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Men,emotion and divorce; a therapist's view

  • By Aubrey St Louis
  • 08 May, 2017

I was recently asked by writer Justin Quirk to contribute towards an article about the actor Brad Pitt and his very public break up, his issues around use of alcohol and engaging of therapy during this period of turmoil.

It is always sad to see a couple split, the investment of time and emotions that is necessary to maintain a long term relationship can be enormous and conversely the devastation of splitting from that same relationship can be incredibly sad and enraging and devastating all the same time.

The ego can take a severe bruising when a divorce takes place, it would be nice to hear hat the primary concern is the children or the amicable division of property and such. But in that moment of realisation that your life partner is now nothing of the such, the pain felt can quickly become rage and anger.

For the modern man there are few “acceptable” ways of expressing your pain and so the use of alcohol or drugs becomes a comfortable medium to sedate the hurtful feelings that rise up within us. I believe that these feelings are so very powerful, because for a lot of men they have not felt scared, hurt, vulnerable to this level since they were young boys and how they manage these deep feelings with the expectations that society (and themselves) put them under. How a man deals with this problem or how a man is supposed to act when frightened.

Can you imagine going through this when you are one of the worlds most recognised celebrities?

It can be easier to swallow down thee deep feelings on the back of a glass of scotch or whatever the preferred tipple may be. Or indeed a line of cocaine or a few tokes on a spliff, it takes away the pain and takes you to a place where all these ideas of who you are or what you are can be forgotten for a while. A safe place where no uncomfortable questions will be asked or no requirements are made n your person.

In the use of therapy, a client can find a space where they can explore the pain and anger and hurt , not judged by their perceived role in the situation, rather someone to stand by your side while you face these difficult issues. A trusting relationship where you may have just exited a relationship of trust, where the therapist has no agenda but to be with the client in their moment by moment processing of the clients experience.

Creating a therapeutic environment where the client can feel safe and heard is the remit of the therapist, however entering into such an environment is the risk of the client and finding the right therapist that works for you is paramount. Do you feel heard and not judged, can you speak about the shameful or painful thoughts and feelings that you have experienced, if so you may have found the right therapist for you. A chance to build a new relationship based on open and honest exchange is part of the process in engaging with therapy, in examining what goes on in therapy my explanation would be the relationship is the therapy.

The problems of identity, you are no longer a husband and father. You have become an “ex” and maybe a part-time dad. The perception of your new role and how others may view or judge you can be detrimental to your self esteem. Have you lost some social cache or been “downgraded” as you no longer have a wife? Have you failed as a husband or father? Are you a “real man”?

The self judgement can often be more painful than the external judgement.

It is a positive thing that celebs can talk about these issues, Joe Public may be able to identify with some of this and maybe they experience some level of resonance with the celebs experience.

The true benefit is for people to realise that we are all human and fundamentally have the same problems, there is no exemption from life’s problems based on our net worth.

The full article by Justin Quirk appears on

By Aubrey St Louis 20 Nov, 2017

I was at a birthday party of one of my closest pals at the weekend, it was a rare opportunity to meet up with several different groups of friends, the nucleus being from my old football team Polytechnic Chiswick who I played for almost twenty years.

A friend of mine who is a careers coach was there too and we caught up for a chat. My friend Val was asking me how private practice was going and I guess there must have been some sort of hesitation in my response which led her to inquire further and we started to discuss the concept of chemistry.

I mean the emotional and bodily reactions that occur between two or more human, when talking or working together as opposed to the Bunsen burner, tripod, gauze and anti bumping granules of double chemistry from my long distant school days.

The discussion was around how we as freelancers or self employed professionals process our inquiries and conversations with prospective clients into a firm appointment or in my case weekly one to one therapy? I reflected on this and I began to consider this subject of chemistry, in the same way that my friend Val had picked up a slight hesitancy in my voice, I thought about what I may communicate to prospective clients?

If you read my blog or have visited my website or have met me in person, you will be familiar with my personal philosophy of empathy, honesty and non judgement. I live this way whether inside or outside of the therapy room. I truly believe that my journey of the last six years into therapy work is a direct result of that philosophy. As a caveat, I would also add to this that the ongoing building of resilience has been a major factor in getting to where I am today too. My level of personal resilience enables me to be able say aloud or in print; that I have found a way to navigate the undulations of life and ride the waves of the ups and downs. It doesn't mean that I don't feel nausea on the ride or that sometimes I wish I could go on some of these metaphoric rides over and over again.

Rather its a place where I can hold on and at the end of the ride buy the t- shirt that says “It was hell of a ride, but I stayed on”. Personal resilience is a subject which I will be re-visiting on the blog, so stay tuned for that in the coming months.

In my reflection of the idea of chemistry in my interaction with clients, it reminded me of the use of this phrase when people are talking about internet dating, when asked about a recent potential partner dated, we might say “ yeah we exchanged a few emails and chatted on the phone, but...there was no chemistry there ”. It got me thinking about working as a therapist, as I have explained to clients in the past that for me the relationship is the therapy . The relationship between client and therapist is exactly that, a relationship like the other relationships that we develop throughout our lives.

So it follows that in the same way something in an email or a phone conversation can invoke feelings of “he doesn't sound like he is in to me”. We all have patterns of reacting in certain situations and if we have experiences that have informed our feeling and thoughts around say for example rejection. I can imagine that if a client perceives that the response or conversation is not warm or is some way feels distant. They may react in the same way as you would if in a dating scenario ; you don't feel the chemistry .

That is not to say that some relationships that started with uncertainty and without an immediate fizz of mutual chemistry don’t go onto be very productive and rewarding. The same can be said for a potential therapist and client relationship, there can be a slow burn that develops into something wonderful and rewarding. I speak from personal experience of when I found my therapist during the early days of training, I went to see four different therapist before I settled on my one. Even then in the early days there was the slow steady steps of building a rapport and the trust in the relationship. This blossomed and I had a fantastic experience of my own personal therapy, it was challenging at times and doubts came up at other times, however the chemistry developed and I was glad that it came from a development of trust within the therapeutic alliance.

So in reading this short piece you are thinking about taking the plunge into the world of counselling or psychotherapy, or if you are at a difficult time in your life and you need some one to accompany you on this particular ride that life has delivered you. Rest assured there will be a therapist out there for you, it will take some consideration in knowing whether this is the right therapist for you and there will be the chemistry to consider too. Whether its an instant chemical flush or whether it it feels more like a slow burn; trust your instincts and select the therapist that you feel will be able to really hear you when you talk, who you can feel you could develop a relationship with and who you feel held and supported by.

Enjoy the rest of you week…


By Aubrey St Louis 23 Oct, 2017

I have just finished reading an interesting article about Mindfulness, its application in modern contexts ranging from business to school children to soldiers(?) The last one had me raising an eye brow, as the intention was to pre-emptively tackle the risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with soldiers.

Th fundamental principles which appear to be secular reworking of Buddhist principles underpin the practice. The thing that I noticed is that even using the word Mindfulness can become quite divisive, some claim that it is just a fad in a line of fads following on the coat tales of emotional intelligence and hot (Vikram)yoga.

Others have become almost evangelical about the benefits and applications of being mindful and the restorative and powerful effects of Mindfulness can have on an individual. There are even apps for your phone or tablet where you can focus your meditations . This can mean being mindful, while staring into a Quad HD high resolution screen(!)

I feel that I fall somewhere between the two camps, I recognise the personal benefits that I have experienced from meditation and particularly the effective use of being still and noticing the world around me, this could be on a walk by the riverside or even being on a packed tube and being able to focus in on a specific overhead advert, with the accompanying use of belly breathing. (Breathing from the diaphragm)

I have used this practice to alleviate tiredness or even an upset stomach by refocussing my sensations and attempting to just focus on my breath. I can't give the technical or physiological process that occurs, all I can say is that it works for me and now that I have found it, it has become another tool in my mental tool box to assist me in navigating an often stressful and super busy world.

On the commercial aspect, I have no problem with writers and practitioners selling courses and trainings and retreats that focus on mindfulness (in fact I am researching some interesting looking retreats myself at the moment), what I am less comfortable with is what American Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn described as the “Mc-Mindfulness”, the range of products from colouring books to tights...yes tights!

At the end of the article, I reflected on what mindfulness meant to me and what the practical application could be for me, in my day to day life and how what I practice compares to the wider description. I sat with this and then concluded that I was not trying to write a critique on mindfulness , rather I was trying to break down how I navigate my day to day life and what tools can aid my journey.

I came to these three points; Breath, Notice and Don't judge. I'll break it down like this;

Breathing:  whether you enjoy sports like me or you don't, learning to control our breathing and focusing on a deep breath from the diaphragm is physiologically a good thing. A nice big lung full of oxygenated air to get pumped around our body, so we are getting the maximum amount of air to all our organs and our muscles, means that we are working at an optimum level. This encompasses the way our heart rate can be controlled by deep breathing, I can testify to this as today I was wearing my heart rate monitor and the recovery phase after cardio exercise, nice deep breaths helps a speedy recovery. So generally speaking steady deep breathing is good for us, tick!

Notice:  If you are anything like me, its Monday and you have lots planned for the week and before you know it you are at home on Friday evening, maybe a bit tired and thinking; “where did the week go”? In between the commute, the job itself, seeing or caring for family, catching up with friends, the gym, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning etc. The time flies by and you struggle to remember what you were actually doing over the last five days or so. I believe that its not always possible or practical to pause to notice everything around us at all times, but I enjoy trying at various random points to slow my mind down and focus on my breathing, the train seat that I'm sitting on, how I can feel the fabric against my legs and back and the floor beneath my feet. If outdoors the smells, the sensation of the wind on your face, the temperature of the air. These tiny snap shots of noticing can be effective in focusing your thoughts and alleviating some of the thoughts of work, what’s for dinner, what’s Donald Trump up to? And staying in the moment of time that you are in and taking in what it means to be alive.

Don’t judge:  I realised a few years ago how much energy it takes up to judge, what I mean by this is to have give over mental process to who is right about something and who is wrong, its takes room in the grey matter to decide and quite often the emotional reaction to our polarising thoughts has an effect on our physical self. Furthermore, judging ourselves can be exhausting too, you know that internal dialogue that is always just sitting in the back seat of our brains, what we should be doing, what we should have done etc., etc. Give yourself a break and if you didn't manage to finish that task at work or even if you didn’t manage to have any space to be able to breathe and notice. Well you can try next time, no harm done and offer yourself some love rather than a self critique.

So in conclusion, I believe that we can all take what we find useful in Mindfulness and apply the parts that work for you personally. There can never be an all encompassing panacea, but we can all try out some tools that will help us along the way in life.


By Aubrey St Louis 26 Sep, 2017

Following a restful summer break I am back with the blog. I will continue to bring you insights and subjects linked to therapy and general well being. In the coming blogs I will be addressing subjects including dealing with anxiety and coping day to day with stress.

This blog I will be looking at the subject of time limited counselling, those unfamiliar with this rather technical therapy term; it basically means therapy sessions have a set number and the aim is to address the presenting issues within that time frame.

Often if you approach your GP in the NHS, you may be offered between 6 – 8 sessions or within an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service provided by your employer. There are also other agencies that may offer time limited services, such as a bereavement service.

How many sessions are right for me?

This will vary dependent on a combination of your commitment to the therapy work and the ability of the therapist to be able to build a rapport. If you feel that you can trust and talk to your chosen therapist, this will go some way to being able to begin resolving your issues.

Example of how number of sessions can be used short to mid term therapy:

1 – 6 sessions : Can be used for work related stress, crisis intervention, anxiety and social phobias.

6 – 12 sessions : Can be used for relationship issues or depression.

This of course is a general guide and each person is unique in how their issues present. The figures above are based on various studies about effectiveness of time limited therapy and there is no definitive correlation that covers all circumstances.

What about longer term therapy?

In my experience longer term therapy is associated with resolving deeper issues such as personality conflicts or personality disorders. I personally would describe this as Psychotherapy. In my time working in the NHS in a Psychotherapy Department, the work that covered six months to a year or more was dealing with personality disorders including diagnosis such as Bi- polar, Borderline and Histrionic personality disorders.

What does Counselling in Brentford offer?

I offer clients both short term/time limited therapy as well as longer term open ended options for working together. This will be discussed during the first couple of sessions in assessing whether we feel we can work together. A mutually agreed contract can then be made following this initial assessment to commit to the chosen format of therapy.

I will always support my client in their journey with an honest and non judgemental attitude whether we work in the short term or for longer. The development of a trusting and safe environment. I truly believe that the therapeutic relationship is key to being able to work effectively together.

What if I change my mind during therapy?

It is okay to change your view once therapy starts as it is not uncommon as the work progresses that your original aim or goal may have altered, things can shift during the process and all potential components of our therapy experience.

For example if we contracted for an initial six sessions, it would be a natural and seamless transition to extend that if required. My style of working embraces a collaborative style and regularly reviewing how the work is going would be a natural part of the process. As a therapist I have an ethical duty to ensure that you are getting what you need from the therapy and looking at what you find useful and what you don't find useful in the therapy.

How much will all this cost?

It is difficult question to answer, as it it is all relative in as much as you can view it as an investment in yourself. In times of distress you may need some immediate relief and whether the work continues beyond this relief can be sometimes guided by cost, but more importantly how you feel the therapy has benefited you and how you feel at the time.

A short term programme of six sessions can be a cost effective way to address any presenting issues. This could be problems such as anxiety, panic attacks or stress related conditions tackled over a set period of time and knowing exactly how much of a financial commitment you are making.

Next Step?

If any of this has resonated with you and you feel that now is the time for you to begin you journey into therapy, rest assured I will be with you every step of the way to offer empathy, honesty and non judgement. Call me on 07939 721503 or email me at to book an appointment.

Kind regards


By Aubrey St Louis 06 Aug, 2017

Following the announcement by Jeremy Hunt MP Health Secretary that the government was going to create 21,000 new mental health roles within the current structure of the NHS to combat the mental health crisis in the UK, it triggered some debate around what this will actually mean.

While listening to the radio I heard a nurse counter this ' good news ' with the harsh reality of the current situation in the NHS, she said that nurses and mental health professionals are leaving the NHS and that people were retiring as soon as they could. Adding that others were quitting the NHS to go and work in the agency realm, where they can realise a better level of pay and more personal flexibility.

I don't want to rain on the government’s parade, however the real issue here may well be why the levels of mental distress and people seeking help rocketed over recent years? I don't want to enter the arena of party politics as I feel this is a societal discussion and shouldn't be polarised along party lines.

Could job insecurity, low wages and zero hours contracts be factors? Massive levels of personal debt coupled with a non-stop 24 hour online existence. Where our thoughts and images are dissected, compared and evaluated by online peers and the effect it has on us as human beings.

There seems to be a general empathy deficiency, within a the dog eat dog world and uncaring attitudes which seem to prevail around us at the moment. Whether its Brexit rage creating remainers and leavers . At another level the reality TV shows that make individuals king for a day, only to be pilloried shortly after the celebratory champagne corks have been popped.

I believe that offering a little more empathy for our fellow man can contribute to developing healthy caring relationships and mutual respect. With support for others who are experiencing the same trials and tribulations that we all live on a daily basis.

My personal experience of working in a Psychotherapy department within the NHS was extremely challenging and even more rewarding. This type of work reminds me that the issues or triggers for mental distress are very common amongst us all. It can be a moment of vulnerability or having our resilience slowly chipped away due the demands of life in this fast moving society. The difference in how some individuals are able to heal and recover can be due to receiving some empathic support and someone to be in relationship with.

A regular meet up with a friend or even a casual conversation in a café, all of these type of interpersonal interactions are beneficial to us all and help remove the risk of social isolation and feelings of being alone with our problems. So to Mr Hunt, yes it is fantastic news that more funding will become available to assist with mental health care, but how about encouraging us all as members of a civilised society to do what we can to help those around us, this does not mean that we are replacing highly trained and experienced clinicians.

No rather it means that we as a society can contribute to the good mental health of those around us and for ourselves as well. Trying to live a calmer more real existence and really take time to experience our lives and the rich exchanges that can take place when we have the space for more in depth personal interactions with our fellow humans.

In line with my own personal philosophy, I would encourage readers to try the combination of empathy, non-judgement and honesty in our day to day lives and let me know how that experience was for you on a personal level.

It is often counter-intuitive to what may be going on around us, but maybe when things are getting a little challenging that’s when giving something new a go and you may just be surprised with what you discover about yourself.

By Aubrey St Louis 11 Jul, 2017

But with so many styles of yoga around now, finding the right class
for you can be confusing. To save you time, here are a few tips I can
pass on from my years as a yoga student and teacher.

You may be completely new to yoga in which case you can dive in and
everything will be a new experience. But if you're coming back to
yoga, you may be surprised to find the type of yoga that suits you now
is very different from what you liked five or ten years ago. Whether
you're a stranger to the yoga mat or you did some yoga years ago, it's
worth giving some thought to choosing a class. Think about how you are
at this point in your life. Do you like to sit and chill or are you a
fidget? Do you like repetition or variety? Running or walking?

In my early thirties I was devoted to a vigorous ashtanga class where
I enjoyed the strong focus on physicality and the emphasis on fluid,
repetitious movement. Twenty years later and I’m more appreciative of
a yoga practice that fosters physical strength and flexibility through
the power of stillness. I prefer to walk not run, listen to the birds
not my iPod's workout collection. This is what I need now. That was
what I needed then.

Ready to dip your toe in the water? Here are a few pointers to help
you on your way.

1. Do give your potential teacher a call and ask questions.
As well as price and times and all the practical issues of getting
there, it’s also worth asking the teacher how busy the class is. You
may like the idea of being lost in the crowd but if you’re a beginner
you’ll want a teacher who can spot where they can help you get the
most from the experience. I once gave up on a class because it was
just too busy. Being so close to the woman in front that I spent half
the class trying not to headbutt her backside was not my idea of a
good time. Being rammed in cheek by jowl (literally) is not for me.

Another tip is to ask the teacher about their training or check it out
on their website. If it turns out they went to India for a few weeks
and came back with a certificate, be wary. Yoga teacher training
should be to a high standard and your teacher should also be engaged
in continuous professional development.

2. Do tell your teacher if you have any health conditions
Your teacher should be trained in modifying postures for a wide range
of issues so you’ll be doing both of you a favour if you tell them
about your condition. Your teacher gets to use all their skills and
you’ll get the support you need to get the most out of a class. Just
have a quick word with the teacher when you call them or before the
class starts. It’s also worth checking with your GP to get their
perspective on whether the yoga class you fancy is right for your

3. Don't worry about whether or not you’re ‘flexible’
Yoga is inclusive with a capital I. In huge letters. There's always
been this big myth around yoga only being for flexible people. Utter
nonsense. Whether you’re stiff as a board, bendy as a pipe-cleaner,
any height, any shape, any colour, any age… Yoga is for everyone.

4. Don’t go splashing out on special clothes for yoga
Loose, comfortable clothing is all you need. A T-shirt and a pair of
sweatpants or leggings are ideal. We generally practice in bare feet.
Yoga is not about shopping so don’t feel you need to raid Lululemon
before you set foot in a class. No one cares what you’re wearing, so
relax. It’s worth investing in your own mat if you get into yoga, but
don’t go splashing out if you’ve never tried it before. Your teacher
will probably have spare mats for beginners; do ask when you ring

5. Don't pick a style of yoga because Gwyneth Paltrow does it
The power of celebrity is huge, I know, but fame association does not
mean it’s right for you. Yoga also has its own pantheon of social
media super-star teachers, but please don’t let any of them influence
your choice. This is for you, the true you. Look inside to your self
and listen. Your intuition will tell you what’s a good match for you.

Ready to get going? Here's a few of the most popular types around today.

Ashtanga . A strenuous, physically focused yoga practice, based on a
set sequence of yoga postures held for five breaths, often punctuated
with half sun salutations.
Hatha yoga . This is an umbrella term for most forms of yoga taught in
the West. People mistakenly believe hatha means gentle, but a hatha
class can be as strong as any other. Expect yogic breathing and
meditation practices as well as physical postures as part of a regular
Iyengar . Pioneered by BKS Iyengar who suffered several illnesses as a
child, including tuberculosis. His form of yoga is consequently based
on strength and alignment and frequently incorporates props, such as
blocks and belts, to help students feel their way into a posture.
Hot Yoga . Bikram yoga is similar. If getting really sweaty appeals to
you, this could be your yoga home. Hot yoga claims to be a great
detoxifier. The room is heated, to a temperature close to 100 degrees
Fahrenheit, so arrive well hydrated and be mindful of pushing your
body too hard in that heat and over-stretching. If you have high or
low blood pressure seek advice from your doctor before trying this
Vinyasa Flow . Very like ashtanga and power yoga is very similar too. A
strong, physical, fluid practice where students follow a teacher’s
instruction through a sequence of postures. There is no stopping to
discuss the finer points of postures and so potentially very
challenging for beginners.
Yin. This style of yoga comes from the Taoist tradition and focuses on
the hips, pelvis and lower spine. Poses are held for up to 10 minutes
and students are encouraged to feel a release. A great introduction to

Whichever class you try, remember yoga is like life; it’s all about
the journey not the final destination. The yoga is in the movement to
the end posture. Just enjoy the process and relax.

Deana Morris is a yoga teacher and reiki master, based in Manchester.
You can

By Aubrey St Louis 04 Jul, 2017

I was reading an article in the Observer newspaper on Empaths and the growing phenomenon state side of people obtaining readings and sessions from Empaths . This intrigued me as, empathy is one of the core principles that I try to incorporate into my every day life and in turn use in my practice as a therapist, so a whole article on how empathy was being used as a very specific tool really intrigued me.

Before I get into my reflections on this article, I can maybe explain what I mean by empathy in a psycho therapeutic context. Empathy is often confused with sympathy, one way of describing the difference would be to say that to have sympathy for an individual is able to acknowledge the 'other's' hardship or pain and offer some reassurance and support.

Empathy in the same context would be for the individual to be able to 'put themselves in the person that is suffering's shoes' and imagine what it would feel like to be the person in pain. The therapist Carl Rodgers described as the 'as if'

For me personally, there is something liberating for me to be able to offer empathy, I am able to be fully open and honest and make a deeper human contact than maybe our day to day relationships allow in a busy world. It talks energy and effort to offer empathy and it can be painful and exhausting at different times. In fact the therapist that puts themselves into the work, that is the real relationship with the client, lays themselves bare and the long term cost can be exhaustion and burn out. The rates of burn out amongst professionals in the 'caring' vocations such as nurse, social workers and therapists is quite high . It is advisable to really look after ourselves in this work and acknowledge when we are nearing our capacity, before it becomes a full blown burn out.

So with such a demanding and potentially damaging activity, why on earth would I be promoting it on a counselling blog that has mental and physical well being at the heart of my motivations?

Well here are three good reasons to offer empathy in our day to day interactions:

1) Empathy for other; offering empathy to others can be restorative and comforting. The real human contact and acceptance of someone else’s experience can help us grow emotionally too. By sharing our experience with someone else, this can be the real difference in how someone is able to cope with their day to day struggles.

2) Improving self awareness ; actively working on this skill can improve your level of personal awareness. As you become more use to seeing how it is for someone else , it starts to become more than a cognitive process, in my experience an understanding at a deeper human level can increase the psychological connection between two individuals.

3) Empathy for self ; often we are our own harshest critic and judge. So next time you hear that critical voice in your head admonishing “ I can't believe you did that again ”, try pausing and putting a metaphoric arm around your shoulder and offer yourself some acceptance.

Accepting that we are not perfect and that we can only do the best we can on a day to day basis, maybe accept that life can be challenging and embrace the feelings that come into your awareness.

For me it is any ongoing skill and way of living trying to offer empathy. It can be challenging when in difficult relationships or in a busy stressful environment. Try to empathise with others and see how you get on? Reflect on how you are really feeling and really experience those feelings. You may find this personally good or bad, scary or it may bring up other strong emotions. I would suggest trying to stay with those feelings and examine what that experience is like?

I encourage my readers to explore the ideas raised in this article and I am looking forward to any comments in relation to this article. Feel free to share and 'Like' on my Facebook page.

In the coming months I will be introducing a series of guest bloggers who's work I find inspiring and collaborating with their ideas and themes. I am excited at the prospect of sharing some varied and interesting subjects along the way, so watch this space for my first guest blogger...

By Aubrey St Louis 19 Jun, 2017

The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster has been enormous, taking into account the horrendous loss of life and the devastation and loss of the survivors has been overwhelming too. The news coverage and phone updates have been relentless, its is only a couple weeks on from the last terror attacks and even today I returned from the gym to hear that there had been another apparent terror attack near Finsbury Park in London.

There seems as though we are in a whirlwind of disasters at the moment, no respite from the sorrow and pain of loss. The feelings associated with loss and bereavement can come to the surface for both the bereaved and those who are observing all of the things unfurl around us.

Conversations are about blame and who should have done what, people stating issues of culpability and anger at authorities. I don't for one minute disregard these issues, I on a personal level I believe that the cuts to local authority spending and our ten years of government Austerity play a role in parts of all the incidents that happened, but maybe that is for another time.

I believe that the intrusive nature of the reporting at times has been rather distasteful and the easy target of people who are bewildered and bereft, as microphones are thrust in there faces. I imagine how that must be for an individual as they try to accept and comprehend what they have just been through, that is before even counting the family and friends that may have been lost in this tragedy.

The other angle that I seemed to observe, was this constant reference to angry people and feelings of anger boiling up in the local residents, is this another media stereotype of the working classes on a council estate being on the brink of rioting or rampaging through the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea? The media voyeurism seems all apparent in my viewing of the reporting, where is the comfort and support that these traumatised people may be needing now. Yes there needs to be explanation of the facts, but right now maybe we can think about the holding and supporting of the individuals involved.

Everyone has there own process for dealing with traumatic events and it is not one size fits all, not everyone is going to be feeling the same way. For some sadness is the overriding feeling, confusion for others, anger in other cases. These are people who deserve to be treated with an individual level of care, my hope is that no one gets forgotten in this process. I spoke to a colleague earlier today while we caught up for coffee and we both agreed that maybe the idea of counselling or therapy might be too soon for some survivors. Yes there is an immediate need for some of the victims who may well be suffering Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but for others it will be the coming weeks, months and years that they will need support and comfort.(PTSD can surface long after the trauma occurs in some cases)

I received an email from the Black, African & Asian Therapist Network (BAATN) late last night, asking if I would be able to offer any voluntary time as a counsellor for the victims of Grenfell Tower. My immediate thought was 'yes of course' and I can't wait to email them back. The next thought was to consider what environment I would be going into and how I would have to prepare and look after myself. I would have to make sure that I am healthy and mentally, physically and emotionally robust, in order to be able to offer effective help. It was an ethical consideration to think about my own readiness to be able to offer support in a trauma zone. I have sent an email to BAATN offering my availability for one afternoon a week, I worked for a bereavement charity in the past and I recognise that issues of complicated grief can occur around incidents such as accidents.

I have seen clients in the past who have experienced sudden deaths, accidents or violent crime related bereavements. I remember from my experiences at the charity that these events can fill the thoughts and lives of those affected and it brought into sharp focus the size of the task ahead for all the support services involved in supporting the survivors. I think as well that sometimes forgotten in the review of the traumatised are the emergency services, who everyone relies upon. They may have to move on from one traumatic event onto the next without the time to fully take and process what is going on for them in terms of their feelings and thoughts. We can all as a community recognise the great work they do and where possible offer the support if we can.

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By Aubrey St Louis 12 Jun, 2017

I was leaving work on Friday and was contemplating why I felt so exhausted, colleagues who had stayed up during the night to watch the outcome of the general election reported varying stages of exhaustion, some had taken a day off other were working from home. But, I hadn't stayed up through the night, in fact by 10.00pm I was safely tucked up in bed, I decided to rest early and wake up to what ever the gods had decided for the political future of the country.

On reflection, I was already mentally and emotionally weary going into this election, off the back of the horrendous terror attack at Borough Market and London Bridge. The round the clock coverage, which I felt drawn too despite my awareness of the longer term emotional impact of exposure to this type of traumatic information. I have already learned to switch off the sound notifications from my phone, as I noticed that during a traumatic event or disaster my phone would be continuously pinging and the now common Pavl o v 's Dogs reaction of reaching for our mobile device to update ourselves on the previous information update which we had but 5 minutes previously. The internal justification; “ there could be some progress on the investigation ” or “ maybe some new information has come in ”. It can become like some sort of emotional masochism, where the pain is inevitable but the adrenaline rush of the self torture has become addictive.

The point being, I am a therapist and developed a level of awareness of what is going on for me internally, my cognitive process and how that informs my emotional state. What the triggers can be and what the physical sensations are within my body, the upset tummy or the dull aching at the back of my neck or the shortness of breath or seeking out open space and fresh air. I have come to recognise that these physical reactions and the adjustment in mood are not just coincidental. Rather they can become part of the slowly racking up process of exposure to distressing news, seeing others in distress and a collective anxiety around you, which can sometimes be picked up in the extensive non verbal interactions we have as members of a busy society.

It is one thing knowing what is bothering us, but another process in calming or soothing these reactions or feelings. I do not believe in removing the ability to feel these emotions, rather a way of working with or through those uncomfortable feelings. In the past I have drawn on several supports to navigate the overload of bad news and being bombarded with information about bad news. Physical exercise is proven to improve our mental health, particularly with conditions like depression and anxiety. I integrate my gym work out and occasional bike rides into a busy week, the endorphins rush is a nice counter to a base level of cortisol in my system.

When it feels as though information or sensory overload is approaching from a combination of work, personal life and the news coming in via social media or the television, I try to slow down. What I mean by this is to, take my time in getting ready in the morning or walking a little slower into the office. Taking in the surroundings and trying to ground myself via the things going on around me. A walk through the park or by the river can be a nice way to engage with the natural world and respond in a natural way to this environment. The leaves on the tree or taking in the simple beauty of a meadow or it could be the flow of the river.

This is linked to the next support, mindfulness is the “in phrase” at the moment and I personally do see the benefit, taking the time to appreciate the grass beneath our feet or to savour the flavours of the food we eat. Taking notice of our breathing and tuning out of every other receptor except the particular focus at the time, the movement of our chest as we breath for example. I believe finding your own unique way to be mindful is key for me, not everyone will have the same experience and it is more about the in the moment processing of our experience and truly taking in what we are feeling.

My next support, is 'gratitude' I don't just mean being polite to those around us. I mean thinking about what we feel grateful for in our life, whether it your friends or partner or it could be the food you have just eaten or your health. I find it interesting and insightful for me to look at different areas of my life and playing with this idea, choosing something to be grateful from work, personal life, physically, emotionally, and so on. I like to mix up the categories and the contexts as it gives me a more comprehensive and eclectic list of my gratitudes. I was a little sceptical when I was first introduced to this idea and I have enjoyed developing it in a way that is the right fit for me and my personality.

These observations about myself inform my insight and reflection on who I am as a person, which in form informs the way I am available to those around me. I believe my clients are experiencing me at my most present. By incorporating these practices into my life, I find my navigation of mental and emotional fatigue becomes more effective. I am able to offer this in turn to my clients and be along side them while they experience their own particular challenges.

My self care and self empathy is quite restorative, it shores up my own mental, emotional and physical health. I am able to use my empathy for myself as a means of really connecting at a deeper level with my clients. It is an offer of empathy and it is the client's autonomy that decides whether they want to meet at this deeper level. Developing a relationship can give the opportunity to meet the client's needs and work at the pace or emotional depth that feels safe and appropriate at the time for the client.

By Aubrey St Louis 03 Jun, 2017

I recall speaking to some colleagues as we came to the end of a training course about joining the Black, African and Asian Therapist's Network ( ) and their surprise and curiosity as to why I would want to join such a specific organisation? They also asked why do black or Asian people need separate therapists? And was this just creating more difference and separation.

I explained that I could only speak for myself and could only describe my reasons from my perspective, as a black British therapist. I didn't want this to become a justification for the organisation or to become defensive, rather I wanted to be able to open out the discussion and possibly bring into awareness a couple of points that they may have not considered in their first response.

The statement that; black people being over-represented in the mental h ealth system , is often misquoted. According to the Mental Health Foundation ( ), I rish people living in the UK have a higher hospital admission rate for mental health problems than other ethnic groups.

In contrast the Mental Health Foundation went on to say; African-Caribbean people living in the UK have lower rates of common mental disorders than other ethnic groups but are more likely to be diagnosed with severe mental illness. African-Caribbean people are three to five times more likely than any other group to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for schizophrenia.

The research goes onto explain that African Caribbean people are also more likely to enter the mental health services via the courts or the police, rather than from primary care, which is the main route to treatment for most people. They are also more likely to be treated under a section of the Mental Health Act, are more likely to receive medication, rather than be offered talking treatments such as psychotherapy, and are over-represented in high and medium secure units and prisons. The conclusion that may be drawn from this is that black Caribbean clients are less likely to engage with mental health services, and so are much more ill when they do.

So where does me joining BAATN come into the picture? I love living in London and the variety and diversity continues to make it one of the most vibrant and unique cities in the world. I have chosen to work as a therapist and feel that I should be able to reflect the needs of all sections of society regardless of of gender, race, religion, sexuality or disability.

A variety of choice is important in being able to find the right therapist for your needs, often clients will request a female therapist or a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) client may request a therapist from within the LGBT community. Being able to offer clients a therapist who may be able to identify or relate to some of the specific issues around being a minority is a choice for prospective clients. It may be the difference between engaging with therapy at an early stage rather than being brought into mental health services with a more serious diagnosis.

So does this preclude therapists from working outside they ethnicity?I do not believe so, rather I would argue that it offers clients a greater choice of available therapist. Increasing an awareness of cultural difference and culturally specific issues is an ethical and professional consideration for any therapist working within a diverse population. Below is the article that touches on some of the themes I have raised:

By Aubrey St Louis 22 May, 2017

I was in the local park on Saturday morning and paused to watch a young group of boys in a football training session. It was made up of mixed ability group ranging in age groups from 5 years old to about 9 years old. I noticed the older group with boys of around 8 to 9 years old being put through a training drill, there was a couple players defending a goal and then a group of three offensive players and to pass through a gate of two cones and try and score a goal via team work and passing.

The next round of the drill started and the attackers passed through the gate and into play, the defenders confront them and start to try and win the ball from them. A player is tackled and he is kicked in leg in the process, the young lad proceeds to collapse to the ground holding his ankle, he is crying and remonstrating with the coach who is reproaching him with the words “get up, its not that bad”, on hearing this the young lad on the floor proceeds to start crying even more intently.

In this moment, something comes up for me and it is the thought in my own head that “come on its a contact sport, stop crying and get up”, a voice that I have grown up with. I played football for my school team at the age of 9 years old and remember the culture of being hard and not showing anyone that you were hurt, for fear of possible ridicule or showing that you were soft or a baby.

I had to consider my thoughts in that moment and more so what I was actually feeling, I actually felt empathy for this young lad and felt like I wanted to comfort him in some way. I was also conscious of the fact that I was just an observer from the side lines and didn't have any authority or connection with this child and the appropriateness of any intervention.

Th boy eventually got up and stormed off the pitch, all the while trying to explain to his coach what happened. The coach has still had to supervise the remaining group. The boy continues to walk off the pitch crying even harder now, it seemed to me he looked more frustrated than physically hurt due to his ankle.

He walked past me and sat down on the sidelines, I looked at the coach and the other boys and realised that the coach was not able to shut down the drill to attend to this boy. So I went with my gut feeling and asked him; “are you all right mate”?

He shook his head and was sobbing, he explained that he had been kicked on the ankle and it was painful, but the thing that struck me was that he went on to say whenever he cries in front of the coach he is told not to cry or to stop crying. This seemed to me to be the painful part for this young lad, I told him; “don't worry mate, we all cry sometimes and there is nothing wrong in showing tears if we are hurt”. I don’t know how much of this he was able to take on board, but his tears were subsiding anyway. At this point, there was a natural break in the drill and the coach called him back into the group and offered some words of encouragement.

I looked over to the coach and he gave me the thumbs up and I waved back. I felt good that I was able to offer some comfort to this lad, but also I acknowledged the challenges that the coach had in controlling and supervising a group of 9 year old boys so full of energy.I am sure that the coach is DBS  (Disclosure and Baring Service)screened, FA certified and first aid trained, but I wonder how much consideration is given to emotional first aid and an empathic approach to difficult and challenging situations. I am not a football coach and he was not a therapist, but I don't think that our skills should be mutually exclusive.

With the recent stories regarding football and mental health, it made me consider the messages that we send our young boys still in the 21st century...“don't cry” and I guess don’t tell anyone how you are really feeling. I felt happy that this young boy was able to articulate his feelings, he was able to describe how it impacted him being told to stop crying by his football coach.

Working from the Person Centred approach as a therapist, we theorise about the conditions of worth (Rogers,1959) that are put on upon us in our formative years. That we are a good boy if don’t cry and maybe a bad boy if we do. Its useful to reflect on why we might feel uncomfortable or why it may seem unbearable to sees someone else’s tears and pain. I appreciate that through my personal development and life experience that I am “OK” to be with people in these painful moments, but I also believe how a little bit of empathy can go far in the shaping of the next generation of men that we are growing within our society.

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