Truth Joy Beauty

Just my thoughts and reflections about living and loving in the post-post modern age.

Archive for the tag “Therapy”

Revisiting Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability

This morning I felt in necessary for some weird reason to re-visit Brene` Brown’s now infamous talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I first watched it during a week long Counsellor Development W…

Source: Revisiting Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability

Trusting the “process”

A while ago now I wrote a post about the shitty shower-head in my apartment and the meaning of my resistance to getting a new one. (You can read it the whole post here if you like.) For those that can’t be bothered, the basic moral of the story was about acceptance. I hated my shitty apartment and was so focused on the future that I was choosing to live with a shitty shower-head in the present that dribbled out water rather that accept my current situation for what it was. Crazy, huh? Hmmm, well we’re all a little crazy, especially therapists! But, it’s recognizing the ways in which our own unique brand of craziness manifests that makes us wiser as we go. We are all trying our best and learning as we go.

Thing is, some lessons are harder to absorb than others. For me, it’s my own special brand of silly ‘futurizing’ anxiety which drives me around the twist at times, if I let it. It’s a constant effort of vigilant, compassionate self-awareness which keeps my anxiety at bay. If there is one thing I have learnt about anxiety, both from observing my clients’ and my own is that is not something you can ever really ‘beat’. It’s something you make peace with, shake hands with so to speak and learn to live with.

I came face to face with my futurizing anxiety today by way of a HB pencil. Yes, a pencil. One of those refillable ones that you put the leads into. When I picked it up I realized that it only had one lead left in it. That made me anxious. Here is a running dialogue of what went on in my mind for the next few minutes: What if I run out of lead while I’m using it? Should I go and see if I can find some spare leads to refill it now before I start? What if I don’t have the right ones? Should I go find another pencil instead of this one? And so on. Exhausting isn’t it? I was worried about the future instead of focusing on the present task which was to simply write down a few notes. It was in the noticing of my anxiety around a silly pencil that gave me the clue that my anxiety was manifesting itself again. It was the same brand of anxiety that manifested itself when I refused to get a new shower-head. So what did I do, I simply repeated my mantra – Trust the process. Instantly I felt calmer, took a deep breath and wrote with the pencil with only one lead. If and when the lead runs out, I will deal with the situation when it arises.

I know this is a overly simple, silly example, beyond silly really but it does illustrate my point. Anxiety starts with the small things, it’s when you let it continue without interruption or give it your full, uncritical attention that it can get out of hand.

Then I thought to myself, why does the phrase “trust the process” work for me? I’m not sure about that but it really does. (I suggest that if you are suffering from some kind of anxiety that you find your own phrase that works for you.) I think it’s because it short circuits the route that your brain has been so used to taking (probably straight to the amygdala, where your emotional responses come from) and re-directs to the neo-cortex area of your brain (your rational, thinking, processing mind). However I think the phrase, trust the process might be a good all-round one to have on stand-by whenever you find your anxious mind trying to take over.

Why that phrase in particular? I think it’s largely to do with the word ‘trust’. Trust is a safe word, and whatever it is you put your trust in can be the right circuit breaker for you. For example, if you are religious, you could substitute the word “Jesus” or “God” for process. As in “Trust in Jesus”. Just as an example. Or you might be humanist and then you would put the word “self” in a sentence, as in “Trust yourself” or “I trust me”.

Whatever your phrase, try it yourself and see. Oh, and remember to ‘trust the process’.

🙂

So where ARE the counselling jobs for counselling graduates?

In May of 2015, I finally completed my post graduate diploma in counselling.  After three and a half long years of sacrifice, studying part-time while working full-time (whilst getting paid the equivalent of two thirds of my former salary as a brand manager), I started looking for work as a counsellor only to find that many advertised roles which have the word “counsellor” in the title, don’t actually ask for specific counselling qualifications. Many seem to ask for social work or psychology qualifications. To be honest I was kind of confused. If you are advertising for a counsellor, why ask for a social work qualification? Asking for a psychology degree seems to make more sense, however, even the post graduate psychology course (which I was considering at one stage) does not have counselling specific subjects.

Below is an example from the Sydney Universisty Post Graduate Diploma course outline:

GRADUATE DIPLOMA IN PSYCHOLOGY – POSSIBLE STUDY PLAN A
Semester 1 Year 1 PSYC2011 Brain and Behaviour *
PSYC2012 Statistics and Research Methods for Psychology *
Semester 2 Year 1 PSYC2013 Cognitive and Social Psychology *
PSYC2014 Personality and Intelligence I *
Semester 1 Year 2 PSYC3018 Abnormal Psychology *
Plus one of the following:
HPSC3023 History and Philosophy of Psychology & Psychiatry **
PSYC3011 Learning and Behaviour
PSYC3012 Cognition, Language and Thought
PSYC3015 Personality and Intelligence II
PSYC3017 Social Psychology
Semester 2 Year 2 Any 2 of the following:
PSYC3010 Advanced Statistics for Psychology ***
PSYC3013 Perceptual Systems
PSYC3014 Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience
PSYC3016 Developmental Psychology
PSYC3020 Applications of Psychological Science

As you can see, there are no counselling specific subjects or counselling placement requirements.

I’d like to contrast that with the course I did, the Graduate Diploma in Counselling at ACAP (Australian College of Applied Psychology):

Graduate Diploma of Counselling (GradDipCouns)(Re-accredited)

Year 1

1.  COUN5131 Counselling Practice

2.  COUN5141 Counselling Theories

3.  COUN5151 Cross Cultural Counselling

4.  COUN5161 Counselling Over the Lifespan

5.  COUN5171 Ethical Decision Making

6.  Elective

Year 2

7.  COUN5201 Counselling Skills and Models

8.  COUN5211 Grief Counselling

9.  COUN5221 Mental Health Practice

10. COUN5231 Field Placement and Supervision 1

11. COUN5241 Field Placement and Supervision 2
12. Elective

Electives – choose two

COUN5801 Alcohol and Other Drugs Counselling
COUN5811 Narrative Therapy
COUN5821 Creative Therapies
COUN5831 Groupwork Theory and Practice
COUN5841 Family Counselling
COUN5851 Trauma Counselling

As you can see, most of the subjects are counselling related and counselling specific. A counselling degree trains people to be counsellors and therapists. A psychology degree, on its own, does not.

If I was recruiting for a counselling position, then it would make the sense to ask for a counselling specific qualification, however this is not happening often enough, as far as I can tell.  In 2015 when I called up the advertisers of some of these roles and asked, would they consider someone with a counselling specific qualification for the position, I was been met with somewhat defensive or ignorant responses. Clearly the question made them uncomfortable. To be fair, some said, yes a post graduate diploma in counselling would also be considered and encouraged me to apply …but my next question was then, (as it is now), why not state that in the ad? At the very least, from what I have gleaned so far, there seems to be little knowledge in the community services sector about the difference between counselling, psychology and social work. The way some advertisements are written you would think these disciplines are inter-changeable. I can tell you, they most certainly are not.

My suspicions regarding jobs for counselling graduates were depressingly confirmed when I came across this article written by a counselling educator at UWS,  Where are the jobs for our graduates? (This blog post is kind of in response to this article). I say depressingly because the Google search phrase I used which delivered this article, (third result from the top) was, “graduate jobs counselling”!

After spending three years studying to be a counsellor I can honestly say this article was a low point. As someone who also has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism, I can tell you the ACAP Grad Dip Counselling is not an easy course, not academically nor practically. Don’t get me wrong, if I had my time again, I probably would have started with a psychology degree and continued with the post-grad in counselling. I think psychology degrees are useful for many career paths including counselling, research, business etc.  If I was interested in social justice or community work then a social work degree would be the right qualification to have. But I see myself, quite specifically, as a counsellor or psychotherapist. Someone that wants to work one on one, or in small groups, with people who need the sort of help only a therapeutic counselling relationship can offer. I strongly feel that what we know of as counselling can be the most effective agent of change for many people.

So, why is it so difficult to find a counselling role that asks for counselling qualifications? In the first instance, more work needs to be done by our governing body, PACFA (The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia) and educational institutions, such as ACAP,  – to educate the sector and government about the differences between these three different occupations.

The fact that Medicare does not cover counselling does not help. Similarly, most private health care funds will cover psychology, but not counselling. Interestingly, most will also cover alternative therapies (such as aromatherapy, massage etc) as well, but only Medibank Private offers a rebate for counselling. PACFA, have been campaigning to get counselling and psychotherapy covered by all Private Health Insurance companies. You can read more about their campaign here. This is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go. Even though the evidence base for the effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy continues to grow, I sometimes fear that we are preaching to the converted.

Considering I originally wrote this piece in 2015, the situation is still very disheartening and frustrating for counselling graduates. I am lucky to have found a full-time position in a counselling related role however I know that many counselling graduates struggle to find full-time, counselling related employment. In one sense, this is the plight of all new graduates – companies ask for on the job experience which is impossible to get without, well, experience. At least with a counselling qualification I exited the course with actual counselling experience already under my belt, something employers may be interested to know.

In my case, putting in extra work and volunteering helped me get the job I wanted. However, I believe there is more than one set path to achieving any goal.  As long as you are following your heart and living your values there is hope. Let me leave you with this inspirational quote which I have always liked:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

William Hutchison Murray

Porn addiction – it’s not just you. Truth, reality and hope for addicts and partners.

In 2014 I wrote a serious article with a slightly tongue in cheek heading called  Is internet porn the beginning of the end for the human race?  Now while I admit, I may have been exaggerating slightly, the premise of the article was clearly not entirely without justification. It may seem a little far fetched but if, as I saw tonight while out at dinner, parents are using screens to placate/regulate a child’s behaviour out in public then what does that really mean for that child and their ability to engage with other humans later in life? What happens when, as a society, we are more comfortable relating to a screen or to another human being through the medium of a screen, than we are when faced with a flesh and blood human. One that you can’t simply swipe away when convenient?

How does this relate to porn addiction? Well for many years the debate on porn was centered around the notion that succumbing to the temptation of porn signified some kind of moral failing. From a religious/Christian point of view, it was a question of sinfulness.  A sign that one has allowed oneself to become infected with one or more of the seven supposed deadliest of sins, lust and/or gluttony. Or, from a feminist point of view, porn is seen as the vile exploitation of women as sexual, one dimensional objects with no humanity other than form. Exposure to pornography was seen as something that was detrimental to our morality and incremental to men’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for all things sexual. Yet as Naomi Wolf ironically points out in her article, The Porn Myth in actuality, the end result of too much exposure to pornography has had the effect, not of turning men into sexually ravenous beasts, but the complete opposite; sexual and emotional anorexics who can no longer relate authentically to a real life woman or get aroused by one. As it turns out, excessive viewing of pornography in this digital age turns men off, not on.

As numerous studies now show, repetitive and compulsive viewing of internet porn by men, (and a growing number of women) induces the opposite effect than one might expect, and just like a person who is addicted to a substance grows increasingly desensitized to the drug whilst continuing to crave it more and more, a person who is addicted to pornography finds he/she ends up on pretty much the same, well trodden treadmill. Intensely wanting something that can no longer provide the temporary relief and stimulation it once did.

Recent research implies that internet pornography is as addictive as certain drugs and affects the brain the same way. But, porn’s special hook is that it taps into that human need for attachment by adding into the mix hormones that are normally associated with bonding, love and connection. In effect, a porn addict becomes more attached to porn than anything or anyone else in their life. As a consequence, relationships, marriages, work and soon enough, the relationship with the self begins to suffer.

Porn addiction, like any addiction goes through stages – however, unlike most other addictions, the physical effects of porn addiction are virtually invisible, and the psychological and emotional effects are quite subtle, at first. In-fact, many porn addicts may seek treatment of a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, OCD, as well as physical ailments, stress, other addictions and finally sexual performance before anyone “thinks to ask about their porn viewing habits”.

But more and more studies clearly link issues related to sexual performance, including as I mention in my previous post, erectile dysfunction in men in their late teens and early twenties, (something that was almost unheard of 10 – 15 years ago) back to extensive viewing of internet porn. It is only when they can no longer get an erection, or ejaculate even with porn that some men start to make the connection between their excessive viewing of porn and other issues in their life. Often this is the only thing that eventually get’s their attention. (Their partners, if they have partners, may have known for some time that something was happening, or rather…not happening!)

This sorry state of affairs is bad news for both porn addicts and partners of porn/sex addicts, many who spend night after night lying in bed next to a partner that never seems to be ‘in the mood’ for sex. The result can be devastating to marriages, relationships and the self-esteem to both parties. The secretive nature of most men’s porn addiction may also mean that some partners may not know that they are in a relationship with a porn addict or even if they are aware of their partner’s porn habit, they may not make the connection at first either. Or they may not know the extent of their partner’s porn viewing. The damage this causes relationships is thus far unmeasurable.  One site states that 56% of divorces in the U.S. involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornography among other staggering statistics.

So, is the news all bad? Well, no. Latest brain research shows that the brain is actually very flexible, and  malleable, kind of like plasticine. In-fact the term for the way the brain can change itself, based on what is experienced is called neuroplasticity. This is good news. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the same way you get yourself into a sticky situation is largely the same way to get yourself out of it. While the allure of internet porn may have lost its charm many clicks ago, the habit that it has created will be hard to break. Hard, but not impossible. For men who have lost the ability to relate to women, emotionally and physically, and for partners of addicts there seems little alternative, other than to dissolve the relationship, which let’s face it, is fairly likely. It can’t be much fun to be in a relationship with a porn addict. However, chances are that if you leave a relationship with one porn addict, you are more than likely to run into another just as addicted, or on his way to being so, seeing as in America at least, sex addiction (which porn addiction is a form of) has reached epidemic status, according to this 2011 News Week article.

So, how do you beat a porn addiction and reverse its affects on the brain? Well the answer is simple, if not easy and this is simply to stop it. Stop all contact with porn and masturbating to porn and give your brain a chance to rewire itself and re-learn, or rediscover what comes naturally.

That is the only solution. I did say it was simple, but not easy. Recovering from porn addiction (for addicts and/or partners) takes time, courage and commitment and it is not easy to do without support. There are some very good websites now that can assist, (which I shall list below in the resources) but the assistance of a therapist who is aware of the nature of porn and sex addiction, one who will take it seriously can be fundamental to long lasting recovery. At least, having a close friend or understanding partner (if that is possible) that you know and trust is also important. The reason being that porn and sex addiction most likely mask other issues. Issues such as fear of intimacy, abandonment fears, attachment disorders, and perhaps even trauma. Once the defence of porn has left the building, then there is nothing to protect your unconscious and chances are some deeply buried emotional wounds may re-open.

It’s important to be aware of this possibility as many who try to ‘re-boot’ as it is called on websites such as Your Brain on Porn and Fight the New Drug often try many times and fail because they are inadequately prepared or lack support.

If you are experiencing porn addiction or are the partner of a porn addict, seek help from a qualified therapist and/or see some of the websites listed below for more information.

SOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/02/19/pornography-statistics/
http://fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts/#sthash.ubb4Ty3m.dpbs
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2013/05/the-prevalence-of-porn/
http://yourbrainonporn.com/cambridge-university-brain-scans-find-porn-addiction
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125382361
http://newsok.com/the-five-stages-of-pornography-addiction/article/5407775/?page=2
http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/index1.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/13/a-letter-to-my-ex-husband-who-preferred-pornography-to-me
http://www.newsweek.com/sex-addiction-epidemic-66289
http://globalchristiancenter.com/mens/overcoming-temptations/16765-pornography-in-the-church-a-new-epidemic
https://www.lds.org/tools/print/article/narrow/?lang=eng&url=/topics/pornography/audiences/youth/teenagers-and-pornography-addiction-treating-the-silent-epidemic
RESOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/ (Internet filtering service)
http://yourbrainonporn.com/
http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/
http://www.posarc.com/ (Partners of sex addicts resource center)

No way around it

Therapy is a two part process.

The first part is working through your ‘presenting issues’ (what brought you to seek therapy). In-fact, that’s the easy part. And for some, that’s enough but for others, not so much. For others, that’s when the real work of therapy begins.

For some, simply speaking about their emotions, feelings, thoughts etc is hard enough and the challenge for the therapist lies in simply getting a client to unknit whats been often painfully constructed for the last however many years.  Somehow simply being able to articulate what it is that bugs you can be enormously therapeutic in itself. The sense of relief, of lightness, of being able to let down a burden that has been with you for such a long time can sometimes be overwhelmingly beneficial. But often that is where therapy can reach a bit of a hump…the question which then arises is, Now what?

What do you do with this new found insight?

Sometimes this where an apparent stumbling block magically appears. It’s one thing to know why you are the way you are, what bought you to this point. However for some, once the real work of therapy begins, affecting change, real change… well that’s when it can all seem too hard. I’m not a practicing therapist yet, but I would hazard a bet that it is at this point that many clients stop therapy. For when you know the road ahead and what is in store for you, well for some of us  it’s easy to lose heart. It may be easier to just stumble along trying your best even with what you know. There is often comfort in what you know, cold comfort maybe, but comfort none the less. My guess is only after several failed attempts at trying to continue on your path regardless of that big black stumbling block dodge balling you from time to time, that one comes to the realization that sometimes the only way around something is to go through it.

 

(Apologies this was the only video I could find for this song on YouTube)

 

You are not a helpless victim of your own thoughts, but rather a master of your mind. What do you need to let go of? Take a deep breath, relax, and say to yourself, “I am willing to let go. I release. I let go. I release all tension. I release all fear. I release all anger. I release all guilt. I release all sadness. I let go of all old limitations. I let go, and I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with the process of life. I am safe.

Louise L. Hay

Anxiety – Facing the enemy within

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about anxiety. Part of the reason is because I have just written an essay about it, and part of the reason is because I have been living with anxiety in one form or another for most of my life.

At times, I have been the at the centre of the storm, and at other times, I have watched others wrestle with this demon or demons as is often the case.

I think, I know a lot more about anxiety than I did only a few months before. And, based on my research and observations, the following is a short list (in no particular order, hence the bullet points) of what I know about anxiety, the enemy within.

  • Anxiety disorders affect about 14 per cent of Australian men and women at some point.
  • Anxiety affects the brain and the body. It may start in your head but pretty soon, your whole body is involved. See this infographic:

Affects of anxiety

  • Anxiety isn’t all bad. It’s what makes you get up in the morning, when you’d rather stay in bed, it’s what forces you to go to work so you can pay your bills. A little anxiety is a good thing. It gets things done. (It gets most of my essays done, that’s for sure!)
  • Anxiety gets stronger, the more you avoid it. Like any school yard bully, the more you try to ignore it, the more persistent it gets. But also like any classic bully, it is better at dishing it out than taking it.
  • Anxiety feeds on negativity. It can take a lifetime of therapy to undo the damage of one negative idea. Negative ‘what ifs’, ‘catastrophic thinking‘ and ‘inner critics‘ are anxiety’s friends and partners in crime. If anxiety is the ring leader, than these troublemakers are definitely in its posse.
  • The best way to rob anxiety of its strength is to do the opposite of what you instinctively want to do which is run in the opposite direction . In-fact, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) which is one of the so called ‘third wave’ of CBT, actually encourages clients to ‘accept’ their anxiety as a part of the lives, kind of like an annoying yet unavoidable family member or uninvited guest.
  • Fear is a formidable enemy. It’s no wonder it has been used as an effective weapon on the battlefield in days gone past. However, for anxiety sufferers it may be helpful to remember, it’s not your fears which are the problem, it is fear itself.

Johnny Depp

If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, the following websites may be of help. The Mental Health Association offers free anxiety support groups and Beyond Blue has a lot of information on anxiety and depression as well as free telephone or internet based counselling.

 

 

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