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Counselling: Blog

April 21, 2021

Be good to yourself!

Self-Compassion is a difficult concept to grasp.

It might be an idea to attempt to tell you what isn’t self-compassion.

Self-compassion is different from self-pity.
Self-pity can be egocentric, in the sense that you feel like the only person suffering – “… And back to me”. This in turn usually leads to a feeling of victimization.
Self-compassion is not purely kindness or sympathy towards yourself – these are helpful characteristics, but should not be confused with compassion.
Self-compassion should not be confused with self-indulgence.
Allowing yourself a self-congratulatory treat is self-indulgent treat  (which may well be justified), but self-compassion is not treating yourself.

Self-compassion does not equal self-esteem.
Simplistically, Self-esteem is a person’s self worth, self-compassion is not based on a person’s self-worth but based in the idea that everybody deserves compassion.

So how do you define ‘Self-Compassion’.
Compassion is the ability to notice suffering, it is emotional empathy / involvement that allows you to try and understand (not excuse) situations and feelings, putting things into perspective with calmness and understanding that allows you to understand that this suffering / failure / difficulties are all part of being human. (As per Kirstin Neff’s explanation).

Self-Compassion is trying to apply your compassionate behaviour towards others, to yourself.

People frequently treat others with a far more compassion than they treat themselves. They are far more self critical, self abusive, inflexible and frustrated.

Which leads into the obvious question – which type of person would you prefer to own up to a mistake to? Someone who is compassionate, or someone who is critical, abusive, inflexible and frustrated.

No brainer, right? Wrong – internally people are far harsher to themselves than to others to the point whereby their behaviour can change – either they avoid any situation that they fear may result in a similar outcome (suppression) or explode in a self critical meltdown/tirade.

Most of us are taught to value others, to be generous and understanding and generally treat others as we would want to be treated, except most of us don’t.

Interestingly, and amusingly (when looked back on with the sufficient distance and hindsight!) the usual self justifications for treating yourself badly, and I have used all these myself, include needing the such harsh words to motivate myself, to achieve my goals, to fit in at work  etc. However, such self chastising strategies are actually unhelpful as coping mechanisms and not good at building up emotional resilience to endure or overcome the challenges life will inevitably throw your way.
Another thing self-compassion is not is the ability to make yourself feel good all the time.
If you want to talk about the way you talk to yourself, if you think you might be being too harsh on yourself or are not sure where you stand, please just give yourself a break – contact Accessible Online Counselling and we can talk.

Some people cannot stand the idea of counselling.

This can be for any number of reasons, some valid, most not!  But then again, I would say that wouldn’t I?  Some people have had counselling before and didn’t like it/the counsellor.  They felt patronised, they felt like a victim, they felt like a patient, the counsellor always thought they knew best, the counsellor talked too much about themselves, the counsellor asked about private stuff…etc.  All these complaints can be very valid.

Always remember, you are in control, you can change your counsellor.

Similarly, I have heard the complaint that the counsellor did not ‘fix’ the individual / partner / family / relationship / problem to the client’s satisfaction. Now, this is tricky as clearly there needs to be clearer outcome / expectation management from the counsellor / client and this should be a key part of any initial session.  That said, this goes into the territory of my previous post “if I had a magic wand….  Which I don’t!” – what is a realistic outcome for you?

Always remember, you are in control, you are the expert in yourself, or your relationships, or your issues and your needs.  The counsellor is there to assist you in a supportive, an understanding and in a non-judgemental way.

I have heard the complaint that the counsellor was ‘not on my side’.  That’s an easy one.  A counsellor should be independent.  Supportive, understanding, non-judgemental AND independent.  They are no one’s side nor there to find fault.

Always remember, counsellors should be curious, supportive, understanding, empathetic, reflective and independent – but not, generally, on your side

When people come to counselling, it is very important that everyone involved is aware of the aims of the people seeking the counselling have.  If it is a couple, it is often the first time that one partner (or both!) has actually been asked the question “What would be a good outcome for you?”, and frequently the first time that one partner (or both!) have actually spoken it out loud to each other.

It is helpful to the way that counselling will progress that this is stated out loud at the beginning.  It is absolutely fine to say “I don’t know”, “I didn’t want to come” or “Don’t ask me!”, all of which I have heard multiple times, it is also fine if you don’t really have much of an idea yourself and mutter ”You’re the Counsellor!  – You tell me!”, it’s hard enough to go to counselling PERIOD let alone saying something out loud to a stranger!

However, what this question can do is cause you to reflect and any measure of reflection of our behaviour is a ’good thing’. If you are able to think about your behaviour and its effect on yourself/partner/family/others that’s great.  If you can’t, so what – coming to counselling at all is very brave as people are usually totally out of their comfort zone / routine.

The fact you are there at all speaks volumes, even if you don’t say anything!

February 24, 2021

Kids and COVID lockdown 2.0

I wrote on November 16th 2020 about the potential negative effects that being OUT of the lockdown 1.0 might be having on ‘kids’ – and to that I would probably add the number of adults (myself included!).

Well, history seems to be repeating itself.  The government has announced a timetable for the easing of lockdown restrictions.  Sure enough there is evidence, very much anecdotal at this early stage, to indicate that the same worries and anxieties exist about returning into society, and for most kids that includes a form of state mandated torture, e.g., school.

I have heard stories of anxiety around COVID testing at school, not be able to catch up and being christened ‘thick’ for evermore, and there is no point because there will be lockdown 3.0 anyway.  Exposure to the opposite sex, or anyone of any sex has been minimal.  I can now just ‘cut and paste’ large chunks all my previous post because all the issues that existed before, still exist now.

Namely, the social pressures that were there before lockdown 1.0 and 2.0 are still there now.  In fact, you might argue that a large part of these issues stems from growing up, puberty and developing an identity they are comfortable with. Children will be out of the secure and familiar, yet boring environment of home and having to navigate physical friendship/social politics, peer pressure, bullying, standing out, sporting/academic achievement, appearance, personal hygiene, stages of puberty etc, all of which are presumably as confusing as they were before.  Again, because of the overriding sense that easing the lockdown is ‘a good thing’, I can again cut and paste the chunk of my previous post – in some cases this has led to an increase in child anxiety and a decrease in the feeling that children have that they can share their thoughts with adults.  Some children feel that they won’t be listened to if they speak, some children feel there must be something ‘wrong’ with them if they feel there is something not quite right in the post lockdown world.

Food for thought – if they do ask a question / share a thought – even if it is nonsense, trying not to show impatience / dismissive body language.  Don’t try and joke  / use sarcasm (unless you are very sure of yourself!) be kind, be patient, try not to ask too many questions (this usually results in monosyllabic responses), reassure them, try to have a conversation when doing something else (chopping veg, setting the table etc) – although not watching screen!  Allow yourself to be the butt of a joke, the subject of some gentle collective family ribbing, if they ask, say you’re just checking in on them and that you love them.  They will probably think you’re a weirdo, and might say as much, let them have the last word or just blame me!

Words have multiple meanings and, as I have touched on before – why use one word when ten will do?

Sometimes it is quite important to realise what is really inferred by the tone or words that somebody else uses.  Frequently it is the case that somebody will prefix the comment that they are about to make with an excuse.

Eg – “I’m not being funny but…” is the code for “I am about to be rude but it’s understandable…”

“Any normal person would…” is of the code for “I am the standard for ‘normality’, so you have to agree to me or else you are not ‘normal…’

– I find this one particularly difficult as the speaker is essentially assuming the role of speaking for ‘the greater part of society’ – which just is not true

The use of “At least,..” can be quite nuanced and quite sneaky.  I confess I have used that form of words that conveys the impression of being interested in what someone has to say whilst simultaneously shutting them down.

“How was your weekend?”

“Awful, I didn’t get any sleep on Friday night….”

“Oh dear…well, at least you were home, safe and sound…”

The “Well, at least…” is quite frequently a device used by the speaker to close the conversation down because THEY don’t want to talk about the subject.  Try it, you can close essentially any topic of conversation down.

The logical or illogical conclusion to all this?

“Well, at least you’re not dead…” because if you were, it would be a pretty one sided conversation!

We humans like to think we have control over our lives…  Which we don’t.

Simplistically put, our brains are hard wired to try and find patterns in things. Hence why we usually see ‘faces’ in the clouds, the Moon, knots in bits of wood and Jesus in pieces of toast and marmite…

At first, the mental cost of the Lockdowns was sold to us as limited to school-goers and the vulnerable (i.e. those seen to be more susceptible to loneliness).

What is, and always was, inescapable – but it was not really publicly highlighted as such – is that devastating toll that the pandemic will take on all members of the community.  The more obvious ones – Parents,  teachers, frontline health staff, the bereaved etc are recognized.  It seems are like others – students, people who were able to keep working, people who lost their livelihoods, people who lost opportunities  etc are coming to the fore.

Mankind has always tried to ‘explain’ the apparent randomness of events – pagan rituals, religious structures etc. (I’m not going to get into a philosophical argument of religion vs. fatalism etc).  Suffice to say not being able to explain and rationalise the fundamentals of a situation as the consequence of our own actions and decisions is deeply unnerving.  There are some fundamentals, that although assisted by mankind’s actions them, are natural phenomena and cannot be easily controlled.  The best we can hope for is some kind of the uneasy truce.  My guess is that in the way that the mental health of generations of people were harmed by WW I/II, there will be a reckoning.

What a jolly post!

Anyway, if you are slightly concerned please just email at [email protected] or arrange a free assessment at


I heard about this letter on the radio from a primary school head teacher, trying congratulate ‘her’ parents for doing their best on the very difficult circumstances.  As long as your kids are safe, loved and cared for – that’s the key issue.

Please share and forward in any way you can,  just so she knows it’s resonating.

In counselling, another holy grail is the acceptance of the concept of ‘YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH’.  In this especially applies to you all as I bet you pride yourselves in being high flying workaholics!

I’ve thought long and hard about shedding light on the murky/mysterious world of everyday tasks for disabled people (ie me!).  My reluctance is twofold 1.  My main coping mechanism is humour, which can be a bit distasteful to some – nearest and dearest included and 2.  I am a disabled counsellor NOT JUST a counsellor for the disabled, I thought writing this sort of post would define me as someone using their back story to push a personal agenda.  Then I thought “NAH! – stop reading if you don’t like it, you’re a grown up!  Also, sod it – it seems soo obvious yet not enough people saying it”.  Anyway, if you like look of this keep reading.

06.30 – alarm goes off, knackered – needed loo 4 times last night.  A tricky manoeuvre that requires putting the light on each occasion to ensure accuracy and hygiene.  I have tried guesswork and hoping for the best.  Not a good outcome…

06.30 – 07.15 – Various stretches and exercises to try and get blood moving.  Mostly a waste of bloody time!…

07.15 – 07.45 – pushed duvet to bottom of the bed (otherwise it just gets in the way) – not enough room for the two of us. Whilst pushing duvet down bed with stiff and inflexible legs, I randomly kick wall, side of bed and wheelchair, just to prove to myself, in case a miracle happened overnight, that I still have no actual control over my legs…

Sit up and manoeuvre self with right arm (left arm is rubbish) to sit on edge off bed.  Feel very drunk and unsteady but with no prospect of a one-night stand. Use litter picker to pick up clean underwear and socks.  Reach down carefully to pick up discarded trousers from previous night.  Lie back down on bed in order to remove old socks and replace with new, take off the PJ bottoms and pull-on clean underwear and trousers.  This takes a lot of huffing and puffing, effing and jeffing, straining and pleading (in vain-ing) and just for good measure, the other day, whilst trying to pull my sock over my foot, I lost my grip and thumped myself squarely in the bollocks. My already peachy day glowed ever brighter as my eyes welled up and a sensation I have not experienced since I was 13 washed over me.  At that point I would have gladly been paralysed from the neck down!

On the fourth attempt I manage to zip up my flies, but give up all my trouser button as I can’t be arsed to try and do it up again and I’m not exactly going to be standing up much!

07.45 – 08.10 – I pivot transfer from the edge of the bed (drunk again) to my wheelchair.  This takes five minutes of trying to get my feet into the right position to risk this manoeuvre and not end up on my face on the floor.  Once in the chair, I can remove my thermal top (elasticated and too big – for ease of putting on/taking off), use face wipes for a face / body wash, attempt to roll on deodorant (ha ha), then pull on a clean T shirt, no buttons or zips, whilst not tipping the chair over, nor tipping myself out of the chair.   Then it’s just a quick dash (ha ha again) as I put on my fleece top – again no pesky buttons or zips and add the final stylistic touch, a woolly cardigan.  This does pose some interesting existential questions as it has both a zip and it needs to be passed behind your back two allow you to pull on your other arm.  As above with the underwear and trousers this requires a lot of huffing and puffing etc etc.  I then spend 5 minutes trying to manoeuvre myself in a manual wheelchair out of the bedroom and to the stair lift. The manual wheel chair is controlled from the right-hand side – which is a bit like trying to work out how to reverse a car and trailer through a narrow gate, first thing in the morning after some intensive exercise!

Then I transfer again, blah, blah, blah.  It frequently it takes me longer to get out of bed, get dressed and downstairs than it did to commute to work in Central London from Basingstoke. Repeat ad infinitum.  I have just realized, another reason why I don’t talk about it, is that it is really dull!

Welcome to my world.

January 25, 2021

Disability knocks…

For me, the hugely important bit of this article is the line “But for…[those] with a disability, the tiny motions required for fastening a button or putting on a pair of pants can be part of a gruelling, multi-step process that takes hours—if it can happen at all.”
Often it is only when personally affected by the disability issues (and by that I mean anything that affects your functionality), that an appreciation of the – mostly blindingly obvious – physical limitations of everyday life for someone affected by functionality issues is created.
This inspired me to write another post about getting up out of bed and getting dressed!

One of the holy grails of counselling is the establishment of a ‘therapeutic relationship’.

Simplistically, this is the difficult process of creating the bond of trust between the counsellor and the client(s). Therefore, the client(s) feels comfortable, heard and not judged. The sessions can then go forward in a productive way for the client(s). Until the client(s) reach this point they are unlikely to feel listened to, comfortable and understood. It also follows they are unlikely to risk sharing their true emotions, opinions or own analysis of their behaviour.

Therefore, it was a little confusing to then learn about the phenomena of online disinhibition. The idea is that, due to the unique way in which an online environments impact upon your behaviour, can result in some oversharing of personal information BEFORE a therapeutic relationship has developed. This in turn lead to a kind of embarrassed ‘morning after’ realisation of drunken night before where you have this sudden recall of something you said or did.
Observed common alterations/changes individuals make to their internal/external identity in order to project the desired new or exaggerated characteristic when in a new online environment usually include little appreciation of the consequence of their actions, increased/exaggerated confidence and inflexibility in taking a viewpoint, showing little or no empathy or understanding of another’s position, deliberate offensiveness (‘flaming’) or deliberate misunderstanding due to the semantics of a post. It is also much more difficult to pick up body language, changes in voice tone or facial expressions via Zoom or text.

…And that is why we have emojis – saying ‘you’re an idiot’ can mean an entirely different thing to ‘you’re an idiot  

It follows that counselling online has a different set of behavioural pointers and triggers, and must to a greater extent than’ face-to-face’ counselling relies on honesty and transparency of understanding, or misunderstanding as the case may be!