Professional Development Group – what to expect


We will be using my consulting room in Buxton which can comfortably seat six people.  We will begin with a short check in with each other.  Checking in involves each of us taking a few minutes to say a little about ourselves and sharing any relevant material.  Sometimes we have things happening in our work or personal lives that are significant, and we want to share as a cause of celebration with the group, or there may be difficult things going on that we want to name so that we can then focus on the task of the group for the day.


Having spent some time getting settled with each other, I will then take the agenda for the day.  This means that I will ask each person what they want to work on in that session. Sometimes this might be to bring a client case for discussion,  a piece of theory for further explanation, an ethical dilemma.  For people engaged in exam preparation it might mean support in essay or dissertation writing, practising playing tapes, or exam coaching.  Not everyone will have an agenda item and sometimes people may have more than one. We will prioritise and aim to cover all topics, recognising that sometimes with a particularly full agenda not all items will be answered.

Once the agenda is established we will then move to the topic for the session. Lin will present an article, piece of research or theoretical idea as an input to the group and for discussion for the first hour.  Then we will move to working through the items on the agenda.

There will be time for a 20 minute break and I will provide hot drinks and biscuits.

The group will end as it began with a short check out as each person may wish to say something about their learning for the day.

Think this might be something you would like to include in your approach to your professional development?  Contact me to book your place or for further information.

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.

Christmas Stress

Christmas StressIn the midst of the celebrations and holidays, whether religious or otherwise, I hope that you have had the opportunity for good times spent with people you love and care about.  Unfortunately for some people Christmas will  have meant a host of family arguments, relationship problems, disappointments, painful memories, losses and grief.

Stress at Christmas

There is a tremendous amount of expectation put on us at this time of year.  Expectations about spending time with people that we might actually not get on that well with for the rest of the year.  Along with eating too much, possibly drinking too much and spending too much money.  It undoubtedly can be one of the most stressful times of the year – Christmas stress.   As a therapist I have spent several weeks in the run up to December 25th talking to many of my clients about Christmas.  How they were feeling about it.  What meaning did they attach to the event.  Were they having the kind of Christmas they wanted?  Or were they under pressure to meet other’s needs.  How they might take care of themselves in the face of spending time with people where relationships might be difficult. Or deal with painful memories of events or of loved ones who are no longer here.

Improve your life

I’m also expecting an influx of calls following Christmas as many people reach the point of “this can’t carry on.” This is often the result of a miserable few days spending an intense amount of time perhaps with a partner or family member where things are not going well at all.  Where with the stress of Christmas all the problems in the relationship become heightened.

I invite you to give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.  This might begin by not adding extra pressure by thinking “but it’s Christmas, everything should be different.”  Although Christmas is heralded as a time of year of goodwill, for some people in some situations that is not feasible or even desirable.  If you need to do something different with your situation to improve your life then please don’t let the time of year stop you from taking action to change your situation.

It might also might mean contacting someone you’ve not been in touch with for a long time.  Telling someone something important. Deciding not to spend next Christmas with family.  Seeking out counselling for help with a relationship problem.

Christmas 2016

Stress at ChristmasThese last few days at the end of December can be lovely; with time for resting, celebrating in ways that are healthy and enjoyable, being with people you love and who love you.  Making meaning and finding ways to mark the changing of the seasons and the time of year that aligns with your beliefs and values.  If that hasn’t been your experience this year my encouragement to you is to reflect how you might have this for yourself next year.

Seasons Greetings and Best Wishes for 2016


Quote of the Week Eight


Slightly late for last week, but some interesting thoughts from about how important it is to have sense of the direction.  It reminds me of the tension many transactional analysts experience between developing a clear contract for therapy when  working with clients and allowing the space for other areas of work to emerge that have not yet been considered.

And it seemed appropriate to use Roman font along with a picture from Italy.


Bereavement Counselling WilmslowHave you experienced a loss or bereavement recently, or know someone who has.? A beloved friend or relative? A parent or child? We can feel lost and not know how to express our condolences when we meet someone who has recently experienced a bereavement.  It can help to talk.

I provide bereavement counselling as part of my therapy practice.  In this post I wanted to provide some information on what you might experience if you are the person who has experienced the loss.  I also though it might be helpful if you know someone who is going through this experience.

When someone you know has recently died the world can suddenly be a very confusing and difficult place. You might find that you cannot stop thinking about the person who has gone.  Eating and sleeping may be difficult.  You might feel exhausted one minute and restless and agitated the next. You may think you should be coping better and be worried that you are not.

Thoughts, Feelings and Physical Sensations

It is quite normal to experience feelings of sadness, anger, guilt and helplessness when someone you know has died.  Along with these feelings people often find themselves experiencing anxiety, loneliness and fatigue. Sometimes the experience of losing someone can be shocking and traumatic so that the person may feel numb.

You may also find yourself feeling confused, being unable to believe the person is dead, or alternatively find yourself feeling a sense of their presence or hallucinations.  Repetitive and intrusive thoughts about the person and the way they died are also very common.

Difficulties with eating or sleeping and feeling restless are also normal, along with other physical symptoms such as a lack of energy, muscle weakness, tightness in the chest, hollowness in the stomach, dry mouth and sensitivity to noise.

All of these thoughts, feelings and sensations are  normal part of the grieving process.  Experiencing bereavement can be very difficult.  Each person’s response will be different, each person mourns in a different way.  Although it is a cliché time will bring relief from the intensity of the feeling.


There is no time limit to the grieving process.  William Worden writes of there being tasks of mourning.  The first being begin to accept the reality of the person’s death – that the person you knew is gone and will not return.

The second task is to work through the pain of the grief.  Even though it may feel incredibly painful over time it is important to allow yourself time to think and feel about the death, to recognise and experience your feelings which will allow you to move forward.

The third task is to adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing. This is not about “getting over” or replacing but about adjustment to the changes in the person’s daily life.

Finally the last task is to find an enduring connection to the deceased while moving on with a new life.

Anniversaries, Christmas, birthdays important events will most likely be a time of remembrance and sadness.  Moving on with a new life does not mean forgetting – it mean being able to engage with living again and a moderation of the grief from it’s raw intensity.

Bereavement Counselling Wilmslow

I provide bereavement counselling in Wilmslow and in working with people I know that support through this painful process is very important.  For many people having family and friends available can be support enough.  Not everyone has this though and some deaths are difficult, possibly very unexpected, traumatic or difficult in some way. In these situations it can helpful to talk to a counsellor or therapist to help the person move through the grieving process.

The Drama Triangle

I thought I would write another post about an aspect of TA theory I really like, that I use with my clients and they tell me they find really helpful..

Relationship Patterns

The Drama Triangle, originated by Steve Karpman, is a way of understanding the repeating patterns we can sometimes get into in our relationships, that result in uncomfortable feelings.  How often have you found yourself getting into a familiar discussion with your partner or a family member, where both of you end up feeling a bit rubbish?  Karpman’s idea suggests that this is because we often take up one of three roles in our interactions with people.  The roles are Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim, and the defining characteristic of each of these roles is the view of self in relation to others.  This draws on the idea of life positions, developed by Eric Berne.  He proposed 4 life positions, where people take up one of the four positions listed below and live their lives according to it.

I’m OK You’re Ok –  This is where I see both myself and others as OK with appropriate levels of self esteem, I am able to trust in others and the in world.

I’m OK, You’re not Ok – this is very often the position of the person who bullies, persecutes or rescues. Someone who sees themselves as OK, and others as not OK in some way, they operate from a one up position.

I’m not OK You’re Ok – this can often be the position of the Victim.  The person who has low self esteem and views others as having more power than them and consequently behaves towards them in that fashion, they operate from a one down position.

I’m not OK, You’re not Ok – this is a life position of futility as self and others are viewed as not being ok and able to get on with life.  It may be perceived as futile and full of despair.

Looking again at the roles of the Drama Triangle,  both the Rescuer and the Persecutor operate from a one up position, from the I’m OK You’re not OK life position and the Victim operates from one down.  Here’s an example to illustrate this more fully.

Your colleague is preparing some figures for her boss and she has looked pretty stressed all morning.  She heaves a huge sigh, pushes her chair away from her desk and puts her head in her hands, saying, “I’m never going to get this done in time, I hate excel, I just can’t make sense of this at all.”  Immediately you rush over and take a look at what she is doing.  You think you have spotted the mistake she is making and correct it for her.  Saying “there you are, that’s sorted now”.

She takes a look at what you have done and tells you that it wasn’t the problem at all and now she’s probably going to have to start all over again and she wishes you would mind your own damn business.

You go back to your desk feeling awful saying to yourself  – “But I was only trying to help.”

Uncomfortable Feelings

If we take a look at this little episode again, this time putting in the Drama triangle roles, some commentary and identifying that switch in roles which so often results in uncomfortable feelings.

Your colleague is preparing some figures for her boss and she has looked pretty stressed all morning.  She heaves a huge sigh, pushes her chair away from her desk and puts her head in her hands, saying. I’m never going to get this done in time, I hate excel, I just can’t make sense of this at all.”

Your colleague is probably in Victim, the words she is using and her body language are pretty big clues.  She is could be issuing an invitation to be Rescued or Persecuted.

 Immediately you rush over and take a look at what she is doing.  You think you have spotted the mistake she is making and correct it for her.  Saying “there you are, that’s sorted now”. 

Your response is definitely one of Rescuing. At this point you have not been asked to help and in fact are operating in the dark doing what you think is best, rather than what the other person wants.  Thinking that you know best for someone, whether it is how solve an excel problem or what might make them happy is very much part of the Rescuer role.

She takes a look at what you have done and tells you that it wasn’t the problem at all and now she’s probably going to have to start all over again and she wishes you would mind your own damn business for once.

Your colleague has moved roles into Persecutor.  Part of the way the Drama Triangle plays out is for the participants to switch roles.

You go back to your desk feeling awful saying to yourself – I was only trying to help.

And you have now moved into Victim feeling bad because of getting it wrong.

Any of this familiar?  The good news is that once identify what it is we are doing then we can, if we wish, change. And how do we change this?  Firstly be becoming aware of our own behaviours and the roles we might more often take up. Then by moving from one of the Drama Triangle roles where someone is always in a not OK life position to the I’m OK You’re OK life position.

Here’s an exercise you might find useful to do as a piece of persona reflection.

Can you recall a situation where you were caught in the Drama Triangle?  What role did you take on, what role did the person you were with take on, what occurred in this situation and what was the final outcome?  How might you have got a different result?

Adult Ego State

Ego State Model
Ego State Model

Here’s the final post on explaining ego states;  one of the ideas in TA I use widely with my clients and that I find really helpful in understanding ourselves and why we think,  feel and behave in the ways that we do sometimes.

It was Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis who originally described an ego state as “a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour”.  I have written about the other two egos states, Parent and Child in previous posts. Today I’m going to write about Adult.  Where Parent, Adult or Child is capitalised I am referring to the concept of ego state, where lower case I am referring to real parents, adults or children.


When we are in our Adult ego state we are using thinking, feeling and behaviour in response to the “here and now”.  So being in my  Adult ego state means that I am in the present and will respond to a situation or stimulus using my capacity as an adult for solving problems,   reality testing situations, being honest,  direct and open about what I am thinking and feeling and being spontaneous.

Problem Solving

I’m going to look again the examples I gave you in my posts about Child ego state and Parent ego state to explain this further.  I want to talk about what the Adult response might be in those same scenarios as a way of demonstrating what I mean by a here and now response that uses all our resources for problem solving and reality testing.  In the example of getting an answer wrong in a training course,  I used this to demonstrate being in the Child ego state where the person re-experienced  an uncomfortable feeling from childhood when getting an answer wrong.  The Adult response might be to feel ok about not knowing an answer and then to reflect on what you have not understood and what additional information might needed to give the correct answer.  So I am engaging my problem-solving skills as an adult to solve the “problem” of not knowing an answer.


Thinking about the Parent example of being cut up by a car driving too fast on the motorway, in this scenario I talked about the person getting  angry and swearing  like their Dad had done.  The key point about this is, once again,  that the response to the stimulus of being cut up by another driver does not look at problem solving.  A response from Adult might be to check my own speed and see if I going too slow, I might move over out of the way of other drivers who want to get past. I might also think about my own driving behaviour and if I am driving safely and appropriately for road conditions.

Being Resourceful

How is this useful to us?  Being in our Adult opens all up all of our resources to be used;   so that we not using out-moded strategies that we have taken in from our parents into our Parent ego state that are not applicable to the lives we are leading.  It also means not re-experiencing a child response to a situation and using old ways to get our needs met.  The examples I have used are about taking action and problem solving.  Other scenarios might involve being how you are in a relationship with your partner, how you parent your children, how you relax and have fun.

Are there certain situations that stimulate a Child or Parent response from you?  What would be an Adult response?  Would this be more useful?

Death of a Pet



Sadly, my lovely dog Dave died a few weeks ago after being ill for about a year. He was with us for nearly eleven years, which didn’t seem anywhere near long enough. He was a constant friend, a playmate and loving companion and we miss him very much.

Attachment to animals

As the first intensity of my grief is fading, I have been thinking about people and their attachment to animals.  I can remember my uncle and his budgie;  he would sit with it on his finger for hours talking to it,  it would walk on his shoulder and then on to his head.   As  was growing up I nearly always had a pet:  a gold fish, a budgie, then a dog.  As I grew older and had my own place first I had cats, and now I have dogs.   Animals have always been a huge part of my life and many people have similar experiences,  where animals are a large part of their lives from childhood through to adult hood.  I think that our relationship with our pets and animals is a very significant one.  It offer us an experience of connection, contact and what it feels like to look after and care for another creature that is vulnerable and dependent on us.

Grieving Process

Part of my grieving process has been to talk to friends and family and remember Dave. To talk about how much I miss him, how painful it has been that he has died and as I have talked about him people have shared their thoughts,  feelings and experiences of their animals too.

A colleague talked about how dogs look at us, the warmth of their gaze as they stare into our eyes. Another shared her thoughts about how deeply we love and attach to our pets.   She believes it is a relationship that is less complex than with another person, because with a person we  may defend ourselves against being vulnerable in case of being hurt and may protect ourselves by being defensive.  Not so with our animals. I think we love them as they love us –  unconditionally.

What part have animals played in your life?  Have you any stories of family pets or animals you have known that you want to share?