Friday, 27 November 2015

Some of the mysteries of counselling uncovered

We're often asked what counselling is all about and whether it's effective in helping people deal with the difficulties they may be having, so we thought we'd discuss some common issues in this blog post.

Counselling involves talking

You don't have to be a chatterbox to come for counselling, but the process does involve talking about the issues you are experiencing with a trained professional. Counselling provides a 'safe place' where you can talk openly without worrying what your friends, family or colleagues think about you or your thoughts. For that reason, it is important to work with someone you gel with and feel you can trust.

Choosing a therapist

There are different types of therapist who offer counselling and this can lead to confusion when trying to decide who to see. Counsellors, psychotherapists and counselling psychologists all offer counselling services and there are different counselling approaches to consider too. At First Psychology, we believe it's the therapeutic relationship between the practitioner and the client that is important. When thinking about counselling (or any type of therapy) always look at the information about each practitioner so you can pick who you think would work for you, or ask for assistance if you can't decide.

The counselling process

Often people worry about what will happen during their counselling session, particularly the first one. This is quite usual - it's an unknown process and is likely to bring up some uneasy feelings. You may wonder whether your problems are trivial compared to what your counsellor is used to working with. This is a very common worry. There is no such thing as a big problem or a small problem. What we look at is how you feel. If you feel the need to seek help, that's what matters most.

Sessions with a counsellor

When you come along for counselling, you will be greeted by your practitioner and taken into a private consulting room. At First Psychology's centres, the room will contain comfortable chairs where you can sit back and discuss the process and what you are hoping to get out of your sessions with your practitioner.  We like to add a few extra touches too, such as rugs, soft lighting and homely cushions to make the experience feel more relaxing. Usually counselling is a short-term process and typically lasts for between six and twelve sessions depending on the issues you are experiencing.

The typical counselling client

There's no such thing as a typical counselling client. We regularly consult with people of all ages - we work with  adults (16 upwards), adolescents (12-16) and children (under 12). We also work with couples and families. We know that people can experience issues and problems at any point in their lives no matter who they are or what they do for a living. Counselling can offer a place to verbalise problems and work through feelings and thoughts.

Does counselling work?

This is probably the most frequently asked question. There have been many research studies which have shown counselling to be an effective way of making things better. Some of the most common reasons people come for counselling include low mood, anxiety, panic, anger, behavioural issues, addictions, grief, eating distress, health concerns, and uncertainty for a number of reasons. However everyone's situation is unique and often it is a combination of different things that lead people to seek help.

Thinking of getting started?

If you're looking for a counselling professional, always check to see what their training and experience is before making an appointment. That way you can be sure your practitioner is fully trained and experienced, and you can relax and get the most out of the process.

If you'd like to talk through what counselling services we have available at First Psychology's centres, please do get in touch. We would be happy to discuss your options with you.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

How to survive Christmas with the family

With Christmas Day approaching fast, the thought of spending time with your extended family may have started to make its way to the front of your mind. While we are bombarded with advertising images of happy families and couples enjoying the big day, in reality things are often not so rosy.

While the thought of spending time with your siblings and their children, or you or your partner's parents may be idylic in your head, it may be that in reality they always seems to rub you up the wrong way and leave you feeling cross or upset.

Read our tips to keeping your family on an even keel so nobody ends up in the dog house this Christmas!

Parents and parents in-law

"Parents can have a powerful effect on their grown up children. While we often look forward to spending time with our parents, being in their company for extended periods can lead to discussions and niggles coming to the fore," says Professor Ewan Gillon, Counselling Psychologist and Clinical Director of First Psychology Scotland.

"It can sometimes feel that our parents are criticising us when we don't do things their way. They in turn may feel disappointed that we aren't acknowledging their experience and wisdom or treating them with the respect they deserve."

"Everyone has a preconceived vision of how they would like Christmas to be and when reality doesn't agree with this vision, it can be hard to deal with," says Professor Gillon.

"Being in the company of anyone for extended periods of time is likely to draw out disagreements and resentment and it is important to recognise this and not allow things to escalate. When there is a history, such as with parents, where they have once made decisions for us and we may have been resistant to this, it can sometimes be hard for both parties not to slip back into old habits."

Relationship issues

When 'forced' to spend more uninterrupted time with a partner, relationship issues and arguments can arise and things can become heated. It is not a coincidence that so called 'divorce day' - when more couples file for divorce than any other day in the year  - occurs in January, says Professor Gillon. "For couples who are having relationship difficulties, an extended period together can cause rifts and resentments to bubble up and bring things to a head. Sometimes things are said in the heat of the moment, or the pressure builds to a point where people feel the only way is out," he says.

Don't let things escalate!

Whether you're spending the Christmas period with your partner alone, your immediate family or extended family, or they are staying with you, Professor Gillon's advice can help you all enjoy the experience.

"The best way to survive extended Christmas contact with relatives is to pre-plan time away from each other and also time together with a joint focus, he says. Time out, such as popping upstairs to read your book away from it all, popping out to see a friend for an evening, going out for a drink with just your partner (when you have a full house), etc can provide a valuable opportunity to refocus and gain perspective on things," says Professor Gillon.

"Joint focus activities, such as going for a walk together in the woods, provides a positive joint experience and as such increases bonding. And there is the added bonus of releasing some tension when taking exercise too. Just don't overdo it, or it may backfire and make you all exhausted and grumpy, he laughs."