The Difference Between a Therapist and a Life Coach by Lizzie Weakley.

(image: Pexels: Anthony Shkraba)

When you need help solving complex problems in your life, you turn to those who are considered to be “experts”. In this case, that may mean working with either a therapist or perhaps a life coach, which is an option gaining in popularity with more and more people. While working with either of these will be similar in many ways, there are distinct differences between a therapist and a life coach.

Licensing and Credentials

To begin with, major differences exist in terms of credentials and licensing. A life coach may have a college university degree in psychology or counselling and have many years of experience working with clients but is not a qualified therapist. On the other hand, a therapist is required in most cases to not only possess graduate-level training, but also be properly licensed where they practice.

Past or Future

When you work with a therapist, the focus usually is on past traumas that are impacting your current life, such as being abused when you were a child. But when you work with a life coach, these sessions often pinpoint specific problems that are happening right now that are impeding your ability to move forward. For example, you may work with a life coach to discover a new type of career you would find more fulfilling.

Long-Term or Short-Term

When most people begin visiting a therapist, they may continue to do so for many years, or in some cases forever. However, personal life coaching is more of a short-term commitment. In fact, the goal of the life coach is to give you the tools and skills needed to eventually coach yourself, but some therapies also aim to do this too.

Structured or Unstructured

While you may have thought therapy sessions are very structured, they are typically quite the opposite. In fact, therapy sessions are guided by the patient and the type of therapy is used to treat them. While a personal life coaching session has the coach, and you, working on developing goal-oriented strategies that let you experience personal and even professional growth along the way.

In conclusion, depending on your situation, it is always possible you may at some point in your life work with both a therapist and life coach. Whether you have sessions with a therapist to work through unresolved childhood trauma or seek out a life coach to help you achieve a better balance between your personal and professional lives, you will soon learn why these professionals and their services are so valuable to clients.

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio.

5 Ways Therapy Can Heal your Family: Guest blog by Samantha Higgins

5 Ways Therapy Can Heal Your Family (1)

Therapy can be very helpful for families, and your family could benefit from therapy, too. Professional counselling is a proven method to help with all kinds of issues impacting families, and any issues plaguing your family could also be addressed.

To help you pinpoint just how therapy could help your family, you should look into the various situations where therapy might be useful. In particular, you should consider these five ways therapy can heal your family.

1. When Having Marital Issues

You can get assistance with all types of marriage issues when you get help from a therapist. If you have entered a new marriage, you can learn how to adjust to the roles that come along with that. If your marriage is on the rocks, you can get assistance, too.

If cheating has become an issue and you need an infidelity therapist, professional help is without a doubt a good idea. Therapy can help you deal with all of the emotions, assist you with any grieving, and provide guidance on how to move forward.

2. Dealing with the Loss of Loved Ones

The loss of loved ones can impact your family to the point where professional help is needed. If your family has lost someone, you can have short-term effects and long-term effects. When your family loses a loved one, you always run the risk of issues developing further. This is especially the case if it was your family member who died.

You will not be the only one to benefit from help. Children can learn to grieve and deal with the new family structure. Parents can learn how to better take on leading a home by themselves, and other family members can sound off and get feedback, too. Often a loss of a loved one requires people to take on new roles and responsibilities. Therapy can help your family if dealing with those situations.

3. Help with Children with Behavioural difficulties

If you have a child or children that are struggling with poor behaviour, you should consider therapy. Not only can bad behaviors be stopped and corrected, but they can also be prevented from impacting your family in the future.

Your children will be assessed by a therapist and reasons for their behaviour can be identified. Then, your family can heal. You all will be able to prevent more poor decisions from taking place, and you will have all kinds of resources to make sure this happens.

4. New Family Dynamics

If you have introduced a new dynamic to your family eg a blended or step family or new sibling or spouse, you might need some professional help. Failure to make sure there is a smooth transition could have horrible consequences for you. You run the risk of family members feeling lost in the new dynamic. 

Whether you have a new spouse or a new child, these changes could cause issues for your family. Seek out professional services through therapy to mitigate issues from harming those you love. Your family can morph into the new family you know it is capable of becoming. You all deserve this.

5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Substance abuse and mental health are issues that definitely warrant therapy at times. Both of these issues can ruin your family’s well-being. If you are dealing with substance abuse or mental health matters impacting your family, you do have options for help. Therapy will help you unlock those options.

Did you know that around 20 million Americans deal with addiction issues? And did you know that almost 44 million Americans deal with mental health issues? If you and your family are dealing with either or both of these problems, you are not alone whether you live in the USA or not. You should consider turning to therapy to help your family overcome these issues.

Your Family Can Indeed Heal

If any of the five issues above touch close to home for you, you have a way out. You do not have to let these issues tear apart your family that you love. Your family does not have to hurt so much anymore.

Each of the aforementioned five areas can be assessed, addressed, and improved when problems are there for your family. There is hope for your family with therapy, and your family absolutely can heal.

 

This blog was written by freelance writer Samantha Higgins.

 

The difference between Psychotherapy and Counselling: Guest post by Aaron James

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(image: Weheartit)

In our age of information, choice and variety, there are hundreds of different types of therapy and counselling available. As a starting point, one of the most common questions asked is, what is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

The answer is much debated as the boundaries are not always clear, especially in the UK.  However, it is generally stated that counselling is typically a shorter undertaking that focuses on the present and on current behaviours. On the other hand, psychotherapy addresses deeper, longer-term issues by exploring all experiences including those from childhood and with clients undergoing therapy for longer periods of time. 

To get a fuller understanding, it helps to look at both the similarities and differences.

 

Blurred lines

The terms counselling and psychotherapy are frequently used with overlap and flexibility. Certain therapists offer both. Some psychotherapists choose to use the term ‘counsellor’ simply as a softer, more approachable title, some use counselling as part of a psychotherapy process. There are also counsellors who adopt psychotherapeutic approaches. You can see where the confusion arises.

There are many individuals and practices offering counselling, but less that offer a full range of therapies including in-depth psychotherapies (for example, Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy who also happen to discuss this topic on their site).  Reputable practices share the interests, approaches and qualifications of their therapists and will be happy to discuss their compatibility with clients.

The similarities – what you get from both

Counselling and psychotherapy are both focused on creating an open, non-judgmental, safe space to help people improve their mental wellbeing and to remove distress from their lives. The majority of therapies across the board are talking or communicative therapies where participants aim for a better understanding of themselves, and often their relationships with other people, through guided discussions with a therapist. 

In talking therapies people explore their feelings and thoughts and often look at their choices. Both counselling and psychotherapy have different branches and specialisms and  both can work with individuals, families, groups or particular focus areas. But there are some general distinctions that can help people decide which is most appropriate for them.

Counselling

Counselling addresses present problems and current personal issues such as a relationship breakdown, anxiety or confidence or behavioural issues. Often with some kind of structured process, the counsellor helps alleviate symptoms and current behaviour patterns that are causing distress. It may offer practical tools to break down negative feelings and habits, and it can often be goal or action based.

As it generally deals with more surface level ‘life’ issues, clients are usually involved in therapy for shorter timeframes. The Counsellor’s Guide is a good source of information for those wanting to know more.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a deeper and longer term approach. It looks not only at the present situation, but how someone’s childhood and past may be affecting and shaping emotions they have now. The therapist may help someone delve into their past to reveal hidden experiences that have affected them. Psychotherapy looks to identify the roots of an issue as part of the process. 

As such it can address more complex mental health problems. It is a much more in-depth exploration of a person’s emotions aiming to bring buried issues to the surface to deliver a more profound understanding of who they are and their relationships.

Training

The training a therapist undergoes is often stated as another key difference. A counsellor or psychotherapeutic counsellor requires a diploma or degree, along with a number of hours of work placement experience. Psychotherapists are required to undergo postgraduate level specialist training of around 4 years. It is often noted too, that most psychotherapists are required to undergo therapy themselves as part of their training and so that they have experience from both sides.

However, counsellor and psychotherapist are not legally protected titles and further specialisms may often entail more training for both. A good therapist will openly share their training details and should be a registered member of one of the appropriate industry bodies such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Which therapy is right for me?

The distinctions made here are broad ones to give a general guide. There are counselling and psychotherapy options to suit different types of problem, different types of people and different levels of previous experience. The therapies on offer will vary and some people undergo counselling for a long time, and some find a psychotherapy that offers a shorter solution. 

It depends massively on the person seeking therapy and their needs, and the important thing is for a client is to find a therapist that they feel comfortable with. Many experts say that much of the healing comes from the positive experience of the therapist to client relationship and this can be down to a personal match. 

 

This guest blog was written by freelance writer Aaron James, based in the UK. 

A guide to Therapies and finding the right one for you: Guest blog by the Worsley Centre

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(image: Quotir)

If you find yourself at a point in life where you think you might need to seek some professional help, then the decision as to which therapy is right for you can be a daunting one. At its worst, depression and anxiety related disorders can take away our ability to make rational, informed decisions, so how could you possibly know which one is right for you? 

There’s no definitive way of knowing, and even if you start one course of therapy, only to discover it isn’t for you, it’s important to remember it’s not a one-size-fits all decision. If you’re trying to take a long-term approach to taking care of your mental health, then you need to take the time and effort to find the appropriate course of treatment to meet your needs. 

So here’s a basic guide to some of the most common therapies, and how they might be able to help you (although it’s worth bearing in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list). 

Counselling 

This might sound like a catch-all term to describe all of the therapies below, but actually counselling is subtly different from other types of therapy. Counselling can often be a useful short term strategy to cope with events in our lives which can, quite understandably, cause mental health stresses. These can include bereavement, miscarriage, sudden redundancy, relationship problems or problems with infertility. Counselling sessions normally last for 6-12 weeks, though they can of course be tailored to every individual person’s needs. 

Psychotherapy 

Psychotherapy is primarily a talking therapy, but may also utilise art, writing, music or drama. Psychotherapy can help with a range of conditions, including anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder. This therapy aims to teach you to manage painful emotions and relationships more successfully. 

Psychotherapy basically involves talking with the patient, discussing strategies to solve problems and changing behaviour. 

It’s worth noting that most of the other therapies in this post are forms of psychotherapy. 

Psychodynamic therapy 

This is a form of psychotherapy which focuses less on the patient-therapy relationship. Patients are told to speak freely and openly about any issues that come to mind, whether it be fears, anxieties or desires. It is a more short-term incarnation of psychotherapy. It’s often used to treat people with serious depressive disorders, or who may struggle to forge meaningful relationships in their lives. 

Interpersonal Psychotherapy 

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a short-term form of psychotherapy treatment. It’s very structured, and includes a lot of homework and continuous assessment. It primarily looks at ways depression can be triggered by changes in relationships to others, such as bereavement, or relocation. 

It will usually start with a 1-3 week assessment of symptoms, as wells as social history and the patient’s relationships. The therapy aims to come up with treatment strategies to deal with problem areas in a patient’s life; over the course of the treatment the emphasis of these problem areas might change, as will the therapist’s strategies. IPT is a relatively young form of psychotherapy treatments. 

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a short-term form of psychotherapy which puts its focus on problem solving as a way of breaking certain thought patterns and modes of behaviour. It’s very much a therapy which focuses on the here and now, as opposed to trying to look for explanations of present day behaviour in past events. CBT has proven to be effective in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

CBT works on the concept that a person’s perception of a certain situation determines their and feelings, and hopefully break free of unhelpful patterns of behaviour. 

Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy 

This is another form of cognitive therapy which incorporates mindfulness strategies and breathing exercises into courses of treatment. Mindfulness techniques use breathing and meditation to place people in the present moment, and MBCT uses these techniques to encourage patients to deal with overwhelming or stressful situations.  Again, it aims to break unhelpful thought patterns which can lead to recurrent episodes of depression or anxiety. As well as mindfulness, patients are taught to understand the relationship between how you think and how you feel. 

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Therapy 

Neuro-linguistic programming focuses on behaviour modification techniques to help improve a client’s sense of self-awareness, confidence and communication skills. Again, it helps people to understand that the way they operate in the world is in turn affected by how they view of the world. 

It’s often used to treat phobias, help people deal with self-esteem problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and is designed to help patients understand the workings of their own mind. 

Couples and Family Therapy 

The title of this therapy is relatively self-explanatory, but basically it encourages individuals to resolve problems in the context of family units, or as part of a couple. This helps people to better understand their role within a group dynamic, and how their actions affect the other person within a family or couple. 

During the therapy, family members are encouraged to work together to solve a problem which may be directly affecting a family member, with each person encourage to express their thoughts and feelings in an open and supportive forum. Family and couples therapy is geared towards making different family members empathise with one another, understand each other’s point of view, and switch roles where necessary. 

The ultimate goal of family and couples therapy is restore healthy relationships. This branch of therapy essentially believes that family life is like being part of a system, which is only as strong as the individual within it. Family and couple therapy ultimately aims to restore balance to this system. 

These are, arguably, the most well-known and high-profile forms of therapy. As outlined at the beginning of this article, it’s not an exhaustive list; there are many more specific types of therapy which may prove to be the right one for you. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s perfectly normal to try a few of the therapies on this list, as it might take a few referrals before you find the right one for you. 

The Worsley Centre offers counselling and psychotherapy sessions for couples, individuals and groups in the Greater Manchester area. 

https://theworsleycentre.com/ 

 

4 Things Holding You Back from Therapy and Why They’re Not True: Guest Post by Time With

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(image: Feminist Current/ Snoopy)

Taking a leap into the unknown always requires bravery. Now think of that ‘unknown’ as yourself. All those dark, niggly or somewhat strange parts of ourselves we keep buried away in the hope that they might just disappear if we keep pushing them away for long enough. Yup, therapy is totally exposing – and frankly, terrifying. So it’s little wonder we find ourselves coming up with a million and one excuses to explain why it’s not for us. Avoidance runs through our veins – it’s human nature. But it also holds us back, and at its very worst, avoidance can stall us from moving forward and reaching our potential.

 

Sometimes it’s worth digging a little deeper to properly explore our reasoning. That way we can be sure we’re not standing in the way of our own progress. Below we’ve listed some of the most common excuses we hear when it comes to therapy (and why we think they’re mostly rubbish!)

 

I don’t know where to start”

It’s true, in the past finding a therapist has been anything but easy. Sifting through directories packed full of conflicting approaches and unfamiliar terms… It’s hardly surprising we’re left scratching our head wondering what any of it means. But fortunately, those days are now firmly in the past. Searching for a therapist online is quick and easy. There’s no need to get carried away in lots of research, now you can just work your way through a few simple questions and be connected directly with the right therapists nearby. If you’re interested in finding a therapist best matched to your needs, TimeWith’s online questionnaire matches you with suitable therapists in minutes.

 

“I can’t afford it”

This is valid- there’s no two-ways about it, therapy isn’t cheap. But in reality, it’s a small price to pay when weighed up alongside its many benefits. Good therapy has the potential to completely transform your life. Whether you want to learn how to relate better in your relationships, manage stress and flourish in your career, or you simply want shed light on recurring behaviours or patterns… Therapy has the potential to do all those things (and more).

 

Also, it’s important to remember that therapy isn’t forever. It’s not about making a lifetime commitment. It’s an investment, and there’s a really wonderful feeling that comes with the decision to invest in your own mental and emotional wellbeing. If money’s an issue, never be afraid to ask your therapist about concessions. Lots of therapists offer what’s known as a sliding scale meaning they can offer a discount according to your financial situation.

 

What can a stranger offer me that my friend’s can’t”

To think of therapy as a friendly heart-to-heart is to misunderstand it completely. There’s no doubt in the value of having a good, solid support system in our friends and family. But your therapist isn’t your friend – in fact, there are very strict rules around that in therapy. Your therapist will always remain neutral allowing them to take a uniquely objective standpoint. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see the broader picture. By extension, friends and family are part of our story. They can be happy or sad for us, but they will always have something at stake in our life. It’s only inevitable that this colours their advice and approach, whether they mean to intentionally or not.

 

Habits, patterns, thoughts… Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re more alike than we think. Whilst our experiences in life will be completely different, the coping mechanisms we adopt to deal with what happens to us in life very often follow similar patterns. Therapists are trained to recognise these signals and guide us towards coming to our own realisations. The best moments in therapy are those a-ha moments – the kind that friends and family struggle to provide us with, no matter how much they love us.

 

What’s going to change”

Everything, potentially. But of course, what you get out of therapy comes down to what you’re prepared to put into it – as with most things in life. Film depictions of therapy have done us a disservice for the most part. Despite appearances, therapy isn’t about rambling on Woody Allen-style about our neuroses. Don’t get us wrong, the talking part’s great! But what therapy’s really good at is finding solutions.

It’s all too easy to bulldoze our way blindly through life living out the same patterns time and time again. Good therapy is about taking accountability for the way we are. But that can only happen when we dig deeper and understand the whys. Far from self-blame, this process actually allows us to forgive ourselves for thoughts or behaviour we haven’t liked. To understand that it was the only way we knew how. But with this new awareness also comes the responsibility to change… There aren’t any excuses anymore.

This is the heart of therapy – we slowly peel back the layers to see ourselves in the clear light of day, no pretences. It might seem scary at first, but in reality, it’s liberating.

TimeWith is a service dedicated to helping people reach the right therapist. Run through a quick online questionnaire and connect with suitable therapists in your area.

Guest post: How nOCD App helps thousands with OCD- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Stephen Smith

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In the summer of 2014, I was tired of struggling with OCD, Obsessive compulsive disorder, so I decided to do something about it and begin my app, nOCD. nOCD, standing for “No OCD”, is an online platform that I believe would have helped me during the worst of my struggles and that currently is already helping thousands of others with OCD today. The platform is designed to help people with OCD during all four phases of treatment: 1) coping with the onset of OCD symptoms, 2) selecting a care team, 3) actively managing OCD treatment, and 4) maintaining OCD treatment progress.

My team and I at nOCD are able to address each phase of treatment using a unique combination of highly vivid content and 21st century technology. For instance, people with OCD can view our content on Instagram or Twitter at @treatmyocd and download nOCD for free on the App Store (m.treatmyocd.com/saveslives).

People with OCD say the app has been a major difference maker. It gives people guidance in the moment of OCD episodes, a structured platform to do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) exercises, a community to talk with others (in beta), and real-time data 24/7. Here is more information about how it works:

  1. SOS Guidance: nOCD offers members clinically effective guidance in the moment of any OCD episode, using OCD specific Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. During an episode, members can hit the button “SOS” on their phone, which tells the app to immediately provide Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (Response Prevention). For instance, if the member is obsessing, nOCD will ask questions such as: “Are you experiencing an Obsession or a Compulsion?”,  “What Obsession are you experiencing?”. “What triggered the Obsession?” And “How intense is your anxiety?” Then, based on the answers, nOCD will offer specific Acceptance Based Therapy guidance, to help the member effectively respond to the obsession without doing a compulsion. We believe the SOS feature can empower people with OCD to live their lives fully, knowing help is always in their pocket.

  2. Structured ERP ExercisesnOCD provides members with the tools and organization needed to consistently do planned OCD treatment exercises regularly and effectively, acting like a mental gym. The main challenge with doing these planned mental exercises is that they instigate anxiety. Since the anxiety alone can reduce OCD treatment adherence rates, the app attempts to remove all pain point. It offers members the ability to create loop tapes, scripts, and drawings. It also has built in exercise reminders and educational tips.

  3. Custom Therapy : nOCD customizes the entire treatment process to each member, helping augment therapy with licensed clinicians. Patients can customise their hierarchies, their compulsion prevention messages (acceptance based messages), their ERP schedule, and more.

  4. 24/7 In-App Support Group :Inside the nOCD app, people with OCD can join different support groups and anonymously post to each groups wall. We’ve created a platform where people can support each other through treatment and learn quickly that they are, in fact, not alone.
  5. Real-Time Data Collection: It collects real-time data about every aspect of the patient’s condition and treatment. It also longitudinally displays the data for every patient and clinician to see at any time. nOCD protects each users PHI data to the highest degree possible. For example, it uses a dedicated (encrypted) Ec2 instance on Amazon Web Services, SSL connection, Touch ID login access, LastPass Password security, and new, monthly, VM keys. nOCD is a HIPAA compliant commercial enterprise.

 

Life Mental Health Update and the Liebster Award!

Its been a really interesting week for me. I firstly decided after not getting the right NHS therapeutic support that I had to take life into my hands in two ways. Firstly, I needed to see if I could get funding for private therapy to help my anxiety and panic attacks about work. I was able to and then I have booked an appointment to see a recommended psycho-dynamic counsellor. I am hoping that my counselling sessions will help the anxiety and fear around certain things.

Secondly, I decided that if I want to live my dreams and have a life that is fulfilling and true to myself, I have to pursue them. Obviously I have to make my dream achievable too so I have been applying for jobs that feel right for me. My dream has been to be a teacher and I hope to get there one day. I have been interviewing for various positions in schools and hopefully the right one for me will come up soon. I will leave it to God and the universe to decide and do all I can.

So, its been quite a whirlwind for me this week and definitely being pushed a little outside my comfort zone, putting my heart and dreams on the line. However, I am really proud of myself for doing this. I have wanted to seek therapeutic help for years and while its a shame I can’t get it for free on the NHS, I hope it helps me to change my life. My family are a great support for me with this. I am starting this week and will see what happens.

So I have been going to job interviews and its really scary being asked so many questions and waiting for feedback. I know though that I can do it and make myself and my family proud (I hope anyway!)

As well as the above, I am very excited to be going to see Aladdin the musical at the theatre with my boyfriend for our anniversary. He is a wonderful support to me and I love disney!

Lastly, a blog friend, the Happiness Hunter https://thehappinesshunt.wordpress.com   has nominated me for the Liebster Award which celebrates new blogs. My blog has been going almost 2 years but I feel so thrilled to receive the award. Thank you so much! Due to time constraints I can’t nominate other blogs for the award but dedicate it to all my blog followers who are battling mental health stigma and writing so amazingly.  

Go and visit the above blog too, its wonderful! Thanks again 🙂

liebster

On being kind to myself: Mental health update

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Life at the moment is much slower than normal as I am not in full time work. I have the time to write and blog and pitch articles, and to work on social media. I have the time to read and I have started a book blog (bookstagram) on Instagram. I can see friends and catch up with family.

However, for me, I am waiting to see my Doctor next week to discuss ways they can support me better with my morning panic. I desperately want to be working and be doing all I love. Its quite exhausting if I am honest, because I so want to be applying for jobs and doing and feeling 100 percent .

The key is being kind to myself and practising self care. I know I can get better again from the anxiety and be productive again but I need proper and sustained support from my medical team. I hope I can get it soon and that they will really help me. I have so much support from my family, boyfriend and friends but they can only do so much.

Life with this is not easy at all- but I know, like my other mental health challenges, that I will overcome this again. I just must have the support in place from my medical team and the right therapy. So lets hope that my almost 2 year wait for therapy will end soon!  I am reading self help books too in addition and trying to do all I can. I just hope that help for my anxiety disorder will finally arrive.

Guest post: What can the UK government do to cultivate good mental health? by Ann Heathcote at Worsley centre of Psychotherapy

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According to statistics revealed by mentalhealth.org.uk 65% of people in the UK have experienced a mental health problem in their lives at one time or another. What’s more revealing is that just a mere 13% of us say that we live with high levels of good mental health in our daily lives.

These stats suggest there is much to do to improve the state of our mental wellbeing, but to turn things around will require help from the powers that be, namely Government.

But is the UK Government doing enough to ensure that current and future societies have good mental health. And if you believe they could more, what action can be taken to fix this prevailing problem?

We reached out to some of the leading voices on mental health issues to get their opinion.

See full article at https://theworsleycentre.com/what-can-the-uk-government-do-to-cultivate-good-mental-health/

 

Ann Heathcote opened The Worsley Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling in 2001, as a centre for the provision of professional psychotherapeutic services.

The Worsley Centre is a warm and welcoming environment for people wishing to undertake counselling and psychotherapy. The practitioners at the Centre care deeply about each individual’s mental health and well-being. They all share a passion for providing high quality therapeutic services.

Guest post by Karen: Being a Mental Health Professional with Anxiety, my Recovery

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Working in an outpatients’ mental health service in the NHS I was well-placed to recognise the signs and symptoms of a mental health problem. I have seen most ends of the spectrum from working in a secure men’s forensic unit, treating people experiencing psychosis in a clinic and in their homes, to treating outpatients with mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Yet none of this prepared me for my own mental health crisis that crept up on me suddenly and unexpectedly last year.

I have experienced anxiety in my life on many occasions before. I developed a fear of panicking and losing control going on the tube and was starting to avoid taking tubes and trains and places I felt I could not escape from easily. Later on I realised this was panic and agoraphobia and since I was considering dropping out of my Masters degree because it involved travelling long routes by tube, I knew I had to get some help. I had a course of CBT privately using graded exposure therapy which I had to get on board with and be committed to, and was incredibly effective for me. My CBT therapist was a real lifeline for me and we had an effective rapport which really helped.

I have since moved out of London and abroad. In September last year I started a number of new part-time teaching roles (not in mental health) in my relatively new European city. I was really worried about my ability to speak the language and to be able to communicate if there was a problem. In fact, I had pretty much spent my entire summer holiday dreading, worrying and catastrophising about all the things that could go wrong, and didn’t really tell anyone exactly how I was feeling.

I started in one of my jobs and it seemed to be going just fine the first week. I did experience a lot of worry after each class and before the next one. I was really concerned about how other people would perceive and judge me, particularly as I was not yet fluent in the language and could not understand 100%. I continued to be anxious about how other people thought I was doing my job for the next few days and had consistently negative thoughts that would not go away which were concerning as they seemed to upset me more and more. I remember that on the last day of that first week, I had been introduced to my new colleague, a really lovely lady who seemed really helpful. She was really experienced and obviously had a lot of knowledge and I started to feel inadequate in that moment. That was the moment everything spiralled out of control.

I went home and over the weekend I experienced constant racing thoughts of things going wrong and worst case scenarios. My husband and I were watching TV in the evening and I just could not focus on anything as my mind was racing so much. What surprised me the most was how physically I felt the anxiety this time and how different it was to any anxiety I had before this. I felt hot and cold every few minutes, had the sweats and could not sleep for days. I could not seem to regulate my emotions and rationalise them. I retreated to bed to warm up and calm down and called my mum for moral support. I lost my appetite and could physically not put anything in my mouth apart from forcing some sugar down me.

This pattern continued the closer it came to Monday. I found it really hard to get out of bed – I was heavy, anxious and tired due to lack of sleep. It was hard to sit up straight and I forced myself to have breakfast. I have never felt before the way I felt that day. I was inconsolably crying, paralysed with terror, and curled up on the sofa. I called in sick to work and spent the best part of the entire day on the phone to my parents who flew out the next day to be with me. All of this was entirely alien to my husband. He knew I worked in mental health but I guess I never realised that he totally didn’t understand what I did and what mental health looks like. He had no idea what was going on with me and had to learn how to support me.

I am really lucky to have found a supportive and really competent GP when it comes to managing mental health. I wanted to be put on a course of medication as I know that medication is a key part of the treatment equation and the SSRIs I am on have helped tremendously. My GP also gave me a temporary course of benzodiazepine very closely monitored by her to help me with the initial stage of going to work, coping with the anxiety and helping me sleep initially.

All in all, this was a really acute depressive/anxious episode and I did go back to work the following week with a LOT of positive self-talk, support from husband and family, and a chill pill. My recovery was gradual and I guess I realised that we are all vulnerable at one time or another. My parents have both experienced anxiety and depression over their lives and I know that having a depressive episode makes it more likely that we will experience further episodes.

Recovery means making your mind your priority and this is what I’ve tried to do. I have regular follow-ups with the GP every few weeks as I’m still taking medication. I am concerned about how coming off the medication might affect me but I have a good relationship with my doctor and trust that she will manage that process with me in the next few months. When I’m feeling anxious and restless I know I need to up my exercise to channel my adrenaline elsewhere. I try to facetime friends and family more often and say what I’m feeling more. My friends have been so supportive and didn’t judge or change their behaviour towards me when I told them- I found it really hard to tell them though. Having a good night’s sleep helps too- going to bed and waking up at regular times. I have also found Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) self- help reading to be extremely helpful too and highly recommend “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris- a refreshingly easy way of managing difficult emotions and learning to live with them.

The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone who is struggling with negative thoughts, depression, anxiety, stress, is to tell the people closest to you what helps you. Sometimes it’s the fact that our family’s, partners, friends don’t know what helps or what to say which causes more stress or potential conflict. Tell them what you would like them to do or say to you when you are feeling a certain way. I told my husband that every time I start to feel anxious, inadequate and catastrophising about my work, to remind me of how much enjoyment I have had at work and the positive things I say when I get home from work.

I don’t believe that a cardiologist should have experienced a heart attack to make them more capable of treating a patient effectively, but as a Mental Health Professional, I do have that bit more compassion and understanding of the vulnerability that we all have, no matter which chair you are sitting in.