“Nothing that happens to us after we are 12
matters very much”

J.M. Barrie

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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.

‘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.

Guardian ‘Family’ Section Breaks Taboo of Not Liking Your Own Child

There was a brave piece in The Guardian‘s Family supplement at the weekend by Helen Bale (not her real name), who admits that she often really didn’t like her 10-year-old son.

Read the full article here, which also has some wise commentary from child psychotherapist Ryan Lowe.

For more information about therapy for children or parents-and-children, visit the Association of Child Psychotherapists’ (ACP) website.

Digital Time versus Couple Time?

In the past 12 months I’ve noticed people talking more and more about “digital time” as part of their life with a partner. Example: “We tend to cook dinner, wash up, then we’ll each have a couple of hours’ digital time before bed”. In some cases, the digital time takes place in bed, occupying the space left by bedtime book reading.

‘Digital time’ might be catching up on the day’s news thanks to online newspapers, visiting favourite websites, checking in with friends on Facebook or spending time on Twitter. In the home lives of couples, so far as I can tell, it very often takes place individually rather than together, although partners are often in the same room as each other, and sometimes on the same sofa. People sometimes refer to it as a kind of golden time involving the luxury of selective information-seeking around things that really interest them; for others, the appeal seems to also lie in the somewhat voyeuristic nature of platforms such as Facebook, where you can look at other people’s lives – or, perhaps, how other people choose to present a version of their lives – from the comfort of your own home.

Is online time at home really so different from a couple reading their own books in the living room at night? And it is better or worse than ‘TV time’?

On the plus side, indulging one’s interests online is relaxing, and can give couples something to discuss. It may be a more selective and more interactive way of spending time than just watching television. And it may help us be better informed about the world and more in touch with people we care about. But something about the way adults sometimes talk about digital time at home worries me, and I think it’s when there’s an element, said or unsaid, of ‘being able to get away from my partner for a couple of hours without looking as though I am’.  Two people can be in the same room physically but miles away emotionally, and this could potentially be exacerbated through digital time, whereas sharing a film or TV pr0gramme means that something is shared.

It’s very easy to sound like an old fart here, and easy to sound sanctimonious. The Internet is a wonderful tool, and it brings us so much. But how and when it comes into the intimate life of a couple is a very interesting phenomenon, and it’s a perfect example of one of those trends that eventually makes it way through to therapists in the counselling room. Every now and then, so many different people have mentioned a topic, you have to look into it in more detail – and this is one of them.

I think a useful exercise for questioning couples might be to tot up how many hours they spend per week engaged in digital time, and then work out how many hours per month. Armed with this figure, are they content that they’re getting sufficient education, entertainment and nourishment from these digital time hours? If so, fantastic! If not, they can always try limiting those digital hours and spending some of that extra time working out what they – and their partner – really want to do with their invaluable couple time.

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