- You can stay within the comfort of your own home.
- There are no travel costs or time wasted standing in traffic queues.
- You can be surrounded by things that you like and feel relaxed in.
- There is no need to worry about directions of how to get to see your counsellor.
- You get just as much eye contact as you would being in the same room as the counsellor.
- You can sit as comfortably as you want.
- If you have animal companions they can share the experience with you.
- You can enjoy a cup of tea as you sit by your computer.
- You can choose a counsellor that you feel you can connect with rather than one who just happens to be close to where you live.
- There is more flexibility in terms of the times that you book a counselling session for.
Sometimes we can find ourselves criticised, humiliated or even ostracised and ignored by our families and friends. This may be because we have done something that challenges their values or their perceptions of the World. We may experience our families or friends disagreeing with us and telling us what we should be thinking or doing, and this can be very disheartening and upsetting. As we grow as individuals we can change, and our outlook on life can change with us, and this can be misunderstood or taken the wrong way by significant others. This can leave us feeling marginalised and excluded and deeply hurt.
When clients tell me about experiences of being rejected by their parents, partners, friends and or work colleagues I often bring Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into the conversation. According to Maslow we as human beings all have basic needs – the need for food and water, the need for shelter and safety, then the need for love and belonging. At the top of the hierarchy of needs is self-actualisation, which simply means personal growth. I explore with clients in what ways their various needs are met, and whether their process of self-actualisation is potentially creating resentment or criticism from the people that they know. It takes time for our family and friends to get to know who we are if we find ourselves changing. It is therefore important not necessarily to walk away from old relationships but to give these time to develop. It may be that we can show leadership regarding our relationships so that they can become more like the kinds of relationships that we want now. There is nothing wrong with fulfilling our own potential, even if this means that some of those that we love reject us. This is a risk in following our own destinies. I do find, however, as a therapist that relationships are more resilient than we initially believe, and so our friends and families can grow with us if we give them time.
I embarked on a cycle ride on Easter Monday. I had thought that Storm Katie had passed by and so I was now safe to go out. I hadn’t realised that I was actually cycling into the epicentre of the storm. The conditions worsened. The wind was gale force, at times knocking my bike so hard to the side that I almost ended up in a hedge. Hail stones started descending, stinging my face as they hurtled towards me. My hands, without gloves, began throbbing from the cold, an unrelenting pain, frozen fingers that were unable to move and properly grasp my handle bars. Added to this, some cars passed me by and, rather than stopping or slowing down to make sure that I was okay, they speeded past me even though I was struggling to keep a straight line on the road on my bike.
I arrived home feeling devastated and angered by what I perceived to be my own stupidity in going out in such undesirable weather conditions. I felt that somehow I had failed to have the positive experience that I had set out to have. These feelings lessened as I resolved to go out again in the coming days as soon as the weather got better. I went out again on the same route on a sunny and fresh day. I saw the first swallow of the season, I saw dancing hares, I heard birds communicating with each other and I appreciated the vast views all around me. Essentially, I had re-framed my cycling experience.
Counselling can help us to re-frame challenging life experiences that can leave us devastated. Seeking out counselling can be a bit like getting back on the road, exploring what has happened in one’s life, how you might re-evaluate this and then be able to move forward. As a counsellor I offer opportunity for re-framing personal experiences. This can be empowering as people are no longer necessarily stuck within a certain experiential interpretation of their lives. It is possible to re-evaluate life events and, I would argue, this can be key to moving on.
Although societies like to differentiate between victims and offenders, in reality offenders are often people who have been victimised. The following is a fictional case study that represents some of the male offenders I have met as a therapist providing counselling inside prison.
Ian is a young man who is in prison for a ten year sentence for aggravated assault against a young man he fell into a dispute with in a bar. At the time of the offence Ian was very drunk and he says that he does not remember much from the incident, only that he ‘lost it’, that he was consumed by rage and lashed out at a young man he saw as being aggressive towards him. Up to the point of his incarceration, Ian had been drinking heavily and sometimes was also taking class A drugs. Ian had experienced a difficult childhood because his father was a heavy drinker who would physically assault his mother; his father was also aggressive towards Ian and his siblings. Violence was therefore a normal part of Ian’s everyday life at home. When Ian was 10 his parents separated and Ian and his siblings then had to move to a new area with his mother so that his father would not know where they were. Growing up Ian often became angry and could not understand why.
Ian clearly had been the victim of domestic violence; having to move home with his mother and siblings also meant that Ian had to create a new life for himself in a new area not out of his own choice. Ian is also likely to have experienced trauma as a child because witnessing and experiencing violence and aggression could have traumatised him in that the aggression from Ian’s father may have been episodically severe and overwhelming. Ian’s case also illustrates how victimisation, trauma and crime can be linked in that experiences of victimisation can be traumatic for the individuals concerned leading to symptoms like anger and anxiety, and some people may cope with these feelings by taking alcohol and/or drugs.