Alda Counselling

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Psychobable explained

explanationWhat is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

Counselling focuses on a specific issue that you wish to resolve. For example, you may wish to become more assertive in your professional life and stop being overwhelmed by all the work that is being thrown at you because of your inability to say ‘no’.

It is a short-term commitment to a number of sessions (depending of the specific issue) in order to explore only that issue.

Psychotherapy is a long-term, deeper process. It takes time and effort on your part, but it may allow you to start uncovering what makes you feel stuck, lost or lacking meaning. You may start recognising negative patterns of behaviour and changing them for others that help you enjoy a rich and fulfilled life.

You may be able to work out any past trauma in a safe environment and maybe for the first time in your life, you may feel as if you and your life are really something special you would like to invest time in.

What is the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist?

Basically, a psychotherapist has trained for longer than a counsellor. Both may work similarly depending on their training and your issues, but certain conditions are preferably treated by psychotherapists due to their extensive training. Both counsellors and psychotherapists attend continuous professional development workshops. I am both a counsellor and psychotherapist and have attended complementary workshops on different areas, including working with trauma, HIV and multicultural counselling.


What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a doctor that specializes in treating mental health conditions, such as major depression, bipolar disorder…. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication for those mental health conditions. If you live with such a condition and require medication, you will be treated by a psychiatrist, but can still benefit from psychotherapy sessions. They can both be combined to achieve better results. I have worked as a psychotherapist with people who were taking anti-depressants, mood stabilizers or other medications, prescribed by their psychiatrist.


What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. It is a new term recently coined by neuroscience. It is relevant for counselling and psychotherapy, because it proves the efficacy of counselling and psychotherapy. This means that the distressing patterns that brought you to psychotherapy can be changed.

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5 tips for choosing the right counsellor

I heard somewhere that finding the right counsellor is as hard as finding the right life partner. That may be slightly exaggerated, but it is true that there is more to finding a counsellor than one might think. Here are 5 tips to choose the right counsellor for you:

  • Check your motivation for seeking counselling: What is bringing you to counselling at this moment? Are you looking to solve a specific issue or are you trying to change deep seated patterns that are causing your distress? If you are looking to look at a concrete issue, e. g. whether you need to leave your relationship, a counsellor, a psychologist and a psychotherapist will be able to help you. But if you are looking at changing your life patterns, you will need to commit to long-term psychotherapy with a qualified psychotherapist.
  • Search the online register of counsellors: Do a Google search, or visit the Counselling Directory or the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) or UKCP directory to find a qualified counsellor in Devon.

  • Check the counsellors’ qualifications: Once you find a counsellor in Devon whose website or profile you like, check their qualifications. There may be a counsellor or psychotherapist specialising in the issue that brings you to counselling, e. g. sexual abuse.
  • Book your first session: Many counsellors will see you for free or for a reduced fee on your first session. This will help you both ascertain whether you will work well together.
  • Trust your gut instinct: If you don’t feel at ease with the counsellor in your first session or sessions, please leave. There are many counsellors and not all of us work in a similar way. Try a different person. If you do feel at ease with your counsellor, but you still wish to leave, discuss it with your counsellor. Leaving people or situations may be an issue that is stopping you from living fully. This can be an opportunity for you to work through this pattern.

Ultimately, choosing the right counsellor will depend on your resources and what is available in your area. However, counselling can be life-changing, and it is well worth doing a bit of research before investing your time and your money in a counsellor. When you find the right counsellor for you, your life will take a turn into the right direction. Choosing a counsellor is very personal. The right counsellor for you may not be for another person and vice versa, so take your time, and trust your ability to choose the right counsellor in Devon.


Mental Illness or Human Suffering?

In recent years, we are becoming more acceptant of labels belonging to the medical professions in our everyday life. For example, mental illness, bipolar, depression. Some of these terms are increasingly used to identify human states of mind and mood that might have been considered in the past as a normal part of human suffering. So how do we know when we are mentally ill or just suffering as humans?

Human suffering is usually a temporary condition, whereas mental illness can be more permanent. If someone close to you dies, it is normal to feel sad. But if you continue feeling sad years after it happened, you may be struggling with something more serious, like a depression. However, there is a very fine line between these two concepts because if you believe that you are mentally ill, or depressed, then you will be. Society might influence your own judgement and your doctor’s or counsellor’s judgement regarding whether you are effectively ill or just suffering as a human being.

As Summerfield states in Cross cultural perspectives on the medicalisation of human suffering, “the attitudes of wider society (which may change over time) shape what individual victims feel has been done to them and the vocabulary they use to describe this, whether or how they seek help, and their expectations of recovery.” If the wider society believes that a traumatised person must be carrying a heavy load that will impact negatively on their future life, that person will be prone to carry such a load and feel that negative impact. That would prevent them from seeing the other side of trauma, which normally brings growth and a deeper appreciation of life.

Many of the people that I work with are suffering due to the heavy load of living in an individualistic society that tends to label them and does not leave room for their human suffering and recovery. In some cultures, there are no words for depression. A person is part of a group, and the group will help and accept what is happening to the person. This person does not feel stigmatised and isolated, and eventually moves on. There is no stigma as suffering is considered a human characteristic dealt with in a community of human beings. In our society, there seems to be an expectation to be independent and happy. In such a society, is there a place for human suffering? Are we able to ask for help to family and friends? Are we too quick to label human suffering as mental illness, as something that needs fixing?

I wonder whether we need more communities to accompany each other in this journey that is our life and especially when we experience human suffering. I wonder whether we can accompany another person and let another person accompany us when our life seems like a challenge. In my opinion, counselling is a journey in which one person feels accompanied by a professional who is able to accept and understand human suffering. This acceptance and understanding makes the “sufferer” accept and understand his or her predicament and transform his or her life. Counselling is also a tool to help the “sufferer” learn how to find resources within themselves and in their communities so that when further suffering occurs, they would know how to cope with it.

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5 symptoms of compassion fatigue in carers

Compassion fatigue, also known as burnout, can appear in workers exposed to suffering on a daily basis. Nurses, care workers, doctors, counsellors are all exposed to compassion fatigue. They work with people who are not well every day and their suffering can affect them. Early detection of symptoms of compassion fatigue can prevent more serious symptoms. Five early symptoms of compassion fatigue are as follows:

  • Frequent colds: We may think they are related to the weather, to not wearing the right clothes, to the children being frequently ill as they catch colds in school, to a temporary stage of our lives. Be careful. It could also be a symptom that you are developing compassion fatigue.
  • Reduced sense of accomplishment: Did your job feel like you were really helping others and it is starting to put you down? Does the day feel longer than it used to? You may have forgotten the reasons that brought you to this job in the first place. You may start developing some symptoms of compassion fatigue.
  • Headaches and fatigue: This may be a normal part of your life by now. You have a headache, take an Ibuprofen and forget about it. You tell yourself that it is normal to be tired trying to joggle work, family life and caring for your parents. It may well be, but it can also be a sign that you are doing far too much for others and starting to burn out.
  • Moodiness and increased interpersonal conflict: If you find yourself snapping at your loved ones for no good reason, having frequent mood swings, and/or starting to feel like you would like to be on your own for often than usual, you may be developing compassion fatigue.
  • Lack of meaning: Eventually, if you don’t pay attention to those symptoms, they may deteriorate, and you may feel numb, disillusioned and you may lose meaning. Your life may appear as having no sense at all.

Some of the more serious symptoms of compassion fatigue are similar to PTSD symptoms, experienced by trauma sufferers. Compassion fatigue is also known as vicarious traumatization. Good news is that you can recognize these symptoms and allow yourself to put yourself first. You need to look after yourself and discover your own ways of making yourself fulfilled and happy on a daily basis. This is known as post-traumatic growth. Empathy can bring you to experience human suffering and develop compassion fatigue; looking after yourself (post-traumatic growth) can help you find higher meaning and connection to others.

Also read: 5 tips to avoid compassion fatigue

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Counselling teaches you how to connect authentically

This post was born after watching Hedy Scheifer’s lecture in TED. Hedy tells us about a time when she felt a real connection to her mother, an Alzheimer’s sufferer. She speaks about how we can contaminate the space between each other and those we relate to. The space between you and a person you are in a relationship with, being your mother, your partner or your child is a sacred space. She explains how to improve the connection in your relationships, how to achieve a real encounter with another.


In counselling, we aim at creating a sacred space in which you can be yourself, whoever that is. Counselling is an encounter between two people who aim at being more authentic, more alive, learning about themselves and about the space they both inhabit. A counselling room is like a playground where you can explore who you are with no judgements. It is a playground where you can connect with another in a truthful way, learning about authenticity and real connection between human essence to human essence.

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Differences between anger and rage


Anger, and related emotions, seem to be banned by our society. It appears that it is not good to be angry, to get angry, to be seen angry. However, we all get angry. It is a human emotion. All human emotions are useful, so anger must be useful too. Rage is also useful. They are both telling us a story, but they both tell a different story.

angerAnger and rage are teaching us about ourselves. They are trying to transmit a message that we need to hear to grow into more mature and whole human beings. Anger is teaching us about self-care. Rage is teaching us that our past needs healing.

Anger is a pure emotion. It comes to existence to protect our boundaries. Anger appears in the here-and-now and lasts for a few minutes. When self-care is threatened by a situation, anger will appear. It can be an aggressive anger or a passive anger. It can be directed to the person or the situation causing the anger or to innocent third parties. Learning how to say no, to assert your needs and to respect your boundaries is essential for your health and maturity. Anger can help you recognise when your boundaries are being trespassed.

Road rage rules with this infuriated driver shaking his fist

Road rage rules with this infuriated driver shaking his fist

Rage is a defence-mechanism used by infants when their environment does not meet their needs. It is pre-verbal, which means that it was created before one can speak. So, when you fly into a fit of rage against someone or something, you may not know the reasons behind. Rage is a disproportionate anger for the situation at hand. Rage is telling you that your needs were not met when you were a child, and you have unresolved emotions that need processing. When pure emotions are not processed in the here-and-now, they can be suppressed and later expressed in unhelpful ways. Rage is one of them.

Both anger and rage have very consistent physical bodily reactions: a twitching stomach, shallow and fast breathing, tense shoulders, a racing heart. If you become more aware of your body, you may feel these symptoms as they appear in your body, and recognise them as anger. When they are getting out of control, it is time for you to take time out from the situation you are in. Time for reflection is essential. Working with a counsellor can help you recognise your anger as it arises so that you can prevent damaging your close relationships. Counselling can also help you explore what unresolved issues may be causing your anger.