Counselling can help with…

Featured Articles
We have submitted a number of articles for publication and below are some that we hope you may find useful…

What is Counselling?

Engaging in therapeutic counselling helps you look at what’s troubling you. Some clients are advised to attend by a professional or a loved one whereas some don’t have a clear reason but feel ‘stuck’ – in a rut.

Counselling isn’t about getting advice or being criticised for ‘getting it wrong’.

Therapy can offer space to explore your world in a confidential, non-judgemental way. The therapeutic relationship can develop into a strong alliance – unravelling issues – with the skilled counsellor safely facilitating the process. The therapist on the ‘outside’ of the client’s immediate situation can give a sense of grounding; ‘an anchor in a rough sea’.

The practitioner’s training influences the therapy process but ultimately the goal is to increase a client’s self-awareness and sense of well-being, enabling them to make their own choices moving forward. A professional will encourage open dialogue and working together, talking things through and sharing observations in a respectful way.

Life experiences can be painful and it’s crucial you feel comfortable with your therapist. Effective counselling will endeavour to build a sense of safety and trust where a client feels supported to set their own pace and feel free to speak. We can’t ‘get rid of’ pain and loss but we can find ways to manage and often grow from difficult times. Counselling can be a safe, holding container where thoughts and feelings may surface, sometimes making you feel vulnerable and your therapist will support you through this.

Counselling is an important health investment so if it’s not working for you tell your counsellor. A skilled counsellor will understand and discuss further and may offer to refer you, ultimately supporting whatever your decision.

Therapists may offer blocks of 6 sessions; with more complex thoughts and feelings often requiring longer, reviewing every 4 – 6 weeks, planning towards a timely ending. Sessions are normally weekly for 50 – 60 minutes.

Counselling can increase well-being and help recognise your uniqueness whatever your beliefs, gender, race or age.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Denise AskewCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice

About Anger

Feeling angry and expressing anger is a natural part of being human. We are all able to feel and express anger from birth. Expressing anger can help to relieve pent up tension caused by a wide range of things such as: frustration, annoyance, pain, disappointment or being under attack physically or verbally. Expressing anger can be extremely useful; to be able to feel angry about something at the time it happens, helps us to feel better and enables us to move on after the event.

Anger can become a problem if we are not able to express how we feel about something at the time that it happens. Tension can build up and up until we can be so angry that we express anger at inappropriate times or in ways that may be unsafe for ourselves or for others. This bottling and suppression of our feelings can be damaging to us, as well as those we live and work with.

Suppression of anger can lead to physical and emotional problems. Physically we may become tense; having our muscles forever ‘on the ready’ can cause backache or headaches. This stress can also cause high blood pressure or digestive problems. Emotionally the supressed anger can lead to problems with our behaviour; we may become unpredictable, sarcastic, sulky, aggressive or even violent and destructive.

All of this has a huge negative impact on our lives. Our physical problems may require us to be frequently sick and off work or even render us unable to work altogether. Our emotional problems can affect how we relate to others resulting in unhappy relationships or family distress.

Learning to manage our anger is possible, doing so will help with the above problems. Understanding our anger is the first step. Seeing a counsellor can often help us to understand and manage our anger, regardless of whether we are angry about something that happened a long time ago, or something that is happening right now.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Pam EvansCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice

About Self Esteem

Self-esteem describes how we think and feel about ourselves. We often hear the phrase ‘I have low self-esteem’, so what does this mean and how does this happen?

We have low self-esteem when we think in a negative way about ourselves. Thinking in this way means that we start paying too much attention to the mistakes we make, or we focus on what we consider to be our faults or flaws.

As a result of this we may begin to feel resigned to failure or have feelings of worthlessness. This can feed the belief that we can’t do things because we are no good at them. As we go on we may avoid situations that we feel would be difficult for us, or we may find it hard to finish something or try something new.

We begin to feel inadequate and find ourselves comparing ourselves to others. This only serves to make it worse, we are left feeling insecure, isolated and unhappy.

Our feelings of self-worth develop in childhood. Being valued at an early age helps us to maintain a healthy view of ourselves. However, it is important to remember what we think about ourselves changes as we experience different events and encounter different people and situations.

There is no single cause for low self-esteem, it is influenced by many factors including: difficult or complex experiences as a child, bullying, experiencing tough life events, stressful living, being a victim of discrimination, high expectations forced upon us or peer pressure. These can all have a negative effect on our self-esteem.

However, we can change the way we think about ourselves and are able to increase our self-esteem. This can take time, talking to a counsellor can help us to explore our individuality and identify our strengths and qualities. We can learn to focus on these and begin to think of ourselves in a more positive way, increasing our self-esteem as we go. 

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Pam EvansCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice

Compulsive Hoarding

All humans hoard objects to a certain extent – in fact, our ability to hoard is thought to be the basis for our continued survival.  Many of us have wardrobes full of clothes we haven’t worn for years, shelves stacked with books we rarely read and mantel pieces decorated with ornaments we hardly even notice anymore. When these hoards start to get out of control most people will have a clean out, however, a compulsive hoarder will never willingly throw anything away.  Compulsive hoarding may take many years to become apparent. Symptoms may become noticeable around the age of 13 or 14 but only very obvious and problematic later in life.  Compulsive hoarders are, by nature, often obsessive about the objects they collect and tend to become anxious and distressed at the mere thought of throwing them away. 

Certain life experiences such as bereavement may trigger hoarding. A hoarder may gain a sense of comfort from being surrounded by their possessions, which perhaps stems from the fear of being left with nothing at all.  When faced with stressful events, some people choose to battle with a new problem of their own creating, like producing chaotic clutter as a way of avoiding their real problem. They will find it almost impossible to control their hoarding and it may be a symptom of other mental health problems, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, dementia, stress and anger or anxiety disorders.

Professional help is often needed to change behaviour that is potentially dangerous and no longer rational. Counselling can encourage awareness and exploration in a safe and non-judgemental space. Understanding ways of thinking that are unconscious may enable hoarders to learn how to make their own more logical decisions and take control again over their lives.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Christine CantwellCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice


It is very common for someone feeling depressed to be advised to, ‘snap out of it’. The truth is that if you knew how, you would have done it a long time ago.

The word ‘depressed’ has become part of our language to describe fleetingly feeling low, sad or just fed up. However ‘depression’ is something totally different, as those of you who have experienced it will know.  Depression can strike at any time of your life, (even children get depressed), and for many reasons.

Depression affects every aspect of your life, making you feel anxious, like another person, alien to whom you feel you really are. Your energy levels feel as if the plug has been pulled out, and you have ground to a halt, leading to feeling irritable or angry, with intolerance for others. This affects self-esteem and self-confidence and can make you withdrawn.

You become aware that you are not your usual self, with low mood, feeling sad and tearful for no apparent reason. Loss of interest in daily life and a lack of motivation lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Appetite can be lost or increased, affecting your weight. You may experience changes in sleep patterns, with difficulty in getting off to sleep, frequently waking or sleeping more, even round the clock.

There can be many causes of depression, any life event i.e. bereavement, job loss, difficulties in a relationship, or something from your past such as abuse, a trauma, post natal depression or money problems. Most people will seek advice from their GP, who may prescribe an anti-depressant. They may also advise counselling. 

As a counsellor, I have found that clients who are depressed need someone to listen to their problems whilst dealing with their depression. They require support, compassion, and help to understand, ‘why me’ and ‘why now’.  With counselling you are offered a safe place to talk about your depression and your difficulties, in an open and non-judgemental way. Your counsellor will support you through your experience, enabling you to make sense of it, potentially through to recovery.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Linda BaxterCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice

Emotional Eating

There are two main reasons for eating, when we are physically hungry or we have emotional hunger. When we are physically hungry, and feel it in our stomachs, we respond to our bodies need to eat, food sustains us and is needed for healthy growth and repair.

It is recommended that we eat slowly so that as we refuel, our body can message our brain and tell us when we are getting full. We can then stop and avoid overeating.

However, when we are not actually hungry, we still eat for a number of other reasons


  • social eating – everyone else is eating so we have to.
  • Impulse eating – mmm, that smells good
  • Sadness – for comfort
  • Happiness – a treat
  • Leftovers – out of habit
  • Boredom – nothing better to do
  • Hopeless – a distraction
  • Loneliness – a relief
  • With a drink – cheese and wine, beer and crisps, gin and nibbles

Some of these reasons for eating are due to a deeper emotional need. Although we may think that food sustains us in these circumstances, it does not in the longer term. We consume calories we don’t need and we use food as a quick fix rather than finding a solution.

A first step before eating something; may be to decide whether you have real hunger that can be satisfied with food, or if food is wanted for some other reason. If this is the case, it may help to try and identify what that reason is.

Talking to a counsellor can help to identify what is causing the need to eat when we are not really hungry.

It could be having the confidence to say ‘I am not hungry right now’ to helping to understand what is actually needed is a hug, a good cry, company, kindness, something to break this habit or a way to release you from feeling bored.

Whatever it is will be unique to you and will help you to understand and fulfil your emotional needs without turning to food for a quick fix.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Pam EvansCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice

Every Day Mindfulness

In our busy lives it is not easy to find a moment to ourselves. It is estimated that we are fully aware of every moment for only 2 of our 16 waking hours, for the remaining 14 hours we are deemed to be on auto-pilot. When we do stop and sit down, our heads are still busy. Using television or other screens only distract rather than relax us.

Finding a still moment, no matter how small, helps to maintain our emotional wellbeing. These calm and restful moments can also be energising, nourishing and refreshing. Those that practice mindfulness regularly know this, and will attest to the benefits that it brings.

Many of us find it hard to add anything else into our busy days, so if you have no time why not try one or two of these small mindfulness tips.

Doing this daily will help to bring mindfulness into your busy day.

When cleaning your teeth, be in the moment and think only of cleaning your teeth.

Take a second to notice the smell of your shower gel or the soap you use.

Observe the world around you, try looking for your favourite colour every day.

When you hear birdsong, take a moment to listen to it.

Express your feelings through your body, try smiling or doing a ‘thumbs up’.

Reach out and touch something soft, silky or equally tactile.

have a beautiful/unusual object from nature on your desk or by your bed so you can look at it daily (a sea shell, a feather, a pine cone or a photograph of a beautiful place)

So, why not have a go, ‘just try it’ (to misquote a well-known advert) do one or two of these mindfulness tips every day and you will know the benefits these still moments can bring.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Pam EvansCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice


We experience loss in many ways throughout life, probably the most difficult being the finality of physical death of a loved one.  Loss and its aftermath can also follow change such as loss of a relationship, loss of work and moving house.  Some changes do have positive sides e.g. moving home may feel sad after years of good times but if you choose to move to a house more suited to your current needs, it follows change can feel good.

Grieving is unique to you and it is a process.  Regardless of the type of loss you experience, your grieving process will be different from others and every loss you experience is potentially different.  You react in your own way, the situation surrounding your loss, previous losses, your support network, and the nature of the lost relationship will play a part.  A present loss can ‘trigger’ a past unresolved experience for some and may feel overwhelming.  Depression, feeling stuck and suicidal thoughts can be talked through with a counsellor, allowing oneself space to process emotions at one’s own pace.

Feelings come in waves of anger, sadness, guilt, numbness and many people find themselves wondering ‘what ifs’, when thinking about what happened.  In reality we can’t change the past but this is where our focus remains.  Eventually, acceptance may come and go, and acceptance may take a long time often very gradually, sometimes confusing.  For example – you may find yourself laughing at a comedy programme and feeling good, then feeling guilty (at having fun) may follow.  Mood swings and feeling overwhelmed can give a feeling of ‘craziness’.   In addition to the afore-mentioned emotions, other changes experienced may include lethargy, altered sleeping or eating, fear, anxiety, isolation, overworking, poor concentration, memory lapse.

Some people find comfort in their religious beliefs, whereas others may feel anger and disbelief, needing to avoid places with difficult memories and feeling isolated.  Seeking out a counsellor who is aware of grieving and loss may be an option. 

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Denise AskewCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice

Self Injury – Cutting

Someone who cuts uses a sharp object to make marks, cuts, or scratches on the body on purpose, enough to break the skin and cause bleeding. People typically cut themselves on their wrists, forearms, thighs, or belly using a sharp implement and some people burn their skin with the end of a cigarette or lighted match.

Most people who self-injure are girls, but boys do it too. It usually starts during the teen years and can continue into adulthood. In some cases, there’s a family history of cutting. Most people who cut hide the marks and if they’re noticed, make up excuses about them. Others don’t try to hide cuts and might even call attention to them.

Cutting often begins as an impulse and people who self-injure report that it provides a sense of relief from deep painful emotions. Because of this, cutting is a behavior that tends to reinforce itself and can become habit forming.  As with other compulsive behaviors, the brain starts to connect a momentary sense of relief from bad feelings with the act of cutting. Whenever the tension builds, the brain craves that relief and drives the person to seek relief again by cutting.

Most of the time, cutting is not a suicide attempt, however people often underestimate the potential to get seriously sick or hurt through bleeding or infections that go along with cutting.

For some, the physical pain of cutting can seem preferable to emotional pain. Emotional pain can feel vague and hard to pinpoint, talk about, or soothe. When they cut, people say there is a sense of control and relief to see and know where the specific pain is coming from and a sense of soothing when it stops. Cutting can symbolize inner pain that might not have been verbalized, acknowledged, or healed. And because it’s self-inflicted, it is pain the person controls.

Cutting may be linked to, another mental health condition and the person may also be struggling with other compulsive behaviours. For some, depression or bipolar disorder can contribute to overwhelming moods that may be difficult to regulate and some people struggle with personality traits that attract them to the dangerous excitement of risky behaviour or self-destructive acts.

Cutting is an unhealthy and dangerous way to deal with emotional difficulties and many people want to stop. To stop cutting, a person will need to find new ways to deal with problem situations and learn how to regulate emotions that feel overwhelming. This can take time and may need the help of a mental health professional.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Christine CantwellCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice

Social Phobia ?

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) is a relatively common anxiety disorder.  It might not always be recognised as such and is often mistaken for an extreme form of shyness; this can mean that friends and family find it difficult to understand how overwhelming such anxiety can be for the sufferer.  It is most often experienced as panicky feelings which are triggered in social situations – particularly where there are a lot of people – or crowded situations where the sufferer feels trapped with no immediate or easy means of escape.  The disorder seems to affect more women than men.

Social Phobia can be extremely disabling for the person concerned, sometimes resulting in them deliberately avoiding social situations altogether.  Anything from simple shopping trips, holidays, family or seasonal celebrations, even phone calls, can induce very real anxiety and become dreaded situations.  Those affected might experience panic attacks in situations that they find particularly stressful and, in its extreme form, social phobia can cause the sufferer to feel agoraphobic, making it difficult, or even impossible, for them to leave their home.

The fear engendered by social situations can seem illogical, even to the person affected.  It is not unusual for people who suffer from such fears to successfully hide their discomfort from those around them by finding some excuse to avoid social situations that they know provoke anxiety.  Sadly, this can lead to further distress if the person suffers feelings of guilt at having to make up an excuse or feelings of regret that they have missed out on some of life’s enjoyable experiences.      

It is not always obvious where such fears and anxieties might have arisen and sufferers may find it very difficult to talk about the problem with friends and family.  Psychological therapies such as talking therapies may be able to help them identify the onset of their difficulties and help them to explore their feelings and find ways to cope with the distressing disruption to their lives.  Such exploration may lead to the lessening of symptoms, hopefully enabling the sufferer to once again lead a full and rewarding life.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Hazel Marshall Counsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice

Understanding Dreams

Throughout human history dreams have held a central place in many cultures, often being seen as messages from the Gods or spirit world,  providing an answer to a problem, a cure for an illness, a prophesy.

Most counsellors regard dreams as potentially useful messages from the self, from a part of us that is trying to bring to our attention something about our life or our health that we are not fully aware of in our everyday consciousness. Dream work can allow us insights into the working of our own unconscious mind.

Research shows that most of us will dream during sleep most nights. However we often forget these dreams, or fragments of dreams when we wake up, so we may come to believe that we rarely dream.

By paying attention as soon as we wake up to any dream images or sequences that are left with us, any lingering feelings or sensations , and going over them in our mind, we can learn to have better recall. By keeping a pad and pen near to us at night we can then record them when we awake.

This then allows us the possibility of ‘de-coding’ the dream, a process that can be helped by a counsellor. This does not mean a counsellor ‘interpreting’ and telling the dreamer what the dream means. It means working to find how this dream, these images or feelings connect to the dreamer’s life.

A counsellor would want to find out what associations the dreamer has to the characters or images in the dream – being aware that dreams will present people, images or situations as metaphors. Dream language seems always to use metaphor where each image stands for something else – but what it stands for will be very particular to the dreamer and the dreamer’s life.

When a dream is fully understood, with resonant connections to the dreamer’s life, this can often point the way to a practical life change that would be positive and helpful.  Instead of ignoring or readily forgetting, we can choose to see dreams as a resource that can assist in the growing of our self-awareness.

© Phoenix Counselling Practice.  Article supplied by Mary BrooksCounsellor with the Phoenix Counselling Practice