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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Can Traditional Chinese Acupuncture Assist in the Release of Emotional and Physical Pain?

I’ve had acupuncture before at a physiotherapist clinic and for the most part, it was good. It certainly helped me release some physical tension in my body and relaxed me somewhat but when I had Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, the effect was something completely different.

I stumbled across a good acupuncturist in Bali and for some reason the first time I came across him, I didn’t end up booking a session but when I ended up in his presence again (at Hubud, a co-working space in Ubud, Bali) I decided that this might be a sign and I booked a session – trusting my intuition here was the best thing I did because this treatment at that time brought around a whole mindset change. My Therapist for this session was Ben Elan who’s services include Narrative Counselling and Classic Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Cupping). He offers a very holistic care service with talk therapy, and energy work based on the intuition and agreement of client and therapist, the way I believe all therapies should be.

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

The sessions

There were four sessions in total and they were spaced over a course of 4 weeks with a week between treatments. The first session lasted 90 minutes and involved a thorough consultation period, where I explained the physical pain on my left side, how long it had been there, significant life events, and of course the most recent traumatic events. Ben asked a series of questions and I answered them in as much detail as I could. As I’ve talked out the traumas and my life events so much I’m quite happy and open to explain everything and give a therapist as much information as they need so that they can use their experience and knowledge to assess how best to treat me.  After the initial 90 minute session, the following 3 sessions they took on average 60 minutes each, as the consultation period was more of a review of what had happened in the last week since the last session, however we would usually find that some additional life information would pop up and provide more of an insight to Ben and his decision of how to treat me for that session. Following the consultation period, I would lie on the massage couch, on my back while Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists one at a time. This usually took about 5 minutes per wrist and would give him an idea of how my energy was running through my body – not being an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine I don’t have much of a clue what this means, but when he explained to me what he could feel my pulse his assessments were a clear representation of how I felt inside. For example he explained that he could feel a haze, which is normal after trauma because it’s a way of protecting the body. That falls in toe with how I would sometimes feel completely numb to certain things, as though I was unable to access certain feelings. After this, Ben would tell me how many needles he would like to use and where he would like to place them and then he asked me if this was ok with me. Of course, it was, that’s what I was there for but it felt very empowering as a client to be asked if this was ok, something I always appreciate.

There were never more than five needles used and the number of needles depended on my current state of mind, my pulse and what Ben believed was safe and appropriate for that session. During one appointment he only used two needles because he was concerned that I might have a strong reaction if I had more than that, which wouldn’t be good if I wasn’t ready for it. “It’s like if you pull a scab off that’s not really healed underneath yet, the wound will just scab over again” he said. I liked that analogy and he was spot on because even with two needles I had a strong reaction after that session. It was a positive strong reaction but it felt very powerful, three needles might have overwhelmed me.

For those who haven’t had acupuncture before and might be concerned about the needles, I can assure you that they don’t hurt more than a light scratch. They’re not the type of needles used in syringes; in fact they’re a lot thinner, at most they feel like a scratch when they penetrate the skin and then there’s a somewhat dull ache when the needle hits an energy point. The needles would usually stay in for about 20 minutes, and then Ben would remove them and ask if I’d like a glass of water. Just like all therapies, it’s important to drink plenty of water to flush out toxins in the body once the energy (physical or meridian) has been moved around. After the session, we would usually have a chat about what I might expect to feel and he would assure me that I could contact him if I felt unsure about anything, which was really reassuring.

Throughout the four sessions Ben worked on a variety of things and having a sequence of sessions with one practitioner was really beneficial because we could reflect on how I’d felt the week after the treatment. During the first session he concentrated on my general energy flow and placed needles accordingly to see how I would react, I felt fine straight after and very relaxed that evening. During the second session he started to get a bit more strategically, I guess he had a good idea of how I was reacting to the acupuncture. For this session he concentrated on my left side on the pain that I regularly experience – the ‘heart protector’ area because the muscles there seemed tight and overworked (can you blame me after the year I’ve had??). After this session I was quite emotional and did have a few strong emotional releases throughout the week following this appointment. On the third session he simply placed two needles on my right wrist and elbow to help open up my heart energy flow and this is where I had the strong reaction. Straight after I was full of energy and in a very positive mood which lasted for quite a few days before I then had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but I felt physically less tense and happy within myself, something which I had lost in all the numbness. The final session was a more of a general session to get my energy flowing and I also had some suction cups on my back because I was experiencing the beginning of a cold. Suction cups apparently help rid the body of toxins. After the final session I felt sleepy and exhausted, but that was probably more because I was becoming ill rather than the acupuncture, however processing all those emotions, at that intensity and speed probably was starting to tire me out after four weeks.

Pre-session sense check – (20 April 2016, the day before my first session)

Physically – At the start of the four sessions, I still had the grappling pain on my left side. The pain would stem from the back of my neck, across my shoulder, spreading across the front and back of my chest, under my arm and down my left arm, down to my ring finger. I’ve had the pain on and off for about 6 years, which was about the time that I started to feel unsupported emotionally (this ties in perfectly with what Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life has to say). It goes on and off but intensifies at times when I feel vulnerable or scared. Generally, I felt a little fatigued at the start of the 4 weeks but that’s something I was coming to accept after experiencing the emotional traumas – processing is exhausting.

Emotionally – I still felt like I was in a bit of a flux emotionally. Ok one minute then not the next, confused most of the time as to whether I was feeling clear headed or not, and in general still a little numb sometimes. During the time I was having the acupuncture sessions I was in a period of ‘time out’ to specifically work on process things as they came up and working on accepting and expressing my emotions. I was knee deep in a messy process and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be done so I was just taking things one day at a time, and Bali allows for this which I am grateful for.

Post session feeling – (23 May 2016 – 3 weeks after my final session date, 2 May 2016)

Physically – It was during the third session that I felt a physical release in my left shoulder. I had two needles in my right arm and they were placed strategically to help open up my heart – the physical pain that I was experiencing was from my heart being tightly protected (and who could blame me after everything that I’d been through). I remember this session vividly because after it I was full of energy and I felt like a whole weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt light again and I had forgotten what it felt to be like that, that pain that used to come on and off over the last 6 years has dissipated completely and it’s remarkable to feel so free from it.

Emotionally – Just before the last session of acupuncture I remember feeling like I was just bored of my trauma story now. I had a complete mind shift in the last week of the acupuncture sessions (and last week in Bali) and I felt like I was making decisions with a clearer mind, one that wasn’t so muddled up by emotional stories playing scare tactics in my brain. A mind that wasn’t fogged by emotions, judgements and should I or shouldn’t I. Since the last session I have felt more open, refreshed and comfortable in my own skin to the point where I feel like I can be here for others – a state which I haven’t felt for a long time.

Overall

I was having the acupuncture sessions during my last month in Bali and it was a time when I had decided to stay in one place and work through my emotions, so as well as having the acupuncture I was also talking through a lot of things, dancing and expressing myself creatively. However, I know that acupuncture has a strong effect on me and I think it was the tool that I needed to help speed up my recovery journey and get me to the point where I felt empowered to move forward to the next chapter of my life, whatever that may be (stay tuned). As well as working with a therapy that I know I respond to, a lot of this also comes down to the therapist and in this case I couldn’t have asked for someone more intuitive or safe than Ben. He has an air about him which creates a space of emotional safety and I could feel this from the moment that I met him, almost like that comforting feeling of someone you trust placing their hand on your shoulder. I found him to be professional and supportive throughout the treatments and the ability for him to hold space for himself and for me, his client was something that he was able to do very successfully. This is extremely important as a therapist because without this security then I client cannot relax into their hands, inhibiting their own recovery by holding back. Ben allowed me to feel safe enough to express my emotions and vulnerabilities fully, which I know aided my response to the treatment even more.

Acupuncture worked for me and I was lucky enough to find a very intuitive therapist which is key to any treatment. It’s something that is worth exploring and I would highly recommend it for someone who is going through any emotional or physical pain. Going to an acupuncturist who is also a trained counsellor was also very beneficial. I’m unsure as to whether all Traditional Chinese Acupuncturists are trained in counselling but it is definitely worthwhile finding one who is and arranging to have a series of sessions to allow for sense checking and reflections. Check out my 3 step guide to finding the right therapist if you’re ready to start your own healing journey.

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