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Client Stories: What does our help look like?
Our clients have granted permission for their story to be shown here or we have combined stories from different clients to protect confidentiality.
Different names and pictures have been used to protect identities.
12-years old, Student
Fear of the dark & worry about school
One of our Clinical Psychologists met Oliver and his Mother together and individually, to find out about the difficulties and to understand their goals for therapy. Oliver said he felt scared, when he woke up at night, was at home or walking home in the dark: he wanted the horrible feeling to stop.
Oliver cried, which was OK with us. He said he felt embarrassed and it was hard when he didn’t do well on a test or didn’t come first in something he thought he was good at. Oliver explained he worried he would slip behind at school, there was too much homework and teachers didn’t like or notice him, even when he had his hand up.
Oliver came to 14 weekly sessions. The psychologist helped Oliver learn about how fear works in our bodies and minds. They talked about threats and how different types of threat can be misunderstood. Oliver was helped to try out experiments in the dark, with his family and alone, in and out of his home, in a safe way. This helped Oliver to stop avoiding the dark and learn to manage his uncomfortable feelings, work out whether a threat was small or big and discover which new behaviours, thoughts and activities worked best for him to overcome his fear.
When relevant examples came up at school, Oliver was helped to notice that his feelings of embarrassment were completely normal and that he sometimes set too high goals for himself, goals that no person could expect to achieve all the time.
Oliver learned that he often made unhelpful assumptions about what teachers may think about him or their behaviour. He was encouraged to think with the psychologist about how he might go about finding out what the teachers thought and come up with other more helpful reasons for their behaviour. Oliver was also helped to understand why he was frequently looking to others for approval and instead lower his distress by trying out helpful self-talk. Self- talk is often used to remind ourselves that we are doing well and are going to be fine even when others do not say so or seem to notice.
When therapy came to an end Oliver said 'I can learn new skills, and manage fears'. He explained ‘my fear of dark and getting up in the night isn’t as hard anymore’. Oliver rated his fear at the end of therapy at 2.5/10 (where ten equals worst fear) instead of 10/10 when talking therapy started.
He went on to explain ‘I took a break from getting my homework done on the same day yesterday…less pressure…I didn’t worry about my rule of getting homework done in one day even when it is not due to the following week…I have learnt that I can take breaks sometimes’.
17-years old, Student
Low self-esteem & low mood
When Penny called Composure, she was very upset and wanted help with feeling low and crying all the time. Penny didn’t think she was a strong person but we already knew she was brave because she had picked up the phone and asked for help.
Our psychologist met with Penny, discussed her difficulties in more detail and helped her identify specific goals for the therapeutic work. Penny preferred that everything remain confidential from her family, despite their support. That was fine with us and we recommended and agreed with Penny that a brief letter be sent to Penny’s GP.
Penny attended 16 weekly sessions in which she revealed she had begun to self-harm. Past and present factors influencing Penny’s mood were identified and where they were unhelpful, challenged.
New strategies for managing severe upset and high emotions were introduced and practiced in-between sessions. Penny was helped to develop a more compassionate view of herself, reduce her constant comparison to others and reintroduce pleasurable activities.
Over the latter part of therapy, Penny reported that she had started attending a drama class which she was enjoying and she had made new friends. Penny also proudly reported she had not cut herself for over three weeks and didn’t intend to do so again.
In a follow-up session, six months after initial therapy had ended, Penny explained she had only cut herself on one occasion and was currently three and half months free of self-harm. Together we discussed how setbacks are normal and refreshed helpful strategies for preventing and managing any unhelpful urges and relapses.
mid 50-years old, Unemployed Father
Anxiety & Depression
Matthew sought help and explained to one of our psychologists that he was feeling very low, anxious and thought about suicide daily. He explained he had recently lost his job, his brother had died and he was worried about his relationship and not being able to care for his family.
The psychologist asked Matthew to share at his own pace how the anxiety and low mood was impacting his day to day life and if he had experienced these feelings before prior to recent challenging events. Over two sessions, they built a picture of what was happening right now and identified factors from the present and past that might be contributing to keeping the low mood and anxiety going. This was a helpful tool for deciding where to start with therapy and to refer to when long held beliefs or assumptions appeared to be getting in the way of his completing therapeutic activities.
Matthew’s suicide ideation was discussed and explored for seriousness and risk to himself and others. Agreements were made about attending next appointments and what to do if the painful feelings and thoughts escalated.
Matthew attended 13 weekly sessions in which he learned about how depression, anxiety and bereavement work in the mind and body. With the psychologists help he identified a tendency to ruminate (dwelling on unhelpful negative thoughts which seemed to be going around in loops in his head) and learned how to break this cycle and gain control over his attention. A combination of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was used.
Matthew completed behavioural activation activities that research shows helps most people lower distress from depression. He reintroduced small enjoyable activities and slowly experienced pleasure again. These activities created a counterpoint and balance to the anxiety and low mood he had been feeling.
Matthew was then helped to reconnect with his values and all of his roles in life which made up who he is. This allowed Matthew to see he still had a meaningful part to play in his own and others’ life regardless of his current work status. His goal to gain work was also supported: the psychologist and Matthew worked together to determine links between thoughts, behaviours and symptoms of anxiety before, during and after interviews that were getting in the way of his being confident, authentic and coping with any outcome.
While Matthew had wanted to work on overcoming the anger, loss and grief he felt about losing his brother, the initial agreement was to defer this and focus on his other concerns: bereavement can be (though not always) a larger, longer piece of therapeutic work. Towards the end of therapy bereavement was raised again and briefly explored considering Matthew's new psychological flexibility about how to manage strong emotions.
After his second session Matthew described how he was not thinking about suicide anywhere near as often and that coming to the sessions was helping. Matthew explained he no longer felt as upset and angry about his brother’s death and had found a way of connecting with him despite his no longer being there in person. When therapy came to an end, Matthew had secured a new work contract, started running and shared that he was spending more time with his family again.
Overall found this very helpful. It was exactly what I needed and Janine was brilliant – understanding and sensitive around discussing things that I initially found very difficult and embarrassing.
mid 30-years old, Administrator
Pain, Chronic Illness and Trauma
Yasmin had been living with long-term back pain and pain during sex. She explained she was reluctant to get into a new relationship and felt depressed about her health and lack of relationship. Yasmin said she was a bit sceptical about whether she could be helped or not. It was agreed that an assessment would be completed and a course of action would be determined from there including whether it was the right time for her to engage with therapy.
Over two to three sessions a picture was drawn up of how the pain had come about, her being involved in a traffic accident, how the events had and were continuing to impact on Yasmin’s life and the meaning she gave to the events about herself, the world and others. Towards the end of the third session Yasmin felt safe to disclose she had experienced an unwanted sexual encounter and felt unsupported by ...
Several therapeutic approaches were discussed including an option to focus on the trauma. Yasmin decided she would prefer to work directly on the pain and impact of chronic illness and remain open to developing a better understanding of how the trauma may be contributing to these. Yasmin attended 10 weekly sessions in which she was helped to apply Mindfulness for Health and Pain.
Yasmin learned about Mindfulness and how to observe herself and thoughts without judgement. She learnt about being in the present moment rather than always thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Yasmin was helped to use breathing and other Mindfulness techniques to move forward in line her goals despite the presence of pain and presence of uncomfortable physical sensations and feelings. Yasmin completed mindful and behavioural exposure based home practice exercises about her body which helped her to like and trust her body again.
Once Yasmin felt safe and gained positive experiences from the therapy such as for the first time in years being able to exercise without pain taking over, her confidence in therapy and the approach increased. A discussion about the trauma and the meaning she applied to it, was reopened. Using a Compassion Focussed Therapy approach, the psychologist helped Yasmin explore her thoughts about trusting and connecting with others and her ability to keep herself safe. Yasmin began developing a compassionate voice for herself about the trauma she had experienced and her health.
Towards the end of therapy Yasmin shared she had begun to date again. She said she still felt anxious about starting a sexual relationship though nowhere near as scared as she had done before therapy, when she had avoided it altogether. Yasmin learned and practiced where to put her attention as her relationship became more intimate and developed a plan for managing any setbacks.
Joe (11 years old) and Mother (Linda)
Anxiety, Bullying & School transition
Linda contacted Composure Psychology explaining she was concerned about her son, Joe and his high anxiety and fear about moving from primary to secondary school. One of our Clinical Psychologists met Joe and Linda together and individually to discover their concerns, perspectives and motivations for change. Joe disclosed that he was also worried about the bullying he had experienced and how it might continue at his new school.
Joe attended 12 weekly sessions in which he was helped to become aware of his thinking patterns and how some of them had become automatic and negative. Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness exercises and two easy to read books, the psychologist developed Joe’s ability to manage worries, challenge unhelpful thinking and learn about preventing and overcoming bullying. New strategies and home practice were generated for Joe to try out between sessions.
The home practice activities were shared with Linda who supported him to complete the activities, reinforced the key learning points raised and modelled the new strategies in between sessions so Joe could see how they worked for others as well as experience them himself. The regular in-between session email contact and reviews with both Joe and Linda ensured progress and pace met agreed expectations. Joe’s confidentiality was maintained by prior agreement being obtained for any shared information between Joe and Linda.
Five weeks after transitioning to his new school, Linda contacted their psychologist with great news: Joe was doing very well. He had expanded his friendship group and received badges for excellent performance.
Joe said, ‘the confidence boost was most helpful, I think I have started to cope’. Linda reported that ‘He rarely calls me now after school because he’s scared’ and ‘this is the area in which Joe has improved the most’. She also explained that ‘Joe is calmer and has made wise choices about people and things to spend his time with’. The therapy ‘has definitely helped and benefited Joe’.
Our Clients Say
My time with Janine was, in many ways, life changing. I learnt things about myself and my mental health that I wasn’t aware of. Janine taught me a great deal of coping techniques but moreover allowed me to get to the core of my issues and address them. As a result I have far better relations with some of the most important people in my life and am much more comfortable in myself. Janine was very compassionate and empathic. She allowed me to forge my own path in therapy whilst giving me enough guidance and direction. Whilst Janine’s fees were higher than others, it was worth the additional outlay.
A big thank you... you did so much for us...you put us in a good position for making even more progress.
I really enjoyed your presentation and kept thinking about how I felt after/during your reading from the perspective of a depressed person. It made me realise, that if they are able to just turn up in my office, then that is a great achievement. The thing that stuck also was you saying " this is the clients' depression talking, not his personality".
My coach [ Dr Kemi ] was great. Wonderful listener who was able to ask the right questions and provide guidance and tips as appropriate.
I am extremely grateful for the treatment I have received and for the patience and skill of the psychologist.
It was excellent - best counselling I have ever had. The techniques used taught me to change how I processed thoughts and emotions. She taught me how my expectations could impact others. She made me look at things in a different way.
My husband and I didn’t always prioritise this work but you always stayed patient and took us to the maximum place we could have achieved. I had pain free, relaxed sex last time for the first time.
Many thanks for the [teaching] session on Friday. I found the exercise on depression very interesting as it’s something I personally don’t stop to think about too much and I guess we can be quite quick to underestimate the overall impact on lifestyle so thank you for highlighting this.
The experience of therapy has been positive one. With the support and insight of the psychologist I have been able to work on things that have been affecting the quality of my life for over a decade.
Overall both my own and my experience regarding my son's treatment have been very positive and have certainly helped us both to find a balanced way of looking at things and dealing with challenges.
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