9 Reasons To Try Email Counselling

Have you heard about email counselling before? It may seem an unusual way of having therapy but it can be a great option – here are 9 reasons why:

1. You can choose when to write

    The flexibility of email counselling can really help when you have a busy or unpredictable schedule. Maybe you work shifts and can’t fit in regular times for counselling sessions, or you have small children and don’t have much spare time. If you work with me, we would agree on a date and time for you to send your email, but you can write it whenever you want. I also send reminders so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to send your email in time.

    2. You don’t need to worry about being overheard during sessions

          I understand that it can sometimes be hard to find a private space where you won’t be overheard for video or phone sessions, especially if you have children or housemates. Email counselling allows for more privacy and I use an encrypted, confidential email system for sessions.

          3. You feel too embarrassed to talk about some topics

            Email counselling can allow you to feel more comfortable talking about topics such as sex.

            4. You find it hard to think and process during online and phone sessions

              It can sometimes be hard to respond in the moment during counselling sessions and to get our thoughts across in the way we want. Working by email allows you to take your time and really think about what you want to say –  you can write when you’re ready. 

              5. You feel too embarrassed or shy to speak to a counsellor

              Maybe you’re struggling with anxiety and don’t feel able to open up in “live” sessions, or you feel self-conscious about how you look or sound. This could be the case if you are trans or questioning your gender identity, or if you are having eczema flare-ups. Email counselling allows you to get support without worrying about your appearance.

              6. You have chronic illnesses or struggle with energy

                I understand that chronic illness can be unpredictable, and you may not have the spoons to have video or phone sessions. With email counselling, you can write your email in sections when you have the energy, building it up over the week. Some people like to write notes during the week and write the email just before it’s due  –  whatever works for you is OK.

                7. You find online or phone sessions tricky due to communication challenges

                  Email counselling can be really helpful if you are Deaf or non-speaking.

                  8. You have problems with tech for online counselling

                    Maybe you have slow or inconsistent broadband or struggle to get set up for video sessions. I can talk you through setting up a secure email account to use for email sessions.

                    9. You want to have a record of counselling sessions

                      It can often be difficult to remember everything that has happened during a counselling session. With email counselling, you’ll be able to read back over our sessions whenever you want.

                      I have completed additional specialist training so that I can offer this type of counselling in a safe, effective way.  Clients I work with can “mix and match” types of sessions, so they can choose if they want sessions by video, phone or email depending on their current situation and what they want to talk about. Email counselling is very different to traditional counselling, but I can guide you through getting set up and working out what to write.

                      Does email counselling sound like it might be right for you? Find out more about how email counselling works.

                      (Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash)

                      How To Cope With The Festive Season

                      The festive season can be a time of joy and excitement, connecting with friends and family and enjoying parties, presents and good food. However, for a lot of people it can be a difficult time with a lot of pressure, bringing up emotions such as anxiety, stress, grief and loneliness.

                      Navigating Family Dynamics

                      The holidays can be challenging if you’re spending time with family as they can intensify unresolved conflicts and strained relationships. If you’re dealing with a stressful family situation, you’re not alone. 

                      Tips to help manage this:

                      • Practice self-compassion – concentrate on being kind to yourself and accepting you may need to set boundaries – what are you comfortable with and what might you need to say no to?
                      • Communicate effectively – try finding a quiet place to have a constructive conversation with family members if needed. It’s ok not to do this if you don’t feel safe or if these conversations would be better at a calmer time of year.
                      • Prioritise your mental health – take breaks if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

                      Managing Stress and Anxiety

                      The festive season can add to financial pressures and increase anxiety with added social expectations. It’s important to take time to look after yourself amongst the chaos. 

                      Ideas that may help:

                      • Make time to include activities that you find fulfilling and relaxing, such as spending time in nature, listening to music or watching your favourite film.
                      • Prioritise sleep – try creating a wind-down routine including calming music, a comforting book or podcast.
                      • Use grounding techniques if you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s one to try
                      • Include some physical exercise to let the stress out – try dancing around to some upbeat music.

                      Coping with loneliness

                      Many people have to spend the holidays on their own. It can be especially hard if you’re estranged from your family or have lost loved ones. 

                      Some options to try:

                      • Connect with friends – could you try a Zoom meetup if you can’t see them in person?
                      • Volunteer – this can help you find a sense of purpose and feel more connected.
                      • Join a social group – try looking for organisations that fit with your interests.
                      • Look for local organisations which may have events and meals for people that are on their own on the holidays. There are also online connections, for example #JoinIn on X/Twitter on Christmas Day, started by the comedian Sarah Millican to keep people company.

                      Remember that the festive season doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s normal to find it challenging in some way. It’s OK to just treat Christmas like another day, or choose to do something completely different from the usual expected traditions.

                      This time of year can bring up especially intense emotions. If you’re struggling to cope or you’re feeling suicidal, the Samaritans (call 116 123) are open all day, all year.

                      If you want a supportive space in the New Year to work through whatever has come up for you this holiday season, please feel free to get in touch with me to discuss counselling.

                      (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

                      Professional Membership Upgrade

                      I am really pleased to share that I have been awarded Accredited Professional Registrant membership by my membership body, the National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society. I have been with them as an Accredited member since I qualified, this is the next membership level up.

                      I had to submit a portfolio including all the training I had done this year (I do at least 30 hours a year, usually more), proof of my core training and client work, a supervisor report and professional reference, and several essays showing how I work, how I use supervision, my ethical awareness and how I work with difference and diversity. It was a huge amount of work and I’m really proud of myself!

                      How Does Email Counselling Work?

                      Email counselling is flexible and accessible – maybe you don’t have enough privacy for video or phone calls, you might feel too anxious to speak, or maybe you have small children and find it hard to fit in regular sessions. It’s also great for having a record of your sessions that you can look back on. I have a blog post here with more reasons why it may be a good choice for you.

                      Here are some common questions about how email counselling works – get in touch here if you want to ask anything else.

                      What do I write about?

                      In your first email, I would suggest writing about the main issues you want to explore in our work together and any previous experiences you’ve had with counselling. In emails after the first session, you can respond to what was in my previous reply but you don’t have to – it’s your space to write about whatever you want to.

                      How much should I write?

                      The word limit for your email is 500 words, my reply will also be a maximum of 500 words.

                      How many emails do you send?

                      You would send one email a week and I would send a reply. We would agree on a day and time by which you would send me your email, and I would reply 2 working days later. This allows me time to fully consider what you have written and write my response.

                      Is it secure?

                      I use Proton Mail which is secure and encrypted. You would need to create a free Proton Mail account for email counselling which is easy to set up, I can send instructions if you need them.

                      How much does it cost?

                      Email counselling sessions cost the same as video and phone sessions (see here for my latest fees). I spend the same amount of time replying to your email as I would in any other type of session, and I have had specialist training to ensure I’m working safely and effectively in this way.

                      Do I have to meet you first?

                      No, you don’t. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have before booking in for a session, you can contact me here.

                      Can I mix and match types of sessions?

                      Yes you can. You can choose what type of session (email, video or phone) you want at any time. 

                      Interested in trying email counselling with me? Get in touch here.

                      (Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash)

                      How To Cope With Anxiety When World News Feels Scary

                      Current world events can feel really scary. You may be focusing on worst-case scenarios, feeling like you need to know everything about what’s happening and noticing an increase in physical anxiety symptoms. Here are some ideas to try that can help you feel calmer and more in control.

                      1. Set a limit on what news you’re consuming

                      – Stick to reputable sources that are giving facts, not opinions on what could happen

                      – Try only checking a couple of times a day for a few minutes

                      – Notice if you’re getting sucked into doomscrolling and do something relaxing instead

                      – It’s OK if you need to avoid the news altogether, it doesn’t make you selfish

                      2. Take action

                      – Doing something to help other people can lower anxiety by giving a sense of purpose

                      – Some ideas are volunteering, signing petitions, donating and raising awareness through craftivism. These could be related to what’s currently happening or another cause that you care about.

                      – Remember to take care of yourself and that you can’t do everything.

                      3. Talk about your feelings

                      – It’s normal to feel anxious about what’s happening, lots of people are feeling the same.

                      – Opening up and sharing your feelings can help you feel less alone and bring anxiety levels down.

                      – If there’s no-one you can immediately talk to, try writing your thoughts down to get them out of your head

                      4. Do something else

                      – Try activities that have nothing to do with what’s in the news – read, watch a familiar film, go for a walk, listen to music, draw, bake a cake, whatever you find comforting

                      – If you’re feeling panicky, try some grounding techniques (I have an example here)

                      I hope you find some of this helpful. My thoughts are with you if you’re directly affected by what’s happening.

                      A “Handy” Grounding Technique

                      Grounding techniques can be used to bring you back to the present moment, and can be really helpful for anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD to calm down your body’s fight/flight response.

                      My favourite grounding technique is known as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique which uses your senses to bring you back into the present. It’s easy to remember by counting on your fingers. It doesn’t matter which order you do the steps in, so don’t worry if you end up doing the senses in a different order to this. I’ve also given some ideas for adapting the exercise.

                      Hand showing 5 fingers

                      Five things you can see

                      These can be anything – a bird, a carrier bag, a paving stone. Try to really notice what they look like and describe them to yourself.

                      Hand showing 4 fingers

                      Four things you can hear:

                      What can you hear at this moment? Maybe you can hear a bird, a car driving past, music playing nearby. Are they loud or quiet, high or low pitched? Try not to make any judgements about the noises, just notice them.

                      Hand showing 3 fingers

                      Three things you can touch:

                      These could be your clothes, the chair you’re sitting on, your arm, a TV remote – anything near you. Try to really notice the textures.

                      Hand showing 2 fingers

                      Two things you can smell:

                      If there’s nothing you can smell in your immediate surroundings, do you have any food or toiletries nearby that you enjoy and can use for this step? If there’s nothing available, try naming two smells that you like.

                      Hand showing 1 finger

                      One thing you can taste:

                      This can be tricky in the moment as you might have an unpleasant taste in your mouth when you’re feeling panicky. Do you have any mints or sweets nearby that you can suck? If there’s nothing suitable around, try naming one thing you like the taste of. You could also replace this step by thinking of one thing that you like about yourself.

                      It’s a good idea to practice this grounding technique when you’re feeling OK, so you’re used to doing it when you really need it. You could also adapt it to use the finger counting but not the senses – how about five places starting with the letter S, four of your favourite films, three types of birds and so on?

                      The Stress Bucket Model

                      Sometimes it can feel really difficult to untangle what is stressful in our lives, and what we can do about it. Have you ever felt that you were coping with stressful circumstances then little things tip you over the edge? The stress bucket model shows what’s happening.

                      We all have stress in our life, in fact some stress can be good to motivate ourselves. Some stressors may be completely out of our control, for example illness or world events. Some may be from our relationships, saying yes when we really want to say no, people expecting more than we feel able to give, lack of boundaries. Some may come from our jobs – not being happy, difficult commute, long hours, demanding bosses, lack of fulfilment.

                      The stress bucket (excuse my very basic drawing skills!) shows these stressors filling up the bucket in differing amounts. We may be able to cope with a stressful job, but it takes up most of our bucket. We may then have a power cut, and not being able to watch Netflix may make the bucket overflow so we “snap”. We may have lots of areas of our lives causing us stress so we can’t tell what is stressing us most and what we can do about any of it. This can mean our bucket feels like it’s always overflowing and we can’t stop it.

                      Why not try drawing your own stress bucket to see what’s going on for you? It can sometimes be clearer on paper than going round and round in our heads.

                      Now imagine your bucket has a tap on it. Activities that lessen our stress levels will open the tap and lower the water in our bucket, allowing us to cope better with stressful issues, large and small. Here are some ideas to open the tap:

                      • Sleep
                      • Exercise
                      • Talking to someone
                      • Journaling
                      • Yoga
                      • Meditation
                      • Creative activities
                      • Time with friends

                      What could you add? Not all activities work for everyone, it’s worth taking some time to try out what works for you, especially when there is still some space left in your stress bucket. It can be really useful to work on making them into a habit so they can lower your base level of stress and be easier to use when you really need them.

                      (Model developed by Brabban & Turkington, 2002)