The Older Client

Over the past 5 years I have been working with the older person between 65 and 85 yrs of age. There used to be a common misconception that the older person was not suitable for counselling and their ability to change was limited. I do not believe this to be so. My special interest is with the concerns, challenges and indeed opportunities that increasing age can bring. I have found a real commitment to change in the older client and have witnessed the benefits that counselling has made to many older people, some in their late 80’s.

The British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapist (BACP) have been reviewing counselling to the older person paying attention to its efficacy, appropriateness and practical delivery. I believe the outcome suggests that we need to pay close attention to an increasingly older generation who were the baby boomers post 2nd world war. They were the product of trauma and deprivation experienced in their families and communities and for themselves from both the 1st and 2nd world war. This generation also experienced the massive social, political and material changes that took place in such a short time in the world.

All my clients have their own special story about these trauma’s and changes. And many feel stuck in the past having not had the education or experience of the psychological material available to the younger generation today. They seem to have been a product of the stiff upper lip, the attitude of putting up with things as there is no alternative and certainly none or little engagement with emotional expression.

But once counselling begins and there is commitment to the process it is wonderful to see how much clients can learn about themselves over and over again. And in that learning, part of which is psychological education, clients become empowered, resilient, empathic, grateful and discover new choices. They begin to live more conscious lives, thinking things through, reflecting on their lives and opening up to family and friends in a real and authentic way. They feel happier and more able to manage the ups and downs of everyday life.


Telephone Counselling

Today I attended a day’s training on Telephone Counselling. It has been a demanding day addressing the implications, both positive and negative, for engaging in telephone counselling. Traditionally counselling takes place face to face in the counselling room either privately, with an agency or charity but increasingly the telephone is being used, along with email and video calling. GP’s are also offering consultations over the phone and the Samaritans have been operating since 1953. We also have Childline and many other such helplines addressing many area’s of need. Look at this link for some idea of how many helplines are available.

So it is not a new concept and increasingly being offered to give help to people as our population and demand for help increases.

There are of course some particular issues with telephone or distant counselling with regard to the what we, the counsellors speak of as the therapeutic container. This is the space in which personal material is divulged and discussed. The container involves the room, privacy, confidentiality, timing, the regularity of sessions, the sense of safety, and payment in which the relationship between client and counsellor is developed. It is a space that is separate from everyday life and as such is valued by both client and counsellor. It is the space where you find yourself and learn new ways to engage with life.

Today has been about addressing the practical and psychological aspects of re-creating this container.


I woke up this morning

Do you wake up some mornings and feel a bit blue or perhaps a bit flat? I did this morning. There is no specific reason I can think of, it is just there. I take our dog out for a walk and get my body moving and blood circulating but when I get back it is still there. Like some pervasive mist colouring my view.

I started a practice called morning pages many years ago while going through a particularly difficult time after coming across a book called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. One of the exercises was to sit for a specific length of time and simply write whatever comes to mind without censoring, correcting or thinking. We call it the stream of consciousnesses in psycho babble. We all have that constant stream of thinking, sensations, images and emotions which mostly go unnoticed as we go about our busy day. Writing down your stream of consciousness helps you get in touch with your mind, body and emotions. It helps you feel more connected to you. More present and grounded.

So this is how it goes for me. “I don’t know what this is all about but I do feel a bit blue and flat this morning. Long pause staring at the wall. But I suddenly see a screw in wall as if I have just woken up and then all the things around me in my office, and now I am aware of my body sitting in the chair as I write, the pressure at my back against the chair, the fingers on the keyboard, the sound of the computer, the rain falling on the patio table. Then I am aware that I am here in the now. The blue flat feeling is still there but it is lifting. I am now thinking of what I am going to be doing today.” Julia Camaron talks about writing 3 pages but I just write for as long as I need to.

Here is a passage written by another morning pages user. “I have a daily practice of longhand pages done first thing on awakening, hence, “Morning Pages.” The pages clear my head and prioritize my day. I think of them as a form of meditation. There is no wrong way to do the pages. You simply keep your hand moving across the page………”

Try it for yourself and see what happens if you like.


Living more consciously

I notice that to create a rainbow both sun and rain are needed. Looking at this moody and bright image I can see a reflection of life in its darkness, brightness and all the shades in between.

The words from the song “somewhere over the rainbow” spring to mind which suggests that getting over the rainbow will make things seem clearer and brighter and your dreams will come true.

However ……

Life is full of challenges. And each challenge offers an opportunity if you can rise up to meet it and not feel defeated by it. Sometimes though life can just seem too much, especially when the challenge bucket is full to the brim and spilling over. The mind and body can get so tired, with resilience and tolerance levels getting low. This is the time for self care. A time to take a closer look at how you are living life; your daily habits, relationships, support network, beliefs and attitudes and what is really important to you. In my personal experience and those of some of the clients I work with this step is not taken. Life just keeps on going in the same old way and before you know it you are anxious, depressed, lacking in energy and the world can look pretty grey.

Life is not about getting over the rainbow but about engaging with conscious living. Making informed and considered decisions about what, how, when and where you are doing this life thing. The only person who is going to find the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow is you. You are the one who will gain the gold of experience, discover your strengths, find new perspectives, learn new strategies and make new choices.

And this is something that counselling or a life coach can help you with. Or you can find a good friend or family member who is wise and will listen to you. You can also use a journal or write a blog. Speaking out your feelings, stresses and challenges is one of the best ways to find a way forward.


The way you cope

One of my favourite quotes is from Vaginia Satir. “Life is not what it is supposed to be, it is what it is, it’s the way you cope with it that makes the difference”