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CHAPTER THREE: The impact of childhood

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

Childhood events can have a major influence on our lives. In some measure, all of us have unconscious drives and phobias, often originating in our earliest years and which constitute our inner world.

In many ways, Melanie Klein’s background provided her with valuable insight into the stresses of childhood. Born in 1882 in Vienna and living until 1960, she was the youngest of four children and felt unwanted from the outset. Her mother had breastfed her brother and two older sisters but handed Melanie over to a wet nurse. Her father, a surgeon, preferred her sister Emilie. Melanie recalled with some bitterness the time when she tried to climb onto his knee and he pushed her off, leaving her a victim of jealousy, helplessness, and envy. She set out to study medicine and psychiatry, initially in the hope of pleasing her father. But then he died, and she married a man introduced to her by her brother, whose intellect she had always respected. She realized she had made a mistake almost from the outset, but persevered. She had three children before the marriage broke up.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Automatic thoughts and irrational beliefs

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

It’s not what happens to you; but how you react to it that matters.

—Epictetus, philosopher, AD 55–136

When you think about it, this declaration by the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, is extraordinarily powerful. It implies that no one but ourselves has authority over how we should think or feel. And with that authority comes the empowerment to decide how we will respond to any given situation, positive or negative. It is this capacity within us that was recognized by the initiators of a new approach to counselling—the cognitive therapies.

As already discussed, George Kelly held that we build constructs from our earliest childhood. These constructs influence our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviour. Kelly also recognized that this is an active process, in that we continually adjust our thinking according to experience, so as to enable us to anticipate events and respond to them productively. He saw us as scientists, using practical data to arrive at a consensus of how best to lead our lives. We have to make judgements and act on them, for, if we didn’t, we would never learn. But whether our learning is always productive is another matter.

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CHAPTER FIVE: Does counselling work?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

ALTHOUGH FIRM STATISTICS are hard to come by, the answer must be “yes”, as so many people, on their own admission, have benefited from it. The number of qualified counsellors has tripled in the last ten years to keep up with demand, and the government is investing some 400m to be used over the next three years to help improve psychological therapies. It has been shown in several studies that counselling can offer a useful alternative or supplement to drugs designed to alleviate anxiety or depression.

But if we ask whether counselling works, there is also the need to define “work”. Counselling isn't like having a massage where we sit back while someone else rolls up their sleeves and makes all the running. Its success is highlydependant on the amount of commitment the person concerned is prepared to bring to the process and their willingness to keep an open mind to new ideas and ways of thinking.

It is important also to recognize that counselling doesn't effect a cure like an antibiotic with a bacterial infection. The counsellor's first objective is to create an environment in which you can gain an understanding of the thought processes that have given rise to the difficulties you've been experiencing. You should then be in a position, with the right support, to work towards making the changes that will enable you to better manage these. This calls for patience as well as endurance. Life perspectives you want to change or modify may have developed over many years and cannot realistically be displaced in a few weeks. Even when counselling has finished, you will still need to be aware of situations, and your response to them, that may previously have been problematic. The difference is that you should now be able to handle these situations so that you take control before they get out of hand.

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CHAPTER ONE: How do I know if I might benefit from counselling?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

AKEY QUESTION, and not one with a simple answer. Counsellors advertise that they can help to resolve a range of difficulties; typically anxiety and stress, depression, work issues, loss of confidence, life changes, relationships and sexual problems, as well as more vaguely defined complexes such as “lack of purpose” or “deprivation”. But how can you determine whether it might be useful for you to seek the services they provide?

A likely indicator is that you find yourself having persistent difficulty dealing with some aspect of your personal, social, or working life. Inevitably, there are periods when we all feel a bit down; sadness after a quarrel with someone we care about, disappointment that we didn't get the promotion we hoped for, annoyancebecause we think someone's behaved badly towards us, or regret if, on some occasion, we feel we haven't conducted ourselves as well as we would wish. This is the natural order of things. We make up after the quarrel, perhaps look for a better job, put aside the irritation we experienced, apologize to someone if we feel we need to-and move on.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: How long does it take?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

THIS IS SOMETHING of a “piece of string” question. As the unfulfilled Alvy, in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall, decides after fifteen years on the psychiatrist's couch: “I'm going to give my analyst one more year and then I'm going to Lourdes!”

A number of factors will affect the overall time you spend in counselling. If you are experiencing difficulties in just one area in your life, then sessions are likely to be quite focused and results may be achieved sooner than if you need to address more complex matters. Single issues can be very stubborn, however, whilst seemingly intractable problems can sometimes take on the properties of a log jam in which the release of a one psychological obstructioncan create beneficial knock-on effects across a broad spectrum.

The way your counsellor works can also affect the duration of therapy. Psychodynamic counselling, which aims predominately to bring to the surface painful feelings held deep in the unconscious mind, can be a long process. The cognitive behavioural therapies tend to focus on the here and now, and are more directive than other methods. Cognitive approaches are usually associated with shorter periods of therapy. But there are no rules, and all modalities now take into account that practitioners may have only a short period to work in.

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