I write..... occasionally
I write blog posts and articles which sometimes are featured in psychotherapy and counselling publications. The blogs are shown below.
Online Therapy - Neither New Nor Temporary
With online working being a familiar discussion topic since the Coronavirus lockdown began, and more recently discussions about returning to normal working, it might seem that online working has been a novel response to the pandemic. This may be true for many types of work and activity but online therapy has been around for a long time. It is neither new nor temporary.
It has been said that in online therapy there are certain core elements that are missed or lost . These include:
There are additional elements, too, which are as equally available in online therapy as they are in face-to-face therapy. Factors such as trust, feeling heard and understood, and a human connection with someone who cares. These are all available in online therapy, and form part of the blend of training and experience that an online therapist brings to their particular approach to the process of therapy.
My particular blend of therapy is underpinned by transactional analysis psychotherapy which looks at how we become who we are, and how we grow and change during the course of life. Also relational psychotherapy, which believes in the centrality of the therapeutic relationship as the significant agent for change and successful therapy.
There are many reasons to choose online therapy. Coronavirus lockdown is just one. Another might be familiarity with maintaining relationships via social media online. Or there might be personal circumstances such as illnesses, mobility, care arrangements or other accessibility reasons.
The key thing to bear in mind, whatever your particular reason, is that you are not losing or missing some important and core element if you decide that online therapy is a good choice for you. In the 21st century online therapy is as valid a choice to make as its face-to-face counterpart.
Five Reasons to Give Online Therapy a Go
For people seeking guidance or suffering from mental health problems, the ability to reach out to a professional online is a major boon. As technology has evolved, therapists have made online counselling services a much larger part of their offering.
In these troubling times, the importance of online therapy has become more apparent than ever. With the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak forcing many people to stay indoors, it might seem like there’s nowhere to turn for help in times of distress. What’s more, studies have shown that staying indoors can amplify the negative effects of mental health disorders, particularly if those affected are trapped in a toxic environment.
Online therapy can help you if family and friends aren’t close to hand or if you need professional help when face-to-face options aren’t possible. Speaking to someone via a phone call or online can help you explore your feelings and make positive steps without having to leave your comfort zone.
Below are five reasons why now more than ever would be a good time to give online therapy a go.
It’s More Accessible
One of the best things about online therapy is how accessible it is. As long as you have a stable internet connection, you can contact someone no matter where you are. Often online therapists can have greater flexibility on appointments, and you’ll be able to book appointments at a time that suits your schedule. This is helpful during periods of nationwide quarantine.
It’s Proven to be Effective
There is evidence that online therapy can be as effective - if not more effective in some cases – than face-to-face therapy. A study published in 2018 declared that computer therapy for anxiety and depression disorders is ‘effective, acceptable and practical health care’. The implication is that online therapy can offer good results and - depending on your preference and circumstances - may be the right option for you. It’s important to note that in some cases – i.e. if you are in a position where you may hurt yourself or others – face-to-face contact might be a better option.
The Technology is There to Support Online Therapy
The advent of technology has meant there is now an abundance of ways to talk to people. Free video conferencing platforms such as Zoom are good for one-to-one conversations. Smartphones have also facilitated faster and easier access to therapy on the go. Online therapy app Talkspace recently announced it had seen a large uptick in demand since February, largely as a result of a growing number of people self-isolating. Though it’s important to note that an overdependence/overconsumption of social media can sometimes exacerbate mental health issues, improved connectivity allows people to access a wider variety of therapy to suit their own needs.
Bypassing the Social Stigma
You might be uncomfortable with the idea of therapy because of how you might be perceived by peers, family members, or even others in the waiting room. Bringing the experience online limits interaction and allows you to get straight to the person you need to talk to, without having to worry about others. Because online therapy can be carried out alone, without some of the usual social interactions that might otherwise be involved (e.g. getting someone to drive you to an appointment, for example), it can help foster a feeling of independence, as well as help you open up more about certain topics.
Privacy and anonymity
In addition to lifting the stigma, communicating via methods that don’t require face-to-face contact (i.e. a telephone call, or a Zoom meeting with video turned off) could help unconscious or consciously held biases about various facets of a person – such as race or gender – from affecting the conversation or your therapist’s diagnosis. Online therapy can feel like a more private affair, making the whole process less intense and formal-feeling than a one-to-one meeting, and allow people to dip their toe into the water. It might help you feel that you can give a more comprehensive picture of yourself when speaking from the comfort of your own home.
Psychotherapy With A Migraine Focus
You may have seen on my migraine page that I offer psychotherapy to help work through some of the many challenges of migraine.
Here I explain some of the ways in which therapy with a focus on migraine can be helpful.
In my psychotherapy practice, people often say that it is the fear associated with migraine which is one of the most difficult aspects.
Medically, this fear is sometimes called cephalgiaphobia. It is an anticipatory fear, the kind of fear that you may feel when you don’t know if the next migraine will be tomorrow or in six month’s time. It is the kind of fear that may prevent you from doing all the things that make life meaningful for you ‘just in case’ or because you wouldn’t ‘feel safe’.
You can imagine of course that these kinds of fears can compound the pain of migraine. Not only may you get regular migraine episodes but also tension headaches because of the fear you feel.
While migraine is a complex condition, including in its picture genetic predisposition and neurobiological factors, many triggers can be traced back to elements of daily life. Some of the symptoms you experience may have a psychological basis, such as with the fears described above. The pain is most definitely real. It is physical, and can ravage and incapacitate, but psychological factors may at least in part underly the pain process.
The good news is that psychotherapy and counselling can help. There are a range of different ways in which therapy can be a useful form of treatment for migraine and headaches, including:
Psychotherapy and counselling, then, can be an important part of a self-care and recovery process when medical treatments don’t provide total relief for the pain of migraine. While it is important to rule out any underlying medical issues before seeking migraine-based therapy, once you have a clear migraine diagnosis, psychotherapy can help address the psychological factors that underlie the pain process of migraine and chronic headache.
Do email or call 07891 613580 if you would like to arrange an initial consultation to explore whether therapy with migraine as the focus is right for you.
Coronovirus and Safety in Therapy
The number of events being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow.
With this in mind it is important to address safety concerns surrounding your therapy sessions with me.
Symptoms and Self-Isolation
If either you or I experience coronavirus symptoms and we need to self-isolate then the therapy can be moved online. I offer video therapy sessions using the Zoom video conferencing application. Zoom offers privacy and confidentiality and is an easy-to-use application. It is, therefore, an ideal platform when therapy in person is not possible or is inadvisable. In addition, if you or I feel too ill to attend by video then the session can be rescheduled. Similarly, if you prefer to have your sessions online to minimise the potential of coming into contact with coronovirus then online zoom sessions can be set up as an alternative for you in this case too.
Please bear in mind my cancellation policy. This is usually 7 days but for the period of the coronavirus I am reducing this to 48 hours. That is to say that if you give me 48 hours notice of cancellation then the session can be rescheduled without having to pay for the session. However do contact me if you need to cancel a session at short notice because of symptoms or concerns about coronavirus so we can talk through the options.
I am an experienced online therapist and have completed additional training in online therapy. I am registered with the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO).
If you are unfamiliar with online therapy or with using Zoom do let me know. We can, if needed, set up a short session to try out the software so that you can feel comfortable with having sessions in this way.
How Psychotherapy Helps
How does psychotherapy help?
This is a big question of course. Beginning psychotherapy and counselling is a significant and potentially life-changing decision to make.
However, if you are considering beginning therapy it can be helpful to look at some of the ways in which psychotherapy and counselling is known to have helped, and also some of the components of psychotherapy and counselling that are known to contribute to a successful outcome.
Ways in Which Psychotherapy and Counselling Are Known to Be Helpful
First, there are a number of typical ways in which psychotherapy is known to be helpful. Perhaps items in this list are similar to the kinds of help you feel you need?
Psychotherapy and counselling can help in a number of different ways and on a number of different levels. These include:
What Really Works in Therapy
Next is the issue of how psychotherapy helps. Research on effective therapy has found that there are four common factors in successful therapy. Consideration of these may also help your decision about seeking therapy:
Overall Benefits of Therapy
So, by taking into account both the ways in which psychotherapy is known to be helpful and how psychotherapy helps, a range of benefits can be experienced:
- Relief from emotional difficulties
- Identifying and working towards goals,
- Creating meanings
- Understanding lifestyle patterns and behaviours
- Changing relationships (with yourself and others)
Furthermore, it can do this with the greatest effect if you have the personal resources, the right therapist (for you) and the expectancy of success.
To end this post, perhaps the words of Marianne Williamson express why people most often turn to psychotherapy and counselling:
Psychotherapy can help with moving into the light. If you feel that it might be beneficial for you, I can be contacted by email or by phone on 07891 613580. We can then arrange an initial session or discuss any queries you might have.
Hubble, M.A., Duncan, BL., and Miller, S.D. (eds.) Heart and Soul of Change: Delivering What Works in Therapy . American Psychological Association: Washington DC
Different Kinds of Benefits from Therapy
An article I was reading recently addressed a myth of psychotherapy and counselling. In essence, whether everyone can receive benefits from psychotherapy.
The author held a personal belief that most people can benefit in some way or another but I think that whether this is an accurate statement will depend on what “benefit” is taken to mean, and also on what form of therapy an individual experiences.
The author of the article I read seemed to presume that all therapy is the same. It isn’t.
There are variations in terms of focus, depth, intensity, duration, as well as in terms of support versus exploration.
Considering one of these criteria, that of depth, it is often said that psychotherapy is a deeper, longer-lasting, more intense form of therapy, while counselling tends to be more problem-focused, focused on the present and on practicalities and also shorter-term.
In this blogpost, I will be talking mainly about psychotherapy, so those therapy experiences which are experienced as deeper, more intense and longer-lasting. In these cases, can everyone benefit?
I think that the answer here will depend on what people are benefiting from? What are the components of therapy? What do people expect from the therapy process?
There are many answers to these questions but some generalizations can be made. People enter therapy because they want to feel better about something, or to change something (either externally or internally). Often both.
The therapist helps the person to meet these goals in various ways but the process may be conceptualized as involving several stages:
1) Initial contact
3) Early treatment
6)Termination or Ending.
In short-term therapy there may not be a deepening stage, but otherwise irrespective of whether feeling better or changing something is the desired outcome from therapy, there tends to be something of a multi-stage process.
In terms of what happens in therapy, perhaps the words of Jung about when therapy can be effective or ineffective can help here:
Achieving benefits from psychotherapy, then, comes about from being willing to develop and maintain a rapport with the therapist, a rapport which feels safe enough to be willing to challenge conscious awareness. Of course for this to happen choosing a therapist who is a good fit is fundamental.
Assuming that you have found the right therapist for you, however, and that you have an enduring and close rapport with your therapist, what can be achieved then? If we return to the main question here, about whether everyone can receive benefits from psychotherapy, it seems that the core issue is about whether everyone is willing to take the step of confronting their internal reality. This can be challenging, scary and unsettling at times. So for some people, different kinds of benefits from therapy might be preferable, or even enough.
Not everyone may be ready to confront their realities, or feel that it is necessary, but there may be certain other benefits or outcomes of psychotherapy which can be made use of in daily life:
ability to listen. They know differently how to pay attention.
greater empathy. New insight has been gained about other people’s issues and concerns. There is a different way of understanding and
making sense of.
So, can everyone benefit from therapy? Well, yes and no. It depends. It depends on the meaning of “benefit”, and the kind of therapy you are seeking.
As I hope that I have highlighted here, there are different kinds of benefits to be had from psychotherapy.. Exactly which kind you experience, though, will depend on the depth of the process as well as the nature of your desires for change.
Howes, R. (2013) Four Unexpected Benefits of Therapy. Available from http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/four-unexpected-benefits-of-therapy-0924137. Accessed 28 September 2014.
Seeman, G. (2005). Getting the Most Out of Psychotherapy. Available from http://drgaryseeman.com/resources/writing/getmost/. Accessed 28 September 2014.
Answers to Questions about Jungian Psychotherapy. Available from: http://www.thejungiantraining.org.uk/jungian_psychotherapy.html
Accessed 28 September 2014.
Face-to-Face and Online Therapy - How to Know Which To Choose?
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on what kind of therapy works for you. When thinking about the mode - whether to visit your therapist in an actual therapy room or to do some kind of online therapy there might be several different things to think about.
Firstly, are you someone that can easily ‘talk’ over the internet, whether by video or text, or do you feel more comfortable with face-to-face contact. Seeing the person, feeling their presence.
Or maybe you like to get to know people in-person first and then are comfortable with talking over the internet, but you don’t like using the internet to talk to people before getting to know them first.
Therapy can work like this too. You can begin by meeting your therapist and having some sessions face-to-face and then move to online therapy if that is more convenient. Sometimes, when you have got to know your therapist by visiting her in person first, online sessions can feel very similar because you have an established relationship.
You might have a need for online sessions because of your personal circumstances or because the therapist you want to work with does not live local to you, but this might not necessarily make it the right choice for you if you are somebody who needs to see the person they are sharing precious and perhaps anxiety-provoking information with. Psychotherapy is an interpersonal process at its heart and not everyone can re-create the relational aspect of therapy online.
Alternatively, because sometimes when you haven’t met your therapist in person it may feel more difficult to talk about what is troubling you and what is bringing you to therapy in the first place. That is not to say that online therapy couldn’t work for you but just that this kind of difficulty may mean that getting started may feel a bit on the slow side, while the work is done of forming a connection with your therapist.
Finally, it is important to consider that while some aspects of online therapy can feel challenging - such as sharing emotions, or not having facial expressions as a guide in text-based work, there can also be aspects of distance which make the therapy feel easier - being in the comfort of your home with the therapist in their office can feel safe and there can still be a sense of presence - being with your therapist that supports the expression of what can feel difficult.
So, what format of therapy you prefer is a very individual choice. Neither is better than the other. Both can be effective but which is right for you is dependent to some extent on how relationships generally work for you.
'Not Another Headache'
The pain of migraine is physical. It is a sensation that ravages and incapacitates.
Does your day often begin with you saying to yourself 'Not another headache!' Do you perhaps take painkillers? Often? Every day even?
Perhaps you find that sometimes they help and sometimes not. For many people their headache is diagnosed as chronic daily headache. For others frequent migraine is the bug bear.
Yet medication is not always the answer. Frequent use of pain-killing medication can lead to overuse headache (rebound headache) and perhaps even make your headache pain worse. You may also wonder whether your problem is really a biochemical one.
Is taking a pill really the answer? Might your problem be more than a physical one?
In fact, it has been known for hundreds of years that emotional distress triggers headaches. Being angry or sad. Even being happy or excited can trigger a headache.
In 1743. Junkerius talked of migraine being caused by suppressed anger. Other, less common reactions, linked to emotions have also been identified as root causes for headaches, such as resentments, dissatisfaction and anxiety.
There are many factors which may combine to give an embodied experience of an emotion or feeling. The 'real' pain is perhaps an emotional one, which is hidden, or embedded within an experience of headache or migraine. This can be due to some, or all, of the factors in the following short list:
An alternative way of describing these kinds of headaches, then, is as a conversion headache, the explanation being that psychological distress is 'converted' into a more manageable physical symptom
So whether headache can be attributed to the inability to manage difficult emotions (such as anger or anxiety), or to alexithymia (the inability to identify emotion), what seems to happen often is that some sort of converted, or embodied emotional experience lies at the root of chronic headache and migraine
The good news is that these experiences can be unravelled in psychotherapy or counselling. Headaches can be investigated. Emotions can be explored.
If you have tried all of the medications and still are in intense pain on a frequent basis from your migraine, it may be time to explore the root of your migraine as being not only biochemical but also psychological and emotional.
If you would like to begin to explore migraine and work through the pain of migraine in psychotherapy please email using this form or by calling 07891 613580