What is Counselling and What Therapy Do I Choose?

What is counselling and what therapy do I choose?

Before I became a counsellor and looked for my own therapist, I was so confused by all the different modalities and what they meant. What therapy do I need? What will actually help me in my journey?

In setting up my own business, one of my friends looked over my website and questioned “But what does it mean?”. Good point. What does it all mean to someone who hasn’t trained as a counsellor and psychotherapist? What separates Person Centred Approach from Gestalt and Psychodynamic from Psychosynthesis and where does CBT fit into all of this?

Let’s look at PCA or Person Centred Approach counselling. This therapy was coined by Carl Rogers, an American Psychologist and therapist. His work was pioneering in that it was more aimed at a humanistic way of working with the clients, rather than an analytical way. He believed that people were their own governors and the counsellor was “non-directive” in the sessions, allowing the client autonomy and empowering them to take responsibility for their own inner resources and ability to change, rather than it being directed by the therapist’s decisions. The whole focus of PCA sessions is around the client, their needs, and for the therapist to show an empathic, non-judgemental and honest approach to the client.

What can you expect from a PCA session? The counsellor will listen and respond to you, allowing themselves to see things from your perspective with warmth and a genuine interest in you, as a person. The aim of PCA is to allow you to find self-actualisation, which is that point where you are living life with a real concept of who you are, instead of through the lens’ of others judgements and beliefs. A PC counsellor won’t tell you what to do. They will allow you to discover this yourself, through exploration of self concept, allowing you to shed those outdated views you hold about yourself based on past experiences. If you want a counsellor who will walk beside you on your journey and show that they care and believe that you are an awesome human, PCA may be for you.

The Gestalt approach to therapy is more holistic, working with the person as a whole, mind, body and soul. Gestalt aims to allow the client to discover and explore their own wholeness, way of being and who they are. It focuses on the here and now- what are you thinking, feeling, doing right now, in the therapy room. What is your body trying to say? Gestalt is a German word which roughly translates to “Put together” and Gestalt therapy is all about looking at all parts of the self and the whole of the self. It focuses on what is happening, rather than what has happened and to bring this awareness to the client. A Gestalt counsellor will be fully present to what is going on for the client and help raise awareness of what is happening for the client with their thoughts, behaviours and feelings, both physical and emotional. It also helps bring awareness to the client on their own interactions with others and behaviours and the impact these have on their lives. Awareness is the key in Gestalt therapy. Bringing that into light how we are, who we are, how we live and how we relate to the world around. Through this awareness we can begin to see reality in the present and make informed choices to change.

Psychodynamic models of counselling look at our inner worlds, our unconscious self and how this is a powerful force that can influence how we think, feel and behave. This inner world consists of memories, fantasies and beliefs that are partly conscious, meaning we have some awareness of its presence, but mostly unconscious, meaning that they are hidden from us. Psychodynamic can bring awareness of the unconscious through symbols, signs and through dreams, allowing us to gain access to that which is hidden. The aim of a Psychodynamic approach is to bring the unconscious into awareness and allow the client to understand their behaviours and motivations, bringing freedom and choice in their actions. It focuses on the past and allows exploration of events and how they have shaped our thoughts and behaviours, our view of the world around us. It looks at how your unconscious thoughts and perceptions that you gather from childhood experiences affects the here and now and aims to promote understanding which can bring about change. It’s basically giving awareness to what is going on beneath the surface, your inner self, and bringing that forward in order for you to understand your relationships with others, the world and yourself.

Psychosynthesis is something that cannot be easily described yet it seems so simple. The self. The inner teacher, the deep self, the creative receptacle. The soul. Our essence. Saying this, some people may feel a new age vibe creeping in and immediately turn off from this and some may feel into it and think, hmm, this sounds interesting. It isn’t about new age hippydom. It isn’t about crystals and ESP and psychic awareness. It’s about depth. Depth of who you are, your passions, your connection to your own wonderful being. Your being. Not your doing. It’s about faith but not religion. It is divine and taps into the collective unconscious that we all share, that knowing. Our connection to- well, everything! Psychosynthesis is guided by intuition. Not as an extra sensory perception, but as an inbuilt system we all have that supports us in our journey toward wholeness. Not that we aren’t whole already, because we are. We aren’t half of something, or a fraction of a self. We are whole. Whole yet made of many parts of self, those sub -personalities and archetypes of life. It shows us we have parts of self are parental, some are of the inner child, the wise parts of ourselves. The foolish. Understanding this and these different roles our psyche holds can give us greater understanding of our behaviours and thoughts, allowing them to integrate back to source with acceptance. psychosynthesis and working with transpersonal therapies allows us to open our eyes to what is, to what may be.

CBT is different from the named therapies above as it is more of a solution focused intervention, rather than counselling. CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, is widely used by psychological services within the NHS. Not because of it’s effectiveness so much but because it can be evaluated. In such a target driven organisation, it looks good on paper. Is it effective though?

This really depends on what you need and how well you can engage with the activities. You will have to be prepared to put in the work outside of the sessions and do the “homework” that you agree to work towards.

CBT works by looking at your negative thoughts, how this makes you feel and what behaviours arise from these. It then looks to challenge these negative thoughts, influencing your behaviour and breaking that cycle of negative patterns. It works well if you are in a space to be able to rationalise what is going on for you. If you are looking for a therapy that is more in tune with self exploration and having a therapist who empathises and listens to your needs, it may not be for you. That’s not to say that it can’t be incorporated successfully into a counselling session

Which one is right for me?

Studies have shown that no matter what form of therapy a counsellor may choose, the most important factor to client growth is the relationship between the therapist and the client.

Meet potential therapists, talk with them. Use your intuition to feel if they are right for you, or not. Most therapists will insist on a minimum of 6 initial sessions. If it isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to find another therapist after your minimum session. Don’t stick it out further than you need to if the sessions aren’t sitting with you right and talk to your counsellor about it. The chances are that they will be empathic towards your needs and they may know of another counsellor that they feel would suit you and your needs better.

I hope you have found this useful in explaining some of the different types of therapy available.

http://www.westwiltshirecounselling.co.uk

If you would like more information on the different types of therapies, please visit the BACP, British Association of Counselling and Psycho website:

https://www.bacp.co.uk/about-therapy/types-of-therapy/Types of counselling and psychotherapy (bacp.co.uk)

When Nature Speaks

Nature Speaks Medicine

Part of my work as a counsellor, meditation teacher and through my shamanic studies, looks at interpreting symbols and signs. Repeated themes in our lives and our dreams can bring such richness to us and enable us to see beyond the visible and into the unconscious and perhaps beyond.

Nature has provided a huge source of comfort to me and helped me to realise that there is no separation. The world responds to our own thoughts and feelings, mirroring them in a perfect dance with our own souls, helping us to see the interconnectedness of life.

There are many books and sources from the internet that speak of such things, giving their interpretation on what this symbology means, from dream interpretation to power animals. I am not going to say don’t listen to these, but I am going to say try to gain meaning from these using your own intuition. For me, these messages are really personal to me and that gives me a great sense of my own power in all of this. I have within me my own guide to sensing what sits right for me.

My friends often say to me that I am the “Feather Woman” as I am always finding nature’s treasures out on walks. Feathers, animal skulls, strange and wonderful plants and fungi; not because I am special or lucky but because I have attuned myself to where I am walking. This is best done alone. Silence is your friend. It enables you to really sink into the world around you, that mindful, meditative state where your senses become more aligned with the earth. You notice more (hence finding the treasures) and in noticing more and feeling more, the earth responds.

When I first became interested in plant medicine, I had a huge calling to find and work with Mugwort. Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, is also known as the mother herb or wise woman. It’s great for women and their menstrual cycle, good to use to clear away negative energy by burning it and also used to enhance dreaming and meditative states. I looked everywhere for it, near where I live. It favours roadsides and verges, poor soil conditions. I walked for miles trying to find this plant but couldn’t find any within a few miles of my house. Then I found her. Growing in the middle of my garden. It was as if the earth had responded to my call and brought her to me, in the safety of my garden, away from pesticides and car fumes. The earth is listening to you.

This isn’t the only example of how my wishes have been responded to. I really wanted to find a barn owl feather as I had found tawny feathers before but not a barn owl. I was walking my dog in a local woods and asked. I am careful when I ask for things that it doesn’t impact on the earth. I would never ask for a sign or symbol if it meant that nature would lose out by me finding it. It is also about respect. Well I found my owl feather. Not just one though. Another, then another… I followed the trail of feathers and realised that they came from an owl that had been predated. Some of the feather shafts were neatly cut at the base, showing that a fox or other mammal had sheared them off. I also found a talon nail. I openly cried, knowing that this beautiful bird had lost it’s life and I felt so guilty for asking for them. Then I remembered what I had asked for, and for it to not impact on the natural world and I realised what I had been given. There is death in nature just as there is life. I had not caused the death but I had been given the opportunity to mourn the passing of a beautiful creature. In holding on to the feathers, I had been also given a chance to honour this bird and it’s memory. So what is the symbology of an owl? Owls are steeped in myth and legends from across the globe. Linked to women and the moon, farsight as they see when other animals cannot. Messengers and heralds, full of wisdom and linked to psychic ability. What do owls mean to me though? For me, this was a message. From the earth. Speaking loudly, showing me that I am connected, I touched the heart of the universe and it listened and responded to me. Owls allow me to process grief (something I will admit I am not great on) and this was a huge gift. All I can say is thank you for this.

I can spot hemlock a mile off. Hemlock (the U.K plant, not the USA tree), Conium maculatum, is a highly toxic plant of the carrot family. Socrates was said to have poisoned himself using this plant. Hemlock is another that calls to me but it’s not something to be ingested as it really is deadly poisonous. So what’s the deal then? I can’t use it as medicine. I decided that I would journey with this plant using my drum to take me into a deep meditative state, helping me to connect to the power of this plant. It felt like it had a message to teach me and this is one of my preferred ways of helping me to connect to nature. The message was clear and simple. Hemlock showed me standing there in all it’s magnificence. It’s not a bright and bold plant by any means, in fact its quite easy for this plant just to blend into the background and be missed, but there it was. Fully in it’s own power. Just as it is. For me this was a beautiful message about being able to stand in my own power without having to be showy about it. That it’s okay to stand and accept your own self and that beauty that is you. Just be, was the message. No need to make a song or dance, no need to do anything other than just be. What an amazing gift that was! Acceptance and love without conditions attached. Beautiful.

Sometimes the signs are just phenomenal. I was seeing Jays everywhere. The Eurasian Jay, Garrulus glandarius, is a beautiful but shy member of the crow family. I was seeing them everywhere. As I pondered their meaning, I asked my mum if I could borrow something from her bureau and as I opened it, there was a brooch pin of a jay. Wow. Coincidence? Later on that day my daughter came home from school with a new reading book called Waterlilies and Other Stories. She wanted me to read the next story to her and it was called The Jay and the Peacock. I was blown away by this. So for me, Jays have a special meaning, once again. Jays remind me that I do not have to be anyone else but myself and in being myself, I will find others like me, who accept me fully for being me (seems to be a theme going on here). Be yourself. You will find your tribe.

I have nothing but love and gratitude for our earth. I have been given so many wonderful signs and symbols for my own heart and spirit to follow. In fact, I have been meaning to write this up for a while and since deciding this, I have seen many signs about signs and symbols and their meanings.

Go and be with nature, however you can. Walk, sit, meditate, journey, dream. If you have access to a local counsellor or psychotherapist that specialises in walk and talk or eco/wild therapy, then give this a go too. So much of our own self is reflected in nature. Remember that when you see that beauty in the natural world, you are also glimpsing your own beauty. You are nature, not separate from it. You are a wonder and that is bloody beautiful.

http://www.westwiltshirecounselling.co.uk

Meditation in the Modern World

With ever busy lives spent rushing around, going from one thing to the next, where does this leave time to practice meditation?

We spend our time looking forwards to tomorrow, our minds always elsewhere. The next thing to do at work, the next chore to complete, the next holiday we are going on, the new promotion…endless thoughts over things that grasp us away from fully living in the present. So what I can hear some people say, maybe it’s good to have aspirations, to be ready for what comes next… maybe it isn’t. Our thoughts are so full of what could be that we are bypassing what is. Casting away the preciousness of now for something that may not even come to pass, forgetting the joy of what we already have in our lives.

I do believe that the pandemic has given some of us the opportunity to stop, recheck ourselves and think about what’s important. For me it’s all about connection. That connection to myself, those beliefs I hold about who I am and the world around me. How wonderful our Earth is. That family and friendships are what hold us together, in our own private communities and that of a wider embrace. It has highlighted the inequality of our British infrastructure and how so many families are living in poverty and just how important that teachers and school staff are to our children, especially those vulnerable to poverty. Through no fault of their own, I will add.

So what’s this got to do with meditation? Well, everything. The pandemic has been a wake up call to present life and it doesn’t sit very well in the bones does it? We’ve had a chance to look deeper at our own self and that of others’ lives. The way at which the Earth is being manipulated and destroyed. We are being present to things that are uncomfortable to sit with. Fear, anger and a seeming division between those that see it as a deadly virus and those that feel its a huge conspiracy to make the world cower and tow the line. Whatever you believe, it’s happening right now. Unlike most of our lives which seem to be happening somewhere else. Albeit in our thoughts.

Meditation can’t stop a virus but it can help us to find a safe space in all of this. Mindfulness and meditation can stop those worrying thoughts, even for a short while and help you refocus on what is really important in all of this and that is you! I’m not saying everything else is unimportant, I am clarifying that you really are important. Every part of you. The parts you like, the bits you don’t, that absolute wonder that is alive right now, within. Meditation and mindfulness practice can bring you back to yourself and allow you to appreciate and accept yourself. Even five minutes a day can help recalibrate a frazzled mind. More is better but I often tell my students to start with 5 minutes. Everyone can fit in five minutes a day.

What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about being present to what you are doing. This can be a mindfulness body or breath practice or just washing the dishes and focusing on washing the dishes instead of thinking about what you are going to do after you have finished washing the dishes. Meditation can be a breath practice also or repeating a mantra, or perhaps engaging in Metta which is a Buddhist method of cultivating loving kindness to the self and others. Doing meditation IS mindfulness but mindfulness does not necessarily mean meditation. Anyone can practice these, you don’t have to be religious or a new age “Spiritual” type of person. Guided meditation or creative visualisations are different still. These are journeys within the mind, led by another or your own self if you need, to help us access the unconscious mind and support our own awareness of our needs.

I have been offering Zoom meditation sessions due to the pandemic (most of my work is online at the moment) and apart from a few niggles with tech and internet speed, have found it just as beneficial as face to face work. The same can be said with my counselling clients. Doing work online via a video call holds as much depth as face to face work and is as beneficial as being in the same room. Perhaps this is not a way of working that I would have chosen before Coronavirus hit but it’s also allowed for a more accessible way of working with others. Some of my clients don’t live nearby and I wouldn’t have had a chance to work with them if platforms like Zoom didn’t exist. It’s also easier for some to have sessions from their own home. No having to drive and allowing more free time for sessions. Will I continue to use online working after the pandemic? Yes is the answer to that. So while I miss some of the face to face work, although I was lucky enough to hold some small nature groups in woodland, between the lockdowns, I am happy to keep the online work open.

So with that, go and breathe in the present moment. Even if for just five minutes.

Blackthorn Winter

Blackthorn Winter

The blackthorn dressed in his best spring jacket of blossom and green finery

Laughs at my folly

For seeing a swallow and the remembrance of summer days

Of warmth and the song of warbler from swelled hedgerows

As North winds pull me back to chilled fingers

My breath a mist in frosted walks

An echo of days filled with fire from the hearth

Thick blankets of downy softness

To ease the dark

Yet the sun shines on as the flowers tilt towards his golden crown

Unawares of the returning hand of winter

That seeps into my bones

With the warning shake from the blackthorn who proclaims

I told you so

Fall in Love with Yourself

Fall in love with yourself again

That beauty that lies with the sun as it rises in perfect spring sky

Sitting within your own temple of divinity

Fall in love with your laughter

As the stream twirls the fallen leaf down toward the ocean

Like your breath in joy of life

Fall in love with your hope

Those delicate blossoms that hold such sweet fragrance

In wonder of surrender to soul

Fall in love with your fear

Eyes that watch from darkened glade of moss and bracken

Protector of your innocent being

Fall in love with being present to self

Restful shedding of season end and herald of new

Outgrown of what has passed behind

Fall in love with your love

Spirals capturing the light that ripples from freshwater pool

A mirror of perfect dance

Dusk ll

Dusk ll

Dusk.
That time of slowing pace as gentle light reaches its last breath of day
Falling in love with the earth through the passage of sun through sky
Gratitude for the inhalation of life with stillness and dance
Holding my shadows and colours in arms of tenderness and love
Prayers that stay even as the light seeps from the lands
A knowing that tomorrow I will fall in love with the earth once again

Don’t You Dare

Don’t you dare
Shine your light brightly across windswept moors as a welcome to weary travellers with feet heavy of burdens
Lest you outshine your neighbours who keep the storms at bay with heavy shutters made of thick wood to deafen the pleas of help
Don’t you dare
Run and laugh amongst the meadows of scented wildflowers whilst the sun dips it’s head to the eve in grace of surrender
When there are dishes to be washed and shelves dusted so as not to leave the scattered remnants of life untouched
Don’t you dare
Raise yourself to be seen and know of your own worth as the whale breaches from the depths in magnificent herald
As those flaws will be highlighted in the ascent like barnacles that crust and mar as blemishes upon otherwise perfect skin
Don’t you dare
Give yourself permission to be enough as you are in your cloak of many colours that swings around your hips
Hide your divine feminine behind that glossy paper as it dulls that sparkle from your eyes that see only perfectness of others
Don’t you dare
Listen to those whispers that call from deep inside that work their way to surface through broken glass and shedded tears
Let the crooked views of other’s minds bring shame to your own temple when it houses the gift of you that sits so perfectly
Within your own divinity

Be your own medicine

Be your own medicine

Your spirit holds the secret to heal

Those whispers of intuition that settle in your body

Listen

No guru or sage can tell you

What is already burning inside

A wildfire of dreams

The embers that soften your edges

Warmth from your own hands that caress

A divinity of soul

Listen

A well of knowing sits within

You need only drink from this grace

This dance of sacred water

To know your own medicine which flows freely

With the blood of your ancestors

Through the bones of your own wisdom

On Love and Grief

It fluttered around my heart

The falling flakes of snow from

Dark clouds

Soft and cold

Then it took my feet from underneath me

A terrible avalanche

Pressing down

My soul compressed

With heaviness

The flow of tears catching

In my breath

My eyes a glaze of ice

Unable to set them free

Then spring shouts it’s arrival so sweetly

With the chatter of birds

Swelling of rivers

I finally weep

A thawing of trapped cries

The sobs of pain

Released with the winds

Held so gently with nature’s arms wrapped around

Prising back the barrier of briar

And thorns

I had woven

Following the threads of love

Shimmering like gossamer spider silk

In moonlit night

Beyond the kingdom of the sun

Further than the paths

Of stars

With the wings of buzzard circling high

The joy of freedom

For both love and grief

Knowing the beauty you gave

That gift

To my life

Still sings

Blossom Speaks

Blossom speaks

Of longer days

A flurry of scent to close the eyes in deepening breath of stillness

Softening of deep earth with

The warmth of sun

Awakening the little seeds below as they draw their fingers up

Towards the light

Seeking with birthed tendrils to burst colour into the world

Once again

Hawk sings through the air

Graceful flight that dances on the edge of branch

And bough

Keen eyes forever watching

Tall ears sink back into form

A returning to the bower of soil

Unseen as a lapwing’s nest at dawn

Like a melting shadow

in midday fullness

The winds sighs with distant whispers of hope

Carrying its edges to hedgerow

Charmed by goldfinch

Gently cupping the blackthorn

In tender hands

The kiss of spring