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Emma Taylor: the gift of undivided attention

Counsellor, Emma Taylor, writes about therapy as ‘the gift of undivided attention‘..

Before I became a therapist my professional background was in corporate life. Needless to say there are many differences between the two occupations, but one that now feels particularly striking is the difference in my own state of mind when I am working. In my previous career multitasking was essential and the merits of working in this way unquestioned. Concentration on any discrete task was always subject to the superseding demands of an email, phonecall or the appearance of an instant messenger conversation obscuring the work on my laptop screen. At meetings it was acceptable to respond to emails while simultaneously attempting to keep abreast of discussions.

Now however, when I am with a client, all intrusions – technological and otherwise – are silenced. For fifty minutes my entire focus is on the person with whom I am sitting and this is one of the many aspects of my work that I love.

This single-minded giving of attention has always been integral to therapy, but I wonder if at the present time it has a value that is of greater than ever significance. Certainly I am aware that when I am with clients, the uninterrupted nature of our time together is somewhat atypical of much of the rest of my life.

Given the ongoing questioning of the negative effects of ever-present smartphones on sleep quality, relationships and powers of concentration, to mention just a few areas of life, I wonder if therapy now offers something particularly pertinent. When sitting with a therapist, the client does not have to fear the competing demands of the enticing world of entertainment and information to which we now have almost constant access. By mutual agreement external distractions are set aside for the duration of the session, by client and therapist alike.

My training and work with clients have shown me the many benefits of therapy. However I wonder if its most fundamental characteristic, that it is a dialogue in which two people give one another their full attention, is significant at the present time to an extent that it has never been before. It seems to me that there can be something profoundly healing in this aspect of therapy alone.”

Contact Emma via the Clinic on 07468 573866 or directly on 07834 576853

Help with the minefield of digital technology and teenagers

Having attended the talk ‘Parenting Teens’ given by Suzie Hayman at St John’s, Marlborough and organised by Wendy Bramham Therapy, I cannot recommend it more highly to parents/carers of teenagers and those soon to be parents/carers of teenagers.

Suzie Hayman presented the talk in an engaging and relaxed manner, explaining some of the ‘science’ behind teenagers, helping perplexed parents to understand what may be going on in the teenage brain, how their teenager may view the world and looking at how teenagers deal with change in their lives.  Suzie gave lots of practical advice and suggestions as how parents/carers can help their children (and their families) through this often turbulent period in their lives and the discussion session that followed the talk covered wide ranging topics including parenting in step-families, pornography, alcohol, technology, laying down house rules, dealing with conflicting house rules, and risky behaviour.

The talk was clear and easy to follow, supported by a power point presentation.  Suzie was very generous with both her time and resources, offering to provide all those who attended with copies of the presentation, free leaflets and answering questions fully not only during the formal session but also afterwards.  I will be keeping the presentation notes close at hand to refer to when faced with teenage challenges in the future!

Suzie has written various books on parenting and some of the titles were available for sale on the morning – I bought one and fully expect to buy more.  One of her most recent books is on the minefield of digital technology, a subject which worries me and many other parents of technology-savy teenagers

St John’s was, as always, a pleasant choice of venue.  The session took place in the Enterprise Suite, rather than the main theatre, and its more intimate size encouraged the open and wide-ranging discussion that followed on some sensitive issues.

Wendy added both a professional and personal touch to the morning from her perspective as a mother of teenage children and as a psychotherapist of over 20 years experience.  We were also joined by four, real live teenagers who generously gave up their Saturday mornings to offer some insight into their teenage world!  They participated in the discussion that followed Suzie’s talk and it was interesting to hear from them what they would like from us.  The message was loud and clear – space, support and no shouting.  There’s food for thought.

Thank you to Wendy for organising this highly relevant and useful talk – I would be very interested in attending similar talks in the future.  It was excellent value for money and if there is one thing that will remain with me from the morning it is that young children are loving, biddable puppies but teenagers are fiercely independent cats!

By: Sarah Giles (Parent), 27 October 2016

 

Seminar on Sex Addiction with Karen Lloyd, 18 June 2016

Karen Lloyd, an accredited psychosexual psychotherapist and certified sexual addiction therapist, gave us a full day of insight and knowledge on the quite misunderstood and challenging subject of sex addiction.

Karen Lloyd with Wendy Bramham

Karen Lloyd with Wendy Bramham

We learnt that people with sexual addiction do not have fun, that it is not related to a sexual orientation, neither is it connected to sexual fetishes or paraphilias. Sexual addiction is not the same as sexual offending.

We thought about the many words we might use to describe a person with sexual addiction problems and that they are mostly negative. Shame is the most acutely felt emotion and trained therapists work mainly with supporting and helping their clients to manage their feelings of shame.

Karen helped us to understand how she and her fellow trained therapists work with clients and gave us lots of detail on the complexities of working in this specialist field. It is a “process addiction” and the primary driver for sexual addicts is for mood altering purposes. We thought about some similarities in how alcohol addiction is now managed, for example providing support groups as a powerful and effective technique.

Karen spent the 2nd half of the day focusing on how she and her colleagues help the partner of a sexual addict and how isolating and shameful the discovery of a partner’s sexual addiction can be.Seminar sex addiction 2016

The seminar was interactive and well paced, packed with information and insight and very much a taster of how to work with this very challenging subject.

By : Jo Turner, June 2016

We are pleased with the delegates’ average feedback scores as follows:
Overall assessment of event: 4.89 out of 5
Speaker: 4.5 out of 5
Value for money: 4.89 out of 5

Comments from delegates:
“Fantastic delivery of the course by Karen, very insightful and interesting”
“Excellent value”
“Karen’s experience, warmth and knowledge made it easy to engage and enjoy the seminar”
“Very relaxed, intimate and cosy to share”

Sex addiction workshop with Karen Lloyd -18 June, Newbury

We are looking forward to our seminar on sex addiction and how to work with this growing problem in the therapy room.

In today’s digital world we see reports in the news on a regular basis of out-of-control sexual behaviours, often attributed to the errant celebrity ‘caught with his trousers down.’ In the psychotherapy and counselling world sex addiction is fast becoming a common presenting problem.  We will address the growing problem of sexually compulsive/addictive behaviour, love and porn addiction, and sexual acting out behaviours, both on and offline.

Karen Lloyd is a BACP Registered Accredited psychosexual psychotherapist and a certified sexual addiction therapist. She also works as a trainer, and as an accreditation assessor for BACP. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in psychosexual psychotherapy and previously worked as a therapist and trainer for Relate for over 10 years. Karen has a long established practice in the West Midlands working with individuals, couples and groups. She runs a 10 week psycho-educational course and on-going women’s support group for female partners of men with sexually compulsive/addictive behaviours, as well as intensive residential psycho-educational groups.

For tickets, go to http://www.newburytherapy.com/psychotherapy-therapists-seminars-newbury.php

Self-harm: ‘When I hurt, I cut…’

self-harmSelf-harm accounts for over 24,000 hospital admissions every year¹ and it is estimated that 1 in 12 children self-harm². Rates in the UK are some of the highest in Europe³ but – because self-harm is, by its very nature, a private activity and is often kept secret and thus remains unreported – these statistics may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Self-harm is generally thought of to include violent acts to the self – specifically deliberately cutting, hitting, burning, injecting or imbibing potentially dangerous objects or substances, hair pulling, eating disorders etc. Smoking and drinking, over or under-exercising, engaging in risky sporting/driving/sexual behaviour, cosmetic surgery, tattooing and piercing may also be added to the list – although some may not consider many of behaviours in the second list to be harmful. Is eating a doughnut after a difficult meeting at work an act of self-harm or of self-care?

Self-harm is on the increase, and many wonder at the “contagious” aspect of the behavior – is it a way of crying out for help or attention; an act to externally express inner rage; a form of self-punishment; or just a way of “belonging” to a particular group?

Whilst working with a self-harming client can be very distressing, Lynn Martin references many examples of clients who, she feels, were kept alive by their self-harm(4). She refers to “anti-suicide” element of the behaviour, and explains that, for some, self-harm actually allows them to feel that they are in control of their lives. The endorphins, which are released into the blood stream after a puncture to the skin, can serve to somehow “re-boot” the depressed, withdrawn client who has lost touch with her world. Similarly, the pain of the wound can highlight that it hurts “here” rather than just “inside”.

As therapists, it is important that we do not allow any personal shock to spill out when working with a self-harming client. Showing concern for the wounds, and making sure that they are kept clean; ensuring, too, that the client is secure in the fact that you see them behind their pain; communicating that it is alright to talk about the self-harm; respecting the fact that the client is, more often than not, trying to survive and not to die; and reassuring the client that you will not try to steal from them their coping mechanism until they themselves feel safe enough to live without it – all these sort of responses are seen as being the most helpful to the truly distressed and pained client.

Whatever the reasons or the resolutions for the self-harming individual, as therapists we need to be aware of the width and prevalence of this behavior. We need, too, to look after ourselves whilst working with self-harming clients by exploring, in supervision, the myriad of reactions that this particularly violent representation of pain can produce in us.

By: Annabel Murray, Counsellor, June 2015

1 Samaritans & Centre for Suicide, 2002
2 Talking Taboos, 2012
3 NICE 2002
(4) Lynn Martin, Therapy Today, July 2013


Self-help Information about self-harm

What leads a person to self-harm?

Self-harming behaviours, such as cutting, scratching and hitting oneself, are often a physical way to deal with very painful psychological experiences and feelings of distress and isolation. Self harm can arise for all sorts of reasons such as grief, abuse, trauma, fear, loss and other feelings that are overwhelming. These may be from early childhood or in the present, or they may follow an incident that makes a person angry, frustrated or disappointed.

There is usually mounting tension followed by a compulsion or an impulsive need to self-harm. Some people dissociate (separate themselves so that they are not fully aware of their behaviour) from their mental and physical pain during the act of self-harm. Because others may see acts of self-harm as “deliberate”, unsympathetic responses can be a consequence. However, quite often a person is not very conscious of their reasons for self-harming and does not feel in control when they do it.

There are various forms of self harm, including cutting with a razor or knife, burning, hitting or banging your head, or over-dosing when it’s not life-threatening. It is often done in secret.

Self-harm has hidden short-term benefits for the person harming. These can include:

  • Release of emotions – getting them “out” can bring relief and decrease in tension
  • Making the mental pain feel real (akin to crying without tears, when the person can’t externalise their feelings)
  • Giving a distraction from, or a sense of pause, from the mental pain
  • Providing a way of telling others how bad you feel
  • Punishing the self for self-hatred and guilt

How does therapy help?

  • learning to manage feelings and difficulties in healthier ways, such as talking
  • exploring and understanding the circumstances in which the self-harm arises
  • understanding the unconscious conflicts and buried emotions underneath the acts of self harm
  •  developing a capacity to contain, tolerate and think about distress

By: Wendy Bramham, July 2013

Remember:
Seek immediate help for any serious injury or overdose – with your GP, ambulance or A&E.


Thoughts from the front-line
We asked a few teenagers to tell us in their own words how they would have liked their parents to support or help them.   The purpose of this exercise was to inform and assist parents/guardians who may be unsure of how to help their child.  Comments remain anonymous to protect identity.
 
Girls aged 14 and 15 told us:
“Further criticism is definitely something NOT to do, because most likely that is what caused the person to self-harm in the first place.”
“Parents shouldn’t pretend they understand, that is one of the most frustrating things for people in this situation. Perhaps saying they are trying to understand would be a better way.”
“Friends can play a large part in preventing further harm… I would get the parents to talk to their child’s friends to see if they have noticed anything.. make it subtle though!”

Girls aged 17 told us:

“For me, my parents couldn’t have really done anything to help me, my mum made me keep my door open at night and took away my razors, making me use hair removal cream instead.  But that didn’t stop me and it wouldn’t stop anyone from doing it.  There’s no way parents can stop it physically in all honesty.   For me it was my own personal feelings of guilt and these weren’t gonna stop no matter how much my mum and dad tried to help.  But the situation would’ve been a lot better if my mum had understood when I told her.  She didn’t say anything and I feel like she didn’t understand why I did it.  Maybe she thought it was some sort of cry for attention, but it wasn’t (I’d been hiding it for one and a half years). If she was more aware of the reasons why people do it, and maybe just gave me a hug, told me I would be okay, comforted me when I was upset about anything, then maybe it would have stopped me doing it sooner.  But instead she never mentioned it to me, only tried to physically prevent me from doing it, not mentally”.  FW

“What might have helped would be if I was not made to feel it was my fault or that I was a drama queen. Guilt is a key contributor to my issues and I was made to feel guilty for self-harming.  I wanted my parents to understand that I wasn’t doing it because I hated them.  I knew they would be heartbroken if I died, but when you’re mentally ‘effed up’ you don’t see it that way, and the selfishness that depression produces isn’t controllable.  Self-harm isn’t always slitting your wrists.  It can be pinching yourself under the table all lesson, or forcing your mind through horrible thoughts (emotional self-harm is a huge thing).  Yes, we know we shouldn’t do it, we know it is bad for us, we know it’s selfish.  Telling us this just makes us feel guilty, which makes us feel crapper which makes us more likely to lose control and do it again.  When you get a cold or even cancer you don’t blame yourself or anyone else; you just look for a way to fix it.  Sometimes we self-harm because it is the only way to feel alive.  Yet, blaming the child for feeling so low is not healthy and will not make them forthcoming with reasons why.”  MA
 
From the above stories, it is clear that it is helpful if parents/carers/relatives can try to understand the emotional distress underlying any self-harm behaviour in their child.    It may be important for the parent to seek their own support, such as counselling, to cope better with this alarming situation.  Wendy Bramham Therapy offers a range of therapists in Newbury & Marlborough who are qualified and experienced in helping with these issues, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.  
Wendy Bramham
July 2015

Is Therapy Selfish? More perspectives on ‘healthy selfishness’

“When someone is in therapy it can seem like self-absorption to those around them, but this is a necessary and temporary state. Regular, well-boundaried therapy ideally leads to people developing clearer awareness of themselves and how they relate to others. The dynamics may change within their relationships. They may take a more equal footing in relationships that have previously diminished their self-value, or realise that there are areas in the relationship that they could give more to. The goal of therapy either way, is increased contentment for all parties, both the client and those around them – which is an act of love as well as self-love.”
Cassandra Human, psychotherapist
“On a visit to Laos recently I saw how the many statues of Buddha depict ‘The Enlightened One’ looking down. Locals told me this symbolises His focus on looking within himself to find enlightenment. Rather than this being a selfish act He believed that, in order to bring about change, we need to search within ourselves for answers. How tempting and easy it is for us to want others to change in order for us to be happy, or to look to others to carry the blame or take responsibility; and how brave it can feel to focus instead on taking responsibility for ourselves and our own decisions, life and happiness. Therapy provides a safe forum for our inner search and our exploration of the changes this can bring.”

Rachel Cooper, psychotherapist

Is Therapy Selfish? More perspectives on ‘healthy selfishness’

“When someone is in therapy it can seem like self-absorption to those around them, but this is a necessary and temporary state. Regular, well-boundaried therapy ideally leads to people developing clearer awareness of themselves and how they relate to others. The dynamics may change within their relationships. They may take a more equal footing in relationships that have previously diminished their self-value, or realise that there are areas in the relationship that they could give more to. The goal of therapy either way, is increased contentment for all parties, both the client and those around them – which is an act of love as well as self-love.”
Cassandra Human, psychotherapist
“On a visit to Laos recently I saw how the many statues of Buddha depict ‘The Enlightened One’ looking down. Locals told me this symbolises His focus on looking within himself to find enlightenment. Rather than this being a selfish act He believed that, in order to bring about change, we need to search within ourselves for answers. How tempting and easy it is for us to want others to change in order for us to be happy, or to look to others to carry the blame or take responsibility; and how brave it can feel to focus instead on taking responsibility for ourselves and our own decisions, life and happiness. Therapy provides a safe forum for our inner search and our exploration of the changes this can bring.”

Rachel Cooper, psychotherapist