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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’.
Person in picture is not the client.
Military Veteran, PTSD and Relationship Difficulties
Dave is a military veteran who served his country for 12 years. Since leaving the army over 10 years ago, he had been struggling with unwanted flashbacks and nightmares of difficult things he had experienced when out in Afghanistan. These memories were really distressing for him and no matter how hard he tried to carry on, they found a way back into his mind. The memories he had made him feel distressing feelings such as fear and shame. He was struggling to manage at work and be present for his wife and children. He noticed he was also drinking more alcohol in attempt to cope.
Dave felt as though he was “weak” for feeling like this and it was difficult for him to ask for support from a psychologist at first. Dave met with Dr Claire Price, who is a specialises in psychological work with veterans. They met once a week for 12 weeks. Dave learned that developing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)...
... was not his fault as it means that the brain had not yet processed the difficult memory. He also learned that the low mood, difficulties in relationships, drinking more alcohol, sleep difficulties and anxiety could all be helped by facing the difficult memories together with his psychologist.
In order for the brain to begin processing the memory, together they revisited the difficult events by talking through them in detail, and although this was difficult Dave felt relieved to have shared them with someone. They were able to consider any thoughts and feelings that happened back then that may be making it difficult to accept or come to terms with. After a few weeks Dave noticed that his sleep was improved, and his nightmares had reduced. This was because his brain has begun processing the traumatic memory.
By the end of the 12 weeks, Dave was able to live his life more, without fearing flashbacks and bedtime. The memory felt as though it was in the past and so he could focus more on his work and family again.
I didn’t think I would ever get back the life I lost in Afghanistan. I feel like me again and I look forward to the future. Although the sessions were testing and it was so hard to spend time thinking about what happened, it was worth it now. I can find it hard to let my walls down but Claire didn’t judge me for getting upset and was understanding every step of the way.
Adult in Early 20s living with learning disabilities
Susie was 20 years old with mild learning disabilities. Susie and her mum had always described her as a ‘worrier’, but they had noticed that Susie’s anxiety had got worse recently. She had started to get anxious about meeting new people, and didn’t want to attend her usual social events without the support of her mum; this was starting to get in the way of Susie’s independence.
The psychologist sometimes met with Susie and her mum together and then other times with Susie on her own. Together they started to build a picture of Susie’s anxiety to understand why it was happening and the impact it was having on her. After two or three sessions, Susie began to realise that it was her own thoughts holding her back. She worried what people might think of her and she put pressure on herself to hide some of the difficulties she has in her day to day life due to her learning disability.
During her session with the psychologist, they were able to think together about the thoughts she was having and whether were realistic, balanced and helpful. Susie learned skills to help challenge some of her thoughts, and her mum was able to support her with this. Susie was also able to practice speaking to new people in between sessions, even thought this was a little anxiety provoking, it gave her the opportunity to see that she could manage, and her anxious thoughts were not going to win!
By the end of her 12 sessions, she felt more able to manage her anxiety and was able to go back to attend her social events. She felt she had a better understanding of worry and anxiety and how to take back control when it arises.
13 year old girl
Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Bereavement
Sophie was 13 years old when she began to feel very anxious at night. She would frequently check all of the windows and doors were locked, she needed her mum and dad to sleep with their bedroom door open so that she could check they were still there throughout the night. She also developed rituals and would say certain mantras to both her parents before she went to sleep. The anxiety also meant it was difficult for her to go to sleep, meaning she was more tired during the day. Her parent’s relationship was also struggling as they were unable to spend time together without Sophie present.
The psychologist met with Sophie and her mum for two sessions to understand more about the difficulties and their...
...understanding of the anxiety. Sophie’s grandmother who had lived with them had passed away the previous year quite unexpectedly. As sessions continued, Sophie and her mum were able to learn that the anxiety may be linked with the fear of losing another person that is important to her. Sophie began to learn the checking behaviours and night time, mantras and rituals, were all ‘safety behaviours’ to help her keep her anxiety at bay. However, it meant they were actually reinforcing the anxiety as she never got to learn that she can manage the anxiety without the behaviours, and that nothing bad was likely to happen if she didn’t engage in her safety behaviours.
Together with the psychologist Sophie and her mum made a plan to test out whether Sophie’s beliefs that if she didn’t do her rituals at bed time, something bad would happen. They started small and built up until Sophie realised that she didn’t need to do these anymore to feel safe. By session 10, Sophie was sleeping better without her parent’s bedroom door open and without engaging in her rituals.
Sophie and the psychologist also spent some time thinking about the loss of her grandmother and how this was so difficult for the family. Sophie did some activities to help her to say goodbye to grandmother, as this was not something she could do in person.
Our Clients Say
In the short amount of time I've been seeing Janine, I feel so much progress has been made already. The space that has been created is professional, yet comfortable. At every point, Janine has kept me involved...The plan we have made together has ensured transparency, and has made me feel listened to, and that I have a say in what happens. Janine is very patient, kind, and I always leave feeling positive and motivated...I'm look forward to continuing working with Janine.
Laura was very patient, made me feel comfortable despite it being virtual. She was really good.
I don't think anything else I have ever done has changed me and my attitude in such a positive way. It really has had a huge impact on my life and I can't thank you enough for that.
Claire was very helpful and kind
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.
I am extremely grateful for the treatment I have received and for the patience and skill of the psychologist.
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".
With Gail, I felt like I was talking to a non judgemental friend. I felt understood and listened to. I think Gail was really effective in allowing me to go on my own guided journey backwards into my past which has helped bring me forward. I've never had therapy before but would highly recommend it to anyone that needs a non judgemental ear and support to make sense of things. Before my sessions I felt really vulnerable, Gail coached me to a place where I feel more confident and self assured in myself.
My coach [ Dr Kemi ] was great. Wonderful listener who was able to ask the right questions and provide guidance and tips as appropriate.
A big thank you... you did so much for us...you put us in a good position for making even more progress.
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