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First time in therapy? If you haven’t worked with a therapist before, but are considering booking your first session, (or just feel you need some support and are checking out what might be available); you probably have a lot of questions. The entire process of finding and beginning therapeutic work can feel really intimidating and weird. 

You might be wondering:

– Do we just talk on the phone?

How is this different to talking to my best friend?

Can I even say some of my struggles out loud? What if you judge me?

I’ve been there both as a client, as a coach and psychotherapeutic counsellor (in advance training) and today I’d like to share with you about the process to dispel myths and address fears around the process. 

How we live is what makes us real -calligraphy on a white card on a wooden table with green leaves either side.

Deciding to see a therapist

Making the decision to see a therapist can be something we build up to consciously over a long time. It can be a split second decision to reach out for help. It can be prompted by a crisis in our lives that overwhelms our resources and current ways of coping. We can get in touch with a therapist because someone close to us has recommended we see someone, or see a specific therapist. Whatever the reason, it’s a positive step towards supporting and resourcing ourselves. To becoming more who we are. 

There has historically been stigma about seeing a therapist and about mental health or mental distress in general. Nowadays, thanks to much more public awareness and people, including celebrities, speaking openly about the support they need, much of that stigma is in the past. 

Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you are ‘mad’. If you have mental health struggles, they don’t make you a bad person. Experiencing mental and emotional distress does not equate to being unable to make decisions, to trust your own experience or to know your own mind. In fact, 1 in 4 people will experience forms of mental distress in the course of a year. Most of us will experience some level of mental or emotional crisis at some point in our lives. 

While lots of schools are now including emotional awareness, mindfulness and psychologically aware education, this hasn’t previously been the case and there are many of us who would benefit from such support. 

After all, lots of us look after our cars better than we do our own minds. You may grumble about needing to take your car to a mechanic, but you know it needs attention and help to keep running smoothly, to cope with the pressures of winter, the wear and tear of travel and the occasional bumps and struggles you meet on your journeys. It’s the same for our minds and seeing a therapist is a way of offering that care to ourselves, to get us journeying towards a future we hope for. 

First time seeing a therapist? Your questions answered https://bit.ly/2RxEZQ3 Click to Tweet.

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Choosing a therapist

People often ask me, “how do I choose a therapist? I am so overwhelmed!”

I know the feeling, with terms like BACP, UKPC, BPS and more, it’s alphabet soup and it can feel like therapist’s adverts are written in code. What exactly is an integrated psychosynthesis counsellor anyway? And what is the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist?

 When I first began training as a therapist, I didn’t know where to start either. Eventually, by asking lots of questions and checking in with my own experiences, I found a way forward. Let’s see if we can help you do that too…

BACP, UKPC and BPS are governing bodies. They regulate and accredit therapists. 

For example, I am a trainee member of the UKPC (The UK Psychotherapy Council) and the BACP (The British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists). This means I have to meet certain – high – standards to be able to be a member and it’s a safety mark for my training and practice. 

Each governing body keeps a directory of therapists and you might like to search those, to find therapists local to you. 

UKCP – Find a Therapist |BACP – Therapist Directory

You may want to choose a therapist who works intersectionally (as I do). There’s a great article in Teen Vogue about choosing a therapist as a queer POC/BAME with fantastic questions to ask your prospective therapist. There’s also a great directory of intersectionally-aware therapists at Therapy for Black Girls.

You can search for a therapist in many different ways, including:

– By location – who is closest to you

– By specialism – who specialises in the issues you are bringing to therapy e.g grief, an eating disorder, chronic pain or suicidal thoughts. 

– By orientation – what ‘type’ of therapist they are. 

Orientation is where all the confusing words start to come in. It’s beyond me in this blog to explain all the therapeutic schools of thought, but they divide broadly into:

– Psychoanalytic – more traditional therapy with less talking and more interpretation

– Humanistic – more open and approachable therapy, with lots of listening and empathy

– Behavioural – goal oriented therapy where you focus on a goal and move through what’s blocking you from it

– Transpersonal – mindfulness or spirituality based therapy that’s more open to working with soul as well as mind

Then there are lots of specialist therapies like equine facilitated psychotherapy, art psychotherapy or play therapy. 

It’s probably a good idea to check in with what you are most drawn to and then ask questions of the therapists you are considering. 

The difference between psychotherapy and counselling is hotly debated. Some therapists say there is no difference at all, some think counsellors tend to work more with struggles in the here and now, whereas psychotherapists work more with issues arising from the past and childhood. Some people even say the difference is the length (and depth) of training. Some counsellors train for as little as 2 years. Some psychotherapists train for as much as 10+ years. 

I am a psychotherapeutic counsellor, so I’m somewhere in between. I am training at a traditional psychotherapeutically oriented college. 

This is what I share with new clients:

Counselling is the opportunity for you to talk about what’s troubling you. You can bring what difficulties, pains or issues you are experiencing – or have experienced previously – the therapeutic hour (50 minutes) is your time and space. A time where you don’t have to take care of anyone else’s needs, or focus on anyone but you. I will be holding space for you, offering my attentive listening, respect for what you share and working with you. 

I hope to support you to explore and understand yourself, resolve difficulties and move towards more productive and fulfilled ways of living. 

I am an integrative counsellor, which means my work is influenced by several different schools of thoughts, including psychodynamic, humanistic and transpersonal. My practice is intersectional and incorporates somatic reflections. I work in a way that is client-led, creating a facilitative therapeutic relationship.

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Making contact and your first session

You may make contact by phone, email or through a website contact form. Generally your therapist will get in touch with you as soon as possible to arrange a time to speak. 

If you are very distressed, please consider calling the Samaritans, or speaking to your doctor for immediate support. 

The first session is different with different therapists, I offer an intake session where we look at what’s brought you to working with me. I do my contracts by email, so paperwork is out of the way and we can begin therapeutic work from our first contact.  

I work with psychotherapeutic counselling clients in person, at an arts centre and a therapy clinic. When they first come in, I introduce myself, talk a little bit about the guidelines for our work together and remind the client that this is their space. They can say what they like (and no, I won’t judge them). I have great compassion for the difficult and painful decisions, mistakes and complex struggles people have experienced in their lives.

Our job is to create a way they can manage what’s happened and find a way forward that works for them. 

I also work with coaching clients via Zoom – a confidential online phone line. The process is very similar, we can meet with video or only audio – I recommend using earbuds, the ones with a smartphone work perfectly – and after running through the guidelines for working together, the hour is yours. If you are stuck on what to say at any point, I will have tools and prompts to work from and we can move forward together. 

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What’s therapeutic about therapy?

I believe we learn and re-learn in relationship (Todres). 

So while talking on the phone to your best friend can let you vent, it can be very different to talking to a therapist. When you talk about your fears of your mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, I won’t jump in and complain about my own memory struggles (just a hypothetical example). If you discuss your diet, you won’t get any bad advice from me on what not to eat. I’m not there to tell you what to do, but to hold space for you to realise what you really want to do. I have been trained in the subtle art of holding space, so I can do that.

People have commented that it’s the first time in their lives they have felt truly respected and heard. Don’t underestimate the power of that. 

In therapy, we practice making changes in relationship to another. We can learn and read all we like but it’s when the concepts come into contact in the world outside that we make change or find where we struggle to change. Therapy can be a safe space to explore who we are and who we are in relation to others.

Therapy can be a tremendous gift to ourselves, if you are here, I wish you the best on your therapeutic journey and your future.  

Do you have a question about beginning therapy? Let me know in the comments!

P.S If you’d like to know more about my work, check out my info pages on Psychotherapeutic Counselling and Trailblazing Wellness Coaching. I also hold free monthly listening hours here.

Trailblazing Wellness Coaching

P.P.S You may also like Dear Grace: How do I keep my spirits up when I’m hurting? and When it hurts more than you can bear, read this.

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page with 'am I good enough' written on it in black felt tip

Words can witness, contain and heal, name and validate our wounds and our strengths. It’s easier to create a life and explore our new selves in a safe space and truly, therapy is only 1-2 hours a week. A journal is always available, there are no office hours. Journalling can compliment your therapeutic or healing journey.

Many of us are always feeling out of place in our lives, constantly dislocated, never feeling real or really here. It’s like you are always viewing yourself through the eyes of others; partner, children, friends, neighbours, parents, colleagues. Life is lived as though seeing yourself in a photograph, flattened, frozen and held at arm’s length. The pain of not living as yourself, the regret and fear boils up somedays and it terrifies. Without work, small children or whatever doing fills your life, you can’t push all the painfulness away anymore.

Sometimes, you’ll find that you reach the centre of your life and realise that for all your striving, you can’t find yourself in it. Then, a journal, a blank page, is beginning a committing to discovering and befriending yourself. Hidden or forgotten, left behind or in plain sight. Finding our voices, with practice and tending the self we see reflected on the page before us. We embrace ourselves, one pen stroke at a time.

If you’d like to explore yourself on the page, please join me and let’s begin (or continue) the journalling journey together.

You can join me:

You can join me at a journalling workshop or at our monthly pop-up Journal Cafe.

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You can also join me for meditations and exclusive journalling prompts on Patreon.

What are your burning questions about journalling? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

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Inspired by my dear friend Gala Darling, I’m taking my love lists out of my (hot pink) journal and sharing them with you.

Spring feels like it’s on its way and I am glad, glad, glad. I am working on my diploma submissions, seeing clients and writing, writing writing. Utterly grateful for all of these things.

Here are some more things I’m grateful for:

Little Things I Love:

Seeing the buds start to come on the trees * Seeing bulbs coming up * Purple and yellow crocus, like the Flower Faeries * Snowdrops * Anemonies in all the cool blues and purples – my favourites * The wheels on my wheelchair being replaced and how easy moving now feels * The cargo net under my she Dried pears with allspice and cinnamon * Mixing watercolours * my ‘1 paint stroke a day’ painting * Ticking things off in my planner #pashfam * Turmeric and lemon tea * Fairtrade roses on my desk * Keeping the quotes from things I read filed in an index card box * Using those quotes in my writing * And as journalling prompts * Dreamwork energy drawings with chalk pastels *Chalk pastels on black sugar paper * Simnel cake and it’s legends * Imagining a vegan, gluten free version * Falling back in love with photography * The joy of analogue photography and being able to illustrate my journals and letters to loved ones with photographs * Because you can’t re-read a phone call * Practicing for my next harp exam * Finding out you can play rock music on the harp (yes, really) * Mask making * Travelling to north Wales for the first time and the beauty of the journey and the land * The shapes of the mountains * Learning welsh * 

My Spring Quickening Gratitude & Grace List:

My writing practice honed by Janelle’s support and mentorship. You can access her teachings and join her amazing writing circle here.

I’m so loving The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Wang.

Charting my moods and experiences with The Moon is My Calendar.

I was so happy to speak at Ignite Cardiff about things to do when you are stuck in bed and bored (no, not like that, I mean if you are sick in bed and bored! If you want more ways, I have 500 here. Thank you for supporting my work!)

P.S P.S Want more radical resources? Check out my Patreon for seasonal journal  prompts, monthly meditations and revolutionary retreat guides. 

Image of a type writer, Grace speaking into a microphone, Grace sitting, smiling and the view of a forest through Grace's wheelchair wheels. Text: Grace Quantock is creating & curating blazing wisdom from the margins for wellness rebels and a red badge text: Join me on Patreon.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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The Undaunted Heart Podcast: gives a platform to wellness rebels and sacred revolutionaries on the margins to share their medicine and magic directly with you, wherever you are in the world, or on your life’s journey (previously named Trailblazer Interviews).

Asali is a Black queer femme community healer and earthworker creating at Asali Earthwork.

Her healing work is rooted in using self-care as a means to disrupt systems of oppression and prioritize care for her community.

I have been deeply lucky to have had several amazing tarot readings from her and have been following her work and reading her insightful, brilliant blog and accessible, practical and magical card spreads for some time.

So I am so excited to be speaking and sharing with her here today.

In this podcast, we talk about: 

  • Drawing on sacred arts when we are in a life crisis.
  • Representation in tarot and how it impacts our healing.
  • Healing through radical self and community care. So much of ‘healing’ and ’empowerment’ in the dominant wellness culture (a predominately white, cishet, abelist, capitalist culture) is incredibly individualistic and this isn’t the only – or the best – option.
  • Caring as radical: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. ” — AUDRE LORDE
  • Integrating the sacred and the political in action.

Click to Tweet: The Undaunted Heart Podcast #28: Asali & Self-Care as System Disruptionhttps://bit.ly/2F7ZM75

Video:

Podcast:

Transcript: I am currently seeking support on Patreon to enable me to offer The Undaunted Heart Podcast as an inclusive offering. At my second goal, I can commit to a 2019 season of The Undaunted Heart Podcast as a bi-monthly release.

My goal is to produce free transcripts so the podcast is accessible to d/Deaf and hearing impaired folx and those who can’t access audio for impairment or environmental reasons. The Undaunted Heart Podcast is one of my favourite parts of my business and I can’t wait to make more and make them accessible for all.

Show notes: 

You can find Asali’s amazing here: https://www.asaliearthwork.com/

How do you keep healthy in entrepreneurship or freelancing, if that’s what you do? Let us know in the comments.

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Tiny heart of fairy lights on a beach, stuck in sand and text: Self-Care Sunday: Small Tools & Self-Compassion

[Self-Care Sunday Series: wellness experts worldwide are sharing their self-care expertise, practices, routines and personal stories.Today’s post is by founder, Grace Quantock]

When I was in high school, I loved the film ‘Clueless – of course, I did. 

(I also love the book ‘Emma’ that it’s based on. The lesson about not interfereing for perfection…that took me a little longer to absorb. I am still working on it).

Why did I love Clueless so much? Beyond the obvious – ease, style, knee socks and kilt skirts, dreamy girlfriends and a computer that picked your outfits 

N.B: The computer that picks your outfits actually exists now! It’s an app called StyleBook and I include it as one of the most useful apps for coping with chronic illness, check out the list here

Ahem. 

Other than those compelling reasons, I loved Clueless because of the makeovers. 

I so wanted makeovers as a teenager. 

I wanted someone to work their magic and I would emerge all perfect at the other side. 

I was pretty sure this would involve hair straighteners and John Frieda Fizz Ease Hair Serum*, some kind of high-fashion wardrobe upheaval combined with a magic transmission that would give me confidence, verve and body positivity, long before I’d heard of the phrase as body positivity. 

I was looking for transformation. One fell swoop, pull back the curtain, turn around and gaze disbelievingly into the full length bevelled mirror. Oh my goodness, instant miracle. 

How many of us are still looking for instant miracles? 

What does it say to ourselves that we seek to overhaul everything? It’s always big isn’t it? Big promises, big price tags. In that way we can justify the purchase – my life is SO bad so I need this huge nuclear solution and then my life will be amazing. 

Close up of tiny leaf - mini tree - growing in the forest

Creative Adjustments for Coping

I know the pain that fuels this change-seeking. Teenage me knew it, adult me knows it. I too have been there, wanting to buy my way out of pain and suffering. If it worked, what wouldn’t we pay? The problem is how infrequently it works, how high the price and how painful it feels when the high hopes fall. 

But maybe there is something in being where we are and moving forward slowly. Transformations can be challenging, upgrading can be hard. Have you ever tried to upgrade your computer? Or operating system? That is not an easy process, my friend. And think how much harder with humanity than with technology.

Fed up of miracle promises that never deliver? Try Small Tools for Big Change ™ https://bit.ly/2TsrA98 Click to Tweet.

Have you come across those stories of people who win the lottery and go into crisis? Changing yourself – in many ways losing yourself, or self you knew – overnight is a huge shift. Interestingly, our minds register all change as stressful, not only painful change. On the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, a change generally seen as pleasant and ‘positive’ such as a wedding or a job promotion, registers as stressful as a change like the death of a parent or a divorce.

Why? Because change can be stressful and large changes can be correspondingly more stressful. 

Instead of focussing on life-shifting makeovers, perhaps there is another way?

What if we start with small tools? Small tools, used consistently, with compassion, I believe create more lasting change than sudden transformations.**

It’s incremental shifts that we grow and change with rather than a pendulum shift from which swing back into old habits. 

I absolutely recognise large shifts can occur organically; the interaction that somehow stayed with you and comforted you in the future, the therapy session where years of work just fell into place, the treatment that worked and you went into remission. But I feel too often we spend all our time seeking these high points, the big fireworks display of healing, and we are depleted and deprived of daily, small, accessible shifts that are in our power to make. 

Tiny mushroom growing before big mountain

What are small tools? 

Small tools are accessible

Small tools are affordable

Small tools are in the hands of the many

Small tools are from people like you rather than distant experts

Small tools are engineered in your locality

Small tools are adapted for your environment and needs

Small tools are inclusive

What tools they are can be different for each person, for me, it’s accessible, approachable, simple self-care tools. Such as: using my journal, using what I have before I purchase something, drinking enough water, stretching, using a meditation I know, checking in with myself around screen time. 

None of these tools are set up as miracle makers. They aren’t flashy. There are no artfully shot photographs or marketing budgets for any of them. They won’t look that cool on Instagram.** 

But, over time, they help me make change. Small tools, simple tools. Tools that I have access to now. That most of us have access to today. 

Because we are as we are right now for reasons, we may judge ourselves for those, we may like or not like them they may or may not be our responsibility. But I want to have compassion for the self that survived to get here. 

Maybe you’ve had to make some ‘creative adjustments’ along the way. Some choices you regret, or decisions you never thought you’d have to face, with no good option, so you just picked the one the caused the least damaged and tried to keep moving forward. 

I know, and I am glad you are still here. I hope you can find some small tools and some self-compassion for your use of them today. 

What are your small tools? Let me know in the comments. 

P.S Want more Small Tools, Big Change ™? Come and join me on Patreon where we are co-creating toolkits of accessible resources. Power in YOUR hands.

Image of a type writer, Grace speaking into a microphone, Grace sitting, smiling and the view of a forest through Grace's wheelchair wheels. Text: Grace Quantock is creating & curating blazing wisdom from the margins for wellness rebels and a red badge text: Join me on Patreon.

P.P.S You may also enjoy Having a Bad Day? Head HereCreating Joy Every Day (Bad Days Included),Bad Day and Work MountingDealing With a Bad Day Without Chocolate, Netflix or GuiltChronic Illness Self-Care Kit.

P.P.P.S Check out all the Self-Care Sunday blogs here.

Appendices:

* This was before I knew about animal testing. Now I would use this heat protecting organic styling spray.

** If Instagram empowers you, more power to you. I’m not hating Instagram and certainly not the people who use it, but naming the often invisible but growing pressure to meet a certain visual standard in our lives. 

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash |Photo by Austin D on Unsplash |Photo by Andreas Wagner on Unsplash

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