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Does Counselling do it for you? Thursday December 8, 2016

Counselling figures in many blogs and posts. In many cases, for severe depression in particular, they are vital. People have personal trainers/shoppers. These are usually expensive, but it's a huge industry. I have seen cases of extreme manipulation, and often the 'patient', or 'client' needs to 'cut the cord' despite the risk, or when they become too dependent.

I was sent to an allergy clinic (in fact I had a lifetime's intolerance to dairy products). The woman practised at the most expensive London hospital – she became a 'guru'. A year later she was exposed in a Panorama type programme as a completely untrained charlatan.

We went to Marriage Guidance (now relate) at a particularly difficult time. The service was excellent – what we learned was that we were foundering on: failure to take time off as we built up a business, bitter disagreements on discipline of our daughters (they left home in a huff anyway) and perennial money worries. How many marriages fall at these hurdles?

When I was classified 'manic depressive' I was sent to an excellent psychotherapist, also a priest. One of my problems had been a hyper-critical mother-in-law who bullied me for 25 years. I never said a word to my husband. This therapist said 'what do you want to do to her?' He then put a pouffee in the middle of the room and I bunged all the cushions at it. End of treatment!

At that time I also went to an excellent psychiatrist. He did not tread softly, but said 'You are not marriage material'. Who is? None of my ideas could have come to fruition, married or not, as a woman could NOT make it at that era (late 1960's I think). I had no qualifications either.

At Samaritans we were forbidden to 'counsel' we were untrained. We would give information – on Shelter, places for battered wives, and otherwise just listen. Latest cynicism, an awful aggressive woman came up wanting to sell our house – terrible manner – she does psychotherapy 'on line'. Can anyone do this with no training?

How do you merit counselling?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Sean Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 5:53am

Yes and no. Specifically not likely but realistically yes. Does it do it for me. It helps but damn it's hard. Frankly it's annoying, but it's also nice just to talk it out. Not my thing but insisted by my better half.

Smudge Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 6:14am

I have been to a few counsellors over the years and had mixed experiences. one was helpful, she just clarified for me that my marriage was finished. it was good to get the input of a stranger in this instance, she helped me sort out my feelings. one counsellor took my now ex husband's side (she was newly divorced) as my abusive second husband was sweetness and light outside the home. she bullied me as much as my abusive husband and reduced me to a wailing blob each time which justified her opinion that I was all to blame for the marriage problems. the last counsellor was brilliant. really put things in perspective for me and gave me some courage back, making it possible for me to break free from the abusive man a short time later. if one has no one else to talk to then a counsellor is the answer but they are only human and you need to find one who you can bond with, the same as a hairdresser or anyone giving a personal service.

Anne Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 6:42am

Hi Gardener

It felt good to read your blog and reflect on my own experience, I echo Sean and Smudge above, I have had mixed experiences and accept that every experience will be different, even with the same therapist over time, they are only human and there will be days when they are 'on it' and other days when they 'miss me' and just don't get it.

What I find works is for me to be honest with the counsellor and for them to be honest with me, as in all relationships, when we BOTH can be honest about what we are experiencing and feeling, it leads to better outcomes, respect and progress...

Pablo Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 8:13am

Hi Gardener,
never tried counselling. It seems to be very much hit and miss. I have tried online NHS CBT twice. Once in 2010 (did not help much at all) and just finished another NHS online course which is called silvercloudhealth. This is not much help to me either....except the mindfulness part which intrigued me. This in turn lead me to headspace which helps calm me, if only for a short while each day. I think I can get come counselling via the silver cloud when I get the phone call asking me how it went. I will ask for some one to one. They said the waiting list is long, that is why I tried the online course. I have tried a couple of private hypnotists in the past. Again, not much help. Accupuncture and massage too. That was also great for a short period. I have tried a lot of things. I was a happy child, right through my teenage years, pretty much ok until my Mum committed suicide when I was 28 years old. She was 48 and had been suffering on and off with depression since my birth n 1956. My Fathers death in 2004 also knocked me for six. My depression lately comes on if I worry too much (tax bill at the moment) and if i have physical health problems. Diverticulitis in 2008 gave me a downward spiral. A bad cold can drag me down for example.
I feel for you folks with bi polar and count my blessings. Most of my life has been happy, I just seem to be struggling of late. This was only meant to be a short comment but I have ended up rambling. Thanks for reading. Before I go, I must say that I do have a counsellor on tap. My lovely wife. ATB pablo

Katie Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 8:37am

Being in new Zealand counselling is very regulated. I how ever have had both good and bad experiences. Now I need to find a goof one. As I need help !!! Sadly the one I used to see does work any more with adults and is actually seeing my daughter.

Katie Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 8:38am

Being in new Zealand counselling is very regulated. I how ever have had both good and bad experiences. Now I need to find a goof one. As I need help !!! Sadly the one I used to see does work any more with adults and is actually seeing my daughter.

Leah Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 9:26am

A fascinating blog which is thought provoking.
I feel you have had more experience in one week than I have had in my life! I am in awe.
I feel the trick is finding the right counsellor. I think counsellors are expected to have a very high standard of ethics and morals.
I feel in the end we have to rely on ourselves.
Take care

Poppykins Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 9:27am

I have been very lucky to have worked (and it is very hard work!) with 2 extremely good and ethical counsellors. I have also had very positive blocks of work with a fantastic CBT psychotherapist. What I am finding very uncomfortable at present is the assessment that I had yesterday for further support. I have moved counties and therefore I am starting afresh with a new service. The person who assessed me for my access to all or any service is called a low intensity CBT therapist. They are not registered therapists with BACP or with BACBT and one of their previous role descriptors was a mental health support worker. In my paranoia after what I felt was not a supportive process I discovered that they can have a degree in ANY subject and volunteer work with people with mental health to access a 9 month part time course. This then allows them to be called a therapist in the NHS and allows them to triage people to the most appropriate support. She suggested that she could refer me to a nutritionist and also questioned my long term diagnosis of depression and anxiety. "Is it clinical depression or just depression?"
Rant over Moodscopers! Counselling can be very good if it is the right thing at the right time with the right accredited therapist!

E Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 12:03pm

Poppykins, Were you referred to the "low intensity CBT therapist" by your GP as part of the IAPT (increasing access to psychological therapy) service? You can usually self refer but sometimes a GP will do it for you. If this is the case (as seems likely), then the person you were assessed by was not a "therapist" at all. I suggest you go back to your GP and explain that you need to be seen by a proper therapist (i.e. one with the appropriate qualifications) working with your local MH team and not by a well intentioned amateur. There will be a long waiting list or you can go private. Good luck

LP Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 9:28am

Hi TG,
It was good to read about your experiences. I said alot about mine on ratgs Talking blog.
I wanted to add that although cbt was not for me, it may be. very effective for some people in some circumstances.
Are councelling and therapy different can anyone clarify? In my experience councelling has been a time to talk in a safe space and be listened to properly, helping one to come to one's own ways forward.?
I think that various types of therapy guide individuals using a particular theoretical style?
Thanks again to those who kindly made very helpful comments to my Talking experiences I replied to each of you the next day.
Thanks for the discussion today TG. Do you think that councelling might give you some support as a carer?
Big hugs to all
LP xx

Shian Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 9:59am

Hi all I have used phone counselling a couple of times when things got tough with my partner over financial and relationship difficulties. I was very stressed and emotional and my partner was hostile and unsupportive. Just a friendly and warm sounding person on the other end of the line who listened to me and helped me to make choices and find solutions to my difficulties was very helpful. I also remember a scene in a movie ( Truly madly deeply ) where the recently bereaved character was sobbing uncontrolably in a counselling session and the counsellor just sat and listened then offered a box of tissues and said same time next week! Sometimes that's all we need. A good listener who gives you the opportunity to talk.

Holly Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 10:09am

I love talking about counselling!

Technically, anyone can call themselves a counsellor since there are no, or very little, regulations in the UK (pretty scary actually!). In the US, it's slightly different as all counsellors have to pass licencing exams.

I had some counselling while at university. My anxiety had come back pretty strong, and at the same time my dad passed away. I dreaded thinking about my future as it was my final year and didn't really plan anything after that. I also wanted to open up about my childhood too. I had email counselling with the university counsellor and while she was nice and all, it just didn't work well for me. I think in the process I re-traumatised myself by going over every memory I had (my choice, the counsellor just let me talk) and in the end felt very numb and out of it.

After I graduated, I was burnt out. I had other things going and felt like I needed more counselling. Too scared to go to the doctors, or talk to my family, I searched for a private counsellor. I spent a good couple of months searching. I knew roughly the kind of person and therapy I was after (trauma related), but it's so hard when most of the profiles look and sound the same! Eventually, I cam across my current one (accredited with BACP- I checked the register too!)who offers online counselling and though it's been expensive, it really has been worth it!

On the flip side, I volunteer for a website for teenagers and young people, which provides emotional support. We have disclaimers that we aren't trained and we aren't professionals either, but we pretty much have free rein when it comes to helping others so long as we say that we can't diagnose as we aren't professionals and suggest that they talk to someone in their life who is in a better position to help. It seems to help anyway :)

Sue Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 10:19am

My first counsellor, I felt, had a checklist. 'Today we will talk about work, next time we will talk about home'. I got a few insights, but felt it was all about her ticking the boxes. Years later my GP referred me to an excellent lady, sadly no more. After my initial period, I could go back to her years later for a 'one-off' and she got straight to the real issue and I left feeling so much better. I still imagine what she might say when I have a problem - sadly missed.

Cyndi Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 12:11pm

THerapy for me has been a life saver. That is not saying all (my) therapist have been great, but most have been very helpful.
Due to due to "severe" depression/bi polar II, I have had many hospitalizations. My therapist have been instrumental in getting me help before catastrophe. Same with Psychiatrist. I have had many a "nut" out there. Twice I have had excellent ones, and luckily now is one of those times. She really works with me to find the right med, and right dose, with little to no side effects. She fits me in when needed, and addresses my concerns via email quickly. She is knowledgeable and caring. I am so blessed to have found her. As far as on line help, I was one of the founders for a DBT on line yahoo group that still exists, though I am now semi retired. It presents the skills, like in a classroom, and does not address therapeutic/personal issues. Just teaches the skills. It is run by peers. Many who have joined and do the work have benefited. I guess what I am saying is be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I am sorry you have not had good experiences, but there are many great therapist, psychiatrists and on line groups that can be helpful.

Sal Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 12:33pm

Hi Gardener, counselling - wow! Big topic :) I have been to 2 therapists over a longish time (privately, i.e. I was lucky enough to afford it), and one I tried but decided was a manipulator and untrustworthy. Also saw a wonderful clinical psychologist on the NHS for 6 sessions. She was outstandingly flexible, for example letting me tape the sessions to listen to again, very revealing - there was so much I had missed the first time. She was brilliant on depression and has written some good stuff - Luzia Stopa, do look out for her leaflets etc. (I did also see a counsellor at the GP's, not much use I'm afraid.)

It seems to me now that my depression and general life-difficulties were a lot to do with my own behaviour and how that affected other people, but of course that was outside my own awareness. The therapists helped me, first, to find out what I was really feeling (often I didn't know), and secondly, to realise what I was demanding of other people - and that they didn't have to give it to me. Sounds like bipolar to me, or borderline, but I haven't had a diagnosis. And I suspect there was a hormonal component - life has been much more stable since the menopause.

I want to say something though about 'CCI co-counselling', because that has been my ongoing support for 20 years. It (for me) answers three of the problems that can arise with ordinary one-way counselling: cost, the imbalance of power, and having to put up with the counsellor's agenda. It is a form of peer support, or peer listening, where each person in a pair takes a turn as client and then as listener / helper. Unlike some other peer listening methods it rests on training. The training is available to pretty much everyone for low cost and a fairly short investment of time. A fundamental principle is 'the client is in charge of the session' - so it's your own agenda you follow, not a counsellor's. Also with CCI co-counselling, unlike the other main form of co-counselling (Re-evaluation Counselling or RC), it is not a membership organisation with a comprehensive agenda - it's simply a network of people willing to support each other - a bit like Moodscope.

I feel I've gone on long enough, so for further info I'll just mention the website. One further personal thing to say, it is probably the biggest thing that has helped me to deepen my awareness of what I'm *really* feeling, so that I know it within myself even when it is not appropriate to act it out. And it has given me an outlet where I can voice the unsayable things ("I hate you", "I wish I were dead", etc), in a context where my listener won't be shocked, won't try to 'fix' me, won't judge, and won't pass it on to others. I find, a bit like throwing cushions at the pouffe, once I've said the unsayable in a fantasy context, I don't usually need to say it real life. Such a relief! And relationships get so much easier ...

Sorry for going on so long. Hope it helps.

PS Co-counselling is very much a thing for routine, week in, week out support and getting insights – not so much for a major crisis. Your co-counsellor will be just another struggling human being, not a health professional. The professionals still have a place, I think.

Michael Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 12:52pm

My assessment of depression is that it is one of the biggest cans of worms going. If we look at potential causation this ranges from subconscious (conditioning and traumas), psychological issues (of all sizes and shapes...low self esteem, ocd, phobias etc etc etc), to physical, brain injuries, infections, hormones (i.e. cortisol), immune system dysfunction, inflammation,poisoning (i.e. lead) neurotransmitters to say nothing of stress (interpersonal, bullying, shift work etc etc), to say nothing of DNA!!!!. How do you start unpicking that lot? The answer to that will be someone's life work. But for the time being we are left with tantalising pieces of jigsaw. And I suspect for a majority of people we end up in limbo. Some of the bits of jigsaw have enabled us to get better to some degree but we are not fully cured or "back to normal". I suspect that a lot of the time all the above factors are somehow connected and feedback on each other. How can we be aware of what is "sub" conscious? Conversion disorder (previously known as hysteria) can manifest physically as epilepsy, being mute, blind, paralysed etc. But these conditions do not follow diagnostic rules i.e. the epileptic fits are deemed to be "pseudo" as there are no changes on the EEG. These patients last century were often deemed to be manipulative, malingers or it was all in their head. They had pretty much been written off since the 19 century French physician Charcot's work to try and understand the condition. Recently a London based neurologist Dr O'Sullivan (her book "Its all in your head") has been working with psychosomatic illnesses. She feels that these patients suffering is probably worse than someone who has i.e. "real" epilepsy as drugs will not control their pseudo fits. For these patients Dr O'Sullivan has found that their best bet is psychotherapy.How much of depression can be attributed to conversion disorder? Then there is the whole issue of what is "placebo"? and then suggestibility. Anyone who has ever seen Derren Brown in action will notice that of say 500 people in a studio audience a certain proportion will not be hypnotisable at all and then varying degrees of susceptibility, down to the "one" individual who is so highly suggestible he can sit in a bath of freezing ice water and believe he is in a warm bath. So we have to try and work out where we as an individual fit within this panoply of parameters....easier said than done! Are we getting better because the "drug" the Dr gave us is altering our neurotransmitters or was it a placebo response. Dr's love to bang on about "evidenced based medicine", that is until the evidence contradicts treatments that rely heavily upon. The Cochrane Database in Denmark specialises in collecting masses of clinical trials and putting them all together as a meta analysis. Their conclusions frequently indicate that for a lot of patients antidepressants are no better than placebo. And the point here is that clinically there has been some improvement...its just questionable what has lead to the improvement? To further complicate matters there is a hierarchy of placebos. A big sugar pill works better than a small one, red better than white, blue better than red and in injection trumps the lot! So as a "sufferer" we have to navigate our way through this maze and at this point in history it is largely still "trial and error". It can be either be encouraging or discouraging to hear from a single individual who states that counselling has either helped greatly or been a disaster. We won't know for ourselves until we have tried it. But how long do we give it? Have we got a therapist that is a good fit for "us"? No easy answers. Possibly more confusing because of so many different options now. But at least we now have multiple options. In another century we would probably be being subject to "blood letting".

Michael Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 1:55pm

I left out a couple of important ones (then again they are all important). 1) Loss, bereavement. In my opinion that whole denial, anger, bargaining, depression acceptance model is applicable to any significant transition we are faced with (i.e. retiring, children leaving home etc etc). I think that therapy is very helpful for this. (as a side bar I personally found that the bargaining phase can manifest as severe anxiety) 2) The Dark Night of the Soul (another can of worms, big topic but thought I better touch on it so the "spiritual" dimension to all this is included.

The Gardener Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 4:57pm

All I can say is 'Gosh'. Just tottered back from an excellent Christmas 'do' at Mr G's respite - 400+ people - marvellous singer, loads of pals from 25 years (some of them in same state as Mr G, of course). My bruised/cracked ribs say 'ouch' every time I bend, so sitting ever so straight getting my head round this lot. Michael's 'co-counselling' I find I'm doing all the time, but it's between friends. A woman of my sons' age has a mother in the same state as Mr G. Her step-father is very manipulative and trying to 'shame' her into doing more (different country, of course). She was married first to a terrific go-getter who abandoned her with two children. She is now married to an old misery, but more peaceful. It's like the Aesop fable about King Log and King Stork. We support each other - start with a moan, end with coffee or a Kir and a giggle. Her best help for me is her unselfishness. If she is in UK or Spain, and I am absolutely at end of tether - I'll e-mail her, and she'll always reply. I have 'The Three Experts' the Uni lecturer who set me on my current path of research and history, our retired UK priest (a New Zealander) and our retired Doctor - I accuse them of neglect for letting me get in my current state. I apologise when I've got the miseries - they all say 'keep on writing' best therapy there is.' Michael mentioned 'blood-letting' - if they bring back leeches, I'm off - had them on me in Borneo - you could hear my screams in Singapore. The 'manipulation' I mentioned was in India. There was a very famous Ashram - charged a fortune - not popular locally as they owned half the real estate. People went there to 'find themselves' often much divorced and frankly neurotic American women. I'd come back to the Ashram owned hotel (only cheap and clean one) and relate my day - a breathless run from AIDS hospice, leprosy clinic, boys rescued from drug pushing, orphanage for the severely handicapped, hospice for the dying and such treats. The women who had spent the day at the Ashram were intrigued - possibly tempted to do likewise. The nuns we worked with were very tactful - but they did say that many of the people really needed professional psychiatric treatment - but the Ashram really 'strung them along'. Joke which pleased the cynic in me - a French cartoon. The very elegant couple are discussing their teen-age son 'I think, darling, we could have time to ourselves - Jean-Claude is old enough to find his own 'Psy' (short for 'shrink'),

Mary Wednesday Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 5:10pm

I so agree with your Priest and Doctor - writing is excellent therapy! The psychiatrist I saw on Friday would agree. He stated that he would normally recommend counselling in addition to medication to someone in my case, but that I seemed to have the therapy side all worked out and he could not see I could really do more! A nice boost to the ego!

Michael Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 5:50pm

Gardner don't get me going about ashram's, guru's etc. I've got that particular T shirt.

Mary Wednesday Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 5:06pm

Gosh! As Michael says, what a can of worms! I have worked with many counsellors over the years. Some have been helpful, some the opposite. My current therapist works with EFT and TAT, both of which I have found helpful. But - she did initially hope she could effect a "cure" for my bipolar. This has not happened, but the emotional side of the condition has certainly improved. I still get all the physical symptoms (exhaustion, insomnia, shakiness, nausea, etc.) and the mental symptoms (suicidal impulses, night terrors, isolation), but the associated emotional suffering has eased.
The most counterproductive counselling I received was from well-meaning church members (GPs, both of them), who had an agenda based on the belief that my depression was a result of sin. While this has not negatively impacted my faith (I have no idea why this is my path to walk while on earth, but every hope that I will one day understand fully), it was certainly not helpful and delayed my diagnosis of bipolar for another ten years.
I can only echo other comments: counselling can be helpful, but it needs to be the right counsellor for you.

Michael Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 5:42pm

Oh yes Mary. Whoever it was that came up with "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" had clearly come across couple of well meaning................ (fill in the religion, spiritual path, atheistic group etc is exempt). And there is nothing worse than someone who is both well meaning and has a string of qualifications behind their name (that both fools them into thinking they know best and the sufferer who aquieses to their greater knowledge and authority).

Michael Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 5:45pm

Some of the best therapy I get comes from hanging out with my dog. He is sweet , affectionate, trustworthy, playful and loyal.

Ruthless Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 9:44pm

Agree with you on all of your comments above.My dog is the same;I would be lost without her.We are devoted to each other and spend all day,every day together.She goes everywhere with me. Counselling/therapy? I too have had good and bad-first one (25+) years ago was fab.First session went on for four hours,my husband thought I had got lost! Saw her weekly for 4 years going round in circles and then returned home to THE problem-my husband.I stopped the NLP and Monica understood.Bless her,she tried.... Eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder after being told for 22 years that I was depressed.This came from being seen at a private clinic.I felt that someone at last understood me....I asked him what he could give me that the NHS couldn't.The answer was simple-time. I believe you get what you pay for,or invest in,but I was in no position to pay his fees. I have every tool in my 'box' however I still have the problem.Believe me-I have tried everything. I live my life with my condition; it's not easy but I plan and that's how I cope.......... To everyone who posts here,we are all amazing even if it's just for writing how it is etc. We keep going and that's how it is.BP doesn't define me,I'm just me,some days more me than others!! Take care Love Mrs C

Ruthless Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 9:46pm

P.S. Just doing Mindfulness course @ Mind and finding it calming and enjoyable.????

The Gardener Thu, Dec 8th 2016 @ 7:49pm

Could do with your dog Michael - just walked round the town to try and cope with angst - Mr G SO awful, groused all through 'his' party - people said, in disbelief, you aren't still copeing with him at home, are you? Town all Christmas lights - bright moon - country dancing in town hall- I feel like the Dickens waif who looks in at people enjoying themselves - anyway, been a most interesting day of posts to my blog - thank you all

Nick Fri, Dec 9th 2016 @ 11:36am

This post is interesting, and caused me to reflect on my counselling journey. Chronologically, I have had:

1. Bereavement counselling, after the death of my dad when I was 8
2. Some individual psychotherapy following on from this (as a child)
3. As an adult, 3 separate periods of psychotherapy, the 2nd of which lasted for 10 years (!)
4. Couples counselling, more recently, for 18 months
5. 2-3 longer (3 hour) sessions with a more interventionist therapist

Each has played its role in my development, although in hindsight, the child therapy was unhelpful as I was very anxious about the sessions and it likely reinforced my 'blockage' of some deeper-seated issues in my earlier upbringing.

Every counsellor has been quite different. How a person is supposed to select the most appropriate counsellor for them is beyond me; even counsellors can't readily observe the approach/methods of other counsellors, so they likely have little objective evidence as to the relative efficacy of their approach.

Having written the history above, I realise that I am likely over-dependent on counselling and that in itself is likely to be unhelpful for me in the long term. That said, I feel as though I'm right in the middle of unpicking the critical/important stuff - but I have thought that before, too, and here I am, years later and still in counselling.

One day, I might feel confident enough to stand on my own two feet and be my own person.

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