An Extra Hour....Rachel Young 30.10.2016

So we were given an extra hour last night.  What did you do with yours?  I spent mine in the bath, did some art work. Did some cooking and sat down with my husband to drink a cup of coffee.  It felt like a long luxurious Sunday morning.  What a gift.

So, as I was sat doing my artwork and looking out at the garden I was musing.  "Wouldn't it be great to have 25 hours a day as a matter of course.  Look how much more life I could live.  I could get up to date and finish all those pending tasks.  I could make all my own Christmas presents and not buy into the consumerist frenzy hovering on the horizon.  I could deepen and enrich my relationships.  What a great idea.  Why don't we just extend the day by an hour?!"

And then it dawned on me that my reasoning was faulty.  Given an extra hour each day, it would be devoted to cramming in the work, climbing the endless ladder or escaping into unrealistic television programmes.  Being up to date and having nothing on the 'to do' list is a scary prospect.  That would challenge me to live. The issue for me is not that there are not enough hours in the day, but that I hide away in activities and behaviours that do not enhance my life, but whittle it away in the name of 'virtue' 'profit' and 'hard work'.  I go further into denial of this waste by watching TV and playing computer games.

I know for me that mindful living is the way forward.  It is harder for me to be so time wasteful if I am aware of it, but this involves taking time to stop and be.  Perhaps an hour a day would do it.....

Sarah Dean - How to Choose A Therapist

The number of people looking for therapy is on the increase.  Since 2014, almost 30% of British adults have tried therapy where in a safe place, they can explore their challenges with a professional counsellor or psychotherapist.  This is a 40% increase since 2010, according to the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP).

Beware though – the counselling and psychotherapy profession isn't as regulated as medicine. It's a good idea to do your research to ensure that your therapist is registered with the BACP or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

How do I know therapy is for me?

Sometimes, there is a feeling of being stuck; behaviours seem difficult to shift yet some days are better than others.  It helps to meet with friends, go for a walk and make some lifestyle changes.  For others, the self help books or mindfulness apps simply don't ever seem to help and the persistence of anxieties, feeling low, insecure and self harm tend to escalate. This is where therapy can help – by talking to a non-judgmental professional who, with your agreement, can explore and join you in your quest for a happier existence.

How do I choose a therapist that's right for me?

There is a kaleidoscope of different therapy styles. It ranges from short term which includes Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR), and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). There are many long term approaches, including Psychoanalysis, which occurs three or four times a week and also there’s open ended therapy.  There are various schools of thought which therapists use and can be described as purist or eclectic, where only one model is used and others use a more holistic approach where two or more models are practised.  These integrative approaches can include Person Centred, Psychodynamic and Gestalt or Jungian, CBT and EMDR and Transactional Analysis. There really is a lot of choice.

The three main therapist directories are the BACP, the UKCP and Welldoing. There are others though and they should state that all therapists included are those with indemnity insurance and have had their training and qualifications verified.

What is most important is the relationship between you and your therapist.  Having a face to face one off session will help.

What's the first session like?

The first session isn't like talking to a friend or neighbour nor is it like going for a job interview. The therapist is usually open and accepting of where you're at, what seems to be the problem that may be keeping you stuck, frustrated and unable to enjoy life. There's usually an assessment and this helps both of you to explore the presenting issues and if the client – counsellor relationship fits for both of you.

How often do I go?

This depends on you.  Therapy is at times, dependent on the work or psychological approach offered, and is usually once a week at the same time, the same day, the same place and usually lasts for between 50 minutes and one hour.

How long do I need to be in therapy?

Some therapists' styles are short term (6-10 sessions) and are usually solution-focussed, CBT, EMDR and/or NLP. Others work with you for longer, perhaps even years. This might sound disconcerting however it's notable how many people are enabled by this and are rewarded by having a more fulfilling life.


Lastly, how much will this cost me?

Choices are there too. You can harness free counselling from the NHS and Cruse Bereavement Care which will be short term although there is usually a waiting list. Prices range from £35 + per session with a qualified and registered counsellor/psychotherapist. Fees are sometimes negotiable and will usually offer concessions to the young, unwaged, the elderly or if your financial circumstances change.

By Sarah Dean, Dip. MBACP

07494 119 478

Taking a Break - Sue Lewis

As I write this I am half way through a summer break, and I’ve been thinking about how lovely it is to have a rest. I love my work, and yet a rest is important. When we’re at full tilt with our work or our life, are bodies have a certain amount of adrenalin in them – if we are very busy, as I have been, then there’s a lot of adrenalin as our bodies try and keep up with the demands being made on them. Even mental demands, when we might be physically quite still, require a lot of adrenalin and cortisol (the other stress hormone) from us. We then need to physically wind down and allow our bodies to rest before we gear up to meet life’s demands again.

Having a break serves another purpose too. It allows us some ‘time out’ to reassess what we’re doing. Are our life priorities right? Are we on track? Are we heading in the direction our hearts want us to go? Before we take an important step forward it’s good to pause slightly and gather our energy and (if it’s needed) our courage. Cultural myths and stories often have the hero or heroine spending some time still or reflecting before they step into the next part of their adventure or challenge. Stillness helps us get in touch with our souls.

Many people try and avoid resting, of course, as stillness can bring up lots of difficult feelings that activity has been pushing down. They would rather ‘crack on’ and focus on the next thing to do, rather than consider where they are in their life, even for a short while. This can lead to illness in later life, as well as regret.

So whatever you’re doing this summer, and whenever you have your break, I hope you use it well and that you feel refreshed and in touch with yourself.

Summer and New Growth - Sarah Dean


Walking in my garden, I see that summer has arrived.  I notice too that weeds have appeared and I wonder, does this represent a part of one's self?  Are there parts we would like to root out and plant a more beautiful, more aesthetically pleasing bloom? 

I wonder, what is wrong with weeds?  I sense that weeds dominate other parts, particularly ‘pretty flowers’.  Weeds seem to re-appear again and again and I believe that we all have weeds in our emotional gardens yet some people cling on to these difficult parts of ourselves.

Carl Rogers, a very wise man, created the Person Centred approach to address this very existential dilemma.  He didn't believe that the past impacted on the here and now.  He believed and created the Person Centred approach on three main core conditions to enable growth.  These are empathy, congruency and unconditional positive regard. 

Everyone has the capacity to grow and change.  It takes courage and when you have been told again and again and again that there's something wrong with you, a feeling of being disabled is absorbed.  Perhaps the ‘weed’ part of you was planted when you were young and year after year, the feeling of not being good enough, not measuring up, not making parents and grandparents proud continues to impact your emotional and physical well being.  Physically, our bodies can experience headaches, nightmares, anxiety – the list could be very long or even, very short.

People are fragile, vulnerable and with summer here now, perhaps this is the time to choose a different way where ‘weeds’ are nurtured, heard and changed into a more empowering way of being  beautiful.  To be heard, validated and emotionally held is extremely reparative. We all have the ability to change and yes, it takes courage.  What are your ‘weeds’?  Would you like to change your garden?  You can you know and summer is here now.

Sarah Dean can be found at The Banbury Therapy Centre


What Would Freud Say? - Polly Smith - Counselling Student

I’ve been having a tough time, feeling very misunderstood, "no-one gets it" I’ve caught myself saying a lot. "Try drawing a picture every night for the week between us seeing each other" said my counsellor.  "Make it a ritual same time every night do a drawing, let’s see what comes up that maybe is expressed more clearly through art."

That following week I was very poorly, I developed a nasty rash following a bug I’d caught, I’d even had to go to the hospital a few days before to have scarlet fever ruled out it was so vivid and angry looking. I remembered having the same reactions years ago when faced with the same sort of difficulties I was facing today, for me back then I felt it was a physical manifestation of my emotional state, and I was convinced it was the same now. 

In therapy that week we talked about what was going on for me and got to my pictures.  As I lay them out on the floor side by side, we started to talk about them, expressing what we both could read into the images I’d drawn. Then all of a sudden I noticed the pale carpet, on the back of one of the pictures I’d been playing around with the colours and had used a red chalk, this was now bleeding on the carpet and creating an huge mottled angry red mark, In that moment we both swore and jumped onto the floor in complete connectedness and started together to try and blot up the chalk.  After a few mins we started to clear it up successfully with full eye contact we laughed together.  "Wow," she said,  I don’t think I’ll hand in this tape for supervision. "No, it’s great it’s the best session for ages".   I felt fully connected and engaged as we cleared up together.  "And what’s happening now in this moment between us?" She asked.  "Well, I feel seen, and present."

Looking back to the carpet - "What do you think, will anyone notice.   It was just an accident". "Well of course, there are no accidents"  replied my counsellor, "Yes I agreed" and laughed, "What would Freud say about this?"   "Oh my god, it’s just like my rash!".......she gave me a knowing look.  

A New Year.... Sue Lewis

As the New Year begins, a whole machinery starts up to sell us healthy living – go to the gym! Join a new pilates group! Eat better with this new kitchen gadget! Eat this new superfood! Meditate with us! Go to counselling and get yourself happier! I don't know about you, but I feel weary at the very thought of all these orders.

Putting aside the response of a cynical society, this darkest part of the year is a good time to consider whether we are feeling good about our life. Are we happy in our family and friends? Are we doing work that fulfils us? Do our bodies and minds feel in sync? It's a good time to reach inside us and see if there is an impulse from our soul to do something different with our lives. Maybe there is, maybe there isn't. There's a lot to be said for simply learning to love what we have in life, and to let go of constant striving. 

And of course there are plenty of ways to improve our state of being without spending money. A walk in the fresh air – in a woods, or the countryside if possible – can be life enhancing. Looking at some art, listening to some music, or simply having some quiet – or quality – time on our own or with our loved ones can work wonders.

However you start 2016, I hope you find what you're wanting and needing.


Gravy for the Brain

 Polly Smith is currently on the first year of the Counselling Diploma with the Banbury Counselling Academy -  

Polly Smith is currently on the first year of the Counselling Diploma with the Banbury Counselling Academy -  

I’m on the Level 4 counselling course and sometimes I feel I  get a good reminder of how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve learnt, I remember on level 2 being overwhelmed at the theory side of things, feeling like I’d never be able to able to get to grips with understanding actualising tendencies and core conditions etc, 

However, recently my brother came for Sunday lunch, he’s an amazing cook and I always like to make a huge effort to impress. As I started to make the gravy my brain went blank, should I just add flour or shall I make a rue I asked him, oh no, I wouldn’t do it like that he said, and gave me his method, self-doubt clouded my vision for a moment, then Bang, No, I’m going to do it my way. Wow he said, you sounded really empowered then Poll, I like it! 

After lunch when everyone complimented my delicious gravy and I smiled knowing it tasted all the sweeter to me as I used my internal locus of evaluation to provide a clear answer for myself AND I recognised the theory.

Now…… I wonder if I can match any criteria to this?

Celebratory Rituals - Sue Lewis


I’ve written before that I am running counselling courses (Certificate and Diploma) at the Banbury Counselling Academy, and how much I enjoy them. It’s wonderful watching people grow in skills, knowledge and confidence. 

Yesterday we held a Graduation ceremony for all those people who had completed their course in the summer, and awarded them their certificates. It was a real joy to see everyone – some people I didn’t know too, as I hadn’t been teaching them – and to celebrate their achievement. Ritual and celebration is such an important part of our lives, marking the end or the beginning of something, or an achievement worthy of honouring. It also gave us all a wonderful sense of our community, and connection with like minded people on similar paths. For some who had just started, it gave a chance to see people who had achieved what can seem like the impossible, and for those who nearer the end of the path it was good to look back and see how far they'd come.

It seems to me that we all need celebration, ritual and connection in our lives – when was the last time you had something like that?

We’re about to enter one of the largest in our culture of course – Christmas. Sainsbury’s is already full of mince pies, and Christmas films have actually begun appearing on some TV channels! The early beginning of this ritual has become part of the ritual itself now, with people commenting on and complaining about it. It’s one of the greatest opportunities we have for celebration and connection, although it often doesn’t feel like that for a lot of people.

Still, let’s enjoy Autumn first….

Banbury Therapy Group Blog

The origin of the Easter festival is a celebration of the fertility of the earth, renewed each springtime. The egg, the chick and  the rabbit  are fertility symbols much older than the Christian symbol of the resurrected god.  The springtime festival has often been marked by sexual exuberance, as is still evident in the pre-Lenten Carnival and Mardi Gras festivals and the phallic symbolism of the May pole. 

Back in the he mists of time people associated the spring festival with the coming back to life of the god of fertility (Tammuz, Adonis, Osiris, Perseus, Orpheus), who had been dead in the underworld during the winter. Even the name by which we still celebrate this festival is a corruption of the name of the ancient fertility goddess Ishtar or Ashtoreth (whose name also survives in the name of one of the books of the Old Testament, the only Bible book that contains no reference to God - the Book of Esther).

The egg, the rabbit and the phallic pole continue to be loved and celebrated every springtime when our hearts rise to see the young shoots and blossom appearing and the trees beginning to bud.  So revel in your chocolate eggs and celebrate Easter however the fancy takes you!

Looking after yourself - Sue Lewis

I was watching 'Call the Midwife' this week, when I saw a touching depiction of an elderly couple. The husband was ill in bed, and his wife had been nursing him. It was evident how close they were and the bond they'd formed over many decades of being together. As the programme progressed, it became clear that the wife had beast cancer, and had been hiding it from everyone so that her husband would still get all the attention and care, and so that she wouldn't have to leave him. Eventually she was persuaded to go to hospital and be treated, and we saw them reunited at last.

It made me think about how easy it is to put other people's needs before ours, and how we can get caught up in providing a role for someone else, whilst neglecting our own needs. The truth is we can best help others when we are firmly centered within ourselves. When we understand our wants and needs and take really good care of ourselves we can bring a compassionate wisdom to our relationships. Otherwise we end up being helpful for no one, including ourselves. It's sensible of airlines, I think, to advise that if you have young children you need to put your own oxygen mask on first, before attending to your children. You need to be reliable and ok, so that they can depend on you.

So if you are in a caring role for someone you love (or indeed if it's a paid role) then do consider your own needs, and take time out for yourself. Everyone will benefit in the long run.

Sue Lewis is a therapist at The Banbury Therapy Centre.  You can go to her website by following this link

Anger - Marion Stefanowicz

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured”.

Mark Twain, American author.

All of us experience anger from time to time. It's a normal, commonly experienced emotion.

However, anger can be incredibly destructive if we don't know how to control it. Frequent or misplaced anger can hurt our reputations, destroy our relationships, limit our opportunities, and even damage our health.

January is an odd month

Sue Lewis

I’ve been thinking recently what a strange month January is. As it’s the New Year, many of us feel called to start something afresh – we arm ourselves with New Year Resolutions and good intentions for the coming year. These often start off well, and some even make it through to completion (or at least February!). Yet it also seems to me that in other ways January is the worst month possible to begin new ventures. It’s dark, cold and often wet. The natural instinct is to hibernate, rather than be adventurous.

I’ve written before on how progress doesn’t have to be linear, but can come in many shapes (see January 2014’s blog). However, if you’re wanting to see linear progress, I suggest the following :

1. Be clear on what you’re trying to do (something vague like “be happier” might lead you into some interesting avenues, but you’re more likely to see some tangible progress if you’re specific).
2. If you’d like to, set yourself a realistic but stretching goal, which is measureable and with a date attached. You might need smaller milestones along the way.
3. Be prepared to alter both these to some extent, if you find you’ve set yourself something impossible! There’s no point in feeling guilty, or like you’ve failed.
4. Be clear on your motivation – why are you doing this? What are the benefits?
5. Expect it to be difficult at times – if was easy you’d have done it before now.
6. Encourage and reward yourself along the way, as you reach your smaller targets.
7. Get some support (tell someone else who can encourage you when things get hard).

The other possibility is to accept yourself for who you are now, and not have a new year resolution. When you think about it, each day, each hour and even each minute is a chance to start something afresh, isn’t it?

However you approach 2015, I hope it’s rewarding for you.

Sue Lewis