What happens to people?
As people, at different times in our life, we have individual crises such as loss, death, destruction, abandonment and betrayal.
As survivors of these situations we can often be left feeling helpless, depressed, full of guilt, or angry. Sometimes clients describe it to me as ‘in a black hole’ or a ‘being pulled down into a downward spiral’ ‘trapped’ or ‘up against a wall’.
Clients may find it difficult to control their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and may be experiencing uncomfortable sensations or having upsetting images.
Often we find, as we get talking in counselling sessions, things revealed, such as,
- They doubt the possibility of existing without danger,
- They don’t feel able to control their destiny,
- Their confidence in their decision-making has gone.
What is the impact?
These people may feel angry or rageful. They might have a sense of powerlessness. It is common to oscillate between the two concepts of self (on the one hand ‘important and angry’ and on the other hand ‘insignificant’). They may lie awake at night thinking. They might be battling with solutions and come to no satisfactory way to put the situation to rights, or let it rest. This might lead the person into frustration, or being fatigued.
Temptation to adopt a ‘victim’ identity is quite strong. I speak with clients who are going through all of this and they commonly discount all previous achievements and cannot account for future accomplishments. The trauma has taken over and clouded their whole experience.
How can counselling help?
Through counselling we can move from being a victim to becoming a victor. Using the counselling conversations for reaching the inner pain and then discovering our inner strength.
The aims of the counselling are to acknowledge what happened, how it is impacting you and how to move forward.
What can we do in counselling?
The part of therapy that is about moving on from acknowledgment may include such things as:
- Understanding what happened
- Discovering coping resources
- Changing priorities and assuming self responsibility for healing
- Build a flexible balancing of tension and relaxation
- Developing strategies for dealing with crisis, stress and trauma
- Develop positive affirmations of resilience
- Possibly discovering compassion and using forgiveness
- Perhaps engaging in mourning / using rituals
- Re-examine personal space
- Rebuild trust
If you wish to understand yourself more, as counsellor and client we can look at many different facets of limiting ways of being, find the positive in them. We might look at:
- The way that you think
- The things that you believe
- The way that you regulate emotions
- The expression of feelings
- Your physiology
Clients are recounting personal recollections of traumatisation in a safe place and they may use, not only words, but also share dreams and nightmares, use metaphors and stories.
What is the outcome?
Everyone is different, and each person may wish to work towards a differnt outcome - one that is right for them.
By talking through these things, and dealing with the associations, we can elicit new ideas and possibilities, which can take over from the old patterns of thought and response.
As a counsellor I don’t give the answers. There is no one single appropriate method for coping with all crises reactions. Each person has their own specific combination of coping modes and resources. Each person finds his or her own answers. And we do this together.
Clients need someone to bear witness to what they have gone through, or are going through. They need to be acknowledged and listened to. They need to express their reactions. They need to revisit some things in a safe environment (the counselling space).
Ultimately, clients acknowledge, and describe their pain, and then move through it. They then plan strategies of self rescue, reach a place of emotional and psychological safety. Feel once again secure and confident, and regain their potency and personal power.
Counselling, these days, is holistic. This means that the person is understood as a whole.
What do Person Centred Counsellors do?
Person Centred Counsellors (of which I am one) believe in awareness of the core conditions, i.e. empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard. And these core conditions underpin the quality of relating between the two people, therapist and client.
What do Transactional Analysts do?
In Transactional Analysis the same things are known, but the language is different. TA therapists (of which I am, also, one) say that everyone has worth and everyuone has the capacity to think - and therefore deserve to be treated accordingly.
People who know a little about TA have probably heard of the saying, “I’m OK, You’re OK” - this is not in the sense of “I’m all right, Jack!” but rather, “I know that I am worthwhile in my own eyes and in yours, and I know that you are worthwhile in my eyes and yours”. (If the client does not yet believe either part of that, therein lies psychotherapeutic growth-potential).
Counsellors across all modalities respond to their clients at different levels
We humans are so complex and we function at a number of levels psychologically. Therapists and counsellors need to listen out for those different levels and respond to those different levels of functioning in both clients, and in themselves.
There is benefit in both the non-diresctive style and in the directive style
Person Centred therapists are known for being non-directive. What is important in this way of therapy is that clients can develop new meaning in their lives by retelling their life stories - by making narratives. Having those experiences emerge and perhaps be expressed at a metaphorical level, not only in the words, but also in the felt meaning that is shared between the two people present, is very valuable.
Valuable, also, is a therapist sometimes being directive, and confronting clients’ beliefs, or defences. Counsellors, therefore, need to make judgements and take choices about which way to respond to clients at any one time. This is related to the levels of functioning, mentioned above. The same therapist will be engaging in an empathetic way, using non-interrupting style sometimes, in response to certain levels of a client, and at other times, in response to other levels, the therapist could be making interventions and taking more risks.
Everyone feels sad or “blue” on occasion
It is also perfectly normal to grieve over upsetting life experiences, such as a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job / way of life, or a divorce. But, for most people, these feelings of grief and sadness tend to lessen with the passing of time.
However, if a person’s feelings of sadness last for two weeks or longer, and if they interfere with daily life activities, something more serious than “feeling blue” may be going on.
Does Depression Differ From Occasional Sadness?
Depressed individuals tend to feel helpless and hopeless and to blame themselves for having these feelings.
People who are depressed may become overwhelmed and exhausted and may stop participating in their routine activities.
They may withdraw from family and friends. Some may even have thoughts of death or suicide.
What Causes Depression?
There is no single answer to this question.
Some depression is caused by changes in the body’s chemistry that influence mood and thought processes.
Can Depression Be Successfully Treated?
- Yes, it can.
A person’s depression is highly treatable when he or she receives competent care.
It is critical for people who suspect that they or a family member may be suffering from depression seek care from a qualified and accredited counsellor or psychotherapist, who has training and experience in helping people recover from depression.
Simply put, people with depression who do not seek help suffer needlessly.
Unexpressed feelings and concerns accompanied by a sense of isolation can worsen a depression; therefore, the importance of getting appropriate help cannot be overemphasised.
Several approaches to psychotherapy—including cognitive-behavioural, interpersonal, transactional analysis, and psychodynamic —help depressed people recover.
Counselling and / or Psychotherapy offers people the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to their depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioural, interpersonal, and situational causes.
Skilled therapists can work with depressed individuals to:
- Pinpoint the life problems that contribute to their depression and help them understand which aspects of those problems they may be able to solve or improve.
- Explore other learned thoughts and behaviours that create problems and contribute to depression.
- Help people regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
Are Medications Useful for Treating Depression?
Medications can be very helpful for reducing the symptoms of depression in some people, particularly in cases of moderate to severe depression.
Some people do not need antidepressants – counselling will be enough.
However, if your level of functioning is very low, i.e. you are not able to work and do not groom yourself anymore, then a combination of psychotherapy and medications is the best course of treatment.
Always discuss this with your GP.
Depression can seriously impair a person’s ability to function in everyday situations. But the prospects for recovery for depressed individuals who seek professional care are very good. By working with a qualified and experienced therapist, people suffering from depression can help regain control of their lives again.
In addition to listening to you and understanding what you are going through, your therapist will assist you in changing negative thinking,cultivating supportive relationships, attaining healthy lifestyle habits, and reducing stress. This will lead the way to move through depression into your recovery.
Your life is waiting