“I enter the [therapeutic] relationship not
as a scientist, but as a person”

Carl Rogers

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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.

Extinction, Grief and What We Can Do with It

Sunday 30th November is the international Day of Remembrance for Lost Species, aimed at facilitating thinking around extinction.

Here in Alsager, I’ll be leading a short walk into open fields where we will lay stones in remembrance of species already lost to the world and in acknowledgment of the very many species that are currently endangered.

In therapy, an almost daily lesson is that grief needs to be both recognised and honoured. People grieve over lost loved ones, lost companion animals, lost buildings, lost childhoods and lost dreams, amongst other things. But what can we do with our grief when we’re faced with the loss of a species forever?

The loss of a species might at first seem fairly impersonal. Extinctions are, after all, measured scientifically and also reported on science pages or, even if they make the ‘general’ news, with a scientific bias (as opposed to a cultural or emotional bias). Some extinctions make the headlines – recent years have seen the widely-reported disappearance of the Yangtze River Dolphin, the Passenger Pigeon and the much-lamented Galapagos Turtle Lonesome George, for example. But every hour – yes, every hour – three species become extinct on Earth. How can we deal with the truth of that?

Thinking about extinction is interesting therapeutically for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, how we deal with the loss of species says a lot about how we as human beings connect with ‘the world’ and see our place in it. Some people prefer not to think about it, perhaps feigning disinterest or that old chestnut of a get-out, ‘there’s nothing I can do to change things’. Other people feel a profound sense of grief, perhaps even of guilt, shame or powerlessness – but how do they acknowledge that feeling?

Secondly, extinction is an unusual loss in that it affects all people, everywhere, in the sense of the world’s journey. It alters the fabric of our eco-systems and it changes our landscape – forever. With each loss of a species, the world becomes a poorer place than it was. So those taking the time to mourn extinctions may face a double problem in that they see the hugeness of the loss for all of us while others around them may appear not to care.

This Sunday morning, our local exploration of how we feel about extinction won’t be a loud affair and won’t take very long. It will be a very small group of us doing two very simple things – walking, and placing a stone as a marker. But those two very simple things are huge because they help us feel solidarity in our grief (through walking together) and they help us tangibly see the loss (through the laying of stones). On Sunday, we will know our personal grief is shared externally and we will see our grief physically acknowledged. For some, the experience will be purely contemplative. For others, it may become a trigger for activism, with the thought of extinctions helping us reconnect with other species and perhaps determining to do something about it.

But either way, on this symbolic day, extinction will not go unnoticed.

For more information about Sunday’s walk in Alsager e-mail Jane at jcsmith@therapy-cheshire.co.uk.

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Personal Development Programme 2014: Registration Now Open

Monday 6th January sees the start of the Personal Development Programme 2014, an eight-week group designed to help members remove emotional obstacles and maximize their strengths in order to move forwards healthily and happily in 2014.

Following participant feedback from last year’s group, I’ve extended the group from six weeks to eight weeks. In addition, there will be a ‘top-up’ session in May and a review session in the Autumn to further reinforce the ongoing support offered by the Programme.

In a psychotherapist-facilitated, supportive and confidential environment, participants will be encouraged to:

* Examine labels given to them in early life

* Measure their actual inner selves against their ‘perceived’ selves

* Explore their social networks and identify where they are positive, negative or neutral influences

* Create their own strategies for dealing with stress

* Develop a plan to ensure emotional balance in 2014

We will meet on consecutive Monday evenings from 6th January at the lovely, airy Studio at 100 Crewe Road, Alsager (the same building as my consulting rooms), with all refreshments and materials provided. The Programme is strictly limited to a maximum of eight participants.

Advance registration is essential; normal cost £180, Early Bird cost £160 (bookings before 10th December 2013); discounts available for unwaged. To book your place or for further information call me on 07811 981645 or e-mail jcsmith@therapy-cheshire.co.uk.

‘Surviving Separation and Divorce’ group, Alsager, starting 24th October

In October and November I’ll be running a six-week ‘Surviving Separation and Divorce’ group at Alsager Therapy Centre on Thursday evenings.

Limited to six participants, this will be a very small group offering a confidential, supportive and non-judgmental environment. It is open to women and men who are either recently divorced or separated, currently going through the process or struggling to move from past significant relationships.

The aim of the group is to acknowledge residual feelings and fears from members’ past relationships, to explore learnings while enhancing self-awareness and to prepare to move on healthily and with self-care. There will of course be therapeutic input throughout.

Advance registration is essential; the full programme costs £190 including materials and refreshments.

For more information call or text me on 07811 981645 (office hours) or e-mail me at jcsmith@therapy-cheshire.co.uk.

New Monthly Drop-In for Bereaved Pet Owners

Wednesday 4th September sees the first of my free monthly drop-ins for bereaved pet owners.

Why run a group specifically for bereaved pet owners? Well, anecdotal evidence from my clients would suggest that some GPs, some counsellors and indeed some friends and family struggle to understand the grief that can occur following the death of a companion animal. Pet bereavement is very much a “real” bereavement – after all, companion animals often represent the most ‘honest’ and non-judgmental relationships in their owners’ lives, and in most cases they are bona fide members of the family who, on their death, are grieved for just as much as people. And like all bereavement, if unattended it can lead to depression and other problems.

We have a wonderful free phone and e-mail helpline that’s run by the Blue Cross‘s Pet Bereavement Support Service, but I haven’t heard of drop-ins specifically around this issue before, so I think it’s a UK first. I’ve no idea whether people will want to attend. I do know, though, that many people struggle greatly following the loss of a companion animal, so it’s worth offering the service.

It will offer a supportive, confidential environment where participants can learn to grieve healthily and with self-care, and where we can explore meaningful remembrance. Above all, we will be able to acknowledge the real grief of losing a companion animal and give voice to those feelings that are sometimes not taken seriously enough by health professionals who should know better.

Advance booking is essential. Owners of terminally ill or missing animals are also welcome.

Please spread the word if you think this group could benefit someone you know.

‘Dealing With Stress’ Programme Begins 9th July

My Tuesday evening ‘Dealing With Stress’ Programme begins this month at Alsager Therapy Centre.

Over five weeks, we will be using CBT and relaxation techniques to deal with stress and its wider effects in the workplace, in the family and elsewhere.

This group is strictly limited to five participants; advance booking essential.

Other upcoming groups include: Emotional Eating group (July/Aug), Empty Nesters group (Aug/Sept), Emotional Wellbeing Programme (Sept/Oct), Surviving Separation and Divorce group (Nov/Dec) and the Baby & Us workshop (6th Nov). For further information about any of these, contact me at jcsmith@therapy-cheshire.co.uk.

Misty Scottish mountain

Turning the Tables on Labels?: Diagnosis Up for Debate in Run-Up to DSM-5

In the run-up to next week’s much-awaited publication of DSM-5 (the fifth edition of the American Psychological Association‘s hugely influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), there has been a bit of a rumpus.

The British Psychological Society‘s Division of Clinical Psychology is calling for a “paradigm shift” in how mental health issues are understood, pointing to assumptions about biological causes of mental ill health as unhelpful and suggesting instead that a wider approach be taken that also looks at social and psychological environments.

The New York Times, meanwhile, claims that practising mental health professionals won’t be paying much attention to the latest edition of the diagnostic bible, with Sally Satel arguing instead that the DSM‘s influence lies much more particularly in the fields of health insurance and access to specialist educational services and disability benefits.

In some ways, new diagnosis guidelines in the DSM are heralded in much the same way as new slang terms making it into the Oxford English Dictionary, provoking debate and sometimes outrage. It’s also a zeitgeist-watching tool par excellence; back in 1973, ‘homosexuality’ as a disorder was finally removed from the DSM, for example. DSM-5, in turn, replaces ‘gender identity disorder’ with ‘gender dysphoria’, in an attempt to destigmatize those who believe they were born into the wrong physical gender.

In the UK, the World Health Organisation‘s ICD (International Classification of Diseases) manual is officially used in mental health diagnosis instead of the DSM, so other than the usual ‘transatlantic influence’ route, we are not directly affected, strictly speaking. But the arrival of the fifth edition of DSM, a decade and a half in the making, gives us good cause to think twice about diagnosis in mental health. For some patients / clients, diagnosis of a recognised condition can offer untold relief, as described publicly by both Stephen Fry and Paddy Considine (see my related blog post) in recent years. For others, however, a ‘label’ can be a very negative thing, seriously affecting both self-identity and the way people are seen by their friends, families, colleagues and bosses – as well as by medical professionals, sadly.

In yesterday’s Observer, clinical psychologist Oliver James raises serious concerns about using genetic or neurological markers to identify mental ill health, arguing instead that early childhood experiences plus problems in adulthood are the major contributors to mental distress. In particular, he singles out psychosis, writing that “it is becoming apparent that abuse is the major cause of psychoses” [my italics].

In psychotherapy, we are trained to work with the person and his or her history, circumstances and environment rather than with diagnoses. Further than that, I have often asked clients during their initial consultation to talk about themselves rather than their supposed conditions or whatever other medical professionals might have labelled them. It’s been surprising to what extent this has brought immediate relief as well as a willingness to work hard in therapy to determine causes, behaviours and contributing factors – which are always complex and multi-faceted.

DSM-5 notwithstanding, discussion around diagnosis among mental health practitioners of all persuasions is very welcome, and it’s reassuring to see colleagues from psychology and psychiatry sticking their heads above the parapet to question the long-established authority of diagnoses, the effects of diagnosis upon patients, and within all this, the medical model itself.

Dates Announced for 10-Week Personal Development Group for Women, Hale, April – May 2013

The next 10-week Personal Development Group for Women will be starting in Hale, Cheshire on Tuesday 16th April (the week after the Easter holidays).

This group will be held in the daytime and restricted to a very limited number of participants. We will be looking at a different theme each week including childhood, relationships, body image, life cycle and dreams.

The aim of the group is to help women of all ages unravel their motivations, behaviours and emotional stumbling blocks while starting to move towards positive and lasting change. Facilitated by a qualified psychotherapist and using structured personal exercises each week, participants will benefit from a safe, supportive, confidential and nurturing environment to explore their own issues.

This is a ‘closed’ group (meaning that it will not be open to new members once the group begins), so advance registration is essential.

If this group could be of interest to you or anyone you know, e-mail me at therapyincheshire@gmail.com or text me on 07811 981645 and I’ll get back to you with times, costs and further information.

Dates Announced for ‘Freeing the Self’ Pre-Pesach Workshop in Hale

On 14 and 21 March I’ll be facilitating the ‘Freeing the Self’ two-part workshop in the approach to Passover, a psycho-educational discussion group aimed at provoking thought and reflection linking in with Pesach themes.

The workshops will be held in Hale, Cheshire on consecutive Thursday evenings in a very small group format; advance registration essential.

The evening programme is open to men and women; depending on demand there may also be a women-only daytime group.

For more information or to register, call or text me on 07811 981645 (office hours).

Next BASN Seminar in Glasgow this April

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

Dealing with Collective Grief

News headlines often tend to be made up of painful, bewildering, tragic or just downright sad stories, but I’ve heard so many people comment on how sad the news was last Friday and Saturday, with Friday’s Norwegian bombing and shootings followed by the death of singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27.

Here’s an article from Forbes magazine written this January in the wake of the shooting, in the US, of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in an Arizona mall, on the subject of collective grief, based on Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief. It’s certainly topical at the moment, and it also touches on the way therapists and counsellors see the impact of national news on clients, who we often help find their own inidividual ways of dealing with these collective tragedies on top of their own problems and concerns.

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