“I would begin to have thoughts, and feelings,
and they are such sad things”

Marcel Proust

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Individual (One-to-One) Counselling and Therapy, Alsager, Cheshire

I offer one-to-one counselling and psychotherapy sessions for adults and young people, working through issues in a confidential, nurturing environment. Sessions last 50 minutes and I usually see clients once or twice a week for a given period. I am based in Cheshire, working from Alsager (East Cheshire, Junction 16 of the M6), although my client base geographically includes North Staffordshire, the Peak District and beyond.

To date I have helped individual clients in both short- and long-term therapy, dealing with issues ranging from anxiety and panic attacks through chronic eating disorders, phobias and relationship problems to bereavement, post-traumatic stress disorder and abuse.

My therapeutic approach is integrative, which means that I borrow freely from various schools of thought to use the techniques that will work best for each client. These include psychodynamic and transpersonal therapy and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) as well as less mainstream creative techniques including bibliotherapy and eco-therapy in cases where they can be helpful for the client. I have also trained in animal-assisted therapy (AAT) which can be very effective in some instances.

For more information about individual therapy or to make an appointment, please contact me at jcsmith@therapy-cheshire.co.uk or call me on 07811 981645.

 

 

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Very good facilitation – encouraging and warm.

Jeanette Winterson: Intrepid, Challenging and In Conversation in Manchester, 11 Feb

Jeanette Winterson is a fearless writer, and her fictional characters often push boundaries of gender and ‘normalities’, most recently in her brilliant novella The Daylight Gate (Hammer, 2012), inspired by the Pendle witch trials, which has some of the most challenging female characters I’ve come across. Winterson has also publicly acknowledged that she hears voices, and that she is unperturbed by this.

In her autobiography Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Jonathan Cape, 2011), she writes: “If you believe, as I do, that the mind wants to heal itself, and that the psyche seeks coherence not disintegration … it isn’t hard to conclude that the mind will manifest whatever is necessary to do the job.”

The University of Manchester is fortunate to have secured Winterson as Professor of Creative Writing, and on 11th February Winterson will be in conversation at Manchester’s Cornerhouse with screenwriter Abi Morgan (of BAFTA-winning Sex Traffic and White Girl fame).  

Parallel Lives: Autobiography and Therapy

Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic woman elected to the US Supreme Court, proves as wise a memoirist as a judge, especially when she talks about the task of autobiography and its psychological and emotional effects in her just-published book My Beloved World.

“It wasn’t until I began to write this book … that I came to a truer understanding of my mother’s grief,” she writes about the death, 50 years earlier, of the father of the family from alcoholism, when Sonia was just nine years old.

In the therapy room, the realisation of emotional truths decades after the event is common. In fact, it’s part and parcel of the work of counselling and psychotherapy. Being able to ‘feel’ a situation from childhood, but as an adult – and, importantly, within the safety and security of the therapeutic relationship – often proves a pivotal moment in the client’s treatment.

It’s perhaps no exaggeration to say that the work of therapy is a kind of autobiography. And the best autobiographies take us on real journeys through the authors’ lives – including letting us know what it was like to revisit, re-live and re-evaluate key moments.

We don’t all have the time, talent, skill or audience to sit down and pen our autobiography. But taking our cue from Sotomayor and other skilled autobiographers, re-examining our lives and looking at events through the prism of our current self is always worth doing.

‘My Beloved World’ – the autobiography of US Supreme Court judge Sonia Sotomayor

Top 5 Online Resources around Depression

1. The mental health charity Mind’s website has a wealth of useful information, including a very good symptoms-checking section which can be used for yourself or a friend or relative (there is also a great area on how family and friends can help).  A good starting point if you’re unsure is the section called ‘I’m worried about the way I’ve been feeling / behaving’. A range of information booklets available free online or for £1 by post includes How To Manage Stress, How To Cope With Loneliness, Understanding Depression and Making Sense of Anti-Depressants. Finally, the ‘I Need Urgent Help’ button on the top right of the home page sign-posts other useful resources that can be accessed quickly.

2. The Depression Alliance has some very useful FAQs online, including how to get help for yourself or someone close. The Alliance also offers a penpal-type support service and the site has lots of details about local self-help groups.

3. Some people prefer self-help to come from a book, and if that’s you, look no further than Dorothy Rowe as your starting point. Australian psychologist Rowe is internationally known for her books on depression, and her classic Depression: The Way Out Of Your Prison is now in its 3rd edition and also available as an e-book. Some of the podcasts featured on Rowe’s site are of interviews around depression, treatment and the use of anti-depressants.

4. The NHS Choices site has a decent depression section with a fairly quick self-assessment test as well as a well-chosen Real Stories section.

5. Finally, BUPA is worth a mention for its section on options around the treatment of depression, and is also notable for its video on depression in old age.

Note: these resources are all UK-based.

Icy country road and fields

Sharon Olds on the Ambiguities of Break-Up

Celebrated US poet Sharon Olds’ latest volume, Stag’s Leap (published by Jonathan Cape), is a series of poems reflecting on the break-up of her marriage.

Breathtakingly precise in her account through poetry, Olds finds in her experience something of the ambiguity of break-up:

“When anyone escapes, my heart / Leaps up. Even if it’s I who am escaped from, / I am on the side of the leaver.”

For more information about Sharon Olds visit the poet’s official site.

Stag’s Leap – the new volume from Sharon Olds

 

Dates of ‘Personal Development for Women’ Group

The eight-week Personal Development for Women group will be taking place on Monday evenings at 7:30pm from 4th February in Alsager village. For further information e-mail janesdissertation2011@gmail.com. 

A daytime group will follow in the Spring, as will a group in Hale (Cheshire).

How To: Make Positive Change

1: Embrace the ‘Old You’

It might have been easier, New Year and all, to call this post ‘How To: Make Positive Change in 2013′, but the fact is, positive change can be implemented any time. If the New Year helps you as a tool, great, but beware of the “new year, new you” fallacy.

The very best way to make change is to take the “old you, new behaviours” approach – because whatever the changes you’re trying to make, you will still be some hopefully improved version or other of the old you.

2: Small Steps

Tempting as massive overnight change is, smaller, incremental change is much more sustainable. Ebenezer Scrooge may have jumped out of bed on Christmas morning full of the milk of human kindness, but most of us don’t get visited by incredibly useful phantoms in the night who give us a how-to for better living.

The ‘small steps’ philosophy isn’t glamorous and doesn’t sell as many books, but it works. Thinking about change as a gradual learning curve, and accepting the little hiccups along the way, will help you stay on the road to wellness and well-being – and that road is not only usually full of potholes, it’s also criss-crossed by lots of smoother, more inviting roads that lead off in a different direction. Accept the little setbacks, the little mistakes and the low moments, and keep on the road (and insert here any road-trip song you like, as further motivation).

3: Look to the Distance

The trick here is to balance a here-and-now, small steps philosophy with motivational goals in the near and not-so-near future. If you’re trying to stop smoking, your main focus needs to be on the present moment, taking it day by day, but it will also help to have goals and rewards that stretch into the distance, for example a treat for yourself at the end of the month, a trip or holiday in the Summer, and so on.

Use birthdays and anniversaries – and not necessarily your own – as milestones to aim for. And make sure you look back at appropriate moments to see how far you’ve come. As with all the best journeys, you need to relish your changing behaviour in stages.

4: Tell Someone – Or Something! – About It

It’s sometimes tempting to implement personal change unbeknownst to anyone else, but this is probably related to a fear of failure. In changing a behaviour gradually, confiding in a partner, friend, relative, diary or dog can really help. I said ‘diary’ because using a diary or journal works wonders for some people, and yes, I said ‘dog’ because what we’re after here is something that receives what you’ve said out loud, so that you feel you’ve said it out loud. To this end, any animal with large enough ears will do.

5: Help Yourself By Avoiding Self-Help

Self-help books fly off the shelves in January, which at least shows that lots of people out there want to change their behaviours. But the bad news is that most self-help books are only good for selected tips and insights. Use what makes sense to you, but don’t be a slave to a book. Why? Because no matter how knowledgeable or motivating the author is, he or she doesn’t know you personally, nor do they know your issues, your life, your problems or your own motivations.

There are some decent books out there, by authors who really mean well and can help you peripherally. But in trying to change your behaviour through using a self-help book, the best way to see the process is as ‘going it alone’ but using selected tips from someone who might know a bit about the behaviour in questions but doesn’t know you.

My own tips come under this umbrella – I think they’re helpful, and I know they’ve worked for myself or clients or other people I know, but you know yourself best. Here and anywhere else, take the tips, take the techniques, but be your own person – the person who’s doing the hard, important work of change.

Forest trees

Abraham Lincoln’s Coping Strategies Around Depression

Anyone hot-footing it to Steven Spielberg’s new film Lincoln later this month (with Daniel Day-Lewis starring as AL) may be interested to read more about the president’s mental health in the wonderful psycho-biography Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk (the book link here is to Amazon, but it can also be ordered from good independent bookshops). More background details here on the book’s official site.

I read this book while on holiday in the US in 2009 and I still think about it sometimes.

Subtitled How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, I don’t think I need give any more away about the content, other than to say it’s a humane and riveting read – and heavy on detail! It’s also a moving story of one very resourceful but troubled person finding his own coping strategies.

Lincoln opens in UK cinemas on 25th January.

‘Lincoln’s Melancholy’ by Joshua Wolf Shenk

Impacts of Recession Discussed in ‘Therapy Today’

A piece here in the current issue of Therapy Today on the impacts of the economic recession on therapy clients – lots of food for thought, and good to see this subject being addressed at some length in one of our professional publications.

Next BASN Seminar in Glasgow this April

The next BASN (British Animal Studies Network) seminar will take place in Glasgow in April; details here.

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