Tag: Counselling

Supporting Our Growth

We all need support to help us grow. A plant needs sunlight, water and food. A child needs a safe home, food, love, encouragement, stimulation and space to explore. A therapy practice also needs support, and by extension, since we are the product or service we provide, we too need support in order to grow in the work, and to grow our practice.

What does support look like in this context?

We all need to have our basic needs met. These include physical needs for safety, warmth, closeness, and touch; 1696049emotional needs of encouragement, compassion, companionship, intimacy; psychological needs of interest and stimulation; and of course, financial needs of enough money to pay for what we need and want to buy.

Often when first meeting a client, we will ask them about their support network, in terms of the people around them who are supportive and caring. However, we know this is only part of the story. Learning what supports the client helps us to become more attuned to them in the work, and can help to smooth the path they are taking. Read more

It’s The Eurovision…Again!

It’s the Eurovision song contest, again. I’m old enough to remember when it was a huge event, the highlight of television viewing. We would be allowed to stay up late to see it, and there was excitement for weeks in advance about the Irish entry and its potential. The scoring was particularly exciting, and “Nul Points” was as common as “LOL.”

Changing channels.Of course, these days it’s not the big thing that it was. When we only had one TV channel, watching the Eurovision was a no-brainer. Now, between thousands of satellite TV channels, YouTube, and Netflix, something like the Eurovision Song Contest no longer has the star quality it once had.And this is the way of our world today. So many choices. I’ve often written about the choices available to our clients, and how we have to help them to find us in among all the dazzling range of healing options that are out there. There is another way, though, in which the overwhelming array of choices makes life difficult for a self-employed therapist. Read more

Stuck on a roundabout in your practice and can’t get off?

I grew up in quite a rigid environment. Both at home and at school, we had many rules that provided structure and order. Beneficial in their way, they also unconsciously provided me with a picture of HOW THINGS ARE and HOW THINGS SHOULD BE. Unfortunately, other people grew up with a different set of parameters, which means that other peoples’ vision of HOW THINGS ARE and HOW THINGS SHOULD BE is not the same as mine. Much of life and relationship is therefore a process of navigating the differences between how I think things should be, and how others think. I’m sure you can relate to this. It’s there in the news and media all the time, one country or political party or commentator sees one thing, while another has a completely different perspective. And that’s healthy.Roundabout Signage

Read more

The Importance of Intention

“Nature abhors a vacuum” I was taught in one of my first science classes. Whether you’re talking about air rushing in to fill the empty space, or how other people’s goals and intentions can fill up the space in our lives, it’s true.

Nothing gets done without there first being an intention. My big indulgence in life is spending time with friends and family, often away from home because I like to travel too. People often say to me, “Oh, you’re off again,” or “You’re great to organise that.” But it doesn’t happen by accident.sun

Read more about the importance of intention

Minding Your Business of Therapy

Over the last week, I’ve been making suggestions about how you might use the Therapy Practice Business Assessment as the basis for making some changes to your therapy or counselling practice in 2016. So far, we’ve looked at three areas: Knowing Your Practice, Growing Your Practice and Valuing Your Practice. (You can read the blog posts in which I made suggestions in those areas by clicking on the links.)

Today we’re going to look at the fourth pillar of a successful practice, Minding Your Practice.

When they hear that phrase, most people think first about the practical steps of insurance and safety, and these are Therapy_1indeed important. Another important area in minding your practice is self-care, and one that is often overlooked is provision for the future. What steps could you take in 2016 to mind your therapy practice, to make it more robust, and to help create a buffer against the vagaries of life? Here are some ideas…

Hang on, you haven’t read the ideas yet!


A reader asked me how he could engage with people who regularly cancel their sessions.

stop handCancellations can be a pain in the neck. You need your income and also want to work in a satisfactory way with clients. Cancellations can interrupt both. I won’t go into all the issues that could be giving rise to the client cancelling. Sometimes the cancellation is a sign of an underlying issue that can be explored between you, but bear in mind that it may not always be an avoidance or a sign of lack of commitment. It is possible that it is genuinely not a good time for the client to do the work, because of other issues that are going on in their life. Perhaps, it might be as well to acknowledge this, and give the client the option of re-engaging when the time suits better. Read more

Handling Criticism

They say that we find comfort among those who agree with us, and growth among those who don’t.[1]

Yesterday, someone close to me criticised me unjustly for something I hadn’t done.

I hate that!

When the dust had settled, I asked them to acknowledge that I was right and they were wrong. They were unrepentant. We stood there staring at each other, each convinced of our own righteousness, each holding on to our conviction that we were the injured party.

I always find it hard to let go of that sort of situation, as if something in me needs to be acknowledged by the other person before I can move on. Maybe it’s because as kids we were always forced to say sorry whether we felt sorry or not, or whether we thought we were in the wrong or not. Read more

A Time to Act

A couple of years ago, I was visiting some family members whose barge was moored on the canal near my home. It was a wet, rainy afternoon. The barge was tied up to a mooring post in the grass bank, and to get on and off, we had to walk across a gang plank, four inches wide, and very slippery. As we were leaving the boat to go home, my 4 year old niece slipped and fell into the canal head first. I was closest to her, but was frozen in shock, unable to think what to do. Her mother standing at the back of boat was too far away, and it fell to my sister to push past me, lean over, grab the child by the back of her jacket and haul her out of the water. No harm done. She was wet and shocked, but thankfully alive. We were all hugely grateful for my sister’s quick action.

Frozen lingon 2I was reflecting afterwards how, since training as a therapist, that my ability to act quickly in a crisis had seemed to fall away, where my ability to be fully in the feeling experience had expanded.

In life we walk two journeys, the internal journey, and the external one. The external journey is what we do, and how we do it, the practical piece of turning ideas into action, of turning thoughts into reality. The internal journey is focussed on our experience of our lives, how we think and how we feel about it. We travel both of these roads at the same time, a bit like going both directions on a dual carriageway at once!

In our practices, there are the things we do as a therapist and counsellor, and then there’s how we feel and think about doing them. As therapists we are very familiar with the emotional or mind-set journey. We understand how our past experiences can colour our present. We understand how our beliefs and fears can support or undermine our ability to function in the world. We sit with clients as they explore these aspects of themselves. The therapy session may be the only opportunity in their week where they take time out to visit that interior journey.

Sometimes, though, the opposite applies. I know for me, coming from a background in accountancy (very much in the action lane!), my training as a therapist moved me strongly into that other lane, asking me to reflect at length on my feelings, my motives, and my underlying patterns and beliefs. This process is now so ingrained, that on occasion I can get stuck in the feelings and forget that I need to take action. And the situation on the canal was a great example of that.

At other times, the interior world has been an escape for me. Sometimes it is easier to reflect on how a situation has impacted me, rather than take the courage to act. In other words, I can use how I look at and feel about my life as an excuse not to change it. Speaking to colleagues I know that I am not alone in any of this. On the dual carriageway of working as a therapist, there is a danger that my default response becomes “And how do I feel about that?”

We always have a choice about how we meet the experience of our lives. Exploring how we feel may change our view, our beliefs, or our relationship with our circumstances, but at some stage in the process, life asks of us that we engage with it at a practical level. If we are hungry, we can explore our hunger, we can analyse its origins, we can understand our process around it, but we are unlikely to satisfy it unless we go to the fridge and eat something.

My niece was unlikely to get out of the canal safely without an adult taking quick action. There’s a time when we need to acknowledge our feelings, and there’s also a time to move into action.  Both have their place.

Unsure what action you might take to move your practice forward? Perhaps I can help you to get started. Contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation or to make an appointment.


Help! I Need A Room, Fast

The Buck Stops Here

Many therapists setting out in practice for the first time have closed their doors and gone back to working for someone else within three years. Not because they’re not good therapists, not because they aren’t helping their clients, but because they had no idea what it takes to run a business.

I learnt this lesson the hard way.

Portrait of senior owner of pet shop
Stock Unlimited

I was 26 when I became self-employed for the first time. I became a partner in the small accountancy firm in which I had been working for a couple of years. I had been managing for some years before that, and so I’d learned some of the tasks of running a business. The accountancy profession works much the same way as large families do, last year’s intake supervise this year’s, (or the older kids rear the younger ones!) So I knew the form.

I was 28 when I began to learn what it really meant to be self-employed.  After my second child was born, things changed in the practice. We embarked on a business venture that was new and untried, which put significant strain on the resources of the practice. Our practice overdraft started to climb steeply, and I realised for the first time what being a partner and therefore “jointly and severally liable” for the debts of the firm actually meant in practice. The much hackneyed phrase “The Buck Stops Here” means just that. If the practice went bust, I was at risk of losing my family home. I had two small children, one of whom was less than a year old. Now all of that “liable” stuff had been carefully explained to me by my solicitors before I signed the partnership agreement, and I had studied law as part of my training, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t know it. But at another level, I didn’t really know it at all. Up till that time, it had been an elaborate kind of game.

Fast forward two years, and the partnership had dissolved in acrimony and never ending legal battles and I was out of work for the first time since I was 17. I’m not telling you this to scare you, just to illustrate how difficult it is to know what’s involved in something until you’re actually in there. They say experience is something you get just after you need it!

One of the most difficult things to explain to anyone who is expecting a first baby is just how your life changes after the baby is born. No amount of reading books, or going to classes, or talking to other mothers really prepares you for

Baby, Human Hand, Mother.

it. You can imagine the fun and the joy of it. You can read about the sleepless nights, or the symptoms to worry about, but nothing can really teach you about being a parent except the actual experience of it.

It is exactly the same for setting up a therapy practice. You can learn the skills of working with clients. You can learn the management skills, as I did, but the mind-set piece of being self-employed, that realisation that I am responsible for this venture, and just me,  is something you have to do on your own.

It’s a question of taking ownership, of committing, as they say in the marriage vows, for better or for worse.  It doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be hard, or that you’re going to have to struggle. It’s not so much about the doing, as the being. Without the commitment to the business of your practice, you’re going to struggle to find the energy, the interest and motivation to do what you need to do. The beauty of it is, that when you do move into that mind-set, it all becomes easier. It’s like finally accepting something you’ve been denying for ages, there’s a peace and a certainty that descends, and a knowing that it’s going to be okay.

If you’re struggling to take ownership of your practice and need some support, I’d love to help. Please contact me here to make an appointment or to avail of a free 20 minute consultation.