Jo-Anne Sexton MIACP
Frequently Asked Questions
Often before we begin speaking to a Counsellor, we have many reservations and questions which can prevent us from making the initial contact. Some of these questions I've outlined below , together with some answers which may alleviate some of these concerns
Each person has his or her own unique reason for reaching out and seeking therapeutic support. Often we can feel we have no one else to turn to.
- There can be a need to feel support after a particular event or difficult time in our lives (such as a bereavement or a trauma) ;
- It is about trying to find a solution to a problem we are finding ourselves stuck in;
- feeling helpless, powerless, loneliness, isolation;
- desire for change;
- it is about listening to another and being heard;
- Personal development;
- moving on in a more healthy way in our lives;
- understanding and breaking patterns which aren’t helpful....
the list continues as to why we may consider talking to a counseling professional at any point in our lives. For each client what brings them into the counseling room will be unique to them.
As Carl Jung said:
“the patient who comes to us has a story that is not told, and which as a rule no one knows of….. It is the patients secret, the rock against which he is shattered”
(1995, p. 138)
“there must be something seriously wrong, if I can’t figure this out myself”
Working with a Counsellor, will provide an opportunity firstly, to help you make sense of what’s happenening in your life. From their objective stance, your Counsellor can offer new perspectives & emotional support which for the distressed client, provides enough breathing space to steady themselves and work their way through whatever it is they’re trying to deal with.
“I can’t talk to a stranger, what will they think of me?”
In counselling, emotions can surface that we’ve been struggling to contain, or haven’t given ourselves permission to feel. In our daily life, we often emotionally censor ourselves because we don’t quite know what to do with a problematic feeling. The fact that we disallow ourselves this right before starting counseling or don’t know how to connect with the emotion, adds to our emotional distress and the weight of carrying this emotion around in our lives.
“I don’t know where to start!”
Counselling is a safe, protected space where our feelings are respected, shared and contained by the Counsellor. The great benefit of this, is that we are emotionally freed-up.Often clients will talk about feeling a “release” or “not feeling blocked any more” once an emotion is worked through in counselling. Physically we will notice a shift too, once the emotional piece is taken care of. Being able to breath more freely, feeling lighter, being able to think clearly again are commonly reported by clients.
Reference: Jung, C.G (1995) Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Fontana Press, London.W
For Counsellors-in-training or a student considering your future options, counselling is an integral part of your professional and personal development.
I work with students from all accredited counselling courses who are looking to begin their personal development work. On initial contact, we can discuss your individual course requirements and address any queries you may have.
I also work with young adults who are looking for any level of support for themselves. Embarking on changes in our lives can test us, sometimes beyond our limits. Talking to an independent,non-judgemental professional can be a healthy outlet to gain another perspective and sort out any such issues which may be having a negative impact.
Each session lasts 50 minutes and there are flexible appointments available. (Morning, afternoon or evening appointments)
The 1st session
From the moment you have arrived at the decision to meet a Counsellor, you have already started a positive process. Your readiness to consider speaking to a Counsellor is an important first step.However sometimes, the very idea of meeting a complete stranger and talking about ourselves, can fill us with fear and sometimes give rise to questions such as:
"Where do I start?"
"What if I start crying and won't be able to stop"
"I'll be too embarrassed to talk about what's really bothering me" "What will they think of me?"
"How long will it go on for?"
"Will they be able to help me?"
"What will they ask me?"
"What if I don't like the Counsellor?"
As your Counsellor, I am guided by you, as to what we discuss in our sessions. However, in our initial phone call or the first meeting, I explain what to expect from our sessions, such as the length of the session; explain issues such as safety, confidentiality and my duty of care towards you and others.
We may discuss the frequency of sessions, whether you want to meet again on a regular basis such as weekly or fortnightly for example. Also in the event of cancellations and payment per session, these are also discussed and agreed between us.
I invite any questions or concerns you have and if you are looking for support in an area which is beyond my expertise, I will let you know and refer you to another appropriate Counsellor as required.
And so we begin.
My role is to listen, support, reflect and help you resolve or come to terms with whatever is causing you distress in your life. The goal is to create a positive, therapeutic relationship whereby your goals for Counselling are met.
It naturally takes time to develop the type of relationship whereby we feel emotionally safe to explore some of the more painful aspects of our lives. If you are not happy about any aspect of our work together, I encourage you to let me know , so that your therapeutic process is not impeded with in any way ; we talk about and work through it, in our sessions. My commitment as your Counsellor is to develop with you , the environment and therapeutic relationship which enables you to do so, in a safe, constructive, healing manner.
Christmas Survival Guide
It is a time of year when stress levels are elevated for various reasons: pressure to provide for others, organisation of our home, planning around relatives, work Christmas events & socialising...whatever the reasons, December can be a highlight or a low-light of the year for many of us.
It can be the time of year when we find ourselves thinking back over our experiences throughout 2014, both the negative and positive ones. It can be a time when we feel the impact of loss even more so, as we note the absence of loved ones from our lives. It can also be a time when we look forward, set goals for ourselves and think about new possibilities ahead.
When it comes to self-care, our own needs can often be neglected, as we are caught up in the energy that December, Christmas and the New Year can bring. Our usual daily or weekly self-care rituals such as taking time for ourselves, exercise etc can go out the window so to speak.
What is important to remember is Christmas is one day.
We can decide for ourselves, how long we will allow ourselves switch off from those positive self-care strategies and coping skills which sustain us throughout the other 364 days of the year.
Be realisitic with your time in terms of planning - it just may not be feasible to visit all our friends or family members within a short time scale, so plan to catch up at a later date.
With food and drink a plenty, our tendency can be to dive headlong into it, "as it's Christmas". Just remember the body and mind feel the aftermath, so take care around your diet and alcohol intake. Alternate non-alcoholic for alcoholic drinks for example or be the designated driver and remain a non-drinker for the day or evening. We experience a natural dip in our mood/depression following drinking so taking care of your emotional health is a decision you can make.
Have a list of services available to you at this time of year - check with your GP what the cover is over Christmas, for example. Know the schedules of your group support meetings such as AA/NA etc. if you are attending.
Give yourself permission to acknowledge your loss or grief, if you are experiencing it. We can tell ourselves to put a brave face on things and not let on that we are feeling our sadness or pain. This can be the most painful thing of all and to talk about it with others or just acknowledge the reality of what we are going through, can be a healing experience. Remember our loved ones, include them in the day somehow, whether that be talking about them, sharing happy experiences or however we would like to remember them.
The choices are yours and to do what feels right for you, is the most important guide to go by. Be good to yourself, be kind to yourself and include people or activities in your life which reflect the high value that you are.
Ever find yourself feeling exhausted, for no apparent reason...
Ever find it hard to get to sleep because of racing thoughts, as if our brain just won't switch off...
Ever feel as if you have a permanent knot in stomach or pains in your neck and shoulders....
When we hear the word "Anxiety", it is an experience we can all identify with, as having experienced it at times in our life: before exams, a job interview, feeling nervous in certain situations or when we're worried about something in particular.
However there are instances when we can feel anxious for no apparent reason. We just get on with our lives, or try to. Over time, there is a risk of us feeling overwhelmed, as our Anxiety seems to remain ever present, to the point where we feel it is controlling our lives, influencing our decisions, where we go, who we meet, how we think about ourselves and others. Before we know it, we feel stuck and not knowing how to address this unknown force that is having such a negative impact in our life.
To experience Anxiety and live with it on a daily basis can leave us feeling extremely isolated, helpless, frustrated and scared as we try to go about our daily lives. A sense of not being in control and becoming afraid of those circumstances or people which may cause us to feel anxious, is common place. We feel and function as if in a state of "high alert".
It doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender, age, occupation, lifestyle or circumstances.
Our biology is hard-wired to ensure that we know how to keep ourselves safe in the event of a threat. This survival response is key to our existence, so we need something that alerts us to an impending threat - whether this is literally a bear at our door or whether it's a threat to our job, home, health, relationship etc.
Again, it doesn't discriminate. Sometimes, however, our survival mechanism operates out of sync and as a result, we can feel under threat for most of the time, instead of some of the time.
This results in a series of unpleasant, frightening physical and psychological symptoms which can come to dominate our lives.
In naming and understanding your anxiety, you are already on the way to regaining a sense of control and being able to deal with anxiety in a more manageable manner, so that it doesn't interfere with your day to day life in the way it has been.
What triggers Anxiety is unique to each one of us - what is threatening for one, may not be threatening for another. Talking in Counselling about YOUR experience of Anxiety will help you understand how it works and more importantly, how you can feel more empowered to deal with it.
A man's view....
"I'm grand, there's nothing wrong"...
"Don't want to tell anyone what I'm really thinking or feeling, they'll think I'm mad"...
"I'm supposed to be the strong one, others are depending on me"...
"I'll just deal with it myself, get on with things"
If you ever find yourself thinking some of the above, you aren't on your own. The difficulty for people, can often be admitting to themselves, let alone someone else, the extent of the emotional burden or difficulty they may be carrying around and trying to manage.
The more we keep things in that are hard to manage, the more the pressure builds and soon we can feel overwhelmed and more isolated than ever before.
Not knowing where or how to start to share our difficulty, is a situation we find ourselves in.
We have expectations of ourselves and how others see us.
"Getting on with things" shouldn't be this hard, right??
When you're feeling isolated, everything seems harder to manage.
Checking in with a Counsellor will give you the time to clear your head, unburden yourself from those thoughts, feelings or ideas you are trying to manage in your life at a point in time, which is proving harder and harder to do. It is someone objective, outside your family, friends, colleagues who can help you work through whatever is negatively impacting your life.
Give yourself permission and acknowledge how you are feeling.
There is no such thing as the "perfect person".
Your health, welfare and well-being is vitally important; your needs are as important as those of others in your life. Give yourself time now to take care of yourself and reach out for appropriate support, your life depends upon it.