Understanding Dissociation: Navigating the Depths of Detachment

Understanding Dissociation

Many people experience dissociation and suffer from dissociative symptoms when they become anxious or overwhelmed. This experience could be anything from zoning out when overwhelmed to more extreme feelings of feeling separated from their own body and surroundings, or feeling they have different parts within them.

Symptoms vary among individuals, leading to diagnoses such as depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself), derealization (perceiving surroundings as unreal or blurry), and Dissociative Identity Disorder (this is where the mind splits off feelings or personality traits, characteristics and memories into separate compartments that then develop into unique personality states where one or other state might be dominant at one time. This can create confusion about one’s sense of identity)

1. Dissociation - Accompanying Symptoms

The above symptoms can be accompanied by feelings of being in dream- like state; feelings of surroundings being an intrusion; experiencing amnesia; numbness and depression.

Dissociative disorders can also overlap with other diagnoses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

2. Causes of Dissociation

Dissociative symptoms have in all likelihood been developed as a coping mechanism for extreme anxiety or stress that a person has experienced. This may be in as a result of a specific trauma that has occurred or could have been developed as a way of coping with anxiety or stress that was experienced in childhood. Whatever the cause or diagnosis, living with the symptoms of dissociation is a distressing experience.

3.Treatment Options

There are many specific treatments which can help with dissociative symptoms. Talking therapy is the most recommended of these. Often people feel uncomfortable and embarrassed living with symptoms that are difficult to understand and are often misunderstood by others.

Counselling and Psychotherapy can help people to understand what they are experiencing with their symptoms and the possible triggers for dissociation. It is an opportunity to learn how to manage anxiety and so move away from the place of fear. In therapy clients can develop practical ways which work to manage life better on daily basis. This might include grounding exercises which help with symptoms as well as developing life style activities to provide a much needed anchor at times when client are confused and anxious.

It is of course important to engage with a practitioner who makes the individual feel safe, who understands dissociation and has experience working with the symptoms.

4. Specialized Services for Support

Seeking help from specialized services can also be instrumental.

Clinic for Dissociative Studies (clinicds.co.uk, 020 7794 1655) is a dedicated resource providing expertise in dissociative disorders. Additionally,  South London and Maudsley Trauma and Dissociation Service (https://slam.nhs.uk, 020 3228 2969) offers comprehensive support for trauma-related conditions.

 

For more information or to book a session, contact Christine at www.pimlicocounsellors.co.uk/directory/christine-hogg

 

Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT)

There is no doubt that it is essential to understand one another to have good social and personal relationships and being able to “think about thinking”, or mentalizing, helps us to do this. When mentalization is compromised, communication issues arise, impacting our connections with others. This article explores Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) and its profound impact on improving emotional regulation, effective communication, and fostering positivity.

1. The impact of Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) on our lives and people around us

Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) plays a pivotal role in emotional regulation, effective communication, and promoting positivity. It centres around mentalizing, which means seeing ourselves from the outside (imagining how others  see us) and seeing others from the inside (imagining what the other person is thinking or feeling).

Mentalizing, or the ability to understand our own and others' mental states, is crucial for navigating relationships. During times of stress, our capacity to mentalize can diminish, leading to a "Mindless" state. MBT focuses on stabilizing the sense of self and managing emotional arousal, preventing overwhelming personal experiences from escalating. By adopting a curious mindset, MBT encourages exploring different perspectives and enhances empathy and compassion.

2. Curiosity and unlocking "Wise Mind"

Curiosity (instead of judgement) is the secret to unlocking the "Wise Mind" within the MBT framework. The mind tells us what we think and feel and why we behave as we are. Practicing mentalizing involves listening with curiosity, exploring various perspectives, and embracing the unknown.  Working with the MBT model, we consider feelings, thoughts, beliefs, desires, and motivations.  This  curious approach expands the "Wise Mind," and as a result, we can have better relationships with ourselves and others.

3. Signs of good and poor mentalizing

Good Mentalizing involves being aware of thoughts, active listening, considering different perspectives, pausing and maintaining a curious stance.

Poor Mentalizing includes certainty about one's and others' minds, making assumptions, ruminating (negative thinking), labelling, blaming, critical words, blowing things out of proportion, jumping to conclusions, focus on failures but never successes, not taking responsibility for our actions.

4. Balancing mentalizing poles

To achieve effective Mentalizing,  we need a better balance in four Mentalizing Poles.

  1.  Cognition/Emotion (more logical mind vs impulsivity )

  2.   Self /Others (limited capacity to perceive other people's states of mind and feelings vs focusing on other people's minds and emotions, neglecting ourselves)
  3.  Controlled/Automatic (a requirement for attention, effort and awareness vs lack of attention and reflection )
  4.  Internal /External (reflecting on other people's inner experiences vs making assumptions based on external things)

 

5. Conclusion

Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) offers a practical and transformative approach to understanding and improving our mental states, enhancing relationships, and fostering emotional well-being. It integrates the Reasonable Mind and the Emotional Mind to form the "Wise Mind." My experience shows that Mentalizing is a process of discovering Inner Wisdom. Our integration begins with Mentalizing.

 

For more information or to book a session, contact Bożena  at https://seeds-of-love.uk/

 

Sophrology a mind-body practice

Sophrology a mind-body practice CORINNE GUION

Corinne Guion is passionate about wellbeing and personal development. Her journey began with philosophy during her A-levels (French Baccalaureat) and led her to explore various practices like Buddhism, life coaching, mindfulness, positive psychology, autogenics, NLP, and sophrology, where she acquired life-changing techniques.

With over 20 years in Consumer Electronics, Corinne held senior roles and learned business coaching techniques. Today, she draws from this experience as a Personal Development Coach and Sophrologist to help clients achieve their goals and dreams.

For more information or to book a session, contact her with details at the bottom on this page.

30 October 2023

WHAT IS SOPHROLOGY?

Sophrology is a life-balancing technique aiming at an alert mind in a relaxed body.

Sophrology is a holistic therapy using relaxation and breathing techniques, concentration, visualisation, and simple movements. At the crossroads between Western relaxation techniques and Eastern meditation, it is inspired by Yoga Nidra, Buddhist meditation, Japanese Zen, and classical relaxation techniques. It was developed in 1960 in Spain by Prof. Alfonso Caycedo, a neuropsychiatrist.
The word Sophrology means “the study of consciousness in harmony.” It is a healthcare philosophy consisting of very practical physical and mental exercises that can be used by anyone in busy 21st century everyday life with just a few minutes a day.

Sophrology has been a very popular method in continental Europe over the past 60 years where it is used in a large variety of settings: in hospitals settings and medical care in general by doctors, nurses, and mid-wives; in sports, arts, and education; and in companies for teamwork, stress, and burn-out prevention.

 

SIMPLE TECHNIQUES, EASY TO LEARN

  • Breathing exercises
  • Using the breath to enhance your health, both physical and menta
  • Dynamic relaxation
  • Gentle movements, suitable for everyone
  • Guided meditation
  • Following the voice and guidance of the sophrologist for a deeper experience
  • Visualisation
  • Exploring the power of your mind

ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYONE  – TAILOR-MADE PROGRAMMES

Sophrology can safely be practiced by everyone, regardless of age and physical abilities. All techniques are adaptable to suit your needs. No special clothing or equipment required. Each session is tailor-made for the client and designed to progressively re-establish balance and harmony in body and mind. The idea is for the client to discover and learn the techniques they need to deal optimally with whatever challenge they are facing.

WHAT CAN SOPHROLOGY HELP WITH?

Health 

  • Stress management
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Fatigue
  • Burnout
  • Pain management
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Common mental health disorders

Self-development 

  • Self-confidence
  • Emotions management
  • Change management
  • Inner resources

Preparing for big event 

  • Exams
  • Speaking in public
  • Pre-natal
  • Sports
  • Competition
  • Stage performance

A TYPICAL TREATMENT

A consultation to assess the client’s needs. Sophrology exercises guided by the Sophrologist’s voice. Practiced either standing or sitting in a chair, eyes opened or closed, no special clothing or equipment required. Feedback on the exercises and planning for independent practice

IN A GROUP: WORKING AROUND A COMMON THEME

Sophrology can also be practiced in a group setting. Groups are usually organised around a common theme, so that clients can meet like-minded people, and learn techniques relevant to their presenting challenge.

FACE-TO-FACE OR ONLINE

Sophrology is flexible and adapts to your needs and this work can be completed in a variety of settings.

 

You can book face to face appointment with Corinne at the Kensington Counselling Rooms. Corinne also works online, via Zoom. All you need is access to the internet (phone, computer, or laptop), a camera or webcam and a quiet room (ideally!).  You will receive the link to the session ahead of the agreed time, all you need to do is click on it, nothing to download.

For more information or to book a session, contact Corinne at https://corinneguion.com/  

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7 tips for navigating the world as a late-diagnosed autistic woman

Being a late-diagnosed autistic woman in a neurotypical world is a journey to say the least. Being able to look back at my life through an autistic lens means there is an explanation for so many of the struggles I have experienced along the way. It allows me to offer myself more kindness and compassion as well as feel a sense of greater acceptance of myself. Furthermore, it means I can now navigate life and my own self-care in a way I could not before I knew I was autistic. Coming to know that you are autistic later in life (as the majority of women do), whether by formal diagnosis, self-diagnosis or exploration around this as an identity can bring up a range of feelings and emotions. As autism presents so differently in women than in men, it is vital to know some of the signs. You can read more about the signs of autism in women at https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/women-autism-spectrum-disorder/ 202104/10-key-signs-autism-in-women However, once you have a diagnosis or identify as autistic, it can often feel like you’re on your own in exploring what this means, how to navigate caring for yourself, advocating for your needs and unmasking (showing more of your true self to the world). In this article, I offer some ways to support yourself in the world as a late-diagnosed autistic woman.

1. Know yourself really well

Who are you really? This may be an incredibly difficult question to answer if you’ve spent your entire life masking and trying fit in with the expected social norms of this society. Taking off your mask is a vulnerable process but getting to know yourself when you’re by yourself can be an easier and less daunting first step. What do you like to do in your free time? What do you like/ dislike? What are your interests? What brings you joy? What makes you excited? What makes you sad? What makes you angry? What makes you anxious? What brings you calm? Who do you like to be around? What does your ideal day look like? Knowing yourself well can help you navigate situations that you find yourself in, or help you decide whether you want to be in them in the first place!

2. Don’t be afraid to put in place accommodations and ask for support

After a lifetime spent masking and pushing through, you may not even be aware of the accommodations or support that you may find helpful. Taking a clear look at the ways you function or what you find difficult in daily life can help you identify where you can bring in assistance and ask for the support of family, friends and colleagues. It could be as simple as letting others know you are overwhelmed and that you need some time for yourself. You could ask family to take over more of the house chores for a while. Or colleagues to respect your need for quiet. Or let your boss know you process information differently and need a bit longer on a project. Putting in place accommodations for yourself can be empowering and give you a sense of control in what often feels like a chaotic world. For me, making sure I do my food shop on a weekday morning has transformed the experience from being an overwhelming one to bearable. I also very rarely leave my house these days without my headphones to listen to music. This helps me remain calm and regulated in stressful and busy environments. It may sound strange after a lifetime of struggling through, but you don’t need to suffer.

3. Indulge your interests and hobbies

Your interests and passions are a powerfully supportive resource in your life. Think of how you feel when you indulge your hobbies and spend time with your interests. You may become aware of a deep sense of peace or calm. You may be able to identify your skills and talents in this process, which can bring about a deeper sense of confidence in yourself.

4. Create a schedule that works for you

As mentioned in point number two, you don’t need to suffer or struggle through. Most 9-5 jobs are not suited to neurodivergent people who need a lot more rest, quiet and downtime than such a work schedule allows. You may realise you need a quiet space to focus and that an afternoon walk in nature or a nap helps you regulate your nervous system. You may find that you can utilise your ability to work alone and focus for long periods - as well as your creativity, passion and interests - to create a business of your own or at least create a good case for flexible working.

5. Learn to say no

Boundaries are essential. You do not need to put yourself in social situations you do not truly wish to be in. Learn how to listen to your clear ‘yes’ when deciding whether to do something, and if you don’t hear it, you do not have to force yourself to please others. Honouring yourself and your needs develops your sense of yourself and, in turn, sends a message to yourself that you are worth taking care of.

6. Surround yourself with as much comfort as possible

As women, we often learn from a young age to forgo comfort for the sake of fitting in and being ‘fashionable’. The sooner you can give up caring what others think and embrace what your body and skin truly likes, the sooner you will be able to drop a whole load of unnecessary tactile stress and better regulate your nervous system. I surround myself with soft blankets, cuddly toys and (fake) sheepskin rugs and wear soft clothing materials and shoes with a comfortable fit.

7. Do not compare yourself to neurotypical women

This is a difficult one but understanding you are autistic can help drop the comparisons. Neurotypical women may seem to be better able to function in this world, however, you never know their own struggles. Dropping the comparisons and learning to like and embrace who you truly are can help you avoid the trap of living a life that society deems you should live, in turn helping you create one that is on your own terms and that feels good from the inside.

 

For more information or to book a session, contact Meredith at meredithhusencounselling.com or on Facebook at www.facebook/meredithhusencounsellingforwomen

 

Counselling for Depression

Everyone feels down sometimes, but for some of us the feeling does not go away and we find it can get worse and have a big impact on our lives. Depression is a mood disorder that lasts for a long time and affects how you feel, think and carry out daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. Depression should be distinguished from sadness, which is a natural emotion felt in situations of failure or loss. Depression often lasts many weeks or even months and is accompanied by other symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from the disorder globally. And the incidence of the disorder is increasing everywhere[i]. In any given week in England, 3 in every 100 people will experience depression. Even more – 8 in every 100 – will experience mixed depression and anxiety[ii]. If you are experiencing depression, you are not alone.

The most common symptoms of depression include:

  • low self-esteem
  • lack of self-confidence
  • persistent sadness
  • decreased concentration
  • lack of appetite or disordered eating
  • sleep disturbance
  • loss of interest
  • seeing the future in black
  • suicidal thoughts or actions.

Depression, if left untreated, can have many harmful consequences on a person’s life, including severe relationship and family problems, difficulty finding and holding down a job, and drug and alcohol problems. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make one feel suicidal. It’s important to seek support as early as possible, as the sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can recover. The NHS recommends that you should see your GP if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks.  their self-assessment test helps you to assess whether one is living with depression - https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/clinical-depression/overview/.

Counselling is a scientifically proven treatment for depression.

Counselling for depression

If you suspect depression in yourself or a loved one, you can also seek help from a counsellor. Counselling can help you to understand the roots of your depression, reduce the severity of depression symptoms and prevent relapses. The sessions can support you to find your own ways to cope with your depression and suggest different strategies and self-care techniques. The length of counselling in the treatment of depression depends on your individual needs, during the initial consultation the counsellor will determine how serious it is and whether you may need  additional support, such as from a GP or psychiatrist who can prescribe medications.

How to find a counsellor for depression

The first step of reaching out for help can be very difficult, especially if you are currently experiencing depression. Read through some counsellor profiles and send out an email or make a phone call to anyone who interests you to see if you might work together. All counsellors have their own approach, some counsellors offer both online and face to face work, some specialise in depression and others work with many different mental health concerns. Regardless, they will not judge you and they will be honest with you, and you can be honest with them, too.

Can I have counselling when self-harming or feeling suicidal?

Sometimes in depression, life is so challenging that people consider taking their own life or manage their emotional pain through self-harming. It’s important that these issues are discussed in the first session with your counsellor to help to minimise risk and suffering. Some therapeutic clients reported feeling freer to discuss their difficulties with their therapists rather than with their friends or families. Indeed, counsellors and psychotherapists were trained to be able to listen and explore complex subjects that include self-harm and suicide. Experienced counsellors and psychotherapists have worked with people in similar struggles before and will be able to guide and support you.

Can I refer my depressed partner or child to a counsellor?

It is very hard to witness a person we love being depressed, and many of us would do everything we can for their situation to change. Sometimes it’s frustrating when our depressed relatives do not reach out for help, and we want to make sure they do. Whatever the motivation, it’s important that the depressed person personally contacts the counsellor. The majority of therapists will not accept a client referred by someone else, mainly because reaching out for help is an essential step of getting better and feeling pressured by someone else may contradict the counselling for depression. As a person living with someone who struggles, you may consider reaching out for help yourself to a counsellor or a support group for carers.

Please go to our website Kensington Counselling Rooms and contact one of our experienced counsellors, psychotherapists or psychologicsts to see if they can help.

 

  • [i] https://www.who.int/health-topics/depression#tab=tab_1
  • [ii] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/depression

Counselling for Anxiety

All people experience anxiety at different times in our lives, whether about making a big decision, dealing with an unexpected event or being exposed to a threatening situation. Whilst unpleasant to experience, anxiety is a normal emotion and can even be useful at times. Like other emotional experiences, it can give us information about how we feel about what is happening in our lives. But what happens when we can’t sort out the feelings around our anxiety? What if our anxiety seems irrational or overwhelming? What if our anxiety becomes unmanageable and starts to impact our quality of life? If this is happening to you, it may be a good time to seek out a therapist and get counselling for your anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is normal response to a dangerous or stressful situation and should pass when the situation passes. Many people experience racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, irritability and trouble concentrating when feeling anxious. There can also be many physical symptoms of anxiety, such as racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, needing the toilet more often, chest or stomach muscles tightening or feeling sick or dizzy. Sometimes these symptoms come quickly and unexpectedly and seem to peak within 10 minutes or so, and this may be a panic attack. Panic attacks can be very frightening and sometimes push people to seek urgent medical care, but they soon find out these symptoms are not due to a physical ailment. Many clients come to counselling after they were instructed by a medical professional that their symptoms cannot be explained medically.

There are many different types of anxiety. Phobias, for example, are when a specific situation that is not actually dangerous triggers intense feelings of anxiety as if it were very threatening. Generalised anxiety, on the other hand, is characterised by a persistent sense of doom or dread, frequent worry and fearfulness, and often recurrent physical symptoms as described above. There are also many other specific forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety, death anxiety, health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), for example.

When should I get counselling for anxiety?

If these anxious feelings do not pass when the situation passes, or if the triggering situation is on-going for a long time (such as a chronic medical condition, for example), and it is persistent or overwhelming it can have a big impact on your life. It can affect your relationships, your work, your self-esteem, and your overall sense of well-being. Your physical health can also be impacted if you are losing sleep or experiencing too much stress. If you feel that anxiety is having a big impact on your life, isn’t going away and you’re feeling overwhelmed, it might be a good time to seek help.

How can counselling help anxiety?

Counselling can help you to understand your anxiety as well as develop ways of addressing and managing it. With a therapist, you can explore how the anxiety is affecting your life, what the triggers are and what the root causes might be. Noticing that something triggers anxious feelings can provide an opportunity to explore what that something really means to us and encourage us to assess our resources, opportunities, and vulnerabilities, and possibly help us discover and process unresolved feelings from past experiences. As with any counselling, a therapist will work with you as an individual, collaborating with you to find what works best for you.

From the beginning of the counselling we may focus on finding ways to deal with acute anxiety using breathing and grounding techniques. Later on, the therapeutic process focuses on what is behind the anxiety. In the anxiety counselling, you will explore your current triggers and past experiences that led to having anxieties in your life.

How do I find a therapist to help with anxiety? 

Whilst many therapists work with anxiety issues, there are many different approaches to counselling for anxiety and you can find a therapist that works in a way that suits you, depending on your needs and what feels right for you. For example, some people find CBT helpful, where you focus on understanding the way your thought and behaviour patterns contribute to your anxiety and develop specific, often practical, strategies to address it. Others find a relationally-focused approach suits them, where building a strong, healthy relationship with therapist is central and allows you to explore how you relate to others. Another approach is to explore existential questions around life and death and focus on developing your own sense of meaning and purpose to ground you in an uncertain world. If you prefer to approach your anxiety from the perspective of your body you may choose Gestalt therapy, Dance and Movement Therapy or other body therapies. Yet another approach might be to focus on processing unresolved past experiences and healing emotional wounds so that you can move forward with less anxiety about the present and future (see our blog in psychoanalytic approach). Although many therapists providing counselling for anxiety work from a specific framework, most will adapt to work addresses the areas on which you want to focus. You can and should ask a therapist about their approach and see if what they say makes sense to you and feels right, even if you’re not sure exactly what you want or need.

Do take a look around our practices in Pimlico or Kensington  and if you have any questions or would like any more information do get in contact with our practitioners.

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.

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

Traumas

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 Registered Psychotherapist

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

Alexandra Schlotterbeck Stevens

UKCP Accredited Psychotherapist

Working on Mondays
Phone: 07728 565 353
Email: alex@alexandrastevenstherapy.com

Fedra Feizi

BACP Registered Psychotherapist

Working on Mondays
Phone: 07716784090
Email: fedratherapy@gmail.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.

Moving/Exercise

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).

Expressing

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.