University drop outs

This podcast from the BBC last year details some of the pressures young people are having when trying to get a degree and the reasons they drop out.

I was encouraged that those who were experiencing mental health issues and were able to engage with the university counselling services did find them useful. Sadly it is disappointing that accessing that wasn’t always easy. Waiting lists or not even know it was available delayed their treatment. 

I wish everyone starting their university career this month all the very best and if you need support that you can access it.

Gas lighting

I come back to gas lighting a lot as it is a form of emotional abuse I feel people need to be more aware of.

There are two things in this post that particularly strike me.

1 – being told how you feel. I wonder if people notice how common this is in everyday conversation, not ones that are necessarily deliberately manipulative. For example someone is telling an experience to a friend and will be answer with “you must feel..” or “you will be feeling…”. The more aware of it the more I notice it, both inside and outside my counselling room. What is it that makes us want to define someone else’s feelings rather than give them space to share them? Is it because listening might be too painful? Does this type of interaction which is incredibly common add to the lack of awareness of gas lighting and other forms of emotional abuse?

2 – feeling that being sensitive makes you unlovable. When did being sensitive become a weakness or indeed a personality flaw? Why is this un-acceptable in society? Sensitivity to me is about being in touch with your feelings and experiencing them all, whether painful or not. Yet admitting to feeling pain, hurt or upset is deemed wrong. It should all be swept under the carpet. I see a lot of damage caused by this where clients have to fit a mould and try and be something they aren’t to meet approval from others.

Sexual assault in College and University

The new year is starting and thousands of young people are going away to University and College for the first time. This should be a exciting, nervous and hopefully fun and rewarding time.

Sadly though there will be a lot of people who will suffer sexual assault. This article has the staggering statistic that 3 in 5 are assaulted or harassed. Revolt Sexual Assault is a UK based charity working to expose the scale and campaign for change. You will also find a list of support organisation for those who need it on their website.

Male domestic abuse

Its so important that male victims of domestic abuse are finally getting more attention in the news. This article details some of the statistics and difficulties men have accessing support due to how limited the resources are to help them.

It also has a link to an program that will be available on iPlayer from tomorrow and I am keen to watch that as well when it is released.

I am affiliated with an organisation, MenCASA which promotes awareness and training in this area for therapists. It also is a resource for clients to use to be able to find a counsellor to work with who will take their experiences seriously.

Bereaved parents of adult children

Bereaved parents of adult children

There has been a lot of media attention lately on the subject of bereaved parents and ways to support them, but the focus has been on those who are parents of babies or children. There is another group of parents not getting as much acknowledgement, those who children are adults.

It doesn’t make it any easier to lose a child later in life, it is still as painful and bewildering for this group of parents. They may have other considerations to deal with as well, for example, a grandchild who have lost their parent. This may mean they put their feelings down to “stay strong” and support their grandchildren emotionally. They may even have to end up being the primary caregiver depending on the situation that the family is in.

There may also be a lot of history to be processed and they run the risk of getting stuck into “what ifs”. What if I did this differently, or that. The weight of their history can become overwhelming.

How can they be supported?

In many ways, it is the same as anyone who is dealing with a bereavement but you have to particularly respect to the fact they have lost their child. What is going to be really damaging to them would be “well at least you had x number of years with them”.

Don’t assume that your bereavements are anything like theirs. Thankfully most parents are not in the position where they outlive their children. If you have been through it, the chances are you already know from your own experience all of these things.

A simple thing to keep in mind

The best things to keep in mind is one simple guideline: never assume, just be there.

Instead of statements like “You must be/you must feel…” simply ask how they are. They will tell you what they are able to say at the time. It may not be much. Never say things like “you will get over it” or “you will never get over it”.

You may not see their grief, but don’t assume it isn’t there. While you may also be grieving, don’t assume they want to hear about it. Having to try and support you is not necessarily going to be something they can cope with.

Your opinions are not required unless asked for. While you may think it will be helpful to tell the person how the funeral should be, or what to do about the grandchild or any other topic, don’t assume they are needed. Offering yourself as a sounding board for the person to talk through all the pros and cons of the many decisions they have to make without judgment will be much more helpful.

They may not be able to talk about the child they have lost. Don’t assume this means they will never want to talk, or that they don’t want company now. The best support people can give each other is just being with them. Being present, even if you are in silence or talking about trivial things tells them they are not alone and that they are cared for.

They may not be behaving how you imagine you would in the same situation. They still have to eat, so maybe shopping and cooking or doing the cleaning and laundry as normal. A lot of these things are necessary to continue functioning and there is also comfort in them. There is a reason why people bring food to bereaved people, it’s because it’s a useful practical way to help without demanding anything of them.

I want to offer practical help

Offering help can be tricky. Being specific in your offer is probably the best, e.g. “I’m going to come and do your ironing today” or “I’ve made you a pie. I will put it in the freezer for when you need it”. However, be aware that what you are offering may not be required. Make sure the person has a way to refuse it and don’t be offended if they do. For example, if you say, “I will come and spend tomorrow afternoon with you as it’s the only time I have free” they may have plans already such as visiting the undertakers. This is going to put them in an uncomfortable position.

A really useful thing to do to help is telling other people what’s happened. Let the bereaved person know you are willing to do that and ask who you can ring. Think about friends you have in common. This means they are not in the position of having to repeat what’s happened to lots of people.

While the subject of money can be sensitive, don’t assume it is not a worry. There may not be any money put by for a funeral so the costs will be unexpected and very high. Is there any way you can help with this? It’s better to offer sensitively and not be needed that to keep quiet and leave the person to worry about this as well.

And finally, don’t assume that someone else is taking care of them and giving them the support they need when you are not. Never assume this, if you want to support them, be with them.

Therapy Wars

This is a really interesting article on the history of some different forms of therapy and how CBT has become most common.

My modality, the person centred approached is part of the humanistic type of therapy and isn’t really mentions much. However, I think its worth noting that it sits between the psychodynamic and cognitive approaches being discussed.

I absolutely believe that all three approaches have there place, just as the therapist will be drawn to one type, so to will be the client if they have a choice. When I first explored training, the person centred approach resonated with me and that is why I chose a course based on this approach. 

I urge everyone who is looking to find a counsellor to do some independent reading on the types of therapy available.

Sibling emotional abuse

There are as many types of emotionally abusive relationships as there are types of abuse. Parent to child, partners, friends, work colleagues, but one that doesn’t get a lot of attention is between siblings.

These can be full, half or step siblings involved and while it’s usually the older siblings abusing the younger it isn’t always the case.

Name calling and belittling, being excluded, being made to feel worthless. All this things will have long lasting consequences to the victim. Low self esteem, a need to put others first, a need to never make mistakes.

What doesn’t get noticed though is quite often the underlying message of not feeling loveable. After all, if your own siblings hate you and treat you so badly there must be something wrong with you? The child experiencing this is going to internalise this sort of message very young. They are being abused by siblings they love and look up to.  They don’t have the ability to rationalise that the problem isn’t them.

So they will grow up with this message embedded deep inside as a self concept, even if they never name it.

There is a good chance they will never even realise that their experiences were abusive. After all everyone knows siblings can be difficult and sibling rivalry is normal.So it may well be downplayed and minimised by other members of the family whilst the low self esteem it created has a lifelong impact.

So what can be done to help? The first step is to really reflect on where you are? Do you find yourself always trying to put others needs before your own? Do you find it difficult to be with your siblings or have lost contact completely? Do you jokingly say my sibling always hated me and try and pretend that didn’t hurt!

Starting to explore that relationship can help you look at the current and past situations from a different perspective and give you the insights to change things in the future. It may be a painful experience but hopefully it will be worthwhile.