“Early years put dynamics in motion. They lead to
relational strategies, and to trademark ways of
responding to distress especially”

William Todd Schultz

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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.

In Defence of ‘Conscious Uncoupling’

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have been subjected to all sorts of abuse from ‘media commentators’ today in the wake of their announcement that they are “consciously uncoupling”. But in the difficult process of calling a day on their 10-year marriage, they’re wise to seek a therapeutic way of exiting the relationship.

Let’s first think about the idea of ‘coupling’. Two people meet, they fall in love (in theory) and they decide to stay together and form a couple. Perhaps they get married and have children together, or bring existing children into the new ‘blended’ family. So far, so good – but the problem is, coupling, or the process of becoming a couple, is often done fairly unconsciously – falling in love with someone is not, after all, a rational decision. In fact, it’s often a pretty rash way of forming a couple or a family, but one that feels right at the time.

That’s all well and good in those cases where the couple grow together (importantly), stay together and end up being a solid unit for years, maybe even decades. They’re the lucky ones, and the envy of friends and strangers. That initial rush of falling in love develops into something else – something stronger and deeper, perhaps, but certainly something more ‘grown-up’. The relationship continues to evolve and survives beyond the inevitable erosion of heady excitement, of new romance and perhaps even of sex.

For couples whose relationships fall apart, there are many ways of breaking up – all of which are difficult, even when the break-up is mutually agreed. Whatever the tacit reasons for the break-up, there’s often a toxic compound of disappointment and regret, which can be exacerbated by feelings of betrayal or failure. When children are involved, the whole process can feel even harder, and the stakes can seem even higher.

‘Uncoupling’ is a way of looking at the break-up as part of a process: “we met, we fell in love, it didn’t work out in the end, but what we will always be able to cherish is X, Y and Z, and what I’ve learned is A, B and C”. Some examples … ‘X’ could be having spent good years with the partner, ‘Y’ could be having made beautiful children together and ‘Z’ could be having enjoyed a particular path together, perhaps even having survived tough obstacles together. Learning ‘A’ could be around how people change throughout their lives; learning ‘B’ could relate to one’s own personality traits; and learning ‘C’ could be to do with what attracts you to people in the first place.

Conscious uncoupling means embedding the decision to separate in the 360-degree reality of what the relationship was, its ups and its downs, and what can be carried forward. It enables both partners to appreciate the legacy and learnings of the relationship and to take stock of what happened – together – in order to then move on.

Uncoupling can benefit from a very considered and conscious process, lending a useful counterpart to the largely unconscious experience of falling in love. Where coupling was rash and impulsive, uncoupling is considered and reflective. It allows a feeling of ‘completion’ or closure, and in some cases of a relationship having come full circle. It’s not unknown for couples undergoing a therapeutic leave-taking to come back together again, but that’s of course not the aim at all. The aims include awareness, consciousness, taking stock, being in-the-moment and then being able to move on.

It saddens me that Paltrow and Martin are being mocked for what some have said is a “self-regarding” way to break up. If we had more self-regard in all aspects of our lives (in the introspective sense), things would certainly be better for us!

Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir has implied today that the conscious uncoupling statement is the couple’s way of saying that they even do break-ups in a superior way to everyone else. Well, I’m afraid it looks like they really do – conscious uncoupling is to be applauded, whoever’s doing it, because it helps people take stock and then move forward with their lives.

For more information about couples therapy, including the conscious uncoupling process, e-mail me at jcsmith@therapy-cheshire.co.uk.

An Ancient ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ for Modern Living: Stoic Week 2013

This week is, believe it or not, ‘Stoic Week‘.

At our local health food shop, one of the breakfast cereal boxes proclaims that spelt is “an ancient grain whose time is now.” This seems to be similar to the gist of Stoic Week, which hopes to promote the philosophy as a modus vivendi for us 21st-century types in addressing some of our contemporary problems in living.

Stoicism is obviously an area of interest for many psychotherapists, as are any philosophies that seek to address difficulties in living and the huge question of how to live as an authentic human being. In fact, the late Christopher Hitchens praised existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom‘s wonderful book Staring at the Sun as “a thoughtful reinforcement of the stoicism we all need in a time when babble and denial are all the rage.”

The idea of being ‘stoic’ is one that’s bandied around quite a lot, without necessarily any real nod to the people who were the original Stoics, but during Stoic Week, exercises and activities include many of the sources used by them and their followers, with early appearances from Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Galen to name but three.

With questionnaires at the beginning and end of the project, the team behind Stoic Week hope to measure some of the effects of modern-day enquirers taking on a newly Stoic attitude. I’ve completed the exercises and meditations for Day One, and it’s so far so good – plenty of food for thought, much of which could be really quite helpful for some therapy patients.

You’ll need to register by midnight tonight to take part though!

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.

NY Times Piece on Coming to Therapy in Later Life

The New York Times health section strikes again – this time, with video stories from older people who have benefitted from seeking therapy for the first time later in life; click here to see the piece.

Sun loungers at sunset Palm Beach

Condensed Reads: ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman (1995)

Was it really way back in 1995 that Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence came out? Yes – and it’s still going strong, largely because of its very devoted following in the corporate world.

For Goleman, emotional intelligence (i.e., the various skills required to read situations and other people from an empathic and intuitive place) counts more than technical prowess, creative zing or any other skill to ‘get on’ in organizations. In the early 70s, Goleman’s Harvard mentor David McLelland had published a ground-breaking paper in American Psychologist proposing  that academic skill and IQ testing weren’t the best predictors of how well candidates would perform in given roles, and rather that competence testing should be used instead. Doesn’t sound so innovative nowadays, does it? But that just shows how receptive organizations were to McLelland’s theory. McLelland died in 1998, so he didn’t live to see the real fruits of his theories after they were popularized – his  ‘competences’ concept is what Daniel Goleman took further, and packaged so successfully, in Emotional Intelligence.

With well over five million copies sold globally, this is an undeniably influential book. The title packs a punch, and will certainly have helped raise interest in the mid-90s, when the search for a more caring, person-centred workplace was du jour. A former New York Times science journalist, Goleman was able to write about “EQ” very persuasively in lay terms, and he’s a prime example of what can happen when someone with great writing skills chooses to write about a subject hitherto only read about in journals.

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).

Equine-Assisted Therapy to Help Paul Gascoigne on Road to Wellness

In the news headlines today is the story of footballer Paul Gascoigne‘s current visit to a rehabilitation clinic near Phoenix, Arizona, where the programme of treatment includes equine-assisted therapy.

Working with horses is one of the fastest-growing areas of animal-assisted therapy, and for good reason. Horses, in common with many prey animals, are highly sensitive to mood and atmosphere, and are excellent communicators, more than capable of giving immediate honest feedback. But additionally, their sheer size and weight can be an important factor for clients who need to learn to develop trust in their own emotional and physical reactions and in others’.

In the UK, we’re fortunate to have world-class equine-assisted therapy delivered through centres such as Sirona Therapeutic Horsemanship in Devon and the Barton Hill Centre in the Brecon Beacons, both of which I visited as part of my Masters research into animal-assisted therapy.

If you’d like to find out more, a great place for learning about the healing power of horses is Susan Richards‘ unforgettable memoir Chosen By A Horse, which tells the story of the author’s healing process through looking after her rescue mare Lay Me Down. The classic text on the theory of equine-assisted therapy, meanwhile, is Linda Kohanov‘s The Tao of Equus.

Horses in Snowdonia

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

 

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