Havant Counselling Services

After many successful years treating several hundred clients in Portsmouth, Chichester and Waterlooville, I’ve now open up a new counselling practice in Central Havant, Hampshire.

I’ve created a new website that focuses on my counselling in Havant here:-

Address for Havant Counselling.

c/o Psychology Chartered Ltd
19 South Street,
PO9 1BU.

Telephone number remains the same: 02392 987487



Waterlooville Counselling

After many successful years treating several hundred clients, I’ve decided to open up my counselling practice in Waterlooville.

I’ve created a new website that focuses on my counselling in Waterlooville here:-

Address for Waterlooville Counselling.

c/o Psychology Chartered Ltd
96a London Road
PO7 5AB.

Telephone number remains the same: 02392 987487


About Counselling

An Allegory for Couples Considering Counselling

Something I hear quite often in couple counselling is:

“We want our relationship to be how it used to be”.

This statement is actually about loss: the couple’s relationship is in a place that’s far away from the (supposedly happier) experience that the couple used to enjoy, and they are comparing now with how things used be.

The thing is: couple counselling provides no way for a couple to go back in time… and the hurt and conflicts that have brought the couple to me for counselling cannot be erased or forgotten.

The following allegory is a lovely way of suggesting a couple’s beginning in couple counselling:-


“Grab a plate and throw it on the ground.”

– Okay, done.

“Did it break?”

– Yes.

“Now say sorry to it.”

– Sorry.

“Did it go back to the way it was before?”

– No.

Do you understand?

… because couples who complete their work in counselling, and who have decided to stay together, have often commented that their relationship is in a different place to how it was before counselling – and how different the place is from the place that they’d originally wanted to return.

Rather like what the Japanese call kintsukuroi (“golden repair”).


To learn more about couple counselling – click hereclick here.


Asking the Questions ~ that no-one else has asked you before

For a while now, in much of my marketing material I often use a phrase such as:

“Someone who asks the questions…

…that no-one else is asking.”

Let me explain my rationale for claiming this.

Over my (now) fifteen years of counselling practice, it’s been my therapeutic approach to help a person learn how to help themselves.  This is a distinct approach from, say, a novice CBT-approach that may prescribe manualised instructions to you (‘do this, then that…’) as a supposed-cure for a person’s distress.

My approach requires that I learn about what’s going on for the person-in-distress.  I do this by asking questions – plus lots of other stuff like empathy, understanding, support, counter-transference etc. – but questions are powerful way to help a client consider matters in ways that can help.

One of my particular strengths as a counsellor is to turn my inner-sense of feeling stupid (a feeling when I don’t understand something) into a strength:  it’s my position to encourage a client to feel that they can teach me how life is for them.  I do this by being inquisitive and looking at matters from different angles – angles which the client may not have considered before.

With this approach, one of the most common surprised-responses I hear to my questions is: “Oh!  I’ve never been asked that before.” … and the client subsequently begins to discuss a matter with a newer sense of curiosity.

With our friends and family for support, a major form of support can be “don’t worry about it”, “it may never happen” and forms of distraction like taking you out for dinner or something.

Looking at a subject from a position that a person has not considered before (or, perhaps, had considered but no-body had been interested to engage with them in conversation about the matter) can be a powerful form of self-recovery, assisted by a professional counsellor – like me.

So, by meeting with me in counselling you can get (when it’s appropriate & helpful, of course)the opportunity to look at your life’s distresses and struggles from different angles – with the intention of helping you find inspiration – and, eventually, freedom from the loss of being able manage distresses for yourself.


Young LGBT people in England suffer mental health issues

A recent study shows that over half of young LGBT people in England have suffered mental health issues, and more than 40 percent have considered suicide through anxiety or depression.

The study’s report suggests a growing concern that schools and health services are failing gay teenagers.

These findings came from the Youth Chances Project; their report was published on Monday 13th January 2014.

This was the largest social research study of England’s young LGBT people, with over 7,000 16-25 year olds participating.  Led by the charity Metro young LGBT-identifying people were asked about their experiences of education, employment, relationships and of health services.

Only a quarter of participants in the survey also said they had been taught anything at school about safer sex with a same-sex partner.

Metro’s acting chief executive Dr Greg Ussher said: “We are failing LGBTQ young people. The clear message is that they are badly served. What they want most is emotional support and they are not getting it. He added that if schools failed to act it could lead to a “hugely increased risk of bullying and abuse; isolation and rejection – all leading to significantly increased levels of depression, self-harm and suicide”.

LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell said that the study “should be a wake-up call for the Education Secretary, Michael Gove”. “Every school should be required to teach sex and relationship education that addresses LGBT issues.”

If you are a person of 18 years or over, and would like to meet with an experienced & friendly gay-affirming counsellor at a weekly cost that you could responsibly afford, make contact with Dean Richardson today – it won’t cost you anything to ask.

If you are under the age of 18, and in the Havant Area, you might like to make contact with Off the Record ( who specialise in working with young people aged 11 to 25.

News source:


Blog FAQ

How Long does Counselling Last?

A question that a number of people want answering before they commit to counselling is: “how long will counselling take?”

As a counsellor who practices with psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioural and a systemic approaches, I would suggest that there may be at least two things motivating this question:-

  1. You’re asking for the amount of time until what you’ve brought to counselling feels better.
  2. You’ve have underling concerns that this question might be trying to cover.

What does the Question Mean?

How long Counselling Takes to complete.

To be fair, with this question, I don’t know how long our counselling work is going to take.  The reasons is: I’ve never worked with you on this subject before, and as counselling is not simply a factor of what the counsellor does to the client, then you will be an important a factor in the equation.

Counselling is a collaboration – a joint effort worked at both by counsellor and client together. As a client, if you’re expecting a kind of GP Appointment experience where you describe your problems and the counsellor prescribes a course of treatment, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise when you discover that you can become an equal participant in your recovery.

However, if the amount of time (and money) you might spend meeting with a counsellor is, literally, a concern for you, then you and I can discuss what we think we can (and cannot) achieve in a set number of sessions.  

It’s worth having this conversation because this has to be a mutually agreeable arrangement.

If I am unsure about entering into a time-limited counselling contract with you (perhaps what you want to achieve is vast and you only want to spend a couple of sessions on the matter) then can will discuss my reservations and what might be an acceptable compromise.

Meanings Behind the Question.

Often, it can be useful to look into meanings behind questions.  We do this so that we can understand more about what potential anxiety is being expressed.

So, when you ask: “how long will counselling take”, we might wonder about what could be behind / fueling your question. For example:-

  • “How much money am I going to have to spend?”
  • “Is there something seriously wrong with me?”
  • “Do  you think you solve my problems?”
  • “Have you worked with this problem before?”
  • “Can you cure me?”
  • “I wasn’t happy with my previous counsellor, but I don’t know exactly how to ask you how you will be any better.”
  • “Can you work with me – and for how long do I have to wait until we can begin?”

In my private counselling work, my approach is to discuss and agree with you what will be the focus of our counselling work. 

Once we have understood the focus, counselling can be effectively employed.

A focus can change during counselling work.  It doesn’t have to, but if there appears an opportunity to talk about how our original focus appears to be changing, this might be helpful.

We can begin to end our counselling arrangements when the focus has been address sufficiently for either you to no longer need to meet with a counsellor, or when I (as the counsellor) begin discussing with you about how the focus appears to me to have been addressed, but perhaps not to you.

Group Counselling and Time.

The type of group you join may influence how long you stay a member of the group.

For example, a fixed-term group may state the number of sessions that the group will exist for.

An open ended group might already be meeting when you join as a new member, and may continue to meet when you have left.

The Ethics of Time Spent in Counselling.

As a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, I work with and uphold their (and my) Ethical Framework.

Sometimes, new clients are worried that I will keep them in counselling for a long time. The reality (and I have this written down for you) is that you can leave counselling at any time you wish.  I cannot (and will not) force you to stay in counselling.

Sometimes, clients hold the idea that I will tell them when they are ‘cured’ and only then may they leave counselling. 

These are natural worries and can be talked about when we begin meeting.

  • I do not – in fact cannot –  force people to stay in counselling beyond the point where a person wishes to leave.
  • When a person wishes to leave counselling, it is helpful to spend some sessions bringing the counselling to a close (eg talking about the start of counselling, what we worked through, what things have changed and what unfinished business there is).
  • If a person does not like counselling (or me, as the counsellor) and wishes to leave, we can talk about the dislikes… because sometimes the counselling relationship brings things out in a very real way (sometimes re-enacting difficulties from the past).  If talking these matters through do not help, I will not stop a person from leaving counselling.
  • If a person wishes to leave counselling – and I disagree with the decision – it would be authentic for me to share my thoughts, and my reasons for doing so, but this will not stop the person from leaving counselling. It can add an extra dimension by discussing why s/he and I disagree about ending our counselling work.
  • If a person continues attending counselling past the point where I believe there may be no further therapeutic gains (a thought I will have first discussed within my clinical supervision), I will bring this up in conversation with the client for discussion.  Sometimes ending counselling might be difficult for the client, and avoiding the ending might be a real difficulty for them.  It would be my ethical position to helpfully notice this and bring it up to talk about with the client.

So, ending counselling can sometimes be a little bit complicated – but this is perfectly OK and healthy to be aware of this. 

Types of Counselling.

Brief/Focal Counselling.

In brief counselling, the client and I agree a set number of sessions (sometimes anything between, say. four and twelve) and we agree a specific focus for the work (i.e. one specific element in the client’s life). The focus must be reasonable to work with within the time constraints.  We then meet weekly focussing in on the agreed topic until the number of sessions is complete.

It is not usual for the number of sessions to be changed once we have begun counselling. Sometimes the pressure of knowing the date of the ending can help with the focus of counselling.  There are always exceptions to changing the time limit, which we can talk about during the counselling.

One benefit of short-term counselling is that the number of sessions and the focus is agreed upon at the very beginning.  Even though it can be tough work focussing upon a problem and even six sessions can fly by very quickly.

One disadvantage of short-term counselling is that it doesn’t afford any time to work upon matters that are related (or very close to) the focus in any depth.

Short-term counselling is not suitable for every situation and, ethically, if I think that such work is not suitable for a client I will discuss it with the client before offering such a counselling contract.

Open Ended Counselling.

In open ended counselling, the client and I meet weekly for enough sessions to address the focus sufficiently –  allowing the therapy to develop in its own time.  Both client and I keep an eye on what we discussed in the first session (the assessment) as this will be the main focus of the beginning portions of the therapy… although longer-term therapy allows other matters and other matters of focus to find a voice.  At some point (sometimes several points) during the therapy either the client, or I, or both of us will begin to talk about if our counselling work has been completed sufficiently to warrant discussing and/or setting an end date (or a set number of sessions in which to complete and say goodbye).

As an ethical therapist, I would not let open ended counselling continue in an unlimited, forever, manner.  And having an unspecified number of sessions can be a valuable container for the client as he/she addresses his/her concerns and makes changes to his/her life before we both agree that the focus of the counselling work has been addressed and worked through – and now the work should come to an end.

Taking this approach allows a person to work through matters in their own time, in the safe container of the weekly counselling session.

Combined Brief/Focal/Open ended Counselling.

In reality, open ended counselling (at the beginning of counselling) has been the preferred choice for most of my private counselling clients.

It has allowed them the time and space to work through some important matters.

And as those matters become diminished in the person’s life, deciding on when to end counselling can invite a brief/focal experience.

Instead of, say, a client coming into a session saying “I’ve had enough now, bye bye!”, we discuss the ending of counselling.  This can include setting an ending date, or setting a number of sessions to continue, after which we will finish.

This last part – becoming a form of ‘brief’ counselling – can bring up many important aspects to the surface (as time is now running out!) and provided that the relationship between counsellor and client is a well-formed alliance by now, those matters can be looked at swiftly and with focus. 



Why Counsellors Try to Avoid Assumptions

It’s Saturday morning and I’m listening to Graham Norton on Radio 2 (Listen Now link:

They’re having a ‘tell us your problem’ slot called ‘Grill Graham’.  I’ve not heard this before.  Norton and Maria McErlane (‘a British actress specialising in comedy…’) read out a listener’s problem and then they offer advice.

Advice-giving from two professional entertainers? Interesting… I wonder what are their qualifications or experience for this.

So, the person who has submitted her problem, Helen, is a woman in her early 60s.  She describes herself as very busy, that her father suffered a stroke and that her mother became her father’s carer.  The mother has now become ill and the parents need the Helen’s help and support, but Helen is finding this very difficult (it’s added that Helen is an only child).

Listening, I’m hearing Norton and McErlane expand upon Helen’s details… making the following assumptions (“assumptions” meaning that it’s not read out that the woman has not offering this information – so these ‘I wonders’ appear to be being conjured upon by Norton & McErlane’s imaginations).

  • Being in her early 60s, Helen probably has children – so maybe the children could help their grandparents, even if it’s just a little bit.
  • That Helen and/or her parents probably has plenty of friends, so they could help.
  • Helen’s childhood, being an only child, was probably full of attention (which Norton is saying in a ‘how wonderful, isn’t childhood lovely’ tone) – and now, as an adult, it’s time for Helen to pay back all that lovely attention.

Whilst listening to this, it’s my position that the assumptions being made by Norton & McErlane are actually making it easier for Norton & McErlane to create solutions for Helen… rather than to attend to Helen’s distress directly.  I’m suggestion that this would be more of an unconscious process. Without realising it, I believe that Norton & McErlane are unconsciously picking-up on how it feels to be Helen and their reaction is to try and make the unbearable feelings of helplessness.

Of course, this is intended to be light entertainment (see the Grill Graham page: ‘Norton and McErlane are here to help. Not only that, it helps us pad out a good 15 minutes of the show’). But it’s interesting to notice the more Norton & McErlane create assumptions, the more solutions they’re able to offer in addition to this process is actually helping Norton & McErlane to move away from how horrible it feels to be stuck having no solutions to the problem… just like Helen’s own situation.

This would be a form of [tooltip text='Reaction formation: a defense mechanism in which anxiety-producing or unacceptable emotions/impulses are mastered by exaggeration of an opposing tendency. Example: in order to deny accepting ones homosexuality, a man may overly behave in an exageratedly heterosexual manner.'] reaction formation [/tooltip] and most certainly a form of [tooltip text='Counter transference: the therapist`s emotional entanglement with the client; the therapist`s unconscious response to unconsciously communicated client material.'] counter-transference [/tooltip]

A major difference between this kind of advice giving and how working with a qualified & experienced counsellor can be is that the counsellor would be able to sit with Helen, working within the frustration and or despair that Helen may be experiencing because of this change in her life, without flinching away or trying to make things feel easier for her.  Being alongside someone during a difficult life problem can boost the feeling of having someone on your side, helps a person to less alone/less isolated/less impotent: there’s someone to turn to who won’t turn you away with “oh, just do this and that and you’ll be fine … bye!”

It takes a significant amount of training and experience for a counsellor to be able to stay alongside someone with a really difficult, horrible, want-to-get-away-from-it problem.  Many people listening will automatically go into ‘problem solving’ and hear things that aren’t being said (which are probably coming from their own personal constructs, rather than checking out their assumptions of the person & their problem).  A counsellor can stay with the difficult feelings that become shared between the client and themselves.

There’s certainly a place for advice giving – but whilst advice giving address the superficiality of the problems, the strength in counselling is that you make a deeper connection with another person, and from this can spring your own inspiration allowing you to find your own ideal solutions… when you’re good and ready.

Couple Relationships FAQ

On Bringing Couple Counselling to a Close

Couple Relationship Counselling is about working in therapy with conflicts in a couple’s relationship.  The couple can be married, in a civil-partnership, being romantically involved or just simply colleagues who have a relationship (business or personal) that has developed conflicts (read more…).

Closing States of Couple Counselling.

There are two states for the end of couple counselling: resolved and unresolved.

Resolved: when the initial conflicts – plus conflicts that appeared during the course of couple counselling – have been worked through to the couple’s satisfaction. Satisfaction may mean: enough so that the couple can work on the issues themselves without further therapeutic intervention.

Unresolved: when the initial conflicts – or conflicts that appeared during the course of couple counselling – have only been partially worked  through & the couple are still distressed at – or helpless from – the conflicts.

Both of these states can be worked with during an ending to couple counselling. Although resolved might appear to be a better state, it depends upon what the couple want as it’s their relationship (and always has been even with therapeutic intervention).

When a couple decide to end counselling, working toward an ending is an appropriate choice (rather than simply stopping counselling without notice).

Topics for Closing Sessions.

In the final sessions it can be helpful to discuss the following:

  • What matters presented at the assessment for couple counselling (read more…).
  • What matters came up during the couple counselling?
  • What matters do both partners agree that we have worked through?
  • What matters do partners disagree on.
  • What matters are left outstanding (any “unfinished business”) – for both partners together, or for each individual partner?
  • What might the couple wish to do about the unfinished business?
  • What has been gained from the counselling process … and what is being lost as it ends.

A purpose of such a review is so that couples counselling can end with the work being reviewed openly.  Both partners can leave therapy knowing what is agreed as being resolved, and what matters are left unresolved.  Knowing what work is left to do means the couple can consciously continue to work on further matters in their own time and their own way.

Number of Sessions.

The number of sessions to bring couple counselling to a close will be decided in a discussion with the couple.  It’s preferable that an ending to counselling is brought about once the presenting issues have been worked through – so the ending is a case of how many sessions would be required to discuss sufficiently the closing sessions topics.

This, plus any outstanding matters the couple wish to talk about.

Ending Counselling without Final Sessions.

Leaving counselling without such an ending as discussed above can be unhelpful to the couple’s relationship.  Unresolved conflicts can continue in the relationship – assuming that the relationship continues.

Sometimes the couple decide they wish to separate and they leave the relationship (couple counselling can also be used to help a couple to separate) and when the couple no longer maintains the relationship, the counsellor’s “client” (the relationship) can no longer be brought to counselling.  Other types of endings can then be discussed.

So, working towards an ending in couple counselling are an important part of the counselling process.  whether the couple involve the counsellor in the ending or not.


‘Tis the Season of Projective Identification – Fa la lah!

A brief hypothesis on the painful loneliness experienced by some as a hypothetical result of projective identification from others.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Fa la la la lah, la lah, lah, lah.

As I said a pre-Christmas farewell to a colleague last week, he referred to this period as the ‘nonsense’ season.  It got me thinking: if this holiday season could be nonsense … to whom might this period make no sense?

Opting-out of Christmas.

“How do we opt out of Christmas gifting w/o being Scrooges?”
JenneySavings Advice Forum.

For many people, the approach of the season switches on certain automatic behaviour.  Behaviour coming from certain assumptions and certain expectations:

  • We must prepare to buy gifts for people.
  • We must buy the right sort of food.
  • We must write and sends greetings cards to people.
  • We must begin deciding with whom we will spend days like Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
  • We must remember people whom we’ve barely given a thought to during the year.

Notwithstanding this list comes from this author’s keyboard, there’s an interesting lot of ‘must’ in the list.

For most, preparation for the seasonal behaviour can be stressful and it’s a chore.  For some, this behaviour is natural and pleasant. For some, this behaviour (whether acted out by themselves, or observed in others) it is a painful reminder that there are few-or-no reasons to participate in this seasonal ‘must’ behaviour.

For those who are without families – whether biological or extended – or few or no friends, the holiday season becomes nonsensical. How easily it seems one can be forgotten whilst it seems everyone is running around preparing for a jolly season. Those not participating in the season can, perhaps, emulate the jolly behaviour of buying gifts for people, yet one may also be carrying a heavy heart suspecting that what few social contacts they have will disappear during the holiday season as people venture off towards their families-of-original loaded with tokens of ‘musts’.  One can emulate the behaviour or buying the right food for Christmas day, yet one knows that the food won’t be shared with anyone.  One can decided with whom they will spend holiday days, but it’s likely that friends and and those who are reasonably close will have already decided to attend family events – leaving others who are not family behind.

Rather than simply being ‘nonsense’ for some people, I’d offer that this seasonal period can be an extremely painful reminder of the solitude that some tolerate.  Solitude that is tolerated – even embraced – with pleasure during the counterpart of the year, but a solitude that borders on becoming unbearable loneliness during this  holiday season.

Year-Round Solitude versus Seasonal Loneliness.

“You’d like some other bears!”
Dr. Gina Toll – ‘In Treatment

A human being is a social being – he needs to not be alone.  So, how can it be that solitude (the state of being on one’s own) does not feel lonely (sad at having no friends/company)?

From an object-relations perspective (Wikipedia), our psyche grows in relation to our position with respect to others, and our experiences of them.  Good and bad experiences of significant people from our lives (parents, siblings, teachers, lovers etc), are stored within the psyche as mini-templates: in theory, they become ‘internalised’ objects.

One’s good & caring mother stored away in the ‘loving mum object’ gives some of us the sense that we are cared for, even when mum has passed away a long time ago. 

Conversely, those of us who were given the experience that we were not cared for, could be stored away in the ‘persecutor object’, remaining a reminder that as a human being we are someone who others will not care for.

I’d offer the thought that internalised objects can be a factor in how one approaches being on one’s own.  The word “solitude” is used to describe a choice – that in being without company one feels good.  Loneliness is used to describe no-choice – that in being without company one feels bad.  Solitude is pleasant because one does not sense being alone when accompanied by supporting internalised ‘good’ (or good-enough) objects, whereas perhaps loneliness is the lack of good objects/the presence of bad ones.

Object Relationships & Seasonal Nonsense.

“the self, exists only in relation to other ‘objects,’ which may be external or internal.”
New World Encyclopedia – Entry: Melanie Klein

It makes me wonder how in our society the change in social behaviour (eg the approach to Christmas) effects the meta-structure of the psyche’s internalised objects of participants, observers and affectees.

If, during the year, one can tolerate one’s place in social relationships (e.g. occasional social-meetings with friends, but primarily spending time on one’s own) there would appear to be something in the shift of social behaviour (“we must now prepare for Christmas”) that shifts the meta-organisation of the internalised objects for some (“I am in solitude” shifting to “I am lonely”).

Containment of ‘the loneliness’.

“projective identification may unconsciously aim to get rid of unmanageable feelings but it also serves to get help with feelings”
Patrick Casement – Further Learning From the Patient (cited in Wikipedia Article)

It would be my hypothesis that those who are capable of tolerating, even enjoying, being on one’s own become those who, hypothetically, are capable of holding the fear of loneliness that rest of society must split-off and discharge in order to participate in Christmas.

It’s not uncommon to read Twitter and Facebook posts that many people complain of the commercialisation of the season.  Minor, barely-heard protests from some people about feeling caught-up helpless in the season.  I’d offer that in order to participate in this season – that one must not be alone during this holiday period – that wish for non-compliance must be temporarily blanketed.

From the works of Melanie Klein, and later Wilfred Bion, we have come to understand that the mechanism of ‘projective identification‘ (Wikipedia) intolerable pain within the infant is, unconsciously, sent out to another person ( a care-giver ) who will contain the projection, maybe process it into something more tolerable, and hold it until the infant psyche is able to take it back later.

This meta-process allows something that is very painful – or in conflict with other mental demands –  to be sent away from the psyche that cannot manage it for now, placed into a psyche that can manage it better for the period.

This process is made use of in most psychotherapies (psychoanalytical, psychiatry, psychodynamic counselling) where the therapist may become aware of ‘containing’ or ‘receiving’ something on the patient’s behalf.

A patient revealed some news that the therapist believed he was meant to find worthy of congratulations; whilst the patient sounded excited about the news the therapist, instead, felt huge waves of rage that he was not able to associate with the apparent glad-tidings.  The therapist pondered that he may have been ‘containing’ something split-off that the client could not manage; could not manage at the same time of holding onto the thought that this news was good. 

Notwithstanding other explanations (such as the therapist’s own personal constructs: possible jealousy about the news), the therapist used this experience to inform his questions: gently wondering out loud with the patient about the news and its implications.  What later appeared in the work was the patient’s terrible fear about the responsibilities this news would require of him; that the patient was terrified of the implications and responded to his fear in a very angry manner.

Hypothetically, therapist had experienced the patient’s split-off and unconsciously communicated rage.  The therapist had found himself in a state of conflict:  being expected to reply ‘congratulations’ but filled with something quite opposite.  The patient – without the rage – was able to participate in a normal celebratory appearance whilst delivery the news. The therapist appeared to have been left holding the unacceptable part until the patient was able to take it back.

During this time of the year for Christian-based societies, people either have to participate in the ‘jolly season’, or be able to tolerate the shadow-side of not-taking-part. Those who do not follow the masses have to have huge courage to go it another way.

After all, we still refer to ‘Scrooge’ as a warning to all who do not participate in this meant-to-be-jolly time.

A Seasonal Hypothesis.

  • The holiday season approaches and folk are filled with ambivalence: good times ahead / bad times ahead.

  • To be participating in this holiday season, the psyche may need to split-off the more ‘horror’ parts that would interfere too much taking part in Christmas.  The need to be away from the celebrations (to be on one’s own) are split-off.

  • Via projective-identification, others who are more capable of tolerating ‘be on one’s own’ can hold the ‘horror’ during the season. 

  • Result: a part of society is able to participate in seasonally-expected behaviours, is able to cast off the parts of one that would wish to recognise the nonsense of the period for what it really might be (commercial etc), and others in society who are, perhaps, more used to the pain of non-participation will contain the seasonal-pain until the holiday season dies away for another year.

In Closing.

This is not a jolly hypothesis.

But it is intended intended to offer a thought – perhaps a rescuing thought – to those who are subject to massive-yet-unexplained changes in their feelings during such holidays seasons as Christmas (and as it’s author, I’m aware that this brief essay turns a blind eye to other hypotheses in order to focus on this one).

Perhaps, whilst you are enjoying your holiday season and a moment of ‘Oh I wish I wasn’t here…’ creeps into your thoughts, maybe that might be your Jiminy Cricket moment.  Perhaps someone might enjoy a thought or a message sent their way.  After all, someone may be suffering extra painful loneliness, tolerating in order for you to be able to participate in what you must consider as a Happy Christmas.


Comments welcome.



The A, B & C of Working with a new Counsellor.

When you have the opportunity to begin therapy with a counsellor, the initial meeting will bring up anxieties for many therapy-newbies.  Even experienced patients can get the heeby-jeebies before the assessment, and whilst this is probably the same social anxieties as you might experience when meeting with anyone new, the counselling assessment may be just that little more distressing.

It’s untrue that counsellors, psychotherapist and psychiatrist can read into your very soul!  At the same time, it’s particularly true that many experienced counsellors do gain the experience of being able to understand where a new client is coming from during the client’s story.  Counsellors call it empathy, and the more ethical ones of us counsellors use it to try and help you understand yourself. But, this isn’t going to be an article on how kind and amazingly helpful we, as therapists, are! 

Because of recent reports of counsellor/client imbalance (who knows – maybe it’s always been so) I’d like to give you three tips that may help you face your new therapist for the first time.  I’d like you to feel a little more empowered than you may normally do.  Introducing my A, B, C of working with a new Counsellor.


A is for Authenticity

[dropcap style=”font-size:52pt;color:black”]A[/dropcap] is for Authenticity.

During the first meeting with a counsellor, you’ll probably be asked a series of questions.  This isn’t always true, though.  Some therapists pride themselves in being able to work therapeutically without asking any questions at all. Amazing (even frustrating) as thatm ight be, we’ll save that discussion for another time.

So – “A” is for authenticity – meaning: be true as yourself to yourself as you can be in any of your replies to the counsellor.  The counsellor isn’t trying to trap you or catch you out.  The therapist is trying to learn about you and your story, primarily so that the therapist can judge if they are the right person to be working with you.  If you don’t know an answer, say so.  If you’d rather not answer a question, you can say you’d prefer not to answer that.  The counsellor may be curious (and hopefully respectful of your reply too) and may ask you to say a little more.  Again, if you’d prefer not to go into a subject area you can decline to do so.

An assessment should be a mutual one – you’re assessing the therapist too. Being authentic means that you will get a better experience from a counsellor who is, too, trying to be as authentic with you as possible.


B is for Behaviour

[dropcap style=”font-size:52pt;color:black”]B[/dropcap] is for Behaviour.

Don’t change your usual behaviour.  Or, if for reasons of social niceties you feel you do have to change your behaviour, share with the counsellor your change in behaviour and try to describe how you might normally behave.

Socially, we humans can have a whole series of different behaviours that we bring out depending on what situation we’re in.  Sometimes we’re the life of the party.  Sometimes we’re the businessman that invites new business orders.  Sometimes we’re the dad picking up his kid from school surrounded by female-conversation we feel awkward to join in with. But meeting with a counsellor is about you, the inner person, and behaving just as your true, authentic self is best.

If your behaviour is effecting your life, and it’s something you want to change as part of the therapy, then it’s useful to discuss this with your counsellor too – your counsellor may need to learn about those behaviours … and you’re the tutor


C is for Challenging the Counsellor

[dropcap style=”font-size:52pt;color:black”]C[/dropcap] is for Challenging the Counsellor.

You’re meeting with a counsellor, presumably, to find to help.  If the counsellor is asking questions that make you uncomfortable, or the counsellor says something that disturbs you, challenge the counsellor.  You don’t have to feel that you must comply with the counsellor because you’re feeling forced to do so.  If you’re not receiving help, you have the right to point this out.

Challenging doesn’t have to be confrontational or impolite.  It can be a simple way to show that you don’t agree with the counsellor, or that you would like the counsellor to be somewhat more clear about what he or she has just said.  if we remember that counselling is a partnership there are a vast number of studies that it is the relationship between counsellor and client that makes the difference – not what the counsellor does to you. 

So, if you feel uncomfortable about what’s been said to you, challenge the counsellor to explain more.

Addressing Client/Counsellor Imbalance.

This article has had a hidden agenda – it’s been about addressing a reported-increase in the imbalanced between the some counsellor/client relationships.

At the present time, Increased Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) at the NHS has introduced an increase of newly trained CBT counsellors.  Whilst this is a good thing, unfortunately the practice of IAPT low-level CBT intervention offered by newly-qualified IAPT therapists has, somehow, embraced the medical approach to therapy.  Doctors practice the role:  “there’s something wrong with you, and I have to cure you.”  This is leading to an unfortunate counselling-practice of “I am the counsellor, so I have to cure you.”

Studies show that counselling and psychological therapies are effective because of the relationship between the therapist and client.  The effectiveness is not because of being given instructions-to-follow in order to be cured by the counsellor.

This is not an attack on CBT.  This therapist incorporates CBT in his private practice.  I incorporate CBT from a position of collaboration and empathy between myself and my client – we’re in this shit together.  In my professional opinion, the client experiencing a newly qualified therapist’s sometimes-dominant instruction is counter-productive.  You cannot be cured of anything by being told what to do (except, perhaps, allowing for a sadistic/masochistic relationship being played out between the counsellor and client – a discussion for another articl).

This article offers you, the client, the very legitimate and very real approach that you’re a fellow in the therapy. You are not a subordinate, and I hope you won’t feel like you are when you next go to meet with a new counsellor.

A, B, C and meet your counsellor with the expectation of equality & collaboration.

Enjoy your first meeting with your new counsellor!