Reflections on Mental Health: Andrew Kidd, MA Psychotherapy
Hello! I’m a Counsellor studying MA Psychotherapy. Leeds Beckett offered a unique chance to top-up my existing qualifications in a flexible way that allows me to continue to support clients, while refining research skills.
Mental Health research has a way of challenging assumptions and making sure clients voices are heard. Research benefits Mental Health Services by ensuring Government and Health Board officials have accurate information, ensuring appropriate support is available and accessible to all. For example, a study in the British Medical Journal (2000) completed a rigorous randomised control trial of clients in primary care. The well-being of around 80% of clients seeking support for depression significantly improved when they had access to Counselling, when compared with clients who had no Counselling.
Often our Mental Health, thoughts and feelings are responses to the real world, rather than something being 'wrong' with us.
With 2020 adding additional challenges to students through unprecedented isolation, financial impacts and uncertainty; it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed. Speaking to a Counsellor could help work through these challenges and support your Mental Health.
One of the most important aspects which supports our Mental Health is our relationships. Vygotsky (1980) suggests our relationship to ourself is an internalisation of our external relationships with others. And Psychologically speaking; we often like others if they view us how we view ourselves.
Looking at ourselves when struggling can feel like the last thing we want to do when we don’t like what we see. Coming to Counselling can be terrifying and sometimes we can talk ourselves out of seeking support.
‘Change’ means different things to different people, so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting Mental Health. It’s important to attend to someones lived experience as well as broader structural categories and factors of equality. Not respecting diversity divides by differences rather than connecting through common humanity. Counsellors engage in continual personal/professional development to ensure we are always aiming to improve our practice and what we offer clients.
At its heart, Counselling is a meaningful conversation about your life. That conversation is led by you: the expert on your own life. Part of that conversation could be about yourself, others and/or your experiences. Working therapeutically involves discussing and creating a vision of how you would like things to be and what stops this from being possible.
Sometimes that involves speaking about your past (yes, parents often come up!), but other times focussing on the here and now. That could involve speaking about issues like anxiety.
Feeling anxious from time to time is very normal. While at university, it’s even expected when pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
We often feel anxiety when we ‘anticipate’ a threat. A practical tool for managing anxiety is carefully engaging it (easier said than done I know! when we’re anxious that’s often the last thing we want to do!). Breaking it down into thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms and behaviours to raise our self-awareness. Through that awareness we can get a more objective (rational) perspective. Try talking through or writing a recent example of the last time you felt anxious:
What thoughts were going through your mind?
What did you feel?
What did you do?
What happened after you did that?
What does all this mean for you?
Try labelling the thoughts e.g. catastrophising to help identify what was going on that made you Anxious.
(Search ‘CBT Unhelpful Thinking Styles’ for helpful examples).
The increased self-awareness gives you the chance to carefully reflect on your experiences, and empower you to make positive changes to deal with what’s causing your anxieties. Recognise thoughts are opinions and not facts. Remember some anxiety is natural, and it tries to keep us safe. But without awareness it can cause more problems than is solves.
“You don't have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you” - Dan Millman
Remember you are not alone. Student & Mental Health services would not be available if you were the only one struggling. I remember someone asked me, “I think my Therapist is in therapy, should I be worried?!” Interestingly most Counsellors themselves have had Counselling! My personal experiences of Counselling inspired me to help others. Knowing what it’s like being in the client chair is essential for good practice.
Taking that first step can be frightening but I promise you’re stronger and more capable than you know.
BMJ: first published as 10.1136/bmj.321.7273.1383 on 2 December 2000. Downloaded from http://www.bmj.com/ on 1 October 2020 by guest. Protected by copyright.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1980). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard university press.