my free value self development Hack-sheets below for more help with this.
Most of us don't think a lot about how we communicate for much of the time. Often until we are confronted with a problem that we can't resolve, and seek help in some sort of self-development work. When we do, we often find we tend to communicate in one of two ways, which is often what is happening unconsciously for most of us a lot of the time.
We might learn that the ways that we typically communicate don't help us to get our point across or feel heard or understood.
They leave us not getting what we want and feeling ineffective.
Parent. Adult. Child
This simple communication model from Transactional Analysis by Dr Eric Berne, can help us to explore which style of communication we tend to use, as well as what we find we experience from others.
As well as what we can do to change the dysfunctional communication in our lives.
Personality & character
Our self-identity and character can feel in crisis at worst or integrated, balanced and whole, when at our best.
The ancient four elements model-earth, water, fire & air can be a really useful tool for exploring how we typically show up in any situation.
as in which traits do we engage, use or over-rely on.
Are you a very earthy and consistently reliable colleague, or a fluid and watery, adaptable and accommodating friend.
What could be the benefits and weaknesses of either approach?
We might like to be more assertive and efficient and make positive use of our inner fire. In overcoming our fear of speaking up, asking for what we want and taking reasonable risks.
Essentially this area of my coaching and counselling work helps clients to explore the sides of their identity they use the most, and yet often initially feel less in control and aware of. As well as which of their less familiar qualities they might like to develop more of.
You can also find more on this in my Hack-sheets below.
At some point, almost everyone's mental health is vulnerable to experiencing some of the symptoms of depression. Often we don't know why at first. It can feel like our shadow self in running our life, and it may show up as a loss of interest in our usual interests or social circle. We might notice that we are more judgemental and critical.
We may feel withdrawn or disconnected from the world and have less or no motivation for life or work.
In my experience in many cases, depression is often trying to communicate some information that we may or may not already know. Often it can be around a loss or after a negative experience.
Or perhaps it could be a reaction to a toxic environment or situation we felt stuck in.
Through counselling and psychotherapy, we can learn to process our experiences and release the negative emotions from our past and move from a sense of powerlessness and victimhood to a more powerful and energized self with a wider range of choices. Leading to less depressive symptoms and better mental health.
The way we achieve this is through partly processing the past traumas that have hurt us, and where possible shifting our perspective to a more positive and uplifting one.
We can also make this enjoyable by helping you to explore activities you find stimulating and inspiring, as well as therapeutic and restorative.
Sometimes depression is historic and linked to an early life experience that we may have repressed, or still be carrying as if we are still back there.
Again I've written a lot more about this in my free value content, 'MindBody Hack-Sheets below.
Panic can be linked to an unprocessed traumatic experience. This can include being assaulted either emotionally or physically. Sometimes we may feel psychologically harmed by someone who has power or responsibility for us, like an employer or someone we trust intimately.
In many of the cases I've worked on around panic symptoms, people can dread and fear the past repeating, which is why it shows up as panic symptoms in the present.
This can lead to beliefs and presumptions about ourselves and others in our current environment.
Sometimes they may be partly true, but often it is a fantasy projection from our past.
By speaking to those around us that we trust about our concerns and needs, can help to breakdown the disempowering panic symptoms. As we will often come up with new ways of being and working out a new day to day process that contributes positively to our mental health and wellbeing.
Taking up a grounding practice like breathwork can greatly help to reduce feelings of powerlessness, and calm the body and mind.
Activities like meditation and Tai Chi have are also well known to help with reducing symptoms of panic and improve mental health.
In my Hack-sheet Pdf course, I liken panic to a warning light or alarm being set off by accident, like an over sensitive burglar alarm system.
With practice, we can learn to make positive use of greatly reduced symptoms of panic that help to keep us safe and warn us well in advance about potential harm.
When life feels out of our control and out of balance, our minds seek out solutions in any way they can. One of these unconscious strategies is to keep reminding us about things that we can control. Sometimes this happens in an unhelpful and disruptive way. Such as repeatedly checking if we have locked doors and turned things on or off.
This is what has come to be known as 'obsessive-compulsive disorder' or OCD for short.
In my professional experience, this area of my work takes many forms.
For example compulsive gambling, eating, and dieting.
I have also seen it show up and be linked to hoarding, impulsive shopping, excessive cleaning, and washing, arranging things in a very specific way, buying or acquiring things we don't need, or even an unhealthy attachment to clothing, makeup or hairstyles.
Even going to the gym can be a form of OCD if we over-rely on attending to feel well and if we don't feel we can feel good about ourselves without going.
I've also come across obsessive compulsions with some of my clients around their attachment or association with other people.
For example, some clients have told me they get stressed that they can't stop thinking about a particular celebrity or ex-partner or friend.
The more they try not to think about this person the more distressed they get, as in try not to think about someone creates the opposite results.
Trying not to think about 'pink elephants' is much harder once we have been given the instruction to do so.
Part of the solution is to stop trying not to think about the perceived problem or object, and just let it go. Trust it will regulate itself and become less frequent when we stop trying to control it.
This also applies to OCD around illness.
Almost everyone we know has relationship difficulties at times, with partners, friends, colleagues, and family.
Often I find with couples, one of the partners refuses to admit there is a problem and accept seeking help together.
This frequently leads to the other feeling forced to seek help and change alone. Sometimes this is a necessary step towards improvement.
Investing some time to explore what is going on for you and the other people in your life. By learning to consider other perspectives, this can help to break through stuck relationship dynamics, and breath new life into your relationships.
Some of the most common signs that show up around relationships, are when we or others are feeling stuck or lacking empathy, or excessively judgemental about others. It can be helpful to think about things from the person's perspective in a safe space.
As in what is there background story, as well as our own so that we can gain more realistic expectations of them. Also, how have we experienced them historically? have they or we always felt or been this way or is it a new thing?
At other times it might be about learning to have more effective boundaries with others in order to not lose ourselves in other people's drama or story quite so often.
Often it's partly accepting and coming to terms with the fact things are not how we would like them to be, and letting go as best we can.
The act of surrendering and letting go frees the mind from incessantly trying to change and fix things outside of our control.
For example, repeatedly telling ourselves that someone should behave more kindly when we know there is little or no evidence that they are more of a kind type of person. Contributes to our stress, anxiety and poor mental health. Accepting and surrender to the cold hard truth that they are not as nice or kind as we would like or expect them to be. It frees the mind and makes room to move on to more worthy and valid challenges.
Some of my CPD training around relationships and working with couples has been through the Gottman Institute.
Many people struggle with have low self-esteem, sometimes they don't even realise it, as it can be well disguised as overconfidence or arrogance. Or the opposite, passive and easy going with low expectations.
We might feel acute fear of being wrong or making mistakes and failing.
How our parents and carers responded to our vulnerabilities and failings as well as their own, is key to how we feel about ourselves in adult life.
One of the symptoms people with low self-esteem carry is a sense of entitlement. By that I mean they demand that the world must change for them, or the opposite, passively disengaging in self-sabotaging ways of keeping the low self-worth alive.
We may seek confirmation bias that we are right to think badly of ourselves or others. We may cherry-pick evidence to confirm these biased beliefs that feed our sense of self. Re-framing and internalizing our value system is one of the ways we can rebuild our self-esteem so that we worry less about what others think of us. When we are happy with ourselves it follows that we care less if others don't appreciate us.
Focus and goals-
Making plans to focus and follow through with is another key way we can help to build up our confidence and sense of worth.
Many of the clients I've treated experience difficulty staying focused, and deciding which goals to work on.
Often they are creative professionals who get stuck in certain unhelpful repetitive patterns like stagnation.
By exploring what gets in the way of our focus and goals, we will often find procrastination, fear of failure or even fear success, as with this comes responsibility we may secretly fear!. Sometimes we might feel unworthy of success or happiness.
But if we can put a strategy together to make our own success, around achievable goals. Practice breaking down tasks into bite-sized pieces that we can manage each day, we're more likely to be able to stay present and focused more likely to achieve our objectives and feel the benefits of them.
One of the keys to this is a balance, through regular breath practice and activity that engages your body in a meaningful way, so as to avoid being pulled into fight /flight mode. This sort of work can be really enjoyable, and again you can read more about this in my free Pdf hack-sheet course.
I have been fortunate to of had the opportunity to have worked with many young people in schools during and after my training.
It saddens me greatly that so many young people are allowed to suffer so unnecessarily, often leading to trauma and personality disorders.
When children as still growing physically and developmentally, the experiences they have often have a far more profound effect on them. As they have not had enough time to develop suitable responses and defense mechanisms when encountering hostility or abuse.
Children and young people also have far more limited choices and options, but having someone they can confide in confidentially, to help them to find the courage to make necessary changes can be a really profound and empowering experience for them.
Though many parents and carers are well intended, all at times make mistakes and get things wrong. It can be very useful at times particularly when a major change is happening in a young person's life, for example, a divorce or separation, relocating or changing schools when a parent or carer is absent or deceased.
or perhaps when struggling with exam pressures or the beginning or end of an intimate relationship.
All this and more has been in the topics of conversation I have had with many children and young people whom I have helped.
Though working with children and young people is slightly different from working with adults. There is still a very strict confidentiality agreement, and I can only disclose details from the work we do together when a child is at serious risk of harm.
However encouraging a child or young person to be open about the work with those close to them that they trust, is also part of the therapeutic work.
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