Review of a CBT and Humanistic Approach Talk Therapy (Counselling) Session

Therapy Review – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Humanistic Approach Talk Therapy, Therapist – Edward Giles

Talk therapy counselling seems to have a lot of stigma around it and because of that, it seems to be one which a lot of people bear away from, especially if they experience a slow onset of negative emotions through some undesirable life situations rather than a specific traumatic event. I believe that we bear away from this type of therapy because of stigma of talking about mental health, so to coincide with my post about the shame around talking to a therapist I’m including my own personal review of talk therapy, to view it in an objective light like I do with all my therapy reviews.

I had my first talk therapy session with a counsellor who was recommended by a friend of mine who had originally sought therapy for grief, however as this was directly after the attack (before my father passed away), I was looking for therapy for post-traumatic stress. As far as I was concerned a counsellor was a counsellor and I just needed to see someone who was qualified. After a couple of sessions, I realised that I was feeling a lot worse after, rather than better, especially when I was instructed that my dreams of doing a particular yacht delivery were unachievable. Luckily, this is the point when Dr Jenn intervened and told me how important it was for me to ‘click’ with the therapist and also gave me a few pointers on how to pick the right therapist. From that moment on I went about finding a therapist like I would a marketing project – I did my research, interviewed each person and then decided on which counsellor was right for me. From that moment on I began my healing journey started and I began to process the recent series of events.

I found my new therapist on the counsellor directory which provides a list of accredited counsellors with all their qualifications, experience and specialities. As it was post-traumatic stress that I was dealing with at the time I wanted someone who had experience in this area and when a counsellor I interviewed told me that he had experience counselling war veterans then I knew I was in the right place.

My review is set into three parts – description of the sessions, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

The Sessions

I first arranged to meet Edward in his studio for a free chat to see how I felt about him and having counselling sessions with him. He met me at his front door and asked me to come around the house to his studio at the bottom of his garden. His studio was a self-built timber structure at the bottom of his garden, and inside was a desk, a bookshelf, a few comfy chairs and lot of poems and motivational prose on the walls. I remember at the time thinking how nice and welcoming the environment was, everything about the décor felt nurturing, even the smell of natural wood was soothing to me. Obviously, I value these types of settings very highly, especially when it comes to wellness (I’ll put that down to my interests in environmental construction and organic wellness) but at the time it really helped to ground me and I took this as a good sign.

The intention of this meet-up was to discuss what I wanted out of my counselling, what he could provide and whether or not we ‘clicked’. As well as already feeling very positive about the environment that we were in, there was something about Edward that made me feel quite confident in his ability. I can’t necessarily put my finger on what this may have been, it was more of a feeling or an intuition than anything else, not to mention that he was also a sailor, maybe we had similar values… either way my intuition was telling me that it felt like a good move to pick this therapist, so I did and we arranged that I would return for an actual session a week later.

The first session turned out to be the first of about four sessions in total. Each one started with us sitting down in his studio and him asking how I was feeling. I remember thinking that it was difficult to talk about how I was feeling at first, resisting the desire to answer ‘fine’ which seems to be our societal status quo answer. Over the course of the sessions (and with my commitment to mindful meditation) I started to become more in tune with my feelings and how to express them. This helped immensely as I progressed on this healing journey because although I didn’t realise it at the time, I had a massive inner judgement about accepting how I felt and openly saying it out loud.

Throughout each session Edward would allow me to talk freely and I did. Sometimes I was really judgmental about myself and others, sometimes I was very emotional – angry, upset, dismissive, you name it, I did it. Sometimes I just needed to air what was on my mind about a particular topic that had happened recently and so it landed on his ears. Sometimes we went a lot deeper and unpicked self-limiting beliefs that I had pinned down deep in my childhood which the attack was now highlighting. Through all of this Edward listened and asked very poignant questions at opportune moments, causing me to reflect and think about particular things that I may not have otherwise questioned. Overall this encouraged me to go deeper into my belief system and slowly I became a lot more aware of my thoughts and behaviours, I also then and started to see (and challenge) my ego.

One of the most helpful things I remember him telling me in our sessions was “We often judge others for something that we see in ourselves”. This stuck with me because I started to use it as a tool for reflection, so when I became judgmental towards someone else’s actions I began to stop and ask myself what it was about that behaviour that I demonstrated myself, and why was I unhappy about it? This didn’t happen immediately and there are still times now that I get lost in an emotion and fire out at someone for doing something without realising why I’m so annoyed about it, however slowly this simple reflection has allowed me to step back from situations and see them with objectivity.

Another tool which Edward started to show me how to use was that of self-compassion. This is something that I didn’t seem to have fully developed before and with the setbacks of the attack, I found myself becoming increasingly hard on myself for not behaving in certain ways as if I should’ve known better. When I started to cultivate self-compassion I started to accept what had happened to me and how I was dealing with it, instead of berating myself for it. The biggest thing for me to fully accept was my negative emotions and expressing them publicly. I guess I didn’t realise it at the time but I had such a judgement and stigma around showing vulnerabilities openly and this was taking a hold of my life because not only was I holding myself back from showing these emotions in public but I was also suppressing them deep inside me.

Through talking, reflecting and accepting, Edward taught me to be compassionate towards myself and my situation. As I began to practice this more I noticed that my compassion for others also increased, as if by getting in touch with these feelings helped me connect with other people’s feelings to the point where if someone became angry or judgemental towards me I was able to understand it and treat it compassionately rather than act reactively to whatever was said/done.

Each session lasted for 50 minutes and when we were 40 minutes through each session, Edward would tell me that we had 10 minutes left. This structured approach showed that he was holding the space of the session and establishing his own professional boundaries. Although subtle, this action demonstrated that he was able to hold that emotional space, something which is extremely important in all therapies which I have come to strongly value. At that point we would round off the session, I would pay, make another appointment if necessary and he would then walk me out to the driveway where he would shake my hand and we’d say goodbye.

Although I have written this review of the period straight after the attack, I also went to see Edward for another couple of sessions after my father passed away because that is when my emotions really started to burst out. I think that because of the sessions that we had before I had already started to work on the tools that I needed to process the grief but seeing a counsellor who already knew my back story and was able to objectively listen while I moved through my emotions was extremely beneficial for me. I saw Edward for a few sessions in this period (maybe two or three – my mind is a little blurry from that period) and on the last session I remember feeling that I had everything I needed to work through the rest of the processing on my own, knowing that there was a therapist I could rely on if I needed some more new tools.

Pre-session sense check (January 2015)

Physically – Straight after the attack I just seemed to be exhausted all of the time and would take three or four-hour naps in the day as well as get about 10 hours at night. My shoulder was really tight and I was having weekly massages just to be able to cope with the tightness, some days it was so exhausting that I would just lie in bed. I would, however, get the occasionally bought of energy which I would utilise by going for a run, only to find that I would later crash and burn. My physical energy was very erratic during this period.

Emotionally – Throughout this time I was completely reactive and unaware of my emotions that were controlling all of my behaviour. One minute I could be a little bit reflective and insightful, the next I could lash out after begin triggered without realising it. I didn’t even know what a trigger was at this time, let alone how they were taking over my life.

Post-session sense check (August 2016)

Physically – My body feels a lot lighter than when I began my therapy exploration. This comes down to a lot of different therapies which I have explored, involving physical, emotional and intellectual treatment so it’s impossible to say what the direct effect of the talk counselling was.

Emotionally – The counselling sessions with Edward encouraged me to explore a new way of thinking which made me aware of my emotions and allowed me to accept them for what they are – this in itself reduced stress, anxiety and made me a lot calmer within myself. The effect of someone who has the inner strength to hold your space and say “it’s ok” is something that was massively powerful to me at the time when I was experiencing the intensities of post-traumatic stress. This also gave me a great sense of empowerment that allowed me to start my journey into the inner depths of my psyche and gave me the tools to successfully deal with any dark shadows that arose.

Overall Review

To sum up, how influential this therapy is, I remember something a friend said in our reflection of talk therapy, that “the World would be a much better place if everyone had therapy”. The effects of counselling can be very profound and I would recommend it to everyone, even if it’s just to talk to someone in an emotional space which is free of judgment – that in itself if therapy. Secondly to have someone who is qualified to observe your behaviour and point out your patterns is very effective because this starts us on the path of becoming consciously aware of what we were unconsciously unaware of, once our issues are out there in the open we can start working on them, and with the guidance of someone who can help us do this in the most therapeutic way. I have undertaken talk therapy with other counsellors whilst I was in Bali and different therapist bring different tools to the table so although I’ve discussed the same life events, by doing so with different counsellors from different schools of thought was beneficial because it gave me a variety of perspectives to draw upon. By talking openly in front of someone also gave me the courage to discuss this kind of things with my friends which have brought to closer and more open relationships, as we all become more authentic and help each other out when reflecting on certain issues. The key here is to make sure that the therapist works for you, and as with all things in life some therapies will work for one person and not another, similarly some therapist will work some one person and not another, so just find the one that works for you. If you need some guidance check out my articles on finding the right therapist and when to call it a day with a therapist.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

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Getting Real and Aquiring the Tools to do so

I’m back home now and it’s great to get back into the beautiful friendships that I left behind. Some things have changed and some haven’t, but the main difference is me feeling better in myself and closer to my friends as I open up and feel confident in who I really am.

I’m glad I went away and took my own time to process everything that I went through and one of the most important things for me to do was talk things out until I had fully accepted myself and everything that happened to me. Without doing this I would probably still be spiralling around the “I’m fine” mantra while I would seclude myself into a hole of negativity and secretly cry in isolation in a cloak of shame because I didn’t want anyone to know my secret vulnerabilities. It’s easy to do this in a facebook world of ‘everyone is so happy, let’s all (pretend to) be happy too’, but what I’ve learnt is that this illusion of happiness isn’t real life. True happiness is acknowledging all feelings and situations good and bad and having the courage to sit through the discomfort as well as the comfort in life.

It’s starting to become clear to me just how many people live in this illusion of happiness while the reality is a whole load of avoidance fun fairs, cafes of coping and a whole flutter of anxiety butterflies chasing illusions of people around while the real people are nowhere to be seen (check out my sketches if you have no idea what any of that means). Where are these real people? The ones who aren’t afraid to talk about real life events and have the courage to sit in the discomfort that is sometimes real life? Do the people in the illusion know that they’re inside a false reality? I know that I didn’t until trauma pierced my illusion bubble and I realised that in order to get on with real life I had to become real myself.

I guess before I didn’t know how to be real because I’d never faced any situations that had made me investigate the darker side of my emotions. I’d had a picture perfect life, and when it came to going into those dark emotions I just didn’t have the tools to deal with them, so I had to go and find these tools from the people who did have them, and I spent the last 5 months using them and exploring them in an objective manner. The thing is that this is a pretty obscure way to deal with trauma recovery and I’ve realised that the most common route in the absence of knowledge is to go silent and step back out of life because I guess if nobody talks about dark emotions then they will go away… Right? No. Wrong! What happens is that this big white elephant in the room gets so big that it will silently crush you to death.

So, in order to get real, I figured that I needed the right set of tools, so I firstly sought about people who had them and that was a counsellor (aka psychologist/therapist). At first, I was quite sheepish about telling some of my friends – yes the attack had got to me that much that I was cracking up and needed to see a psychologist… that meant that I was crazy right? No, and as one of my friends rightly encouraged me she said:

“That’s amazing, just think, you’re free to say absolutely anything and you can’t be judged for it. Awesome”.

When I thought of it like that, it became an experience to look forward to, an opportunity to explore and an opportunity to grow as a person.

So I overcame this social taboo and when I did, I realised just how ridiculous a taboo it is, and how beneficial it is to go and see a someone who has this tool set.

Let’s see it this way… Say I’m building a bike. Not just any bike, an awesome bike. The kind of bike that isn’t out there on the market, because it’s different than anything that has ever existed. This bike is going to be the fastest downhill mountain bike that anyone has ever seen and I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to build it because I love mountain biking. Thing is, I don’t have the tools to build the bike, in fact, I know jack-sh*t about building bikes, but I want to learn because I want to build this amazing bike of my dreams to ride on. So what do I do? I find the best bike building teacher I can afford to teach me how to build the bike and show me what tools I need and how to use them. Once I have this knowledge and the tools I can go off and build my amazing creation. If I get stuck at any point or if the bike falls apart then I can always go back to my bike building teacher for some more lessons.

Why don’t we think about counselling like this? Because all it’s really about is going to a person who has the tools and the knowledge who can share them with you to help you work on something, whether that is processing emotions, trying to be happier or just generally living life the way you dream of rather than in a way you tolerate. I mean, would you try and fix your broken right arm with your broken right arm? No of course not, so why try to solve issues of the mind with the mind?

I guess that I got to a point where  I didn’t want to feel negative  anymore, so I went about getting the tools to change that but I think that we could all do with acquiring new tools every now and then, whether we think we’re happy or not.

But I guess deep down we’re all happy aren’t we… right? Or are we in the illusion of happiness…

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x