support for chronic illness:
I have a special interest in the complex relationship between chronic illness and psychological wellbeing, and offer specialised and respectful support for clients navigating chronic and acute illness, including persistent depression and ‘invisible’ illness such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or chronic pain. I have extensive experience supporting the journey of clients with cancer.
Some ways that mental health counselling can support people living with chronic or serious health issues:
- Providing assistance as you negotiate a ‘new normal’ following diagnosis or treatment,
- When you need some help working through your response to unexpected or unwanted physical and emotional changes,
- Offering empathic and respectful support for those experiencing ongoing difficulty seeking a health diagnosis,
- If you need experienced support in processing distress related to medical diagnosis and treatment,
- Respectful assistance for those navigating life with an ‘invisible’ illness,
- Assistance for those adjusting to major life changes and the grief that may accompany them.
Support for adult children of parents with mental illness:
We are increasingly familiar with the toll that mental health challenges can take on the life of individuals. What is less often honoured is the impact a parent’s mental illness or emotional immaturity can have on the wellbeing and development of children.
Frequently, it is many years before a a child will recognise that the style and events of their upbringing have impacted on their adult capacity to feel safe in relationships, or confident about raising children of their own. Adult children of parents with mental illness may experience a host of challenges – from difficulty forming a healthy sense of self, to the development of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).
The results of growing up in persistently unpredictable, frightening, or emotionally invalidating or neglectful environments can be difficult to understand or even to allow ourselves to value. There may be a sense that ‘others had it worse’, or guilt that we are betraying genuine and mutual empathy and love in a relationship that has nevertheless not met our needs. For adults who have been raised by a parent with mental illness it can take some time to acknowledge that it may be worth giving ourselves the time and space we need to grieve, separate and work toward becoming whole.
Some ways that counselling can support adult children of parents with a mental illness:
- Providing a supportive and confidential environment to unpack and make sense of your experience,
- Access to ‘psychoeducation’ that can help you understand and normalise inner experiences that can be frightening or disorienting, such as dissociation or being ‘triggered’ into fight or flight states ‘for no reason’,
- Learning effective tools and resources that can help us to regulate our body responses so they are less frightening, and may reduce and become integrated over time,
- Learning and developing the practical skills our childhoods may not have given us – such as how to self soothe, recognise safety, and develop a healthy intuition,
- Exploring and addressing relational difficulties such as disorganised, anxious or avoidant attachment styles, as well as how to set boundaries and express emotions and needs in a healthy, effective way.
My approach to both chronic illness and work with adult children of parents with a mental illness has been strongly influenced by time spent working in the community health sector as a Mental Health Recovery Worker.
Mental Health Recovery Work acknowledges that, like other chronic illnesses, some mental health challenges are with us for the long term. The role of the Recovery Worker is to support the client to find ways to live a life that they value, that has connection, hope, a sense of personal identity, meaning and enjoyment (the CHIME model). This may include grieving or finding a way to use well-earned anger to motivate and protect us, as well as any number of other helpful activities, referrals and processes.
I have a huge amount of respect for those who turn up to try to do the work that will enable them to live the way that they want to live, with limitations clearly in view. As a result I have a very strong commitment to Ongoing Professional Development that will give me more (and more effective) tools to help make positive change as effective as possible. Some particular areas of interest are trauma-informed practice, as well as ‘bottom-up’ approaches to healing that complement the ‘talk therapy’ aspect of counselling. Bottom up approaches include anything that helps us to express and integrate experiences that the body may be ‘holding’ to help keep the brain safe enough to go about its daily business, or that happened when we were too young or too overwhelmed to integrate and process our experience at the time it happened. If there’s an approach you’re keen to try that I’m not familiar with let me know! I’m always looking out for evidence-based professional development opportunities that will expand my ability to support the journey of my clients!