3 Steps to Finding The Right Therapist

I posted this post quite a while back and I find it SO relevant today. Now that therapy and sorting your stuff out has become a ‘thing’ (at least it definitely shouldn’t be shameful!), I think it’s ever more important to approach these professionals with discernment. That’s what you’re going to get from this blog post.

Firstly, a few things you should know…

Like with any profession, there are people who do it well and there are people who don’t do it so well. The thing is that when you’re in the role of client you’re putting your mental health and wellbeing in the hands of someone else, so it’s very important that you’ve vetted this person to make sure that they’re up to the job.

What I’ve found with many therapists, counsellors and even psychologists is that they lack the self-awareness and humility to admit that their ego can pop up during a session and project on the client. Here’s the thing – we’re all human. We all have egos. We can all project, have blind spots and ‘act out’. The problem is, that if the person who is holding the space of your mental health is not aware of themselves enough to know when they’re in their own ego, then you as the client can be in a very vulnerable and sometimes dangerous position.

That’s why it’s very important for you as the client to be discerning when you pick your therapist. By going through these steps, you’ll be equipped to do just that.

  1. Does the therapist have appropriate qualifications?

Firstly it’s important to be clear on the therapy you want and to make sure that the therapist is qualified to provide this. The first question I ask before I even meet up with a therapist is what kind of qualifications they have and what school they studied at. A therapist who is confident in their ability will happily provide their course and school details and answer any other questions you have. If you ask this question and the therapist starts to get defensive then to me this is a red flag I would question whether or not this is a person you want to have a treatment with. Seriously, if they are so insecure that they feel the need to get defensive with you then that’s already showing you that they might not have the skills. Also, by them getting defensive is a clear sign that they aren’t self-aware and cannot emotionally regulate – red red reeeeed flag!

  1. Meet up with them first

A very good piece of advice I got from Dr. Jenn (one of my best friends who’s a very good psychologist) when I ended up in a bit of state because I was seeing a counsellor that unfortunately wasn’t right for me, was to meet up with the therapist before paying for a session to see if you ‘click’. I’ve come to realise that this is something very important especially with any kind of psychological treatment (CBT, NLP, talk therapy etc) because if you don’t feel comfortable and safe in the presence of the therapist then this will limit your ability to heal. Why? Because you won’t open up and then you can’t process your stuff because it’s still locked away. What I mean by safe and comfortable is that you feel physically and mentally safe but also on an emotional level, which means that you shouldn’t feel judged by the therapist. Instead you should feel like you can say anything that comes to mind, that you can cry and that you can feel free to explore these areas of your emotional spectrum.

Since receiving this information I now meet up with anyone before having a therapy to see what my gut reaction says about them. If you don’t have a good gut feeling then it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is bad, it’s just your instinct saying ‘not this one’, keep going until you find someone who is right for you.

  1. Can they provide what you need?

It’s important to be clear with the therapist about what your expectations are of the treatment and to ask them whether or not they can provide what you need. A credible therapist will be clear about what they can and cannot offer and steer you in the right direction to get what you need. It’s better to communicate this before the treatment so that both parties are clear on the expectations. For this, you’ll need to have a think about what you want from the treatment? How many sessions can you pay for? How deep do you want to go? Do you need to be able to take a break from the sessions at some point?

I think this step is even more important when it comes to people who are selling packages. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes clients need that container of ‘6 sessions’ etc, but some don’t – I certainly know that I don’t work this way anymore, so make sure you decide on a framework that suits you in your life right now, that you can change later if you want to.

Also be careful of people who promise the world because only you can heal yourself, it’s just the therapist’s job to provide space for that kind of unfolding. Hopefully if you follow these three steps you’ll get the right person for you.

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Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

No More Censorship

There’s something I’ve battled with over the last few years, as I’ve worked my way through the healing journey. Something that’s leaves me feeling conflicted in a ‘did I do the right thing’ kind of paralysis. You know, the whole ‘does this sit with the values of who I am, of what I preach’ – and we all know that I’m a preacher!

Basically, it’s when it comes to speaking out about how I feel, when I feel hurt by the actions of another. I guess this is because I know that by expressing how I feel it means that it’ll leave the other person feeling upset too, which of course means that I’m then the one causing the upset – moral dilemma 101!

Personally I believe that we all have the potential to be the victim or the villain – I especially, can be reactive, judgement and hurtful at times. I know that I can also be the one who feels pain when someone is nasty, aggressive or hurtful towards me. I think we’re all somewhere along this spectrum and that we can sway along it in varying degrees, in fact I think that’s completely natural and normal to do so.

What I don’t agree with though, is people causing hurt towards another because they’re unaware that they’re doing it or because they’re not taking personal responsibility to heal their own pain.

Because this is how trauma is passed on – unconsciously.

We’re all human and most of us have negative behavioural patterns, ways that we’ve been taught to respond to certain pains in our life, certain traumas. Most of us picked up these patterns throughout our developmental stages of life and for the most part, they remain unchallenged.

The problem is when these patterns are destructive to our relationships, and we’re not even aware that we’re doing it.

Patterns such as dismissing or belittling a partner’s feelings, teasing a sibling or shouting at a colleague. What bothers me most is the censorship around this – how many of us don’t speak up when we feel hurt, so because of the unawareness it continues.

Lately I’ve committing to stopping this censorship within myself, and I invite you to do the same.

If you’re looking at where to start with this, I strongly recommend reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson.

Be the one who speaks up when you experience hurtful behaviour.

Tell that person who you love – I love you but I feel upset and I no longer wanted to be treated like this.

I know what I’m asking isn’t easy but without this we’re not going to change this behaviour and we’re not going to eradicate hurtful behaviour.

To win a copy of my latest book- Scattered sign up here now. All entrants receive the first chapter of the book absolutely free anyway, and the draw for the free book will be on the 6th of March 2020.

I’m on a mission to create a greater sense wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. To teach others how to connect authentically with themselves, so they can connect authentically with others. It starts with learning self-awareness, maintaining a strong value system that serves us, and having the emotional intelligence to move through a whole spectrum of emotions so we can connect without attachment.

If you want the EQ tools to master your emotions and life an empowered life then, sign up to my newsletter for monthly insider tips on how to do this. My subscribers get access to free tutorials and are the first to know about exclusive offers on my Empower Yourself Program. If you’ll like to find out more about the workshops, training and tailored coaching packages I offer, head over to www.shereensoliman.com. 

With courage, Shereen x

The Reasons Why I Didn’t Die

It’s been so long now since the night I got attacked that I forgot sometimes how shocking it is for people to hear it for the first time. I guess I’ve done so much therapy and processing in the last few years that to me it’s just become a thing that happened. Life. A little blimp in the tapestry of my journey.

One of the things that I see often (other than the gasp at the horrificness of what is being told) is the surprise in people’s eyes that I actually came out alive and unharmed, well un-raped is I think what they mean. To be honest, I don’t know, nor have I heard of anyone who was in a one-on-one attack like that who managed to get out alive and unscathed. So I want to shed some light on to why I think my situation ended the way it did, and why I’m still here to tell the story.

  1. I am, and was extremely aware when I got attacked

Self-awareness is something I’ve always practiced naturally. Who am I? What do I stand for? Am I doing the right thing by me? Those are questions I’ve always asked myself, I think because my Dad installed such a strong sense of values within me. This kind of questioning obviously lit my interest in human behaviour and how I work as a person. I guess I’ve always seen myself as a kind of science experiment as I challenge myself throughout life – changing careers, changing countries, challenging and changing my beliefs. Practising this curiositymeant that I had already built up a strong sense of self-awareness and awareness of others so of course I was aware that night I got attacked. Being aware of him and his potential motives meant that I had already prepared myself subconsciously for something to happen. That’s the only reason that my survival response wasn’t ‘freeze’ like so many unfortunate women before me.

  1. I will fight to the death for what I believe in

Having the awareness to be prepared for a fight, I was then met with the worst case scenario – I had to fight. I did try to run which was my instant response, but obviously the guy grabbed me and he was a lot bigger and stronger than me so my next instinct was to fight. The memory here is lost, and I can only piece together what happened through my injuries and visiting the scene the next day. What I do know is that I was pinned down but managed to somehow get him off me. That I was able to break free and run away.

Again, I think this is because I had built up something internally that I’d been working on for years – that I stand up for what I believe in. This internal strength has sometimes proved annoying to others in my life, especially when it comes to hierarchy because I question any lack of integrity that I see. I do this because I believe that we should be questioning each other’s motives to make sure that we are acting out of self and not out of ego. This strength within me manifested as a fight that night, and there was no way in hell that I was going to go out without a fight, if not just for me then for every person who has suffered the sexual injustice to the hand of a another.

  1. Luck, faith and something higher than myself

I’ve always believed in something higher than myself, but I have always been strongly opposed to religion – can you blame me when it’s become so corrupt in the world? I mean, I stand for integrity yet I struggle to see it in religion these days.

I’ve always taken note of those synchronicities in life when it feels like someone else if pulling the strings and I’ve always prayed thanks for the gifts I’ve received – love, friendship, compassion and joy. I do this on a personal level, and I feel a non-judgemental type of spirituality that doesn’t subscribe to one ‘God’ or one deity. I just believe that there is something bigger out there at play, and I pay respects to it as and when it feels right. I (jokingly) call it Shereenism but I think that this is what true religion is – something private that stems from integrity and values, something that feels right and connected, and is individual for each of us.

The night I got attacked there were a few weird things that happened that strengthened my faith in some kind of guidance system. And you can take this or leave it, but this is my truth and all outside opinions are void of it.

When the man had walked past me, I heard a voice that said ‘Turn Around’, which I did. Had I not then the turn of events would have happened drastically different.

I felt as though I had assistance when I came to protecting myself. There is no way that a small figure like me could have fought off such a huge man, call it adrenalin but I physically felt like I was being aided.

When it came to someone finally offering refuge and opening their front door towards me for somewhere to run, it was a universal symbol of safety – the silhouette of a woman holding a new born baby. I’ll never forgot this image which has been seared into my brain. Apart from the fact that it seems so weird when I look back, I can’t begin to imagine what the woman herself must have been thinking. What compelled her to open the door when she heard my screams, because no one else in that neighbourhood even dared.

I’m not saying that by adopting these methods that you’ll become infallible to life or death scenarios that might get thrown at you. What I am saying though is that when you truly know yourself inside and out, and you stand strong for what you believe in that you live life a certain way. You live life consciously, and with courage, and that courage brings you freedom.

The irony in all of this is that these traumatic experiences took me back down to base level where I questioned myself completely. Through my journey of recovery I had to build myself up again, one block at a time. I had to carve out my new value system consciously so I could get back to this level of courage and internal freedom. This journey in itself is what has put me back on the right path – one that helps people and inspires people to find their own sense of internal freedom too.

The truth is that in learning why I didn’t die, it taught me how we should live.

I’m on a mission to create a greater sense wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. To teach others how to connect authentically with themselves, so they can connect authentically with others. It starts with learning self-awareness, maintaining a strong value system that serves us, and having the emotional intelligence to move through a whole spectrum of emotions so we can connect without attachment.

If you want FREE EQ tools to master your emotions and live an empowered life then, sign up to my newsletter for monthly insider tips on how to do this. My subscribers get access to free tutorials, book previews and are the first to know about exlusive offers on my Empower Yourself Program. If you’ll like to find out more about the workshops, training and tailored coaching packages I offer, head over to www.shereensoliman.com. 

With love, life and freedom, Shereen x

Photo by my dear friend James Duncan, of me, sitting by a tree.

A Relationship with PTSD

2020 marks the 5 year anniversary since I went through my life threatening ordeal when a man tried to rape and kill me. Last year was a huge turning point for me because it was the first time since this event that I’ve managed to get into a healthy, loving and progressive relationship.

It was a milestone.

There have been many milestones in the last few years as I rebuilt my life, but this one has been (by far) the most cherished. Getting here hasn’t been easy, and even now, within the relationship there are some incredibly challenging parts. However, it is 100% worth it and I want to share my insights for anyone who is trying to pick their way through the ptsd minefield of trying to have a romantic relationship.

The biggest challenge I continue to face is that the fear within me presents itself in so many different ways, and sometimes I don’t recognise it. That’s nothing new. In fact, a main part of this journey has been about consistently opening up to others about what is going on in my brain – often extremely erratic fear induced stories that I was telling myself. Stories with no logical sense when compared to the reality, but in my ptsd brain I was convinced that it was ultimate truth and would definitely happen.

This fear crops up in so many ways and if my man hadn’t been very persistent when we were dating then we probably wouldn’t be together now, simply because I kept pushing him away.

I kept telling myself stories about him that weren’t true. I’d find excuses to be annoyed with him so that I could validate undesirable traits within him, traits which often weren’t there.  For example, if he was late I’d tell myself that it was because he was lazy, couldn’t keep time management and because of that, he wasn’t someone I should be with. I would focus on the superficial things and magnify them and make conclusions about his whole character because of them. When the reality was that I hadn’t yet found out who he was to even make those conclusions in the first place.

The thing was that regardless of all the negative self-chat in my head, deep down it felt good to be with him and throughout my whole healing journey it was following what felt good that lead me to heal so fast. That’s why I knew that I had to follow it this time too. When I made that commitment, I realised that all that was left was fear – a fear that brought me to tears because I was so scared of opening up and being vulnerable again. Time and time again I’d have to release those tears, put my big girl pants on and keep putting myself out there, date after date. It was hard, but I’m very glad I did.

Another huge challenge that I face is how easy it is to fall into old patterns of blaming, shaming and judgement. These strategies are ego defence mechanisms that crop up because of fear and stop someone from getting close to us or our heart. What I’ve found is that it’s very seductive to fall into these old patterns and that the attraction of ‘being right’ is a strong force of pull. That even when I am at my most mindful, this fear can still engulf me and cause me to act in a way which is destructive to the safe emotional space my partner and I have worked so hard to build. A space that takes such a long to create, and can be eroded in seconds with harsh words or careless actions.

While it’s hard to catch this in the moment – whether you suffer from ptsd or not – it is imperative to acknowledge this behaviour and take responsibility for our own actions. It’s important to say sorry meaningfully and understand that it may take time and trust until full forgiveness is given. This is humbling and incurs a feeling of guilt, but it’s necessary to build up that foundation of trust again.

As well as that it’s necessary to understand why that behaviour cropped up in the first place, so we can start to break it down and become aware of how we can choose differently next time. All of this requires hard conversations, honest self-reflection and the commitment to becoming a better person every time we fall back into old patterns. Again, it’s humbling work but the rewards are worth it.

Another challenge on this part of the ptsd recovery journey is believing in the value of self, in yourself.

This is a lesson that I had to learn time and time again. I knew I’d finally learnt it when this man entered my life, because it was the first time in years that I’d romantically engaged with a person who actually valued me for who I was. Prior to this I was finding myself attracted to men who treated me in ways which devalued my sense of self-worth. Men who were aggressive towards me, men who belittled me, men who shamed me, dismissed my talents and left me feeling ashamed of being the ‘intense’, ‘questioning’, ‘demanding’ person that I am. The reason why I kept finding myself in these relationships was because I needed to fully heal within myself and get to a place where I felt complete acceptance and love for who I am. I knew that once I’d healed to that point, that I would naturally attract a person who mirrored that. As the old saying goes, you can’t love another until you love yourself. Another take on this is that when you value yourself highly you simple don’t entertain the option of getting involved with someone who doesn’t appreciate that value equally. Quite frankly once I got there, anyone who didn’t value me simply didn’t get a look in, let alone an opportunity to date me.

The romantic-relationship-with-ptsd journey is an interesting one. I’m sure it’s different for everyone but I hope my insights provide some guidance for anyone who’s struggling.

As with all this healing, know that you’ll get through it and stay curious to the lessons it presents. Life is after all a series of lessons along a journey, the trick is to enjoy the fun along the way.

I’m on a mission to create a greater sense wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. To teach others how to connect authentically with themselves, so they can connect authentically with others. It starts with learning self-awareness, maintaining a strong value system that serves us, and having the emotional intelligence to move through a whole spectrum of emotions so we can connect without attachment.

If you want the EQ tools to master your emotions and life an empowered life then, sign up to my newsletter for monthly insider tips on how to do this. My subscribers get access to free tutorials and are the first to know about exlusive offers on my Empower Yourself Program. If you’ll like to find out more about the workshops, training and tailored coaching packages I offer, head over to www.shereensoliman.com. 

Picture by me, of me and my man holidaying in Thailand.