Useful Therapy and not an April Fool
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- Counselling and the art of giving back1st February 2017
- And this year I will…..1st January 2017
- Social Anxiety, Counselling and Christmas1st December 2016
- Couple Counselling – and just when is a discussion an argument1st November 2016
- Therapy, Mobiles and the Challenge of Choice1st October 2016
- Counselling, September and an Ellison’s Orange 1st September 2016
- Counselling – A room with a view1st August 2016
- Counselling: Choices and Decisions1st July 2016
- Counselling, Musee d’Art et d’Histoire and the Inevitability of Change1st June 2016
- Counselling and the art of Ambiguity. 1st May 2016
- Repetition; Normality or Folly. A Counselling Perspective1st April 2016
- Lions, Lambs and Therapy3rd March 2016
- Valentines Day, Counselling and the Great Unknown1st February 2016
- Janus Faced? The New Year, Counselling and Psychotherapy1st January 2016
- So which road do we travel this Christmas...1st December 2015
- Counselling, Guy Fawkes and Scapegoating1st November 2015
- Counselling Work and Narrative Therapy1st October 2015
- Counselling, Therapy and the end of Summer1st September 2015
- Wheat, Rye and Counselling1st August 2015
- Counselling and a break away3rd July 2015
- Counselling and the unexpected1st June 2015
- Counselling, Elections and our opportunity to choose1st May 2015
- Therapy, an April fool and the art of lost memory1st April 2015
- A Spring Clean Therapy and Counselling1st March 2015
- Couple Counselling & Valentines Day1st February 2015
- Nothing changes if nothing changes but this year can be different!1st January 2015
- Social Anxiety Disorder A Christmas Concern1st December 2014
- SAD & those dark Winter nights1st November 2014
- Existential Counselling A useful approach or pretentious jargon?1st October 2014
- Counselling, Therapy and a return to work1st September 2014
- Holidays, Counselling and your Shadow1st August 2014
- Couple Counselling and Choice1st July 2014
- Counselling, Jules Rimet and you A therapeutic perspective1st June 2014
- Counselling and Mayday A different take on a familiar story?1st May 2014
- Useful Therapy and not an April Fool1st April 2014
- Counselling, Floods and Pandoras Box1st March 2014
- Counselling and the art of being normal1st February 2014
- The New Year and a time for change?1st January 2014
- Christmas & Counselling The first Noel1st December 2013
- Counselling, Broomsticks & Halloween1st November 2013
- Couple Counselling and just what is a successful relationship?1st October 2013
- Counselling An issue of choice?1st September 2013
- Existential Counselling From Yalom to Basingstoke1st August 2013
- Counselling and the art of reframing1st July 2013
- Counselling - Change or Conformity?1st June 2013
- May Day Counselling - Celebration or Conflagration ?1st May 2013
- Summer Time & the Counselling Room1st April 2013
- Depression a useful diagnosis or an unhelpful label?1st March 2013
- An Emotional Timeline3rd February 2013
- Resolution, Revolution & Counselling1st January 2013
- Christmas, Carols & Counselling2nd December 2012
- Seasonal Affective Disorder and the SAD Season4th November 2012
- Psychotherapy & Counselling A Stoic Perspective17th October 2012
- 10th October 2012 - World Mental Health Day5th October 2012
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- CBT, Mental Filtering and the Olympics19th August 2012
- I am not an angry man 14th July 2012
- Art, Counselling & Interpretation26th June 2012
- Murder Mysteries and Psychotherapy25th May 2012
- The importance of choice in therapy29th April 2012
- Reflections on Spontaneity6th April 2012
- A personal trainer for the mind 12th March 2012
One phrase I often hear in the counselling room is…’.I know this is going to sound silly but…….’
That comment is then usually followed by a description of what the client regards as an odd behaviour or a disturbing line of thought. What is being seen as ‘silly’ will of course vary greatly but whether it appears as bizarre or commonplace, my response is always the same.
Whatever is being said may indeed sound strange but it should not be thought of as silly. The words and ideas can sometimes provide an unexpected insight into whatever has brought the client into the counselling room.
Normal laws of social interaction are suspended in therapy. In our day to day world, we usually think carefully about what to say and how to phrase our comments. With effective counselling those rules and those requirements should not apply. Words are a key tool in the work between both client and therapist but there is no need to think too carefully about which ones to use. In fact the forefathers of the counselling world such as Freud, exalted in the value of just saying what comes to mind, a practice which came to be known as free association.
If there is some ongoing emotional distress or disruptive behaviour, anything which provides an understanding into what is happening whether at a conscious or an unconscious level, can be helpful. That applies if we are working with the more traditional psychotherapeutic strategies such as psychodynamic or person centred work and also if we are looking at a more populist technique such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). We know though that this spontaneous approach seems to run counter to our expected way of being.
The concern not to look foolish in the eyes of others is ever present in what we may regard as the real world. From teenagers embarking on their first relationship and desperate to appear cool, through to the older generation concerned about sounding too old fashioned, we carefully craft an image of how we wish to appear by the words we use.
Within therapy no such masks are needed. We try to look together at how things really are. And sometimes if the thoughts and ideas sound a little strange perhaps that is just a reflection how things can be in our lives.
We can all identify some absurdities and contradictions in life. We live with people whom we may love with great intensity and yet aspects of their behaviour can cause us great frustration and irritation. Each morning, rather than stay late in bed relaxing, we force ourselves to get up and go to work to earn money which we then use to buy a holiday for a few weeks of the year where we can stay late in bed relaxing.
And when the dishevelled adult on the bus sits and talks loudly to an imaginary friend next to them, other passengers look away in embarrassment. Yet those same people may be on their way to a religious centre where in their Sunday best, they will pray to a god they cannot see and ask forces the like of which they can only imagine, to look after them and take care of their families. One of these behaviours is regarded as a symptom of an illness to be treated by the NHS and the other is a tradition to be valued and a subject to be taught in school.
Just as facets of national life may seem strange to some, so aspects of our individual behaviours may also seem odd to those looking in from outside. And yet if we allow ourselves time to think and understand rather than condemn and criticise, there can be a good reason for these seemingly contradictory behaviours.
Those with faith hold fast to the notion of a deity because of an inner conviction that there is something which is unseen and yet greater than ourselves. And that faith can encourage a generosity of spirit which may benefit others. The quality of that extra hour in bed on holiday is enhanced by the sense that the rest has been earned and that allows for enjoyment and not guilt. And those irritating behaviours can be accommodated because beyond all the myriad of frustrations there is an overriding love and affection for the partner.
We talk within therapy about the existence of ‘a good reason’ to explain what is happening. This is not a qualitative ‘good’. It is not a ‘good’ with a moral or a celebratory meaning. It is just the identification of something functional. There is a good reason why we act out what we do and why we think as we do.
Difficulties occur when those behaviours or thought pattern become too rigid or give rise to continual emotional distress. Then there is a need is to try to understand the reason behind the behaviour or the thought process. That understanding can then help to bring about that change which will ease that distress and hat is when counselling and therapy can be effective.
April may start with April Fools day but no one should fear looking foolish in the counselling room. It should be seen as a safe space within which the client can voice the most outrageous or the most conservative thoughts. Fantasy has a purpose, a function and that can be explored within therapy.
So let’s conclude by going back to that phrase……. ‘I know this sounds silly but…’
In the counselling room nothing is silly. There is a reason behind what is going on. And your willingness to give spontaneous voice to those thoughts and to describe those behaviours is a first step in understanding just what that reason is.
added on 1st April 2014
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