“Our lives are shaped by forces
we are totally unaware of”

Darian Leader

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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.

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!

Any Talking Therapies Better Than Drugs for Depression, Says New Study

New research from Switzerland’s Bern University suggests that any of the talking therapies are more effective than medication in treating depression.

Click here for the full article …

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.

Loneliness Can Be Fatal, Says New Study

Social isolation in old age can literally mean an earlier death, researchers at University College London have found after a seven-year study. Read a related piece here. So why are day centres, an obvious lifeline, being closed down all over the country?

In its tips for healthier ageing, Age UK recommends that older people who can’t physically get out socially use Skype to stay in touch with friends and family. If you know someone who could benefit from this, tell them about Skype and check out whether your local Age UK can help – they sometimes run lessons and demonstrations. And see here for the story of centenarian Helen (her secret to longevity: “bread and dripping”) who uses Skype to keep in touch.

 

Consequences of Rank-Centric Health Settings: Insightful Piece in the New York Times

The New York Times health section has run a great piece about patients’ conceptions – and misconceptions – around hierarchy in the medical and helping professions.

In the US as in the UK, nursing staff, doctors, surgeons and consultants – and we can add to this list those working in psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy – operate in a notoriously rank-driven environment. This is, of course, picked up on by patients, who are understandably looking for ways to navigate a complex and often bewildering health system.

“Such an overly developed sense of hierarchy comes at an unacceptable price: good patient care,” writes Dr Pauline Chen MD in the article, who then goes on to illustrate her point with a tragic example.

The New York Times runs some very commendable pieces on health and wellbeing, with one striking feature of its coverage being the use of practising medical professionals who speak freely about problems faced within the field. Another feature, and one which to my mind makes the paper’s health coverage stand head and shoulders above its rivals, is the use of patients’ voices – conditions are often investigated in some depth by people who are actually suffering from them. The ‘Patient Voices’ section also uses audio and each topic comes with a health guide.

Next BASN Seminar in Glasgow this April

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

Poetry that ‘Distils’ Something About the Human-Animal Encounter

Well, my thesis is due in next week and it’s actually kind of bittersweet coming to the end of the work – although of course it’s not really an end, since there are many more questions than answers and I hope to continue with it all later on.

One of the themes I’ve been looking at as a tangent to my research is the way some Native American authors seem to be able to ‘distil’ something about the experience of human-animal encounters that is definitely related to animal-assisted psychotherapy, and to this end I included an extract from the poem Affinity: Mustang by the Chicksaw Nation’s writer-in-residence Linda Hogan.

Here’s another of Linda’s poems: Turtle Watchers, available on her website, from her collection Rounding the Human Corners.

Barton Hill: AAT Outcomes in Action

Just back from an eye-opening visit to the Barton Hill Centre in the Brecon Beacons.

For anyone still unsure about the many therapeutic benefits of being around animals and nature, whether through animal-assisted therapy or horticultural therapy, seeing the work at Barton Hill is a must. There, Julie Milsom and her team are doing amazing work with adult clients, working alongside animals that include horses, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs and even foxes as well as employing horticultural therapy.

The outcomes are remarkable, and this work is crying out for further research to populate the evidence base that is ever more requisite for animal-assisted therapy providers to secure funding for their work.

To find out more about Barton Hill click to their web page here.

Supervising Qualitative Research … and Stumbling Upon Undiscovered Riches

I love it when I’m browsing the Internet and come across something that had no real relevance for me when it was written but has since become highly relevant.

This happened today when I was looking through the online archives of The Psychologist magazine and came across a 2005 article all about the supervision of qualitative research.

When you’re the supervisee relying on your dissertation supervisor for advice, inspiration and wisdom (a tall order for anyone, I know that), it’s really good to stumble upon a piece written by and for supervisors – in the same way that as a therapist it’s always refreshing and enlightening, and often humbling, to read a piece from a client perspective.

I’ve probably ignored quite a few articles recently that will really grip me in 2016!

Who Evaluates the Ethics Committees?

I’ve just spent an interesting morning at Manchester University, namely the School of Education‘s annual Student Research Conference.

An inspiring address by Professor Helen Gunter urged researchers to see their work as ongoing, without an ‘end point’ of a doctoral award, for example.

Along the same lines, researcher and counsellor Peter Jenkins in his keynote lecture, Practice-Based Research in Counselling: Ethical Challenges, made some very sharp comments about the risk-averse culture that pervades today’s research ethics committees.

He finished by asking: “Where is the evidence base for the effectiveness of ethics committees?” and noting the “deafening silence” around outcome measures for them.

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