What is cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy and how can it help?

You may have heard of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT); a foundation of modern psychological therapy which empowers you to tackle unhelpful thinking and improve your wellbeing, and you’ve probably heard of hypnotherapy too. But what about cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH). CBH combines CBT with hypnosis; bringing these powerful disciplines together to equip you with the tools you need to tackle a wide variety of challenges in your life. This twin approach helps you to achieve change at the very deepest levels and can equip you with skills that will help you to manage challenges throughout your life.

How does cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy work?

Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy is the main evidence-based approach to hypnosis. Rather than focusing on the notion of hypnotic trance, CBH places the emphasis on psychological factors like imagination, suggestion and expectation. Your brain is an incredibly powerful tool and can be your greatest attribute or your biggest enemy. Sometimes your mind shapes your thoughts and behaviours in ways which can be unhelpful, and the reinforcement of these loops can be damaging and cause ongoing psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, phobias, and low self-esteem. CBH uses the power of your mind for positive change and empowers you to find the solutions to the challenges you face by enabling you to be fully aware of the link between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It works on the conscious and subconscious and helps you make positive decisions at a deep, unconscious level. This means you can make sustainable changes to the way you think, feel and behave by converting unhelpful, negative beliefs and thoughts into positive and empowering ones. Hypnotherapy works by allowing you to be focused for periods of time on the thoughts and experiences you’d like to be having. It brings your conscious mind and subconscious mind more closely in sync so that you can make truly meaningful change. By placing you into a deep state of relaxation, we will work together to help your mind absorb new information so that you can develop the tools you need to make positive changes. By relaxing, thinking positively and picturing your goals, hypnosis can help you to progressively adjust habitual feelings and behaviours. Studies have shown that using hypnotherapy alongside CBT can increase the success of treatment by as much as 70%.

What does a CBH session look like?

Effective CBH relies on close collaborative working between the therapist and client and gaining a clear understanding of your unique challenges is a crucial first step. The key to the success of hypnotherapy lies in your ability to understand the interaction between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and this makes it hugely important that you share as much information as possible. We’ll talk about any specific challenges you face and how your life is affected by these. This will help us to establish your goals and design a treatment plan together so that we can measure your progress against this as we move forward. We’ll then set about embracing this extremely powerful tool to help you take control and make real and sustained changes in your life. Through CBH, you will become more aware of your emotions and behaviours so that we can tackle the ones you feel are most unhelpful to you or are holding you back in your personal life. The number of sessions you need will depend on you and your situation. Some people get what they need after just a couple of sessions, while others need more. In between sessions you may need to complete tasks at home. This may include self-hypnosis techniques to help you to continue to benefit from the treatment.

How can cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy help me?

This powerful technique can be used to great effect for:
  • Treating anxiety and depression
  • Improving self esteem
  • Become more assertive
  • Managing stress
  • Stopping smoking
  • Tackling fears and phobias
  • Changing habits
Though CBH is extremely effective in targeting the specific challenges listed above, many people find that the awareness they are able to develop during this treatment gives them skills they go on to use for the rest of their life; helping them to build their resilience and bolster their mental wellbeing.

If you want to explore CBH to make a change for the better, book a free 20 minute consultation with Chris here

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – EMDR in West London

Our psychotherapists offer EMDR in West London, a treatment that was proven by research and welcomed by clients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This page introduces EMDR and offers a list of psychotherapists trained and equipped to offer it.

What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapeutic treatment discovered in 1989 by the American psychologist Francine Shapiro used to relieve the stress associated to traumatic memories. Over the year it has received enormous clinical support from psychotherapists, mental health researchers, neurophysiologists, and today it is considered the evidence-based treatment for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), validated by more researches and publications than any other psychotherapy in the field of trauma.

It is approved, among others, by the American Psychological Association (1998-2002), by the American Psychiatric Association (2004), by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (2010) and by the World Health Organization (2013).

Out therapists offer EMDR in West London due to its speed of intervention, its effectiveness and the possibility of application to people of any age, including children


We are exposed daily to the possibility of experiencing psychological trauma. There are Traumas that can be defined "with a capital T": they are important wounds that threaten our integrity, such as natural disasters, road accidents, assaults, rapes, murders or suicides of loved ones, inauspicious diagnoses.

But there are also traumas "with a lowercase t”, experiences that seem objectively less relevant, but which can take on a weight of their own especially if repeated over time or suffered at times of particular vulnerability or in childhood. In these phases of life, humiliations, abandonments, neglect and fears can leave their mark by changing our attitudes, emotions and relationships with others throughout life, and also impressing themselves on specific areas of our brain.

Psychological consequences

Thanks to their resources and the help of others, the majority of traumatised people manage to recover a new balance, but there are wounds that continue to bleed even after years. In the case of trauma with capital T, people can react with "fear, sense of vulnerability and horror", according to the definition provided by the Statistical Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5 drawn up by the American Psychiatric Association when describing PTSD. The trauma in these cases is always present, the sensations are alive, and it feels like that the event just happened even if it dates back to months or years ago. The psychological suffering of trauma with a lowercase t can be less impactful but equally disabling. Sensations of insecurity, lack of self-esteem, self-blame, panic attacks and anxieties are the most frequent aftermath.

Effectiveness and therapeutic results

EMDR is a patient-centred approach that allows the therapist to facilitate the mobilisation of his self-healing mechanism by stimulating an innate information processing system in one’s brain. In fact, the eye stimulation used in the EMDR treatment favours better communication between the cerebral hemispheres, relying on a natural neurophysiological process, similar to that which occurs in REM sleep, the phase of sleep in which dreams are dreamed and memories reorganised. The EMDR methodology recognises the physiological component of emotional difficulties and directly addresses these physical sensations, along with negative beliefs, negative emotional states and other disturbing symptoms.

The EMDR session - the model used for EMDR in West London

Initially, a psychotherapist collects the person's history, identifying together the events that helped develop the problem: panic attacks, anxieties, phobias. Using a structured protocol, the psychotherapist guides the person in the description of the event or dysfunctional aspect, helping one to choose the important disturbing elements.

The psychotherapist helps the processing through guided eye movements, or other bilateral stimulation of the cerebral hemispheres, and helps the person relive those memories and important elements.

EMDR is a powerful tool that the psychotherapist and the person being helped decide together to apply inside a therapeutic path. Our West London psychotherapists apply the validated "triple approach" of EMDR, which addresses:

  1. past experiences,
  2. the current causes of stress,
  3. the thoughts and actions desired for the future.

The duration of treatment with EMDR is linked to the type of problem, the circumstances of life and the extent of past trauma. The programmes of EMDR in West London offer an average of 3-6 sessions per EMDR cycle. Early-in-life traumas or multiple traumas usually require repeated EMDR cycles.

The effects of EMDR

In the words of Dr. Shapiro, EMDR treatment is linked to a reduction in symptoms, a change in the person's negative beliefs towards new positive ones, and the prospect of optimal functionality.

After EMDR, we still remember the event, but we feel that all this is part of the past, intrusive thoughts fade or disappear, emotions and physical sensations are reduced in intensity.

Following an EMDR psychotherapy, the person strengthens the aspects of one self-esteem, is more focused on the here and now and on the sense of self, has more confidence in one’s abilities and one’s value as a person. The traumatic events thus lose the initial emotional impact to be transformed into a positive resource.

Below is the list of psychotherapists offering EMDR in West London

Emily Cavendish

UKCP Accredited Psychotherapist

Working on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays
Phone: 07766140325
Email: info@emilycavendish.com

Jodie Mainstone

BACP Accredited Counsellor & Psychotherapist

Working on Thursdays
Phone: 07903619191
Email: Jodie@mainstonecounselling.com

Are counselling and psychotherapy practices safe for face to face work after the pandemic?

The current pandemic has impacted various areas of our lives including how and where we access counselling. Although initially, the majority of sessions moved to the online domain, clients and therapists are more often considering restarting face to face sessions. This guide is an outcome of a study that Kensington Counselling Rooms along with Pimlico Counsellors and Psychotherapists did to ensure our practices offer the highest standard of virus control.

In preparation, we have reviewed the governmental requirements, Counselling and Psychotherapy Union guidelines, undertaken the coronavirus risk assessment, and spoken to our colleagues in Italy and Poland that are already working face to face.

Is it safe to see a counsellor face to face?

We are confident that following these guidelines, the risk of passing the coronavirus in the counselling practices will be low. However, there are specific steps that each private practice needs to take to enable working in the same physical space. Please check with the practice management if there is a coronavirus risk assessment in place. Even though the infection may be minimised within the counselling practice, a higher risk may appear on the way to get there. Clients and counsellors should consider their own safety before deciding to work face to face.

When to start working face to face?

The government has not explicitly prohibited offering face to face therapy, and in fact, some of the most emotionally vulnerable clients were seen face to face during the lockdown. Even though most of the shops and hair salons are now operational, each therapist and client will need to make an individual decision based on the risk. Therapists and clients who are in more vulnerable groups or who cannot easily access the practice may carry on working online for longer.

To make sure that a private practice is ready for working offline, it needs to have rigorous procedures in place including a specific cleaning schedule.

How to increase the safety of a counselling practice during the coronavirus epidemic?

Each counselling practice will have to go through a rigorous assessment of what needs to be changed to enable safer working during the epidemic.

Below are the most frequent considerations:

  1. Waiting areas may need to be closed. Waiting areas used to be meditative for some clients while for others offered nothing more than a rain shelter, now they may need to remain closed and clients may be requested to come on time of their appointment.
  2. If working in a larger practice, therapists may be requested to change the time of their appointments to make sure that clients arrive at different times.
  3. If possible, a one-way system should be developed to enable clients to stay away from each other and use different doors for accessing and leaving the practice.
  4. Hand sanitisers should be available at the entrances and exits, and clients and staff should be encouraged to use them.
  5. Reception and other areas where staff work on a regular basis may need to be protected by screens or temporary walls.
  6. Therapists should have discussions with their clients about what to do if either of them is diagnosed. The government was not able to deliver the application that could have made the tracing clearer for our clients. Since contact application cannot be used, we need to discuss if, how and when can we disclose the client’s names and contact details to the infection contact tracers or our will executor. I think that calling our clients when having high fever and covid anxiety should be out of the question, so I suggest you get in touch with you will executor to make sure you have a procedure for when this happens.
  7. Clients and therapists must have procedures in place to quickly move sessions online if any of them develops symptoms. I would suggest that each therapist carries with them a charged device ready for online work even though they scheduled a face to face meeting. E.g. our coronavirus poster encourages clients to check their temperature before leaving for the appointment (see poster below).
  8. Cleaning rotas and schedules. Therapists may be requested to ventilate the space and use an antiviral wipe or spray to clean surfaces after each client. Furthermore, each private practice needs a cleaning rota for common areas that include door handles, bathrooms, etc. How often the practice is cleaned should be determined by the number of clients and therapists using the practice.
  9. If a therapy room does not offer a comfortable two-meter distance or appropriate ventilation, it may not be suitable for face to face counselling and should be dedicated to teleconferencing only.
  10. Each practice should identify the procedure for appointing a professional antiviral cleaning company if required.
  11. Rubbish should be removed more frequently during the crisis.
  12. Some facilities, e.g. water cooler may not be available.
  13. Practices need a good stock of single used gloves, aprons, antiviral sprays, wipes, and paper towels.
  14. Soft furnishing would need either to be protected (we used cat scratch plastic covers on the arms) or regularly disinfected using a spray that can be applied to soft furnishing, e.g. Dettol All-in-one.
  15. Communication with clients and therapists will be crucial during this time. Practices may use posters, stickers, emails and telephone to prepare both therapists and clients for the new normal. We have designed our own floor stickers showing 2-meter distance and a poster with info for clients (see below). Feel free to download the poster and send it to your clients.

COVID-19 poster for clients

Implementing the above steps require consultations and training. Each counsellor and staff working at the practice must be aware and have agreed to these changes. With the influx of counselling clients that are expected after the coronavirus pandemic, counselling and psychotherapy practices must have procedures in place to minimise the possibility of infections.

If you are looking for a counselling room to rent that is coronavirus ready, please find more info here.

How to survive the coronavirus isolation when living alone?

Self-care is important in every day-to-day life, but especially when we find ourselves in isolation. With the Coronavirus spreading, isolation is becoming the norm for the elderly and vulnerable. You can also feel isolated if you have had a recent bereavement of a partner or parent. A person who has been a big part of your life suddenly not being there can trigger feelings of being alone. Or, if you are feeling depressed and you cannot face the outside world physically or mentally, you can shut down and avoid connection as it can feel too overwhelming.

We have been asked to self-isolate and most of us, more or less reluctantly complied. Most of us went through a phase of disbelief or even denial of the severity of the problem. It is hard to accept the need for isolation if we are in good health or young age, yet the virus reminds us that nobody is immune. We may also pass it on other people, so why it’s so difficult to accept it? It’s hard to recognise and accept our vulnerability in a society that on day to day basis teaches us to ignore it, we may also resist desperately the isolation that is against most of our human, social instincts. Isolation is difficult.

For some of us, coronavirus isolation will trigger a sense of abandonment. Even though rationally we know that we have to stay separated, in our feelings, we may be reminded of the times when we lost connection with someone or got rejected. Being in a state of anxiety can also feel hugely isolating, as a person can feel nobody else can understand how they feel. They believe that avoiding connection or any social contact is easier than having to reach out and explain how they are feeling. When in a fight/flight mode it is hard to communicate how we are feeling, as the part of the brain that helps us communicate shuts down - so reaching out can feel particularly hard. Having a self-care plan for these moments of isolation, as well as long term self-care, can be immensely valuable and healing. In times of isolation, it can be a time to ground, be present and set goals for the future and recharge. It can also be a time of feeling alone, overwhelmed and mentally unstable. Having self-care in place can help with this.

The most important thing is that our self-care pattern doesn’t become another burden. Coronavirus isolation and fear can make us overactive too and we can even use this article as a new project for ourselves, rather than a resource and support. Please treat every piece of advice in this article as a possible invitation and start from pausing and sensing what is good for you. For example, healthy food is good for us, but turning ourselves into nutritionists in the next few weeks is a rather challenging task.
Self-care means being kind to yourself and taking responsibility for your emotional and physical wellbeing. There are many types of self-care, I will mention just a few - physical, emotional/mental and social.

Physical self-care during coronavirus isolation

Good Sleep

Getting enough sleep is paramount for mental wellbeing. When we sleep, we produce serotonin which is our happy hormone, so if we are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, our serotonin will be low.
Tips for good sleep:

  • turn off all electronics a couple of hours before bed,
  • do something to help switch off the thinking mind before trying to sleep (e.g. a hot bath, reading, mediation, yin yoga) - read out article on Mindfulness for more info.
  • If you have had a stressful day and your mind is racing, it can be helpful to write down how you are feeling in a journal or even on a piece of paper
  • Keep a journal of your dreams.

Also, often when we feel tired can be the best time to connect to our emotions as we do not have the energy to suppress them. You often hear people say “I am feeling sad because I am tired”, but the truth is the feelings you have when you’re tired are what need to be connected and expressed. So it can be useful to check in with oneself when tired to see what feelings are there that we might be unaware of.


When we move, it helps move our energy and process our emotions. When feeling isolated, we can get stuck in the thought loop of “I am alone”. Moving can help move through this. Exercise also makes you feel good physically and emotionally.
Some ways to move if stuck at home: put music on and dance round the kitchen (how many times have you done that after a few wines!). This is a great thing to do first thing in the morning. Music is also uplifting or can help you have a good cry/release of anger if you feel you need to express that.
Shaking – literally shaking things off. Our bodies do this naturally when we are in shock or trauma.
Walking in nature – leave your phone at home and be present in the moment, connecting to nature is healing.
Yoga and stretching are amazing for the mind and body. Yoga can help you breathe deeply and tune out of thinking and become present, not lost. Stretches feel great in the body.

Healthy food

Soul food! Food that we enjoy and that is good for us is nurturing. It can also be great to spend time cooking for yourself (an act of self-love).


Being able to express emotions is vital for self-care - having a good cry if feeling sad, having a good shout (not at someone) if you need to express anger. Often when we do this, we end up laughing, which is a great physical release too. Own your feelings, though, don’t blame someone else.

Emotional self-care

One of the most important areas of emotional self-care and stress management is our relationship with social media. Designed to cause a sensation, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on, need to be assessed in connection to your own wellbeing. What news is necessary during coronavirus isolation? How much in a day can you take? Which sources of information nourish you and provide you with an adequate connection with the situation outside of your home and which cause you unnecessary stress?

Connecting to people, you feel safe with to be able to express how you feel is important. Perhaps have a couple of friends on speed dial that know sometimes you are isolated so need to speak to someone or even have a check-in text.

What things can make you feel grounded?

Feeling grounded in a state of relaxation when we feel in touch with the ground underneath or just aware of our breath. You can achieve this through mediation but also deep belly breaths, listening to music, reading listening to a podcast, cooking or gardening. We are all different, so finding our unique way to de-stress is vital. Some of us can benefit from belly breathing. When we feel stressed, our breathing tends to go shallow, fast and into the chest, not the whole body.

Compassion and kindness to self

Watching your inner dialogue with yourself. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, ask yourself: “would I talk to someone else like that?” If you tend to have negative thoughts towards yourself, perhaps you could try starting the day with three things, you are grateful for or like about yourself.

Social self-care

That’s not a surprise, we are inherently social beings, and lack of interactions may be detrimental to our mental health. Many of us started reaching out to friends, either via the telephone, zoom or other apps, and some of us may choose to have additional support seeing a counsellor. Zoom dinners, book clubs or birthdays quickly became a reality, and it’s important that we schedule some of them. However, we may also need to have good boundaries. If you don’t have a strong “No”, your “Yes “means nothing. It’s important to not people-please. Check-in with your needs first don’t do something just to please someone else.
Sometimes someone can feel too overwhelmed or stuck in a place where it’s hard to reach out. However isolated you are feeling, please remember you are not alone; there is always someone you can connect to and support you.

If you’re feeling isolated, depressed, anxious or in a place where you need some support from professionals, please reach out to a counsellor or, if urgent, here are some useful places to call and connect with.

Samaritans call 116 123 or email.
Sane: 0300 304 700
The Mix If you are under 25: 0808 808 494
Calm if you identify yourself as male: 0800 585858
Nightline if you are a student.

For online counselling, if in isolation, please contact our online counsellors.

What is Psychoanalysis?

Modern misconceptions of psychoanalysis

It’s a shame the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, has become somewhat of a mockery in popular culture. The Freud cartoons are often very funny, but serve to add ridicule to his ideas; those very ideas that have profoundly influenced and changed our society. Language and concepts that run right through our lives, the unconscious, the meaning of dreams and the idea our behaviour is affected by our past and not just our brains. His thinking and writing were brave, creative and off beam. But perhaps there’s something quite uncomfortable about being reminded we’re not always as in control of our behaviour as we like to think we are. To a certain extent, society survives and operates by denying this fact.

Perhaps similarly, the popular view of psychoanalysis has served to simplify and caricature it as static, an out-dated body of knowledge formulated over a hundred years ago, by a patriarchal figure that believed the root of mental disturbance was unconscious sexual conflict. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Psychoanalysis continues to grow and develop organically, being made up of a number of different and related strands of ideas about the human personality, largely generated from and in response to clinical work. It’s neither dogmatic and unchanging, nor possible to define neatly.

What is psychoanalysis?

As a psychological treatment, psychoanalysis is a method of psychotherapy that can be very useful for people who are struggling with longstanding difficulties in the way they think and feel about themselves, the world, and their relationships with others. Shorter-term approaches to therapy may be useful in helping clients find ways to cope with recent manifestations of states like anxiety or depression. It may be easier to identify a trigger in such cases, specific events or life stressors such as a relationship breakdown, or loss of employment. But for challenging psychological and emotional aspects of a person’s life that have been around for longer and may have their beginnings earlier in life, an approach that takes time and endeavours to understand the bigger picture is necessary.

If you were to stop and take a few minutes to reflect on the hour or so leading up to reading this article, noting any thoughts, feelings and sensations, what you’d notice would undoubtedly give a glimpse into the very individual way you have of viewing the world. You’d probably also realise that such an opportunity to stop, reflect and think about how you experience life is extremely rare in our busy modern day society. A psychoanalytic psychotherapist is trained to create a space and a type of engagement that encourages such internal reflection. They carefully observe and listen to you and overtime gradually build up a picture of the way you view yourself, your relationships with others and how your thinking and behaviour influence your experience of the world. They will gradually feed this evolving understanding back to you in ways that are manageable and in which you can talk and think about together. It sounds simple, but it's incredibly important and what many of us may be missing. Having someone to think with us about things can really help us to think about things.

What is the unconscious?

In a recent social situation, I found myself struggling to make a case for perhaps Freud’s most influential concept. Choosing to ignore what we don’t like or feel comfortable with? The retort was yes perhaps, but everyone does that, it doesn’t mean there’s an unconscious. The metaphor of the iceberg is nicely illustrative, what we choose to show on the surface is only the tip, whilst so much remains hidden beneath the surface. Repeating patterns of behaviour even when we don’t want to and they don’t serve us well? Comes close perhaps and something we can all relate to.

The royal road to the unconscious, of course, became the analysis of dreams, but Freud believed there were moments for all of us in which we’re made aware of our unconscious, through what he termed ‘bungled actions’; what’ve become known as Freudian slips. The moment of truth in the conflict between conscious and unconscious, when we trip ourselves up and say what we really mean, without the filter of the conscious mind to censor. We’re probably all able to recall our own often-humorous slips, trips, and bungles. When Radio 4's Today referred recently to the BBC'S "new spanking building" instead of "spanking new building", listeners responded to the unconscious innuendo with gleeful letters.

Moments like this provide us with fleeting glimpses of the thoughts, feelings and desires that have been repressed, relegated and held out of awareness for fear of causing conflict with a part of us deemed more acceptable. The therapeutic setting provides us with conditions for greater unconscious access, the safety and reliability provided by meeting in the same room at the same time for 50 minutes. In traditional analysis, the client lies on a couch, the therapist sitting behind out of view to facilitate the free association that frees the client from censor. Many psychoanalysts still operate this way and require frequent attendance, between 3 – 5 times weekly. Such frequency keeps the link between the unconscious and conscious alive from one day to the next and enables overcoming the resistance that repression creates. Melanie Klein adapted this approach to children, using play as symbolic expression and a kind of pre-verbal free association, giving insight into childhood unconscious conflicts.

Modern developments

Psychoanalysis had always been interested in early child development. Work with children led to the development of new strands, attachment theory, the British school of object relations and inter-subjective and relational approaches. Whilst concepts of the unconscious and repression remain at the core of psychoanalysis, we now know much more about the importance of our earliest relationships. A combination of nature and the nurture we receive from our environment, an interaction between a new-borns temperament, their adjustment to the world and the emotional development and capacity of parents influence our physical and emotional development both early on and into adult life.

Advances in child development research have provided evidence for the importance of our early bonds via neurodevelopmental findings. We’re born with innate capacities to relate, being drawn to eyes, faces, voices and smells and preferring those that are familiar. We imitate our caregiver’s expressions and movements; new-borns stick their tongues out in response to an adult (with quite a lot of effort!). Infants respond physically and physiologically to touch and being held, distress and heartbeats are calmed. From our earliest moments, even in the womb, we respond to the conditions that facilitate our growth and adapt to circumstances when those conditions aren’t present. Foetus’s exposed to chronic stress develop a stress response of their own, perhaps anticipating the world they’ll be born into.

It seems surprising today to think that pre-1950’s, much of the troubles of infancy and childhood, the tantrums, rage and inability to bear frustration had been passed off as unimportant, or simply attributed to physical factors. Psychoanalysis has painted a vivid picture of the primitive anxieties experienced by infants born in a state of total dependency. Even for the immature child, the world can seem completely overwhelming. If we have a parent that’s able to tolerate, think about and in some way make our distress manageable, by 1 year we begin to develop the capacity ourselves. If we’re fortunate enough to have parents that respond to our emotional needs consistently and reliably, we learn its safe to express ourselves and expect to be met; crucial for developing healthy relationships in and outside of the family later on.

When parents aren’t available enough or capable to provide a facilitating environment, perhaps due to anxiety or depression, we know this translates into difficulties in emotional and psychological development and behavioural adjustment during childhood and adolescence. Neural pathways are laid down from our earliest experiences, but continue to be created throughout life. When things haven’t been ideal, the relationship with a psychoanalytic psychotherapist offers a chance to think about these early experiences again, and through thinking and re-experiencing, the opportunity for something reparative and different from before to occur.

Bereavement, loss and grief

Bereavement, loss and grief are universal human experiences

Although grieving is a natural process and a natural response to bereavement, loss and grief still affects everyone differently. Sometimes the anguish and heartache can leave us feeling that we are alone. Finding ways of coping with your grief and reaching out for support when it’s needed can help us feel less alone. As grief is such an intensely personal experience there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may experience a range of difficult and unexpected emotions, such as anger, shock, disbelief, guilt and profound sadness. The pain of grief can be disruptive for our physical health, interrupting our sleep, affecting regular and healthy eating habits, as well as our ability to concentrate and think clearly. These are normal reactions to a loss, but there are healthy ways to support us during our grieving process.

How you are grieving will be influenced by many things, such as the circumstances of your loss

Death of a loved one
Divorce or relationship ending
Loss of health
Loss of employment or financial security
Death of a loved pet
Loss of home
Loved one’s serious illness

How to live with a loss?

• Acknowledge all your feelings and accept that your bereavement, loss and grief will be unique to you.
• Seek help from people who care for you or from someone professional when needed. At different times during grieving, we may need different things. If you can, be clear with your friends what you need at this stage, whether it is talking it through or having a cup of tea while watching films.
• Taking care of yourself physically will support your emotional well being, but try not to burn out or overwhelm yourself. It is important that you pay attention to how you feel in this difficult time.

How long does grieving last?

There is no timetable for grieving. Sometimes it may feel as if you will not be able to come to terms with the loss you are experiencing. The pain of bereavement, loss and grief can feel overwhelming at times. Living with any loss can be challenging and the first year of a loss can be especially difficult.

Stages of Grief

Although grief may at times feel like intense waves knocking you off your feet, over time these feeling eventually feel less intense and less overwhelming, we can begin to feel we have a firmer footing and although we still experience waves of emotion, they begin to feel less intense over time. Be patient with yourself.
Although we believe that our response to bereavement, loss and grief is unique and may affect you differently, some of our clients find it useful to learn about the five stages of grief described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross :

  • Denial – Shock and disbelief, it can be hard to accept what has happened. You expect things to be the same even though you know they are not the same.
  • Anger –Experiencing the pain of grief can be difficult. Even if the loss is no one’s fault, you may feel anger and resentment at the injustice, you may also feel guilt associated with your loss.
  • Bargaining – You would make any deal for this not to be real, you are not able or ready to adjust to the loss you feel.
  • Depression – Profound sadness following a loss is natural.
  • Acceptance – Eventually, you may notice that you are putting less emotional energy into your grieving process and that slowly, over time, you are becoming more engaged in your interests and family/social life. This is a time of adjusting and re-adjusting to the situation as it is.

Challenging times

If you can, prepare for those times that you might anticipate as particularly challenging such as anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and first anniversaries can be especially difficult. Putting some support in place around these times may help you, such as asking over a good friend/s, family member or find a bereavement group to share your feelings at this time or talk with a counsellor. You might take a day off or do something to remember and honour your feelings. Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died or your own experience of loss; people may not mention it because they don’t want to upset you. Seek out people who value your need to talk about your loss, are able to give you some space and can listen with empathy and compassion.

How to cope with grief?

Grief can feel isolating; sometimes, our own responses to our grief are also confusing and contradictory. One moment we may be laughing and the next moment overwhelmed with tears. You can have a good day and then wake up the next day feeling worse. At times we will want to have some time on our own with our grief, and at other times we will want to draw on support from others around us.

Generally, over time, our memories do fade, the physical details of our loved one become less sharp and for some people this can feel like another loss or even a betrayal of your loved one. It’s important to remember that even though the physical details may become less sharp, the love and affection that we feel about our loved ones, is something that nothing and no one can take away from us and not even time can change what is in our hearts.

When to seek professional help? - Warning signs of depression
It is common for a grieving person to feel sad and depressed, but there is a difference between natural grief and clinical depression. If the feelings don’t fade over time or they get worse it may be time to seek help. If you are continuing to neglect yourself or your family by not eating well or feel unable to perform your usual daily activities, if you are using alcohol or drugs because you are not feeling able to cope, or if you are continuing to find it difficult to get out of bed, your GP or a counsellor can help if you feel you are not coping.
If you are feeling suicidal at any time during your grieving process, seek help immediately.

Helpline: 116 123 (free of charge from a landline or mobile)
Email jo@samaritans.org
24 hr helpline offering emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide

0800 585858
Campaign Against Living Miserably Help and support for young men aged 15-35 on issues which include depression and suicide.

HopeLine UK
0800 068 4141
For practical advice on suicide prevention for under 35s

0800 1111
For children and young people under 19
Nota Bene – this phone number won’t show up on your phone bill.