What issues can counselling help with?
The list below details some of the more common conditions that counselling and therapy can help with. The list is not exhaustive however, and therapy has been shown to be effective in helping almost all mental health issues. Please be aware that although I've listed some of the common symptoms of each, your experience of any of these issues may be different. We each experience the world in our own way and that goes too for our struggles. What is important to remember is if you've experienced any of these issues, you are not alone.
Abuse is often thought of in terms of physical or sexual abuse, but can just as easily refer to emotional, psychological, mental or financial abuse. It can affect a person physically, but also robs them of their identity, confidence and can impact every aspect of their lives.
It's common for it to affect relationships and create anxiety in every day circumstances. Often when the abuse is traumatic it's often easier to cover it up, to avoid facing what happened because it's just too frightening and painful.
Counselling can help by giving you a safe space to be able to voice your experiences, give you ways to come to terms with what happened, understand how it might be impact your life now and ultimately to help you heal your wounds.
Addiction is often a coping strategy adopted to deal with difficult circumstances in or lives. It can be used to make us feel better (or feel nothing) when other things in our life are a struggle. Sometimes we become addicted to the positive
feelings we get from it and seek it out to feel that way again, and not having that high can feel awful, physically and mentally. Addiction doesn't just refer to drugs or alcohol, you can also be addicted to food, risk taking, gambling, nicotine, sex, work, facebook...or any number of other things. Often there is added stress from trying to hide an addiction from others.
Counselling can help you identify the cause of your addiction, and support you in finding ways to cope, helping you to change your lifestyle to one where the addiction is no longer necessary. Most importantly you won't ever be judged for your addiction, and you can talk freely about it.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in the UK. It's characterised by a prolonged feeling of worry or uncertainty, through to fear and panic attacks in extreme cases. It will often impact on a persons ability to get on with day to day tasks and can affect sleep, appetite
and mood. Research shows that anxiety can be caused by a number of factors, including your genes, any traumatic experiences you've had as well as over activity of the brain. Often it can feel like anxiety has a grip over us and our lives and we can feel exhausted by the mental effort of fighting with our anxiety every day.
Counselling and therapy helps by giving you the tools to be able to cope with your anxiety, practical things you can do to reduce the risk of anxiety occurring in the first place and ways to cope with it when it does hit. It can also help to look at the causes of anxiety and help to understand them better, taking away a lot of the power anxiety has.
Bereavement refers to the feelings of loss and grief we feel after losing a loved one. Often there are feelings of disbelief, shock, anger and upset. It often feels like we're going crazy. At first we may feel supported by those around us, but as time goes on
and our feelings haven't changed (whereas other seem to have moved on) it can feel very isolating and lonely. We may cry at the slightest thing, or feel other emotions much easier. It can be hard to be motivated or have the energy to do basic things, and we might not get any joy out of things that made us happy before.
Therapy for bereavement can give you that space to talk about how you feel, which is often more complex than just "sad", and your therapist will walk with you on your journey of recovery, helping you to process the emotions and find ways of adapting to the new world you now find yourself in.
All too often depression is labelled as just feeling sad or low, when actually it's a lot more complicated. We can all go through periods of feeling low, but depression is a consistent feeling that can last days, weeks, months or even years. It's often characterised by feeling
unhappy, loss of motivation and increased feelings of hopelessness. Physically you may feel overly tired and lethargic, experience disrupted sleep or loss of appetite or sex drive. When it feels mild it can simply make day to day living feel a little tougher, like wading through treacle. At it's worse, it can lead to feelings of despair and feeling suicidal.
It can be hard to talk about it because we may feel a stigma around depression being seen as weak, or it may be that others around us don't understand what we're going through. Despite what people may say, depression isn't a choice, and we can't just "snap out of it".
Counselling and therapy can help by giving you a space to freely explore how your depression is affecting you without worrying about being judged. It can help you to look at the things that can be changed to help improve how you feel, helping you to make the changes needed and to help you manage with the things that can't be changed, giving you coping strategies to help you live a more fulfilling life.
Our identity is how we view ourselves, and how we choose to present ourselves to the world. Our identity is made up of many different parts - gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion down to our preferences in terms of music, food, hobbies and even how we choose to behave. Some of these we inherit from birth, some are created throughout our lives, or are given us by society. Sometimes the identity we have may feel in conflict with what the world around us deems is "normal", or suitable. We might feel that the world would be less accepting of us if we were to behave or present in a way that was true to how we feel, so we often cover up those parts of our identity, or put on masks to show to the world.
Counselling can help you explore these conflicts, give you a better understanding of who your true self is and work to foster a confidence in the uniqueness and inherent worth in who you are that allows you to be more congruent in the world, to put away the masks and live in a way that reduces the internal conflict. Where the identity conflict is around gender we can help you to explore how you feel, and help you to look at the options available to you
When we think of relationship issues we often think of marriage guidance counselling first, but relationship issues could affect any relationship in your life - a partner, parent, child, friend, sibling or work colleague. Relationship issues can be down to a number of
different problems, such as lack of communication, the expectations (realistic or unrealistic) that we bring, or the needs we bring to each relationship. Relationships are the most complex thing we undertake as humans, and maintaining healthy, happy relationships can be difficult and hard work. Maintaining a relationship that is potentially toxic or harmful can also be exhausting.
Counselling can help you to understand your role in the relationship, what you bring and what your own unique needs are. It can help you understand how these may be driving certain behaviours and to give you new insight and ways of relating differently.
Self harming covers a number of behaviours, from physical acts such as cutting, burning or marking the skin, through to overeating or starving yourself. Self harm can also be emotional or psychological, such as negative self criticism or telling yourself that you are worthless. It
can often go hand in hand with other mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
There can be many reason behind self harming behaviours. Often the act comes with a sense of relief or release, usually experienced with physical self harm. Sometimes it can be a way to punish ourselves or as a way to express something we're feeling that we don't have the words for (or that feels bigger than words could ever express).
Self harm often comes with shame, and a lot of energy can be spent keeping the evidence of self harm a secret from others. It is important to remember that it is a coping strategy like so many others and doesn't define who you are.
Therapy can help by giving you a space to talk about how you're feeling and how your self harming is affecting you, away from judgement or criticism. We can give you ways to take care of yourself following a self harm episode, and help you to find alternative ways to help manage your feelings.
Sexual orientation refers to who we are attracted to emotionally, romantically or sexually. There are a number of different terms people use to describe their sexuality, such as heterosexual, asexual, bisexual, homosexual, gay or lesbian, or pansexual to name a few.
Whilst different sexual orientations have become more commonplace in our culture, there can still be an awful lot of difficulty, prejudice and fear for those who identify as a less common sexual orientation. This can cause a lot of conflict for those who might be already struggling with understanding their sexual identity, adding to feelings of confusion. Sometimes there can be feelings of shame that go with discovering our sexuality, particularly in some cultures and social environments.
Counselling can help by giving you a safe space to talk through how you are feeling, explore the impact this has and to help you to create a resilience in your identity. If offers you somewhere that you will be accepted and valued just as you are, giving you confidence in your identity and helping you deal with the difficulties that may arise during this time of change and discovery.
Suicide impacts people of all ages, genders and backgrounds, yet it is still something that for many is very uncomfortable to talk about. Having suicidal thoughts is quite common, however if these are persistent, frequent or reach a point where you feel you may act on them
then it's important that you seek help. Often suicidal feelings will occur when we feel particularly unhappy or hopeless about a situation, or in response to trauma. Living with suicidal thoughts can bring up a mixture of feelings, including sadness, anger or guilt. It can be very hard to talk about how you're feeling as it often raises a fear response in others who may be frightened for your safety which can make it hard for them to accept how you're feeling fully.
Counselling and therapy can help you to explore how you're feeling, what issues are behind these feelings and talk about them openly. We can support you in managing these difficult thoughts, and help you to make positive changes in your life to better deal with any suicidal thoughts that may come up.
If you feel you may be at immediate risk right now then you can contact various organisations who can help:
The Samartians - 116 123, Jo@samaritans.org
CALM (for men) - 0800 585858
Papyrus (for people under 35) - 0800 068 4141, firstname.lastname@example.org
Childline (for people under 19) - 0800 1111
The Silver Line (for older people) - 0800 4708090
Whilst there are many different causes of trauma, they roughly fall into two categories; Overt Trauma (with a large T) and accumulated trauma (with a little t). Overt Trauma refers to events like domestic assault, sexual or physical assault, war, terrorism, accidents etc.
Accumulated trauma is the effect of smaller everyday actions that build up causing long term issues. This might be a relationship with a critical parent or partner for example, or living under consistent financial hardship. While overt Trauma can result in symptoms such as feelings of powerlessness, fear, anxiety, shock, accumulative trauma is often easier for a person to rationalise as normal and push aside, making the effects more unconscious and out of awareness. Both types of trauma can impact on relationships with others, sleep patterns and loss of interest in activities that you might have enjoyed. Often trauma comes with a feeling of being unsafe, so people who have endured trauma tend to need to keep a sense of control over their world and stay in environments they feel safe and secure. This is how they cope with the world and is a perfectly normal coping strategy.
Counselling can help you identify the effects such trauma has had on you and how it impacts your day to day life. With accumulative trauma it can help you to understand the level of trauma you have been through and give you support to come to terms with that, or make any changes you need to. With overt Trauma counselling and therapy can provide you with a safe space to explore your experiences, how they impact you and ways of dealing with the fallout from your Trauma.
Some level of stress is part of natural day to day living, it acts as motivation to encourage us for example, however living under extreme or persistent stress has a very strong impact on us. It can impact our ability to concentrate, to relate to others, our appetite and even our immune system.
It can leave us feeling miserable, hopeless, self critical and undervalued. It impacts on our physical health too, with symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and muscle aches common. That stress can come from any number of sources too, such as work, relationships, societal expectations on us and our own values and beliefs about how we "should" be. Often we may find it hard to express this stress to others, and can often dismiss it as normal, unaware of the impact it's really having on us.
Counselling can help you by giving you space to offload a lot of this stress, to express how you feel without worry of being judged and without having to worry if it's okay or not to feel the way you do. Counselling can help you find ways to cope with the pressure that stress is putting you under, as well as helping support you in making changes to alleviate some of the stress you feel.