Alda Counselling

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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.


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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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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.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEaERAnIqsY&x-yt-ts=1421828030&x-yt-cl=84411374

 

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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5 tips to avoid compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue, also known as burnout, can appear in caregivers exposed to suffering on a daily basis. Nurses, care workers, doctors, counsellors are all exposed to compassion fatigue. We work with people who experience suffering every day and their suffering can affect us. Early detection of symptoms of compassion fatigue can prevent more serious symptoms. Here are five tips to recognize and avoid compassion fatigue:

  • Take care of your body: If you start feeling the effects of compassion fatigue, such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness, headaches, difficulty sleeping or falling asleep, remember the basics of looking after your body: healthy diet, daily exercise.
  • Look after your mind: Cognitive symptoms of compassion fatigue include lowered concentration, disillusionment, apathy, preoccupation with trauma. If you have any of these symptoms, it may be useful to calm your mind through meditative practices: yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation.
  • Express your feelings: Working with people suffering on a daily basis can be taxing for anyone. You may start experiencing powerlessness, anxiety, guilt, anger, numbness, fear, sadness. You may also experience dreams similar to your patients or you may suddenly recall frightening experiences. It may be useful to share your feelings in a supportive environment. Check if there are support groups for caregivers at work or in your area. Do some counselling sessions with a qualified counsellor.

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  • Stay connected: Caregivers who are close to burnout often tend to isolate themselves. Because of their mood swings, irritability, poor sleep and other symptoms, they may have more interpersonal conflicts at work and in their families. If you observe that you tend to isolate yourself, watch out. You may be starting to develop compassion fatigue. Stay connected with your family and friends. Find a new hobby and create new relationships with other people. Go out, dance, walk, be creative in the ways you can relate to others, but stay connected.
  • Find space for spirituality in your life: If you start questioning life’s meaning, feel that you have lost your purpose and you become sceptical about things that made a lot of sense earlier in your life, it is time to start a spiritual practice. Being spiritual doesn’t mean that you need to join your local parish and go to the regular services. It can mean just walking in nature and commune with the divine within or outside. Find some quiet time for yourself.

If you believe that finding time to look after yourself is indulgent or selfish, think twice. If you get burnout, you will be of no help to anyone. It is altruistic to actually look after your health, spend some time doing what you enjoy doing in life, stay connected with family and friends, develop a spiritual practice. All of those things will make you a better carer and will help you avoid compassion fatigue.


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Counselling, Psychotherapy and Cultural Values

Cultural values can impact in counselling and psychotherapy sessions. Independently of what brought you to look for a counsellor in Devon, some underlying cultural issues may be present.

From a counsellor’s perspective – understanding

Counselling and psychotherapy were born in Western societies. These societies are based on certain common values not shared by all cultures in the world. If you come from a culture with different values, your values may clash with those of your current world.

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That is why you need to find a counsellor in Devon that has an understanding of multicultural issues. If your counsellor understands that your behaviour or feelings can be related to your cultural difference, you will be listened to with a deeper understanding. That may help you make informed decisions, aligned with your values, which may bring much joy to your life.

From a client’s perspective – lack of clarity

If you come from a foreign country, you may start questioning the values that you learnt growing up and embracing Western values, and that may create conflict in your past relationships (family of origin). Or you may keep your old values and enter into conflict with those who share Western values and don’t understand yours (e.g. in an intimate relationship). This may create anger, confusion and insecurity. If you embrace the values around, there is a sense of losing part of yourself, of losing your identity. If you keep your previous values, you may feel that you don’t fit in in your current culture. You may feel misunderstood and may isolate yourself. Counselling and psychotherapy can be a non-judgemental space where you can explore these issues.

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If your counsellor in Devon is multiculturally aware, you will not feel judged and will be able to figure out your own values. By knowing the values that you stand for, you may become more confident about yourself. You may then be able to explain your values in a more assertive way, resulting in better understanding and bonding with others. As you confirm the values that feel right for you, you may also find that it is easier to listen to other peoples’ values and respect them while being true to yours.

Multicultural Counselling and Psychotherapy in Exeter, Teignmouth, Skype

Alda Gomez BA PGCEd GCCI HDIPCP MA Psych (Psychotherapy) MBACP

01626 778048 – 07437 332032

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