Category Archives: This might be helpful

New (academic) year, new you!

I wonder if this sentiment is familiar to you: New Year, New You!

I know that when both September and January start their approach, I notice a sense of new leaves turning, and fresh starts being made. I have a belief that these times of year are the ‘right’ times to make changes. So the start of a new calendar year and a new academic year are both times when I feel that things could be different.

And very often, the new years (academic and calendar) are when I make changes: I might join a new group, start a new class, or change my yoga routine. Maybe the practice of years of doing this mean that I’m correct, these are good times to start things.

But often, starting things can be a real struggle. We put things off for so many reasons, and even getting round to doing something we really want to do can sometimes just not happen quickly. We might end up missing out on something we thought we wanted, and we can easily criticise ourselves for procrastinating. The received wisdom is that we put off doing things we don’t want to do – even if they lead us somewhere we want to be. Maybe our job is really making us unhappy, but we put off applying for something new because we hate interviews. Or we have always wanted to learn ballroom dancing and a beginner’s class is starting up, but we don’t join it because we hate going to a class for the first time.

We want the long term thing to come true, but we feel like we can’t tolerate the short term pain we think we’ll have to endure to get there. I wonder if it feels like deciding to take a long distance coach to your destination for your dream holiday!

I guess I am thinking about this because counsellors report an increase in enquiries to start counselling in September and January. These are the people who know they’d like to feel the benefits of counselling, and have taken the steps they need to start counselling.

But there must also be people who’d like to have counselling – but who just aren’t getting around to making an enquiry and then booking an appointment. Part of me thinks that you will find counselling when you’re ready. And part of me thinks that maybe you are ready, but you just don’t want the short term pain that you imagine there might be – you are ready, but you’re procrastinating!

I’d like to reassure you that starting counselling probably won’t be as bad as you think – and you could break the process down into some smaller steps:

  • write a short email text that you want to send to counsellors you might want to work with. Mention the times/days that you are available, and ask any questions you have. You might give a brief outline of the issues you are interested in exploring. Ask if the counsellor offers any initial meetings or chats before agreeing to book a session. You can also say that you plan to contact a number of counsellors as you are looking for the best fit. Have this text ready to copy and paste!
  • look for a counsellor on the BACP Directory ( This means that you know that everyone on there has done an accredited course. Search by your own area and see who appeals to you.
  • contact everyone who appeals to you. You can do this from a form on the BACP Directory – just copy and paste the text you already wrote!
  • keep an eye on your email spam folder, and look out for replies to your enquiries. Read the enquiries, and think about how you’d like to respond – when is going to suit you for an initial meeting or chat? Would you prefer to just jump in and start with someone?
  • set up and have those initial meetings/chats. Ask anything you want, make notes if that’s going to help. Make sure that the times the counsellor has available are times that are going to suit you. You might want to say that you’ll be in touch in the next week if you’d like to go ahead, so you have some thinking time.
  • And hopefully, after all these small steps, you’ve found yourself someone who feels like you’ll be able to work with. Someone who seems trustworthy, and who feels like they’ll be able to ‘get’ you.

Good luck – with the procrastinating, with the new years and fresh starts, and with starting counselling!

And if you have a sense that we could work well together, just send me a message on the contact form, or send an email to

Reading Well

Just a quick note to point you in the direction of an NHS programme of bibliotherapy: Reading Well. It’s all about recommending books that might be helpful for you to read to support your mental health.

A lot of the books are available from your local library, and most libraries nowadays use the Libby app so you can download your books direct to a device without having to go anywhere. This also means that the books are returned automatically – so no more library late fines!

There’s a huge list of books on Reading Well – I hope you find something that helps you!

Why is counselling good?

I googled ‘why is counselling good’ and got lots of very sensible answers. And then I googled ‘evidence that counselling works’, and again the same. There’s plenty of evidence that counselling works to ease the pain, and lots of good reasons explaining why.

I thought I might share (some of) the reasons I think it’s good:

1. Your counsellor doesn’t want to reassure you:

However much your friends and family love you, often there are feelings you just can’t share with them. You might find that when you try and describe your pain, they want to reassure you so that you feel better. In counselling, you can explore all the really awful things you are thinking and feeling, without your counsellor trying to reassure you or fix you. It’s a place where you can say out loud the worst of what is in your head. And once it’s outside, in the world, you and your counsellor can look at it carefully, and find out more about it. Maybe, under this open examination, it might change and lose its power.

2. Your counsellor isn’t waiting to tell you about their own things:

Most conversations are two way – and so are the conversations with your counsellor. But the difference is that in counselling, it’s all about you. Your counsellor is there to talk with you about you – they might give you a little bit of psycho-education (share their knowledge about mental health), but otherwise, their focus is on you. That might take a little bit of getting used to, and if you’re struggling with being the centre of attention, this might even be something to explore together!

3. Your counsellor accepts you:

Your counsellor has the attitude that whatever you do or have done, has come from a place of trying to do your best. Person-centred counsellors particularly believe that we humans are always trying to live our best life. That doesn’t mean that things always work out for us, particularly as you might have learnt some things in the past that don’t actually work well for you in the long run.

4. Your counsellor is on your side:

If you’ve got a decision to make or a dilemma, talking about it with your counsellor can be a great place to find out what you really want to do, and whether that’s going to be possible. As well as listening to your words, your counsellor’s also going to be noticing changes in your body, face, tone of voice and so on, and letting you know about these changes. This knowledge might give you insight that you wouldn’t otherwise have had.

5. You can tell secrets to your counsellor:

Some secrets are nice ones, but sometimes you might be keeping secrets that you’d rather be rid of. Your counsellor will be able to hear your secrets. Once the secrets are out in the room, maybe something will happen to them, maybe they will lose their power.

6. Your counsellor appreciates all the different parts of you:

Sometimes you might find yourself putting certain parts of yourself front and centre, because you know that these are the bits that your family/society/your friends love the most. With your counsellor, you can be all that you are. It’s a good place to practise letting other parts of you share the limelight. When your counsellor accepts them, maybe it can feel possible that you can accept them too.

7. The relationship with your counsellor is a real relationship:

And there is something about being in relationship with other humans that helps us. You might be paying your counsellor (or you might get counselling through your work or university) but this doesn’t mean that your counsellor doesn’t genuinely care about you. This might remind you (if you need reminding) that you are a person worth caring about.

I hope counselling helps you, and you can build your own list of reasons why counselling is good.

Getting ready for a session

There are different things you might want to do before a counselling session.

During the session it’s important that you feel as comfortable as you can. I wonder what that means for you: do you need a special place, or your favourite drink? Would you like a cushion or a pet on your lap? If you have your session at the same place as you are working from, how can you make your counselling time different to your work time? Could you move your device/chair so you have a different point of view? Can you cover your work stuff so that it doesn’t distract you? If there are other people around, maybe you could put a sign on your door so that you won’t be interrupted.

If you have time, you might find that going for a quick walk before a counselling session can be a good time to set aside the rest of your day, and clear your head. Some people like to do some mindfulness before a session: you might want to set aside a short time to sit quietly, and turn your attention to each part of your body, noticing how it feels, and if there is any tension held anywhere. Feel your feet on the floor, feel any contact your body is making with anything else. How does your body feel right now? If doing this doesn’t feel right to you, don’t worry, it’s just an idea.

Something you could ask yourself is how you would like to use your counselling session. The best thing for you might be to show up, and see what comes with you. Or you might have a particular topic you’d like to explore. Maybe you are coming to counselling with a specific goal in mind, and you want to talk about something connected to that goal. Do you keep a diary or a journal? This might be a good place to look if you aren’t sure what would be helpful. Has something happened that left you with some feelings that surprised you – maybe a situation that your head tells you is simple, but your feelings and emotions don’t agree.

You might need to try different things before your sessions until you hit on the thing that’s right for you – or you might do something different every time! There’s no one ‘right’ way to prepare, but there might be a right way for you – something that supports you in getting the most from your counselling session.

Podcasts that might be Helpful

I’d like to suggest some podcasts that might be helpful to you. I don’t know how you choose to listen to your podcasts, I use Podcast Addict but maybe you use Spotify or iTunes, so the links here are to the actual websites, and you can then get them on your chosen app.

To help you sleep:

Tracks to Relax are guided sleep meditations read in one of the most relaxing voices I have ever heard.

Nothing Much Happens are incredibly dull stories, again read in a super soothing voice. And then repeated, a little bit more slowly.

To help with grief:

Griefcast is a series of interviews about grief, perhaps helpful evidence that grief really is different for everyone.

To help with anxiety:

Not Another Anxiety Show is about all different kinds of anxiety, some of which might be familiar to you.

To help with being human:

Brene Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us is conversations on all kinds of topics that might be interesting or helpful in some way.

To connect with nature:

Join Melissa on a daily walk in nature in The Stubborn Light of Things.

Music and Soundscapes:

BBC Sounds host some great podcasts that you might find relaxing or distracting. Calming Sounds is advertised for ‘your little one’, but adults are allowed to listen too. And the Mindful Mix includes soundscapes and music to help you sleep or relax.