Supervising counsellors and therapists

The second of my short videos where I am speaking about how I think about supervision.  Counsellors and therapists who are not yet qualified are at an interesting stage in their development.  They are building experience and working effectively with clients and developing a sense of themselves as a practitioner. In this Vlog I’m describing how I approach supervision, the importance of learning in supervision and the role I take.

How does Change Happen – Or Notice the Little Stuff.

I’ve been remembering some of my experiences of change. One that was very significant for me was a few years ago now. I had been walking my dogs first thing in the  morning and I was reflecting on my internal sense of self and how I was feeling on a day to day basis. As I reached the front door, I had a profound realisation that I was content with myself in a way that I hadn’t ever felt before. I was amazed and astounded by this realisation. I found myself thinking but when did I change?  How did this happen?  As I thought about the difference I was experiencing I realised I wasn’t able to identify any particular moments of significance, but that what had been happening was slow, incremental moments and shifts and change that I had not been aware of until then.

So, how does change happen? There are probably 100’s of books that have been written on the subject, numerous blog posts and theory about how it all works. The impact on people, how we cope and deal with changes in our lives or how we make changes for the better.

Change in Therapy

Clients often talk to me about change during their therapy.   If the desired change is something about self, what seems to be very common is a sense that we will know immediately when change happens.  And that the desired change will happen quickly.  There seems to be an internal expectation that people will immediately think about what they want to do differently and be able put that in place.  I suspect this is often because the distress of the current situation is difficult and people want things to be different and for this to happen quickly.   I see a lot of this with people I work with.   I often find myself saying something like “you’ve been thinking/feeling/behaving this way for x number of years – it’s likely to take some more time for you to make the changes you want.”

The two aspects I’m noticing most as I’m writing this post are about our expectations:

  1. about the speed of change and
  2. that we will notice immediately when we do change.

My “how to support yourself” tips from this post are that we have to learn to be patient with ourselves.  In some ways I often think this is one of the tasks of therapy.  To learn to be more forgiving of ourselves, to be more patient with ourselves, to have more realistic and kinder expectations of ourselves.  And notice the small stuff. I suspect that in my journey to being more content with myself there were numerous small shifts and changes along the way that I didn’t account or was aware of.  If I had been I suspect it would have been very helpful in motivating and encouraging me that I was changing.

I’m going to give a couple of examples of what I mean by “the small stuff”.  If I’m the kind of person who can’t relax until all the jobs are done I might find myself leaving the washing up until after I’ve watched that TV programme.   Or, if I’m really nervous around people and find it difficult to interact I might find that I say hello to one of my work colleagues in the kitchen at work instead of being silent. So my final tip is take time to do a self check and notice those tiny shifts in thinking, feeling and behaviour. They are important and over time can add up to the significant change you are working towards.

Have you made big changes in your life that you would like to share?  How did that happen?  I’d love to hear people’s stories of changes they have made.


What’s a Therapy Group Like?

Never, it’s not for me, I don’t have the confidence for a therapy group.

Probably just a few of the responses you might have to the idea of being in a therapy group with people you have never met before. And sometimes it can be the very fact that you do not know the other members of the therapy group that be so helpful.  These people most likely do not know you. They are not in a previous relationship with you:  a colleague, friend, sibling or parent, a partner.  They can give you feedback in a way that is not influenced by their history with you.   They may choose to share their responses to the issues you may be facing in your life. You will most probably find out that they have faced something similar themselves. You are not alone in your experience.

A therapy group can be an opportunity to gain support, to explore yourself and your relationships, to have a shared experience of connectedness.  There are different types of therapy groups and different configurations. Some meet regularly, often fortnightly or weekly for a couple of hours or so.  Some groups meet a three or four times a year for longer. Others meet as a one off for a weekend or longer.

As a therapist who runs a variety of different groups, I am often struck by the potency of the group experience for people.  Taking the step to join a therapy  group, to share intimate moments from your life can be a big decision for some people, one that I think reaps its rewards. Add to this of course, is the fact that I like running groups. I enjoy the interaction, the sharing and contact I see between people, the willingness to be open and support each other. I like the fact we nearly always find something to laugh about together. We enjoy ourselves and have some fun too.

I read recently that we are born into relationship – it seems to me that engaging in therapy with others is a natural way to learn about ourselves through relationship.

Information on my next therapy group can be found at Group Therapy

Time for a Change? – New Year’s Resolutions

The  New Year  often brings a special focus to the things in our lives we want to change or enhance.  There is, of course, nothing stopping us making those changes at any time of year, but December 31st sees many of us making New Year resolutions.  Anything from losing weight, stopping smoking or other major life changes like finding a new career, or starting a relationship.

However, a few weeks on we can often see many of those good intentions lying by the wayside, finding us back where we were, with the added disappointment of having tried and not achieved what we wanted.  Here are some thoughts, tips and ideas for bringing more permanent change into your life at whatever time of year.

Positive Language.

Remember the old joke about “Don’t see a purple elephant with pink spots”?  As you read that line I expect that many of you will have had to create an image in your mind of a  purple elephant with pink spots, to then realise that you were asked not to see it. Well in putting together your resolution or goal the same principle applies.  Positive language is important in goal setting because by saying “Stop getting stressed ” or “Lose weight” we are focused on the behaviour we want to change rather than the change itself. So “Take time to relax three times a week by listening to music” or “Be a specific weight or clothes size by the summer” might sound a bit clunky, but because they are resolutions that are positive they have a greater chance of success. You might find it helpful to write down your goals and resolutions and remind yourself of them every day.

Be realistic, safe and achievable.

Give yourself a time scale that you want to achieve your resolution or goal by and make sure that you account for every change that you achieve.  So often we are only satisfied with the big goals, accounting and noticing each positive movement can be fantastic for our motivation and commitment.  Be sure it is safe for you by thinking if someone like you has ever done this before.  Setting yourself a major life changing resolution? Break it down into smaller steps so, as you meet each one, you get a sense of achievement.

Get support.

Talk to your friends and supporters.  Get them involved, especially if it is a tough or long term  goal that you want to achieve.  Tell people exactly how you want them to support you.  It may be that you want to be able to call them to celebrate a success or to talk when it gets particularly difficult. You may not need advice, just someone to be there.

See yourself achieving.

Take time to imagine what it will be like for you when you have achieved this goal. Create a strong visual image of how you will feel when you have achieved this change by seeing yourself doing it.  you can do this by hearing the sounds around you and what will others be saying to you when you achieved this resolution.  Use all of your five senses in creating the image, and think how will others will see you behaving.

Plan to succeed.

Think about how you might stop yourself achieving what you want. Put things in place to make sure this does not happen.  Then,  when you have done that, think again about how else you might stop yourself!  Plan for that as well.  And remember,  if your resolution slips one day,  it is only one day and tomorrow you can be back focussed on your goal.  Be kind to yourself if this happens,  making changes in our lives takes effort and focus and sometimes is not easy.


Plan mini celebrations along the way as milestones in your success, they don’t have to be big or expensive, but something meaningful and enjoyable for you. And of course, a big celebration on finally achieving your goal.

So,  for lots of people New Year is one of the times when we review our lives, question if we are getting what we want from life and if there are things to change or do differently.  It is possible to make these kinds of changes at any time in your life, not just on December 31st.

Have you made a personal change you are proud or satisfied with?  What was your route to success?

De Cluttering

It’s the time of year when I do my tax return.  I’ve been procrastinating for a few weeks, partly because its not a job I relish and also because of the untidyness in my office.

Energy Shift

Over recent months I have been putting more and more time and energy into my painting, which in many ways has been great. It has meant less time for office admin, resulting in boxes of paper needing filing, training materials not put away, art materials stacking up in corners, receipts left unsorted.  Not a task for the faint-hearted!

So, yesterday I went through most of it resulting in a huge pile of recycling, three boxes for the loft and being able to see the shelves and corners in my office for the first time for weeks.  Interestingly  I also noticed a huge shift in my energy, I felt lighter, clearer headed and freed up to focus and think.  Particularly interesting I think, as I have been feeling a bit bogged down recently.  I want to integrate my painting into my life more as I have decided I want to see if I can sell my work commercially, but I’ve been finding it difficult to work out how to do this.

Cypress Tree Holyvale

Health and Well Being

I think the state of my office was a reflection of my inner struggle, I was bogged down by all lots of unneccesary stuff without the space to think clearly and focus, it reminds me of what I wrote about in Nesting Instinct, how important our environment can be to our health and well being.  Its seems to me to be a two-way process. That over time my office had come to reflect my inner state, one of putting things in mental and physical corners “to be dealt with later” at the same time as I had got stuck in my thinking.  But, by clearing my physical surroundings helped me to shift my psychological and emotional energy and freed me up to look at my situation in a fresh light.

So, again, I invite you to look around you.  Is there something in your environment that jars with you?  Do you need to de-clutter?

I really like to hear from you on what you decide to do and the impact it has.


Exercise Routine

I exercise every morning for about an hour, and sometimes again in the evening for another half an hour. Weekends I do more, may be three or four hours on one of the days.  What ever the weather, this is my exercise routine, its easy, I rarely miss a day and its nearly always enjoyable.

My exercise is walking my dogs, possibly not the most aerobic exercise, however with a big hill to walk up at a brisk pace and supplemented by a bigger walk at the weekends, it suffices.  What’s most significant about this is that it is what I do,  I get up, get dressed and take the dogs out for an hour.  This is what integration means for me, that we make a change that becomes an integral part of our lives.

Making Successful Changes

I have found that the way to making successful changes in my life style to be more healthy or peaceful is to integrate those changes into my existing routines. Whether it’s exercise, diet, relaxation  or some other form of personal or emotional development.  My personal experience of all of these is that if it’s something I have to make a special effort to do, like packing up a bag of kit to go to the gym three times a week, I may begin with enthusiasm but before long that wanes and I’m back in the old routine.  Unless I can integrate the change it probably will not happen. So, here’s my top five tips for integration of a healthy lifestyle.

Top Five Tips

1) Whatever the change – enjoy it!  For example, if it’s exercise choose something that you enjoy  and which gives you pleasure.

2) Fit into your lifestyle.  Something  that is not congruent with how you live your life may not last, perhaps you could you cycle or walk to work a few days a week, or rather than sitting in your office at lunch can you go for a swim.

3) Be happy with small changes.  Little acorns and all that!  Sometimes when we decide to make a personal change we set ourselves unrealistic goals – be realistic in your goals and what you are asking of yourself.

4) Enlist support.  Talk to your friends, family  and supporters.  Get them involved.   It may be that you want to be able to call them to celebrate a success.

5) Allow time for integration to happen.  We begin by having to bring what we want to do differently into conscious awareness, it takes time for us to shift from being conscious of doing something differently to doing it automatically – without thinking. Making something part of your life will take time.

I’d like to hear about some of the changes you may have made that are now integrated into you life. How did you make this happen?



Two things have been happening in my life over the last few weeks that have prompted me to think about what Eric Berne wrote about our needs and drives in terms of Hungers. I’ve been tweeting on Twitter, connecting with lots of great new people and unfortunately one of my lovely dogs has been quite seriously ill, so I have been unable to get out and about as much and doing a fair bit of dog nursing.

You may be wondering how this is all connected.  Well, Berne described four hungers:

  • Stimulus-hunger : as the need for mental and physical stimulation, variety, challenge and touch.
  • Structure-hunger: the need to structure time and space.
  • Recognition-hunger: as the need for acknowledgement from others of our existence.
  • Position Hunger: The need for an overall framework for interpreting self, others and reality.

What he also said was that if each of these hungers are not satisfied we will often try to make do by substituting one of the others.


I’ve been finding Twitter a great source of acknowledgement from others – strokes if you will (see blog entry Appraisal Blues for explanation of strokes). And this has been really helpful for me whilst I have been unable to get out and about as much so I think have been substituting my stimulus hunger needs with more recognition. And this has helped me deal with short term changes in my life.

Different Needs

What motivates each of us is different of course, the mix of hungers for each person varies greatly.  So for example,  I am self employed because my need for stimulus in doing the work I have chosen is greater than my need for structure  – to be employed doing it.  Some people love acting spontaneously – stimulus hunger, others prefer to plan – structure.  What I think it can be useful to have an awareness of these needs and drives in ourselves and consider how we meet them.  Make adjustments if we need to and be aware of how the balance between hungers may change if something happens in our lives to impact on how we get these needs met.

What motivates you? How are you meeting your needs for structure, stimulus, position and recognition?



Big Skies and Bluebells


April Bluebells

The bluebells are in bloom at Lincare woods.  Every year since I first discovered them – and I only moved to Chesterfield a few years ago – when mid April arrives and there are signs that bluebells are on the way I’m a regular visitor looking out for the first hints of blue.

The way they carpet the earth beneath the beech trees with a hovering blue that’s mixed with the white stars of the wild garlic, and then as the sun is shines though the early beech leaves, which at this time of year are an intense lime green,  I feel truly peaceful and at home.

Special Places

And then I had a wonderful weekend in Northumbria. The weather wasn’t great and I find it really doesn’t matter up there, the amazing beaches that stretch for miles, the big skies and space to breath are enough.

Room for three 

Saturday morning saw me walking from Seahouses to Bamburgh along the beach with my dogs.  It was was pretty much deserted so more than enough room for the three of us.  There is something about space that I find very appealing, its something I like exploring in my painting as well, I think it may be openess lets me connect with myself more readily.  And maybe this is one of those times when “why” really doesn’t matter, I just know that I always come back refreshed and rejuvenated and looking forward to my next visit.

Do you have somewhere that you like to visit?  Or a place that is special to you?

Take your time.

I recently submitted some paintings for the Great Sheffield Art Show and the night before the submission date  I was rushing to finish a final painting.  I had originally decided to put forward just five pictures and then as the date approached I thought  – I can try to get another piece completed if I “hurry up”.  Needless to say the picture was not accepted and looking at it when I got home I could see why.  As I look back I know as  I was “hurrying” my ability to critically evaluate it was affected.

Messages in Childhood

One of the key ideas in transactional analysis is that we take in messages as children from parents and significant adults.  These messages then become strategies, ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that we use, both to be ok in the world and as ways of adapting to get our needs met.  There can be many different messages that we take in and doing things quickly – or “Hurry up” is a common message that people carry and one that I often talk about with people I am working with.


One of the ways that I come across a “Hurry up” message when I am providing counselling or therapy is with the person who is impatient to make changes in their life.  We live in a society where so  much is almost instantaneous – emails, text messaging, entertainment, 24 hour shopping – that sometimes there is an expectation that we can make personal changes at the same pace, forgetting that some of the thinking, feeling and behaviours we want to be different may have been with us for a long time and will take time to change.

Along with this of course is what happens when we hurry – like me with my painting we don’t always think as  clearly and our capacity to evaluate a situation may be affected as our primary drive is to hurry and in so doing  we may miss important aspects of our experience that we can learn from.  All in all it really is ok to take our time.