Common Reasons for Counselling
There are many reasons that people seek counselling. Some of the most common issues and concerns people seek help for include:
Grief and loss
Loss is something that we all face at some time in our lives. Grief and loss may occur because of the death of a loved one, a friend, or it could be the loss of something else such as our health, our job, or a relationship. The way we respond will be different for each person, and grief affects people in various ways and at different times. However, the sense of loss in any of these situations is unavoidable and most people experience grief.
Everyone’s response to loss is unique, but there are common experiences that people may share. Often the death of a loved one can make people feel numb, they may cry a lot or not at all. Sometimes people are unable to sleep, eat, unable to cope and need emotional support. Some people are angry, feel depressed or have a low mood. These are some of the most common symptoms of grief. It is difficult to know what is ‘normal ‘and to understand what we are experiencing. It takes time to grieve, and process all the emotions, thoughts, and feelings of a loss. If these feelings are affecting your life it can be useful to work with a counsellor to process what is going on and help you work through this grief.
Stress and anxiety
Stress is a normal body response, but negative and prolonged states of stress can lead to serious health and mental health problems including high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, a depressed immune system, loss of memory, nervousness, poor concentration, panic attacks and even depression.
Anxiety may be triggered by a variety of reasons such as academic or work pressures, relationship or family problems, financial difficulties, etc. Counsellors can help determine whether you are suffering from stress, anxiety or an anxiety disorder. Counselling can help you to identify the sources of your stress and anxiety and help you with strategies to reduce your symptoms and to learn to become fully functioning in your life again. If anxiety becomes uncontrollable and interferes with your normal functioning, then you may have developed an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic attacks, phobias or social anxiety. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable with the correct interventions. Your counsellor may refer you to a psychologist or a psychiatrist for further diagnosis and medication if your symptoms persist.
Emotion and mood problems
Every human being experiences emotions. However, there are times in our lives when we may face difficulties regulating our emotions. This can have adverse effects on our mental well-being and relationships with others at home, work or with friends.
Mood problems are associated with high reactivity and poor emotional regulation, or can be associated with low mood and depression which can have long term negative effects on our lives. At times in our lives, we can also be faced with other strong emotions such as grief, anger, and low self-worth.
Difficult emotions can be triggered by a variety of reasons. Counsellors can use a range of techniques which can help you to better understand and process emotions, and with time, allow you to handle emotional reactions in ways which are self-accepting and improve personal and interpersonal functioning as well as overall well-being.
Everyone feels sad and has a low mood from time to time. However, if sadness, a sense of emptiness and a low mood persist over a number of weeks or months, it could be depression, which is more than just feeling down and low. If you have depression, these feelings can last through the day and for extended periods.
Thoughts you may have can be about yourself, other people, and how you think other people feel about you, as well as the world around you and what’s coming in the future.
There is no single cause for depression. In some individuals, stressful life events such as the loss of a job, long-term unemployment, physical health issues, family problems, the death of a loved one, or the end of a close relationship might trigger depression. For other people, there is no obvious cause.
Counselling can offer a means of expressing and understanding these overwhelming feelings as well as finding an appropriate treatment plan to lessen and reduce symptoms associated with depression.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic events such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, war/combat, physical or sexual violence, being neglected, etc. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, panic attacks, and disorientation as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. PTSD often occurs with other related conditions, such as depression, substance use, memory problems and other physical and mental health problems.
A series of intensive individual counselling sessions may be needed to get to the root of issues connected with the emotional trauma. These counselling sessions are complemented by lifestyle-related activities such as adopting healthy exercises, relaxation and mindfulness techniques, etc.
Sexuality is often an important part of our identity and when there is anxiety regarding what our sexuality is or how we are able to be comfortable in our sexuality, this can lead to emotional distress and feelings of depression.
Counselling can help people to have the safe space to explore what their sexuality means to them and how they want to live their lives and integrate this part of themselves in their identity. It may be that you have questions about how to define yourself, or it could be about how to communicate your sexuality to the people that are important to you despite feelings of fear or being aware of cultural and societal expectations.
Everyone feels angry at times and this is often due to life stresses such as difficulties in relationships, work issues and the frustration at things in everyday life. Anger can vary from a mild irritation to fury and rage. Anger affects the way we think, feel, and behave. It causes a number of symptoms in our body, and it impacts our behaviour.
Counselling can support people with anger issues in helping them look at what triggers their anger and assist them in becoming conscious of their emotions and their behaviour. The counsellor can collaboratively work with the client to help the client adjust how they look at their situation and develop healthy ways to express their anger and frustration.
Changes in lifestyles towards more sedimentary forms of living has had increasingly negative effects on our mental as well as physical health. People are more likely now to suffer from physical ailments such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Health problems can affect our mental health and overall quality of life. Addressing health problems through counselling can help individuals better cope with issues such as chronic pain, cancer, obesity, health-related problems associated with ageing and stroke rehabilitation.
Counselling can help us to make or keep healthy habits such as eating well and exercising as well as to practice self-care routines to manage our stress levels. Combined with techniques such as relaxation and mindfulness, counsellors can help individuals live better with chronic pain and disease.
Stress, anxiety and depression are likely to impact on our eating, either causing us to lose our appetite and restrict our eating, or to cause us to turn to food for comfort. Body image may also be affected by the media which posts a norm of how we should look like and how we should be eating. Restricted eating, binge eating and purging are all signs that someone may be suffering from an eating disorder. Bulimia and anorexia nervosa pose serious health risks to an individual.
Counselling can help you to understand what healthy eating is and also what is a healthy body image versus comparing ourselves with media images that have been digitally manipulated. The use of food can also be explored to help us to see the function of food and help us to reverse the maladaptive strategies we put in place to cope with negative emotions. Counselling addresses a number of issues associated with eating disorders, from self-esteem and perfectionist thinking, to family and interpersonal functioning. Therapy for eating disorders requires a long-term effort and requires patience and understanding from all involved.
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Good sleep is vital to support healthy brain functioning, to maintain physical and mental health, emotional well-being and overall quality of life. Sleep deficiency in adults can affect our mood, relationship functioning and work performance. It can also be a sign of a co-morbidity condition such as stress, anxiety, internet overuse and gaming problems, etc. Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. Yet more than ever, people are struggling to sleep well. Busy lifestyles and stressful work environments cause us to neglect our sleep and reduce our ability to get refreshing sleep. In turn, we end up more irritable and less sociable, and our work and relationships may suffer as a result. We therefore turn to various vices to try to manage sleeping problems such as the use of alcohol, sleeping pills or other substances. These may become maladaptive strategies that create a vicious cycle and lead to dependence and other addictions.
If you feel that you or your child is suffering from poor sleep hygiene or sleep deprivation, counsellors can help to assess the root cause of the problem, and help develop effective strategies to improve sleep and overall well-being. Counselling can help to address unhelpful strategies and reduce the struggle with sleep.
Academic and work performance challenges
School and university can be a challenging place for students at different times in their academic life. There are many factors which can contribute to stress including fear of failure, social pressures, uncertainty about the future, being overwhelmed with too much work, worrying about good grades, and exams.
Counsellors can provide a safe and confidential space for students to discuss their situation and concerns in some depth and to help them gain a clearer understanding of what has been happening and to think about some strategies that might help.
Some pressure at work can be stimulating, but when the pressure becomes too much, and the challenges of your job are excessive, it can lead to work related stress which is hard to deal with. Issues such as unrealistic deadlines, feelings of being inadequate and undervalued; feelings of underperformance and suffering harassment or workplace bullying can contribute to stress.
Everyone will have bad days, where they feel tired and unmotivated. But carrying these emotions around with you every day will only overwhelm you. Feeling stressed for a prolonged period of time can greatly affect your life, physically and mentally. Work-related stress can lead to a range of mental health problems including sleep problems, feeling sad and hopelessness. It can impact your social life and you may pick up bad habits as a way of coping, such as drinking, smoking and over or under-eating. Counselling will help you get to the cause of your work-related stress, identify what the problems are as well as develop coping strategies and identifying the triggers.
Couple relationship issues
Couples can encounter a range of difficulties and challenges which include anger and conflict, infidelity, empty nesting and retirement, dual-culture issues and sexual difficulties. Couples counselling can help couples overcome these issues by identifying emotional and relational processes which cause distress. Counselling can help couples to identify these negative interactional cycles that keep couples stuck in negative cycles.
Through counselling, couples can learn better communication styles and have a more thorough understanding of each other through learning to truly listen to their partners versus responding defensively to perceived attacks.
Child development and special education needs
Growing up in today's society has become exponentially harder than for previous generations. Children and teenagers are now exposed more than ever to technological devices from an ever younger age. This has had the effect on their ability to focus and interact with others in face-to-face settings.
Child development concerns include delays or abnormal patterns of development in the areas of communication, language, motor skills, problem-solving or social and adaptive behaviour. Some of the common symptoms of Special Education Needs such as Dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be improved by early identification and systemic training. Our psychologists can conduct an assessment to help parents and family understand the condition and plan for treatment (please refer to the Psychological Testing and Assessment under Services)
Teenage development is associated with the key tasks of identity development, growing independence, sexuality and relationships. These can be overwhelming and confusing for teenagers and their parents. Many unhealthy behaviours begin in adolescence such as poor diet, substance abuse, risky sexual activities, excessive internet and gaming use, poor sleep and these can affect health and mental health in negative ways. Teenagers are also exposed to the effects of social media and their actions and posts are scrutinised by people they know as well as by people they do not know. This often creates a social anxiety and a fear of being judged negatively by others.
Counselling can help parents identify if there are issues that need to be addressed. Art and play therapy can be highly effective with young people to help them through their developmental stages. Furthermore, sharing concerns with a caring and understanding counsellor can often help children and teens navigate these challenging formative years.
Parenting can be challenging and fraught with contradictory advice from friends, family, schools and the internet. Being first time parents, a single parent, a co-parent or a family with mixed cultural backgrounds can also bring about unique challenges. Counsellors can help you to understand your child’s needs and validate the stresses and strains that you go through as parents.
Counselling can increase positive parenting skills so that you have the confidence to support your child and to discipline them in ways that are productive and not negatively impacting on the mental and physical health of your child. You will learn how to develop effective parenting skills, and identify strategies to assist with communication to reduce conflict and stress, and manage appropriate boundaries
Substance abuse and other addictive behaviour such as gaming disorder
An addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation and memory functions. Someone with an addiction will crave for a substance or a behavioural activity. It affects brain functioning as more tolerance is built up to the substance or behaviour, making the substance use or behaviour occur more frequently. Clients who are fighting with addiction will often ignore other areas of their lives to fulfil or support these desires. Substances range from alcohol, drugs, sedatives, and medication. Behavioural addictions can include gaming, internet use, shopping, gambling, sex, exercise and work. Often people may be aware of the problem but are not able to stop even if they want and try to. There is often a function to addictions and certain addictions are more likely to affect different individuals.
Addictions can cause physical and psychological problems as well as interpersonal problems with family members and friends or at work. Counselling works to empower the individual to understand the function of their addiction as well as to create a more holistic approach to their self care so that they do not chronically rely on their vices to cope.