5 Great Couples Tools To Help Make Love Last

5 Great Couples Tools To Help Make Love Last
Has the energy gone from your relationship? Do you both need help getting closer to each other? Want to improve the romance and passion in your life?

These super modern Gottman couples tools have been developed especially with you in mind. Gottman Method Couples Therapy is a unique way of helping couples to improve their relationship together by building friendship, creating shared meaning together, developing intimacy and resolving conflict. The Gottman Relationship Check-up allows couples and Gottman trained therapists to clearly identify all the strengths and weaknesses of each unique couple who start relationship therapy. They are encouraged to also use these five tools together outside of the therapy room between sessions.

If you or your partner are not quite ready for couples therapy just yet, that’s OK! These easy to use everyday gottman tools can help you both to focus on your relationship together by giving it the attention it deserves.

Make love last by learning how to get the best out of each other and not the worst. – Orlagh Gahan

THE GOTTMAN CARD DECK APP

Download the free Gottman Card Deck App in an instant on iTunes and Samsung Play and take time out with your partner to go through all the unique app features.  Each section helps couples reconnect and get to know each other at a deeper level by suggesting open ended questions to ask your partner and discuss together. The app also helps users to learn how to be more appreciative, develop listening skills and be more empathetic towards each other. This is a great simple app to use at any stage of your relationship.

THE SEVEN PRINCIPALS FOR MAKING MARRIAGE WORK by DR. JOHN GOTTMAN

This New York Times bestselling book by Dr. John Gottman published in 2018 gives couples a road-map to help improve their marriage on 7 different levels. Find out the secret to a happy marriage. Each of the seven principals are important aspects of healthy happy fulfilling relationships. You can purchase this book at any good book store and online at www.bookdepository.com or download and listen together on audio book.

THE GOTTSEX.COM WEBSITE

The gottsex.com website is the perfect tool to help sex up your sex life and learn how to make real love. Two hours of online video streaming dedicated to teaching couples how to reconnect romantically and build sexual intimacy together. When you buy the gottsex guide it includes a simple downloadable guide and exercises to practice together. The gottsex.com guide is a great resource for couples who are experiencing problems with sex or intimacy together or who want to develop a deeper understanding of passion and intimacy. It is also helpful for anyone who feels they may have developed an unhealthy perception of sex and love or who want to learn more about deep and meaningful love making.

THE ART AND SCIENCE OF LOVE DVD SET FOR COUPLES

The Art & Science of Love is a revolutionary live workshop run by the Gottman’s and other certified Gottman Therapists around the world. This 2 day workshop is for couples to learn how to be better partners and have a healthy long lasting relationship. You can find out more about attending these live workshop here. Unfortunately, there are none currently planned for Ireland or the UK right now but you purchase a DVD set of the live workshop and watch it together in the comfort of your own home. The DVD set comes with Gottman couples card decks and relationship guides.

SIGN UP FOR THE MARRIAGE MINUTE EMAIL

Improve you marriage in 60 seconds! The Gottman Marriage Minute email is dedicated to helping you constantly learn about healthy relationships and motivate you to try out new things.  The email gives short regular insights and advice into all aspects of long lasting happy relationship. You can sign up for the marriage minute email here.

All of these Gottman tools are suitable for individuals and couples. I sincerely hope you find these resources helpful. Enjoy reconnecting!

If you would like professional help with sex, dating and relationship problems you can book an appointment with Orlagh Gahan who is a Gottman Trained Couples Therapist. Appointments are available face to face in Kildare and online therapy via SKYPE at www.orlaghgahan.ie 

Choose to Stop Being Angry by Changing Your Lifestyle & Mindset

Choose to Stop Being Angry by Changing Your Lifestyle & Mindset
Problems with anger can be reduced relatively quickly with a change of lifestyle and a new mindset. Most of us cannot change the people or environment around us but we can commit to really changing how we react to these types of triggers.

Putting a focus on dealing with your anger means reducing your overall daily stress levels. It also means learning to connect with people in a calm and approachable manner. In my experience as an anger management counsellor, clients who come for anger management therapy always have something deeper going on which is resulting in ongoing unhealthy outbursts. On top of that they are often firefighting because of the ripple effect of their anger on others.  Therapy helps clients to clearly identify all their triggers and focus on changing behaviours and deal with any past trauma which may be surfacing.

Angry and unpredictable people are exhausting to be around. Its even more difficult to maintain a safe and loving relationship with a partner who appears angry and agitated all the time. Partners experience loneliness, hyper-vigilance and an overall sense of feeling disconnected from their loved one. This is a sad state of affairs for any relationship as this negative sentiment override in the relationship triggers both partners and brings out the worst in them both.

For a relationship to thrive, it’s so important that both people feel safe, loved and respected. Anger only creates negativity and distance in a relationship.

Anger can be a symptom of ongoing stress and anxiety, feelings of things being out of control and general hypertension. In most cases anger appears to be the primary emotion, but the individual is experiencing a range of other emotions which they struggle to understand and express. To access these other emotions, they need to slow down in real time and try to tune into these other emotions before they react or lash out.

How you react to situations can be a conscious choice. Most people with anger problems treat partners and family very differently to how they would treat colleagues and the general public. The common saying house devil, street angel explains this difference in behaviour. Therapy aims to help clients to become more genuine and learn to be the type of person they really choose to be and not who they learned to be.

Here are some simple stress and anger management skills which will help you to improve your overall quality of life and create a healthier more balanced mindset.

  • Find ways to relax during week to help bring your overall stress levels down.
  • Start reflecting on the types of stress that you may be under. Find effective ways to reduce the types of stress you are experiencing i.e work stress, commuting, rushing around.
  • A healthy nutritious diet will have a strong impact on your general emotional wellbeing.
  • Reducing stimulants such as caffeine, excessive sugar, cigarettes and drugs can help to reduce stress in the body, your thought processes and your life.
  • Rushing round all day and feeling under pressure only increases your overall stress levels. Learn to give yourself plenty of time to do tasks and saying NO to unnecessary requests can help you reduce your daily stress.
  • Exercising regularly is a great way to burn off extra energy, tension and stress.
  • Practice simple short breathing exercises for a few minutes during the day can help you to focus on the present, slow down your heart rate, reduce adrenaline production in your body and generally promotes relaxation.
  • Getting good quality sleep every night helps improve overall mood and energy levels. Poor quality sleep causes fatigue, irritability and hyper-tension.
  • Cutting out alcohol can have a significant impact on how you are feeling in your body and how much energy you have throughout the week. Alcohol depletes the body of essential vitamins and minerals which are crucial to physical and emotional health.
  • Prepare for your day the night before reduces unnecessary stress and tension.
  • Start writing lists if you have a lot of things to remember and tasks to do.
  • Plan relaxing fun enjoyable activities which will help you to wind down and de-stress.
  • Get a hobby, something you can do each week which you look forward to.
  • Have fun with your partner. Build on your friendship and start enjoying each other’s company again.
  • Open up and start talking to people in your life about how you are feeling and what you are going through. They are there to help and support you if you let them.
  • If you are having difficulty changing your behaviours and reducing your anger then seek out the help of a professional therapist who can help you manager your anger and change for good.
  • Take an online anger management course.
  • Try complementary health therapies which will help you actively practice relaxating.
  • Learn more about managing and regulate emotions by reading self-help books.
  • Channel your anger into something more productive and creative like art, writing or music.
  • Start connecting more with your family, community and neighbours around you. Anger can distance you from things that have real meaning in life. By connecting more with people, it helps you to develop empathy and compassion for others.
  • Put others first. Anger can be a selfish and immature quality. Putting other people’s thoughts and feelings first by listening to them or helping them out develops emotional intelligence and connection with others.

If you would like to book Anger Management Counselling face to face or online therapy via SKYPE check out  www.orlaghgahan.ie and book online.

Relationship Counselling – What is Gottman Method Couples Therapy

Relationship Counselling – What is Gottman Method Couples Therapy

Gottman Method Couples Therapy is an evidence based therapeutic approach to couples therapy developed by Dr. John Gottman & Dr. Julie Gottman. Together they have been researching couples for over 30 years and have identified 9 key principals of relationship success. Gottman method couples therapy is different to all other relationship counselling approaches. There is a large emphasis on the importance of a relationship assessment, coaching communication skills and eliminating the four main predictors of divorce which are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt.

Assessment

Couples who start Gottman Method Couples Therapy begin with a four part assessment process (approx. four hours).  An initial joint session together, two individual sessions followed by a second joint session. The assessment also includes individually completing an online relationship questionnaire called The Gottman Relationship Checkup. A thorough assessment is crucial in identifying the relationships strengths and weaknesses and each persons individual needs within the relationship.  The therapist receives a  full relationship evaluation and detailed intervention plan which they feedback to the couple once the full assessment is complete. The detailed assessment saves hours of therapy and gives the intervention sessions a very clear and direct focus.

Gottman Method Intervention

Gottman therapy focuses on supporting and coaching couples through the nine principals of healthy long lasting relationships called The Sound Relationship House. These principals are Trust, Commitment, Building Love Maps, Sharing Fondness and Admiration, Turning Towards Instead of Away, Positive Perspective, Managing Conflict, Making Life Dreams Come True and Creating Shared Meaning. The assessment will have identified the couples strengths and weaknesses in each of these 9 areas.

Every positive thing you do in your relationship is foreplay.   -Dr John Gottman

Gottman couples therapy helps couples to identify and eliminate what the Gottmans describe as The Four Horseman from a relationship. These are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. These four behavior traits are the biggest predictors of relationship breakdown and divorce in their research based on over 3,000 couples.

The Gottman method places strong emphasis on couples practicing their interventions outside of therapy together. Therapists provide a range of practical interventions to help couples practice exercises such as managing conflict, talking in the aftermath of a fight, communication skills, compromising and developing intimacy. The Gottman Institute also provide live couples workshops some of which can be streamed online, best seller books, Gottman apps and a relationship blog. You can find a list of Gottman resources on the Gottman Method Couples Therapy page.

To find out more about Gottman Method Couples Therapy in Co. Kildare check out www.orlaghgahan.ie

Talking to a Fertility Counsellor About Fertility & Infertility Problems

Talking to a Fertility Counsellor About Fertility & Infertility Problems
As a fertility counsellor, I see all types of clients who come to talk about their fertility and infertility problems. Counselling is for anyone, male or female who would like to talk in confidence about any aspect of their fertility. Clients may come to therapy for just a few sessions to talk things through while others choose to attend more regularly depending on their circumstances.

Fertility counsellors provide professional experienced therapeutic support to women, men and couples who are affected by potential and existing infertility problems. They are also experienced in working through grief and loss, relationships problems and the many life circumstances which bring clients into therapy. Many of us are familiar with hearing about couples who are having difficulty conceiving or who are going through IVF treatment.

The reality is that there is a broad range of reasons clients come to talk about fertility, it is not just for couples who are having difficulty conceiving.

Therapy can be beneficial for anyone who would like to talk openly and honestly about their fertility plans or fears for the future at any stage. Getting support and guidance on lifestyle changes, reducing stress and addressing relationship problems ahead of getting pregnant is common. These days there is a range of options to contemplate when it comes to preparing and planning for a child depending on the circumstances. It can be difficult to talk openly about these options with family and friends. Natural conception, IVF, surrogacy, adoption, fostering and choosing not to have children are all choices that can be talked through with your therapist.

Other common reasons clients come to fertility counselling are related to physical, reproductive, psychological and sexual problems. Social factors such as career, relationship breakdown and the absence of a committed relationship also can have a direct effect on planning a family. Each person’s circumstances are unique to them and their relationship. Similarly, everyone copes and deals differently with life’s challenges particularly in a relationship where both people are trying to support each other. Understanding how to cope better and look after yourself with the support and guidance of a therapist can help make life feel less complicated.

Women may have a concern about fertility and having a child at any stage. This concern can come long before they are even ready to consider getting pregnant. This anticipatory worry can be linked to all types of life experiences such as relationships status, sexuality, sexual abuse, fear of pregnancy or sexual dysfunction i.e. vaginismus. For women who are having difficulty conceiving or staying pregnant, primary or secondary infertility is often an ongoing worry, something which they are trying to navigate through with little adequate support. The total loss of fertility on either side of a relationship may happen completely unexpectedly due to a sudden illness or accident and is often deeply traumatic and distressing.  

Infertility counselling also supports women who are experiencing chronic medical conditions, reproductive surgery, premature menopause and disability which may result in fertility complications. Coming to terms with the consequences of any of these conditions with the support of a therapist over time can be part of a healing and recovery process.    

Infertility often puts a natural strain on the strongest of relationships. Many couples feel that these challenges help to bring them closer together and give their relationship a deeper meaning. At the same time, they each may experience stress, tension, isolation and a range of complicated mixed emotions. Learning how to positively support and understand each other is important to the well-being of both individuals who will invariably be experiencing different things at different stages. Therapy can help couples to feel supported together and learn how to be emotionally more supportive to each other.

Parents, family, friends and even co-workers can be effected by infertility. Being able to talk freely in therapy about how best to deal with these extended relationships and situations can help to reduce stress and tension. Fertility counsellors are familiar with the many challenges that come with fertility problems and are there to help you through.  

If you or your partner are effected by any of the problems mentioned in this article or are concerned about anything relating to fertility then talk to your GP or local Fertility Counsellor. You can book an appointment online and find out more about fertility counselling and fertility reflexology in Co. Kildare, Ireland at www.orlaghgahan.ie 

The National Infertility Support and Information Group provide support meetings and information to anyone experiencing infertility in Ireland.

The British Infertility Counselling Association has helpful articles, information and links on their website and on all social media platforms.  

  

How Talking to a Sex Therapist Can Help With Erectile Dysfunction

How Talking to a Sex Therapist Can Help With Erectile Dysfunction

Sex and intimacy are an important part of sexual well-being and relationship health. Men can be affected by a range of conditions which may impact their sexual health and overall mental and emotional health and talking erectile dysfunction early is important.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a sexual dysfunction defined as the inability to maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. Men may experience mild to moderate erectile dysfunction or complete erectile dysfunction and other problems associated with sexual performance. The prevalence of ED increases with age and may be symptomatic of other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions and chronic stress. Research suggests prevalence may be as high as 15% in some countries. Seeking professional help early is important. If you are worried about erectile dysfunction the first step is to talk to your GP or a medical professional to rule out any potential health conditions.  The second step may be to talk to a professional sex therapist who can help you come to terms with the condition in a positive way.

There are a range of reasons a male may experience ED. These can include lifestyle, physical health, psychosexual problems, hormonal imbalance, health conditions, stress, prostate conditions, surgery, childhood trauma and relationship problems. Excessive use of pornography and drug abuse has also been linked to mild to moderate ED. Some men may experience ED causing difficulty climaxing with a partner but they may have no problem climaxing alone through masturbating.

In my experience as a Sex and Relationship Psychotherapist working with men, women and couples with sexual issues there is always a combination of factors causing sexual problems which at first appear unclear. Through the process of therapy these factors become more evident, allowing the client to make conscious and informed decisions about the next steps to take.

Experiencing ED particularly over a longer period can be distressing and traumatic effecting a man’s sense of masculinity, self-esteem and overall confidence. For some men, the fear and anxiety associated with sexual performance can prevent them from dating altogether ruling out the potential for secure and loving healthy relationships.

Erectile dysfunction can be the result of treatment and surgery following a diagnosis of prostate cancer. It can be beneficial for men and couples who are affected by a prostate cancer diagnosis to talk to an experienced therapist to help them adjust to the condition together. Experiencing ED does not have to mean the end of a couple’s sex life. It often means however that they need to redefine their association of sex as being focused on penetration and more towards a focus of experiencing pleasure, touch, foreplay, sensuality, arousal and a deeper intimate connection together.

Sexual problems can feel difficult and embarrassing to talk about but that can change over time the more you talk through problems with a therapist. It is important not to let fear of talking about any condition prevent you from getting the right type of help.

The good news is that there are a number of health professionals who have expertise and training specifically in sexual problems called Sex Therapists, Psychosexual Therapists or Sex & Relationship Psychotherapists.

Talking to a therapist can help in a number of ways to deal with ED.  They are professionally trained to help you talk more openly about sexual problems by making you feel comfortable and supported. Therapists guide clients through difficult conversations and work towards helping them come to terms with the condition. Therapy for ED may include completing an assessment questionnaire to understand the level of ED and explores the history and potential causes for the condition. Once the client has gained some insight into the reasons behind their condition therapy focuses on intervention, adjustment and recovery.

Take the time to find the right therapist for you and work through your problem to rule out potential causes and identify factors. Therapeutically your therapist should be focusing on many levels such as lifestyle, sex and intimacy, emotional health and relationship healing.

It may take a number of sessions to properly assess the various factors and history of the sexual problem before any intervention is discussed. I always invite partners to engage in therapy for sexual problems to discuss the relationship and help the couple come together to support each other in a positive way. Dealing with sexual problems often means addressing the impact on both people in the relationship and working out how they can adjust together.  I find many couples I work with never learned to talk openly about sex or intimacy together. When one partner opens up in a relationship it makes it more acceptable for both partners to talk more about their intimate relationship leading to an enhanced connection together.

An important part of therapy for ED is helping men of all ages to regain their confidence, self-esteem and masculinity and start to feel good about themselves again.

 

Finding A Therapist – How To Find The Right Psychotherapist For You

Finding A Therapist – How To Find The Right Psychotherapist For You

Deciding to go to therapy might be one of the best things you ever do for yourself. Personal therapy is not just for individuals in crisis or who are suffering mental health problems. On the contrary, in my experience as a Psychotherapist many people come because they want to change something in their life, improve their relationships, get motivated to do something challenging, overcome fears or to feel inspired and empowered.

Therapy can be the perfect space for personal development with the support of a professional who can help you achieve your goals, only faster. When finding a therapist, people often make the mistake of attending the wrong therapist in the right location or the right therapist in the wrong location and find themselves feeling that ‘therapy did not work the last time’, a saying I hear regularly from new clients.

Finding the right Psychotherapist can feel mind boggling when you are not exactly sure what you are looking for. A therapist who provides general counselling might be just what you need if you want help with general everyday life stress or work life balance.

Here are some straightforward things to consider to help you narrow down your search and find the right Psychotherapist for you.

Be Specific.

There are thousands of accredited Counsellors, Psychotherapists and mental health professionals across Ireland each trained in various psychotherapy models and specialist fields from depression and trauma to individuals, couples and family therapy. Save yourself a lot of time in the long run by finding a therapist who specialises in the specific problem or area you feel you need help with.

For example, if you want to talk about a sexual problem then seek out a therapist who works specifically in sexual problems and sex therapy. If you want help to overcome an addiction and start a recovery process, then find a therapist who specialises in addictions. Maybe you and your partner want to improve your relationship or separate amicably then find an excellent relationship psychotherapist to guide you through the process.  There are many areas of expertise in psychotherapy which means a recommendation from your GP or a friend is not always a good way to find your therapist.

To narrow down your search, first identify what you want to achieve from your therapy sessions.

Most Psychotherapists who specialise in various fields also provide general counselling but many therapists who provide general counselling do not specialise in specific fields. Now with the internet you can find and profile many experienced therapists and websites to find the right professional. The benefits of online counselling also mean you could potentially access a therapist who may be practicing in another country but that you feel have the experience you are looking for. Expect to pay more for Psychotherapists who specialise as you are paying for their experience, expertise and training. It could save you money and time in the long term.

Accessibility.

When choosing a therapist consider that you may be spending weeks, months or maybe year’s working with your therapist. Many people find being in therapy so valuable that they choose to continue on an ongoing basis dipping in and out of therapy over time.  Convenient access to your chosen therapist is an important factor and should be up there on your priority list so that you can attend regularly.

Ideally you want to make getting to appointments as stress free as possible, arriving stressed is counterproductive. Even consider allocating time after your session so that you can get a coffee or have a short walk to process your thoughts and feelings on your own.

Traveling an hour to a therapist may seem fine in the early stages but longer term it becomes inconvenient and unrealistic. You may find yourself having to start all over again with a new therapist which is frustrating and time consuming. Many therapists provide online therapy which means that accessibility and location no longer restrict people accessing the right therapist in the comfort of their own home.

Trust Your Gut.

Therapists are people too with different personalities, traits and life experience. Just like in the real world sometimes we just don’t feel a connection with someone for no particular reason or maybe for a very specific reason. Possibly you saw a therapist already but did not feel at ease with that person or their practice on that day. If that happened, that’s OK, it’s natural, find another one. Don’t just give up there. Therapists are trained to be professional, ethical and approachable but even so it is human nature that your personalities or experience may just be incompatible for you to be able to really open up in the therapy room.

It is important that the therapist you are working with feels relatable to you as a person.

The client therapist therapeutic relationship takes time to develop, weeks at a minimum, psychotherapy is a therapeutic process after all. If, however your intuition and gut reaction is strong and tells you this therapist is not a good fit for you after two or three sessions then find another therapist. This time being even more specific in your search. Trust your gut but also give the relationship time to develop. Just as the therapist is learning about you, you are learning about them and how they work.

Finding the right therapist can save you a lot of time and money and really help you achieve your desired goals in a shorter space of time. Some other things to take into consideration when finding a therapist are if you would prefer a male or female therapist, affordability, agreeing to cancellation policies, age gaps and level of expertise. If you are attending therapy through your private health insurance provider, you may have no choice who you are referred to. You may need to balance up working with that therapist in the short term at no cost or choosing to see a therapist you find privately instead.

Finding the right therapist ultimately depends on your individual circumstances and what you want to achieve out of therapy. Just like relationships, it takes time to develop the connection so be open to opening up.

 

Fertility – What Are The Benefits of Fertility Reflexology

Fertility – What Are The Benefits of Fertility Reflexology

Fertility reflexology is a wonderful complementary health therapy which can be received as a proactive approach to improving overall fertility and in preparation for IVF. Therapeutically treatments are relaxing and have a positive effect on the body, particularly the nervous system.

Ultimately reflexology treatments help promote a balance of mind and body through fertility while also being supported.

There is ongoing research around the world proving the effects and benefits of reflexology for both fertility and pregnancy. All Irish private health insurers providers recognise reflexology as a complementary health therapy which promotes overall health. Many insurance providers cover reflexology as a day to day expense and also specialist fertility reflexology as an additional benefit when received from a registered reflexologist. Fertility clinics around the world employ fertility reflexologists to provide reflexology before and after treatments due to the positive effects on the patient.

The National Register of Reflexologists Ireland is the main governing body for professional reflexologists in Ireland. They promote the following benefits of reflexology for sub-fertility;

  • Provides support at a challenging time.
  • Promotes general well-being.
  • Improves blood flow to the pelvic area.
  • Improves sleep and increases energy levels.
  • Helps to regulate hormones and the menstrual cycle.
  • Reduces pain in endometriosis.
  • Increased success rate in IVF.
  • Reduces stress levels.
  • May help regulate menstrual cycle with Polycystic ovaries.

Many women received fertility reflexology as a proactive approach to improving their overall fertility. This is often also combined with various changes in lifestyle to improve overall health and well-being. Where there is no known medical condition that will stop you conceiving or decrease your chances it is very worthwhile to have a course of treatments before embarking on a more invasive, stressful and often expensive alternative. Often the affects of fertility reflexology are cumulative so a commitment to treatments and lifestyle changes is required for the best possible outcome and to prepare for pregnancy. Women may also receive fertility reflexology through IVF which can help reduce stress, improve overall mood and support women through the various stages of treatment.

Orlagh Gahan is a Registered Reflexologist with the NRRI and a Fertility Counsellor accredited with the I.A.C.P in private practice in Co. Kildare, Ireland. She supports women and couples through natural and assisted fertility treatments, infertility, sex therapy and pregnancy. Orlagh also provides a unique 90 minute Fertility Combined Care appointment which combines fertility counselling support with fertility reflexology to improve overall physical mental and emotional health. 

Recovery & Sobriety – Setting Short Term Goals in Early Recovery

Recovery & Sobriety – Setting Short Term Goals in Early Recovery
Recovery is about a return to good health and in order to return to good health you may benefit from setting goals to help you get there. I talk to lots of clients early in their recovery about the importance of goal setting to help them achieve what they really want out of life, which is often ultimately to achieve sobriety, repair relationships and get some control back in their lives.

Sobriety requires much more than just sheer willpower which can be the reason people fail trying to do it alone with no direction. It requires motivation, goals, support, time, practice, routine, focus, patience and positive reinforcement.

‘Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.’    -Tony Robbins

If you are starting to understand setting goals for your recovery then focus on sorting them into short, medium and long term goals. Short term goals are from day one to day ninety. Medium term goals are from three months to twelve months. While long term goals are from twelve months and into the future. Its important to set goals which are realistic, achievable and motivating. Working towards your goals then starts to become part of a new routine in the longer term. As you reach your goals you will experience positive reinforcement that you have completed something you set out to achieve along with the feel good factor. They helps to build your confidence and self-esteem and most importantly your belief in yourself. Good strong routines in turn are a great relapse preventative measure in the long term.

Firstly you need to make a very clear decision on what your basic ultimate goal is in terms of your recovery. For example, do you want to be alcohol free, drug free, stop using pornography or give up gambling for good? What ever your ultimate goal is, that is your finish line. Right now in early recovery your only thinking about running a race. Every single goal you set out will help to support and reinforce your ultimate goal.

What should your short term goals be in early recovery?

Short term goals are really about helping the individual find some kind of balance and routine in their lives. These goals are focused on the present and should be quite simple and achievable. Set both daily and weekly goals, one week at a time. I think limiting them to no more than ten goals can help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed. It is much better to do two or three really well then ten half hardheartedly. Short term goals are about helping the client stabilise physically, mentally and emotionally.

Here are some common short term goals my clients often set out in the first 90 days.

  • Committing to one personal therapy session every week in the first 90 days.
  • Going to a support group two to three times a week in the first 90 days.
  • Learning about recovery and reading a book every night about recovery and self-development can help you to focus and gain some personal insight or, reading one book a week.
  • Keeping a journal and once a day spending some time writing down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Keeping a diary each day and writing in it each morning the things that will help you to focus on your recovery and sobriety that day. One day at a time.
  • Choosing an exercise like running or swimming, something you know you enjoy which will help you to burn off stress, anxiety, tension, frustration and all the emotions your may start to feel as you change your habits and behaviors. Exercise clears your head, helps you to focus and improves your sleep. Try to commit to your exercise every second day or so.
  • Start thinking about housekeeping. Housekeeping means that you start to get rid of any triggers, paraphernalia or products which may lead you to acting out. This may be deleting email addresses and accounts, clearing the house of alcohol or cigarettes or removing traces of anything which may lead you to consider a relapse.
  • Setting some goals around relationship healing is often on most peoples list. This may be something simple like asking your partner to sit down with and start talking to them about what your goals and plans for sobriety. It might also mean sitting down with your partner and listening to their needs and feelings. It might mean inviting them to a therapy session or talking about going to relationship counselling together.
  • Listen to a podcast or audio book about recovery, motivation or personal development.
  • Start writing lists which you can bring to therapy or work through yourself. List of goals, lists of motivations, lists of regrets, lists of thoughts and insights, lists of relapses, lists of people to connect with, lists of triggers, lists of music to listen to that will inspire you, lists of emotions, lists of hurt, lists of pain, lists of plans for the future. Writing down your thoughts can help you put context onto what you have be going through and is a way of letting go and releasing emotional pain.
  • Finding ways to learn to relax maybe by going to a yoga class or having a massage therapy session once a week.
  • Write out some thoughts on medium and long terms goals for recovery and your personal life.
  • Short term goals may simply be doing the things you have been avoiding for a long time like going to the GP, dentist or getting health checkups.
  • Personal hygiene and self-care is often a good short term goal. It may be simply getting up earlier every day, taking a hot shower and getting dressed.
  • Write an activity list of things that you can do to help you work through urges. This is a kind of activity list you can practice when you are feeling triggered. It may include things like meditation, go for a walk, do press-ups, phone a friend, breathing exercises, stretching etc.
  • Find an app that you can use every day to help monitor and motivate your recovery.
  • Do some research online of support groups, resources, workshops or blogs that might help promote your recovery.
  • Do something different at the weekend from your regular weekends. This might mean not socialising in the same way or meeting with different friends or family or planing activities for early in the morning instead of later at night.

So you can now start to see that short term goals are about helping you to focus on all the things which will promote your sobriety one day at a time from week to week. As you reach your goals, set new ones, this is how you grow and change. Recovery really is a learning process that times time and persistence. The more time you give it, the more you will gain from the work you put into yourself.

I believe that support and connection with people is a major part of what gets people through the early days of recovery.  Addiction counselling helps you to work through all the challenges you come up against so that you can learn how to recover. Recovery is about returning to health and finding your true happy fulfilled self. Keep it simple. Achieve your short term goals. Sooth yourself in positive ways. Give yourself praise and positive recognition every single day. Stay strong one day at a time. Reward yourself for goals achieved.

The biggest mistake is that people try to do it alone. You alone can do it, but, you can not do it alone. Remember, keep up your therapy sessions and support groups in your early days no matter how good or bad you are doing.

 

Starting Therapy – What to Expect From Your First Psychotherapy Session

Starting Therapy – What to Expect From Your First Psychotherapy Session

I wanted to write a short blog article to help potential clients feel reassured about what to expect in their first counselling & psychotherapy appointment for face to face and online therapy. Most new clients tell me that they have thought about coming to therapy for a long time, in many cases years, so I hope that this will help to demystify the concept of coming to therapy for the first time. Personally speaking I want clients to have a positive experience from their first session so that it helps normalise the idea of being in-therapy. If you have been thinking of starting therapy, don’t waste any more time, just go for it.

Many people consider therapy for between six months to two years before they make an appointment with me. The lead up to your first session can feel a bit daunting and nerve racking, the fear of the unknown and not really knowing what to expect but don’t worry too much. How do I start, what do I say, what will they think are common thoughts people can have first time around. Remember, every single therapist had first session nerves just like you! It’s really reassuring to know that your therapist will guide and lead you though your sessions every time, particularly your first session.

I like to break my sessions down into three parts which are an opening, middle and closing section. We know how difficult the first steps can be and meet new clients every day so an important part of our role as a therapist is to make you feel at ease and comfortable during each and every session.

What Should I Expect From My First Therapy Session

Most therapists will follow a similar process in the first session so this article outlines the process that I like to follow myself. The first session is very much an informal relaxed session of getting to know each other and a discussion around how we can both work together therapeutically with your particular presenting issue. What you can definitely expect to get from your first session is a safe supportive space to start talking about what ever it is you are going through. Below is a road-map of how I like to work through the first sessions.

Consultation Form. You will be asked to provide basic information such as medical conditions, GP details and contact details of a next of kin in the event of an emergency.

Introductions. I will introduce myself and my practice and what to expect from the first session to help put you at ease. Personally I take notes during sessions which I use as as a visual tool in therapy with my clients.

Explaining The Therapist Client Confidentiality Agreement. I will explain to you information about the our confidentially agreement and also the limitations of confidentiality and answer any questions you may have.

Sharing. This first session is really a safe space for you to talk about everything that brings you to therapy. I like to call it a session to just offload all your problems and worries. It can take some time to get used to taking about yourself but you will be amazed how quickly you can adjust and have plenty to talk about.

Identifying Problems. By the end of the session we will discuss some areas to focus on in therapy over the coming sessions and also discuss how many sessions to start off with. You may be asked to complete an assessment during the first session which will also help us narrow down some areas to focus on.

Closing The Session. I will spend five to ten minutes closing the first session and checking in with you to see how you are feeling or any thoughts and questions you might have. Many people are feeling much more relaxed as we come to the end of the first session and most report feeling relieved, happy, motivated that it is over after thinking about it for some time.

It is important to be realistic and not to expect to much from your first session. I think that many people expect to have life changing experiences in therapy and that they will walk out the door feeling fixed or better after just one hour. The reality is that most of the changes happen for the patient between sessions as they learn to practice what has been discussed in therapy and start to focus and reflect more on themselves. I regularly hear clients say ‘I tried therapy before and it did not work‘ and when we explore this more early in therapy, they may have attended just a handful of sessions, sometimes just one and had unrealistic expectations of the outcome. Therapy is where you come to talk about change, the next part is to actively learn how to change outside of sessions.

I can reassure you that your second session will feel easier to attend, as you know where you are going and what to expect. Ongoing sessions will feel like they have a nice natural comfortable flow as we get to know each other more and develop a relationship overtime. Therapy is a process of change, healing and personal insight. It is also learning to be vulnerable and open with another human being and using that connection with your therapist to help you to accept yourself, change and grow. All of which takes time.

 

Promoting Wellness – Positive Coping Techniques for Everyday Stress

Promoting Wellness – Positive Coping Techniques for Everyday Stress

Wellness is defined as feeling comfortable, happy and healthy. A state of being which most of us would like to achieve in our everyday life without having to think to much about it. But everyday life can be hectic and often we don’t get a moment to stop and take stock until the weekend or a break away. Burnout can happen as a result of long-term physical, mental or emotional stress which is not managed well.

The healthier you feel in your mind and body the better you are able to cope with all the symptoms of stress and a busy lifestyle.

In fact, the more positive you feel, the more motivated you will be to focus on your health and improving your overall quality of life. It is important to be proactive and be able to identify and manage stress in a healthy way that’s best for you.

Here are some simple positive coping techniques for everyday wellness which can also help anyone who is recovering from stress, anxiety and burnout or feeling overwhelmed.

  • Practice 2 minute grounding exercise during times of stress by focusing on your breathing and senses, what you can feel, hear, smell and touch.
  • Practice mindfulness by focusing on the present day and what you can control.
  • Embrace self-care by resting, relaxing, looking after your self, having fun and laughing.
  • Love your body and enjoy taking care of yourself.
  • Exercise regularly to feel good, release endorphins and burn off adrenaline.
  • Stop catastrophic thinking and ruminating about worst case scenarios.
  • Identify your negative though processes and focus on shifting to positive thoughts.
  • Stop being critical of yourself and others and focus on strengths.
  • Get plenty of undisturbed sleep approx. 6 to 8 hours to help the body heal.
  • Avoid negative influences which are unnecessary such as news, dramatic TV shows etc.
  • Practice positive self-talk and affirmations.
  • Find ways to feel inspired and empowered through reading, audio-books, groups, talks, music, workshops, hobbies, events.
  • Short breathing exercises through the day during times of stress can help improve mental clarity, oxygenate the body and relax muscles through the body.
  • Learn to say ‘NO‘ to others or ‘Can I come back to you on that?‘ when you have had time to think and start putting yourself first.
  • Ask for support and help from others and learn to accept help when offered.
  • Talk to your partner, family and friends about the things that bother you.
  • Surround yourself with positive loving people.
  • Let go of trying to control others or wasting energy on what they may be thinking or feeling.
  • Treat yourself from time to time, you are worth it.
  • Use commuting as an opportunity to rest, listening to audio-book, podcasts you enjoy or reading a book.
  • Leave work at work and stick to clear working hours.
  • Turn off work related phones, emails and devices early in the evening so it does not infringe on home life and valuable relationships.
  • Write lists of things that are on your mind or that you need to get done.
  • Let yourself feel what ever you are feeling rather than trying to suppress emotions, uncomfortable feelings will pass.
  • Most importantly find ways to cope which work for you.

 

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