My First Counselling Session: What to Expect

Thinking about seeing a counsellor for the first time? If you know what to expect it helps you to be more at ease and have a better outcome.
During the first session, the therapist will typically want to make an initial assessment of your situation. There is no standard set of questions which are asked. However, typically the areas dealt with include the following:

  • Your reason for choosing to seek therapy
    The Therapist will often be interested whether a specific issue has led you to seek counselling. This will allow them to gain an understanding of the surface or presenting issues.
  • Your Family History and Current Status
    Family and background play an important part in how many of us come to live our lives and in our identity so this often forms an important part of the first meeting.
  • How you are Currently Affected by the Issues
    Often the issues that bring us to therapy affect us across a wide range of areas. The therapist will seek to understand whether there are other symptoms of the issue that brought you in – for example work difficulties. The therapist wants to understand you such that he or she can help you to create solutions to your problems. A therapist will sometimes make diagnosis part of the process, helping to create a path to the resolution of your issues.

The Therapeutic Alliance
Therapy is successful when it is a joint effort. Put simply, you need to participate in order for it to work for you. Coming to therapy is the first step – you now need to continue along the journey. There are some personal pointers to make the first session a success:

  • Openness
    Although therapists are well-practiced in asking the right questions, it can sometimes be difficult or feel awkward to reply. It helps to be as open as you feel comfortable with.
  • State your fears
    If you have any concerns about the counselling process it is very helpful to let the therapist know as they can then answer them for you. The more that you understand the process, the more helpful it tends to be.
  • Feelings and Thoughts
    Although the first session may bring up many difficult or even upsetting thoughts, it is helpful to share your feelings and reactions with the therapist. This helps both therapist and you to progress.

Finally, try to be realistic in your expectations: therapy is rarely a “quick fix” – although this can happen. It is perhaps more helpful to think of it as a “process” through which the therapist will help you to move from difficult or stormy waters into a better place. It is useful to think of the process as effortful but one that, with a strong relationship with the therapist, will help you to resolve your issues.

Techniques to Improve Your Marriage or Relationship:

Three Techniques to Grow Your Relationship

This is part of a series of posts on relationship repair (see below for link) Many clients that we meet come to see us with their marriage or relationship in crisis and part of the process of repair often involves sharing with your partner that you really understand them. This is where these three simple techniques come in. Initially they do feel rather odd to use but we are told by couples that they are really useful.

1. MIRRORING

Relationship Techniques

Useful Couples Techniques

This could be considered the basic step in creating positives between you as this allows you to feel understood.  So you say in response to them:

I heard you say… or

If I am hearing you right, you said…

You then follow up with checking:

Did I get that?

Is there more?

2. VALIDATING

Validating is important as it allows you to express that you understand where your partner is coming from. It does not mean that you are agreeing! You are simply saying that you see how your partner sees it.  (“I can see how YOU can see it that way. I see that it makes sense from your perspective”)

Say:

I can understand that.

That makes sense to me because … (Keep this short.)

3. EMPATHISING

Walking in someone else’s shoes but with your socks on…

Say:

I can imagine that makes you feel …

 

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Resources

Private Lies:Infidelity and Betrayal of Intimacy; Pittman, F.; (1990), Norton.
This is a classic book on infidelity. Very useful.

Counseling Today has some interesting articles including a classic by Frank Pittman

More resources can be found on Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy Couples page:Couples Counselling Resources

Affairs: The Death of a Relationship?

Infidelity

“Honestly, it is safe to talk openly about affairs. It saves lives and marriages to do so.”.

So stated Frank Pittman in his book, “Private Lives: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy”. That said, there is perhaps no bigger change in a relationship than the period after an affair is discovered.

Affairs are a Seismic Wake-Up Call in Your Relationship

However, the standard initial response is often to reach for the nuclear button and “go ballistic”. As such, many couples never get further than the initial crisis that the affair creates, and choose to leave their relationship,wounded and with the relationship ripped apart. It doesn’t need to be this way!  Indeed, the road to recovery is richly paved with opportunities to see the depths of meaning in your relationship with your partner that you were probably unaware.

How is this Possible?

First you need to feel in a place of emotional safety and you make an agreement together not to make any immediate decisions about the relationship. You recognise that it is a moment for you to address the painful impacts of the affair on the relationship and also a time to allow the powerful emotions to vent. Furthermore, you need to recognise that affairs cause an erotic injury and that this needs to be dealt with in your erotic lives. Reclaiming your sex life is central to relationship recovery.

” Why would otherwise sane people – people who buy insurance, who stop at traffic lights, who brush after every meal – risk everything in their lives for a furtive moment of sex?” Pittman

Don’t Lose it in the Detail of the Affair

Trying to reconnect intimately is very tough and can feel like pouring salt on an open wound. Being able to deal with the insecurity and uncertainty of this painful time is the essence of allowing yourself to reconnect emotionally. If you spend most of your time looking at the detail of the affair: the Who, How, What, Where, When that is often where you end up – stuck in the detail. Allowing yourself to let some of this go is important in the healing process.

Successfully working through the emotions is linked to deep attunement between you and your partner. It allows the difficult questions to be asked and answers to be given and heard – such as why the affair happened and its meaning to each of you. Even exploring what your partner might have learned about him or herself. And how it felt for them to betray you whilst at the same time as they were getting some of their needs met is where you can rediscover yourselves at deep level of intimacy.

Betrayal: Beyond Anger, Guilt and Shame

Tapping into your partners erotic needs and desires and being able to reveal your own is where a new passion can be born: one rich in sexual energy which can grow from the ashes. Seeking or granting forgiveness is not the whole answer; you will only achieve this when you have re-engaged intimately and erotically with your partner.

 

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Resources

Private Lies:Infidelity and Betrayal of Intimacy; Pittman, F.; (1990), Norton.
This is a classic book on infidelity. Very useful.

Counseling Today has some interesting articles on relationship.

More resources can be found on Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy Couples page:Couples Counselling Resources

Relationships: Boundaries & Self-Esteem

Relationships-Good Boundaries

Relationships & Boundaries

Developing Better Relationships & Building Esteem

Research has shown us that boundaries are central to the way you feel about yourself in the world. They operate a little like your own personal force field which you use to let people in or keep them out; both emotionally and physically. Creating healthy boundaries helps you to have better relationships, less stress and greater self-confidence.

Do you have effective boundaries in relationships?

• Are you able to say no?
• Can you ask for what you need?
• Are you a compulsive “people pleaser”?
• Do you get upset when others around you are upset?
• Do people often seem to take advantage of you/your “good nature”?

Boundaries are where our needs and feelings stop and where someone else’s begins. Without boundaries you would let someone treat you how they wanted or do whatever they wanted with your possessions. Where your boundaries are weak you might feel that you have no rights to  – for example – say no or do what you want.

If you have been in an abusive relationship or been brought up in a dysfunctional family you may have little experience of what healthy boundaries are. Setting boundaries is one of the most important aspects of looking after yourself, tackling low self-esteem and allowing the “real you” to emerge.
Boundaries which are too rigid literally shut people out. You are very self-sufficient and don’t let anyone get too close to you.
Boundaries which are too loose can be seen where you may put hands inappropriately on strangers or let others touch you inappropriately. You might be sexually promiscuous or be confused between love and sex or get too close too fast. This is where your personal force field is faulty and allows people to come and go as they please and is often linked to a chaotic life full of drama.

Tips for Effective Boundary Setting in Relationships, Marriage and with Partners

  1. Understand that setting a boundary for the first time often results in a feeling of being uncomfortable (you may feel selfish, or guilty or embarrassed) as those around you, initially at least, bump into it and test you out.
  2. Set boundaries respectfully, simply and clearly using few words.
  3. Remain calm
  4. Do not apologise or justify to others the setting of a boundary.You only set the boundary and are not responsible for someone else’s feelings. If others get upset with your boundaries that really is to do with them and not something you need to feel responsible for. Remember that you can’t control how someone else feels. Good friends will accept your boundary needs.
  5. Boundary setting takes time, practice and determination.
  6. Expect to be tested on your boundaries and have a firm plan of action – which may involve help or in extremes the police.
  7. Develop a system of people who will support you and respect you & your boundaries and at the same time move away and reduce contact from those that do not.

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Resources

Boundary Issues: Using Boundary Intelligence to Get the Intimacy You Want and the Independence You Need in Life, Love and Work;  Adams, (2005), Wiley.

More resources can be found on Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy Couples page:Couples Counselling Resources

Couples Counselling Therapy: Top Tips

Making Couples Counselling Work

Close relationships bring out the best and worst in us as we often get into cycles of repetitive behaviour with our partners. Relationship Counselling is very helpful in identifying these patterns, their origins and then helping you to replace the negatives with positive experiences. These Top-Ten Tips are some areas to think about to help to make your couples counselling work for you.

 

Relationship Counselling

Couples Counselling

Commit

To make relationship counselling work you have to invest in it. This means that you need to do it for yourself. Don’t waste your money or time on counselling if you are not prepared to put the effort required in.

Be Real & True to Yourself

Be honest with your couples counsellor or therapist. Therapists aren’t mind readers, and we have to go with what you are able to share.  Therapy can’t fix issues that stay secret.It won’t help if you try to fool the therapist or yourselves.

Homework

Your therapist may recommend “homework” So just do it! Clients who complete homework between sessions progress faster.

Regularity

Keep regular therapy appointments. It’s important to show up.

Be Prepared to Change:

Only you can change yourself. Similarly, because you cannot make someone else change, it is helpful to recognise that it is your partner’s responsibility to change themselves.

Pick your therapist Carefully:

Both you and your partner need to feel comfortable with the marital or couples counsellor that you choose.

Cheating and Betrayal

It is certainly possible to rebuild a successful relationship or marriage after a partner has cheated – but continuing an affair whilst in therapy is a waste of everyone’s time.

Voodoo Therapy

Couples Therapy is not magical mumbo jumbo but about practical steps to identify and work through the issues that you have in your relationship in order to make your relationship grow. However, like voodoo, it really won’t work if you don’t believe it will.

Voice your concerns

A therapy session with a couples counsellor is the perfect place to talk about issues that you normally have trouble talking about.

Intimacy:

Couple’s therapists value this and won’t be shocked by what you might say

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including couples counselling and marital therapy. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

 

Ken McLeish BA DMS MBA MSc MSc Cert Ed UKCP Reg
Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy
Cuthbert House, NE6 5RD
0191 3506415
https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

 

Resources

More resources can be found on Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy Couples page:Couples Counselling Resources

Will Couples Counselling Help?

 

Starting Couples Counselling Shows that You Care

This short article will help you to decide whether Couples Counselling  and Relationship Therapy is right for you. Is it part of a short series. Part 2 is about making it work if you choose therapy and can be found here:Top-Ten Tips for Making your Couples Therapy Work

Will Relationship Counselling Benefit Our Relationship?

Relationship Counselling

Couples Counselling

Although this is a question with no simple answer, first consider what is happening in your relationship. Perhaps you are experiencing the same issues over and over and can’t seem to sort them out?  Or maybe you start to argue about the simplest things, but then the rows escalate into something altogether nastier.

Alternatively, it may be that in moments where you have time to think about your relationship, you start to feel that the only part keeping you together is your busy lives which help you avoid feeling stuck or bored in a relationship gone stale. Sometimes being cheated on – infidelity – is the driving force which brings you into therapy to deal with the hurt and lies and to rebuild the relationship.

Relationship Counselling is successful as it helps you to resolve areas that are difficult for you to discuss with your partner and resolve

Issues which are difficult include: sex, children, and in-laws to name a few. Of course there are many other reasons that make relationship counselling useful as it gives you tools and techniques in a positive setting allowing you to do move on and do things differently.

Beginning Couples Counselling

It is very common experience that starting couples counselling feels to be a big step: you may even have additional concerns because you are not deciding to come alone but with your partner. Sometimes it is the “scare” that even though the counselling environment is supportive, that you are going to have to expose your inner thoughts and hopes whilst your partner is ready to disagree with you. It might even be that you feel that the therapist will side with your partner. These feelings are very common to have but it is important to recognise that the therapist really is going to be working to your common interest as a couple and that this is agreed with you at the start of therapy.

Benefits of Relationship Therapy

If you decide on relationship counselling the benefits are great – indeed, it is often quicker than individual counselling. Sometimes you will get an immediate “feel good” as the therapy “kicks in” and you feel that you are getting your issues resolved. This may be down to a sense of relief that something is happening or even more significant is that you have both agreed that you are important enough and that each of you care about each other enough to work at making your relationship better.

Relationship counselling is certainly not an easy option as you need to have the desire and motivation to make things work. However, once you have made the commitment to therapy – and that really means to each other- you often find that you start to rekindle and generate the a mutually supportive environment that allows you to make the changes required to allow you to enjoy your relationship again.

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

 

Ken McLeish BA DMS MBA MSc MSc Cert Ed UKCP Reg
Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy
Cuthbert House, NE6 5RD
0191 3506415
https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

 

Resources

More resources can be found on Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy Couples page:Couples Counselling Resources

Invest in Your Life pt. 2: Seeing Things Differently

Reframing to Get Some Perspective!

This is the second in a series of articles on steps to a better life.

Some years ago I gave a presentation to apprentice footballers at Sheffield United. The first question I asked them was: “Do you get better if you train harder?” They all said, yes this was true.  I disagreed with all of them.

Often the opposite is true: For footballers too much can mean burn-out, injury and lack of form. It is quality not quantity that’s important. For them the answer was  “train Smart”

 “It is not what you do in your life but how you do it.”

How can you “Train Smart”?

One method is contained within the rather famous image below. This was originally drawn by cartoonist  W. E. Hill in 1915.  What do you see? Can you switch between the two images in your mind? The image that you initially see, young woman or old is based upon your connections to old and young women in your mind, your values, and beliefs past and present.

Being able to swap the images of young and old is a skill. And, being able to see ideas and problems from a different perspective is called “reframing”.  Alex Ferguson, the ex-Manchester United football manager used this when he helped his players to explain a poor first half performance as “we couldn’t see each other as we were wearing grey shirts”. The kit was dropped after this game and United won the remaining 5 games to take the title. Whether the players were indeed having difficulty in seeing each other or not was perhaps irrelevant . Alex Ferguson was really interested in helping his players to see their performance from a different angle. This was so successful it helped the players to not only feel better but move on to winning ways.

Not Hard Work but Smart Work

Reframing is a fundamentally helpful technique and we use variations of this method frequently in therapy. It is particularly important if you get stuck in repetitive thinking about a problem. Your answer in this case is to apply a creative approach to your thoughts. Ask yourself, “What am I thinking here?”; “Are there any alternatives ways of thinking about this?”; “What would happen if I carried them out?”.

You will need a bit of practice as this doesn’t come naturally, but the benefits are great.

This article is second in the series, of inward investment, tips to a better life articles. I hope that you enjoyed it and found it useful.

Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy helps clients to live life fully. We use a range of creative and traditional techniques to help you to sort out key issues in your lives in an efficient and effective manner.

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Ken McLeish BA DMS MBA MSc MSc Cert Ed UKCP Reg
Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy
Alderman Fenwicks House, NE1 6SQ
0191 5805080
https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk

Invest in Your Life pt. 1: “Training”

This is the first of a series of six short business focused articles that were written for a magazine. They are all centred on a key topic and are designed to be reflective on an important issue that relates to your happiness and fulfillment. Hope that you enjoy it.

Inward Investment: Are you on The Right Track?

Have you set yourself goals in your life? Goals are the currency of business. However, applying business thinking to your private life can cost you. Here the price you pay is to direct your focus to your future at the expense of your present. Considering the metaphor of life’s journey, you focus upon your destination but lose sight of the voyage. This is particularly true when life’s journey is rough, complete with its’ ups and downs, twists and turns. Furthermore, today’s fast pace of life often compounds the problem.

What is it that you could be missing if you focus on your destination? You might well have thought about this. However, many people have not.

Suppose that you have chosen the right track and are now speeding to the right destination. When you arrive, you look around, surprised. You are not where you expected. You have arrived yet, you are somehow incomplete. Equally, you may be on the right track but the environment in which you find yourself is making progress difficult.

Being “in the present” is closely tied into your “quality of life”. Quite simply, taking care of the present improves your life. The following tips will help you to bring into focus elements which affect your “quality of life” and help you to enjoy life’s journey

Life’s Journey in 5 Steps

  1. How do I enjoy the journey?
  2. Who do I want with me when I arrive?
  3. What do I plan to do when I get there?
  4. Where is it that I want to get to?
  5. How do I best navigate the barriers in my way?

Overall, the point is: Taking care of business really starts with the most important investment of all – you.

Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy helps clients to live life fully. We use a range of creative and traditional techniques to help you to sort out key issues in your lives in an efficient and effective manner.

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Ken McLeish BA DMS MBA MSc MSc Cert Ed UKCP Reg
Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy
Cuthbert House, NE6 5RD
0191 3506415
https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

 

Addictions: Rewiring Brian: pt. 2

Left & Right Brain FunctionsAddictions: Stopping – Rewiring Brian Part.2

If you recall from Stopping Addictions pt 1, which reviewed current research on addictions, your brain has used its thousands of years of evolution to rewire itself  to all of those “rewarding” things that you have been feeding it. Its’ capacity to learn has developed it in a way that is really unhelpful to you leaving you with faulty wiring and a “Brian” instead of a brain. Your brain has developed strong neural connections between brain cells based upon your feelings, thinking and behaviour. It is these patterns that are the basis of your addiction and why it is hard to stop.

One picture that may help is to imagine a sheep track in the hills. Sheep follow the same paths over and over again and, if you look, you can see these deep grooves where the sheep have been walking. It is also true that every now and again a solitary sheep runs off in a different direction but, by and large, they do follow the same paths. Thoughts are like sheep in that they often follow familiar paths in your mind because those paths have been well used.

To get new habits you have to rewire your brain. Because of the depth and strength of the connections of the brain you have unconsciously learnt to respond to triggers – which may be either internal feelings (like sadness or frustration etc.) or things we see/hear/feel. These triggers are linked to your addictive behaviour. You need to help you brain to make new connections.

Reboot Your Brain?

Perhaps the ideal is to go “cold turkey” and to reboot your brain and teach it a new programme. Gambling addiction or pornography addiction seem to respond to “turning the tap off”, stopping and rebooting. Unfortunately, with substance misuse because of physical withdrawal you may well need to taper your addictive behaviour for medical reasons or might need medical supervision in rehab.

Three of the Best

This brings us to some techniques which you can use to help you to rewire.

1. Surf It

The good news is that we cannot maintain the intensity of our feeling for all that long. The first tactic is to surf the feeling. Notice the feeling and identify it and look at it in your mind. What is the specific feeling? Then surf it towards the shore. It will break on the beach if you just hang in there. You cannot maintain an intense feeling for a long period. Try it.

2. Incompatibility

To give you a clear idea of this in practice, if it was smoking go take a shower. Your job is to work out beforehand what the alternative activities are (write a list!) so that you can immediately put the alternative activity in place.

3. Distract Yourself

As above but any activity that you enjoy that takes your mind away from the thoughts of addiction. In order to work effectively, this needs to be something you really enjoy, ideally something which occupies your thoughts/makes you concentrate. You also need to do it immediately. When you have found an activity that works stick to it repetitively.

Distraction tends to be harder than doing something incompatible. Writing a journal, making a favourite snack, playing chess, having a deep conversation are examples. Progressive Muscular Relaxation or meditation are also great but require some practice.

When you first start these alternative activities it will require lots and lots of will power. As you practice turning your attention to these alternatives they will get easier and easier as you begin to “rewire your brain” and your addiction becomes less powerful. The more you do this, the stronger the connections get and the weaker your automatic responses will become. You will, however, still get your addictive cravings/ images or other things for a long time, they do however, change and become easier to manage.

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Addiction: What is a Plastic Brian? Part 1

Left & Right Brain FunctionsAddiction: What is a Plastic Brian ?

New research shows that addictive behaviour although initially voluntary can spiral out of control as the brain’s neural circuitry becomes overloaded and then rewires. Your brain control function then becomes weakened and you have difficulty in controlling your urges and your addictive behaviour becomes compulsive.

How does this sorry state of affairs come to pass? After all, we have had thousands of years of evolution to get this sorted. The very problem appears to be with evolution itself as our brain has been designed to be very adept at responding to stimuli. However, our brain wasn’t well prepared for the intense stimulus overload of the modern world.

Plasticity is a function of the ability of your brain to make new connections: As thoughts flow through your brain, networks of neurons join your brain cells together. The more you do something the stronger the connections become. All well and good, until those connections are the wrong ones. So your brain becomes a “Brian” having wired itself up incorrectly.

The brain works by making connections between brain cells and the more these connections are made the stronger they become. Similarly, you could think about patterns of thought as working in the same way, flowing along these connections. So we do something, get a good feeling, and we are more likely to repeat that behaviour which will then result in a release of “feel good potion” /(chemical neurotransmitters) etc. . Addictive behaviour of all types is a learned behaviour. This learned behaviour becomes automatic – so automatic in fact, that we no longer pay it very much conscious attention, it just happens.

Your behaviour will have been learnt well: your brain will have been busy rewiring itself to your addictive habit. It won’t just have learnt the behaviour but will have cleverly made connections to moods, feelings, situations, people, visual cues (triggers) and so on. A simple example is that you might have a trigger of a bookies sign or the paper dropping through the letterbox (racing pages). This complex network of connections is one reason why addictive behaviour is quite difficult to stop.

200 Women before Dawn?

What about if you could get the same fix but twice as intense? Well in today’s society you nearly always can. Food, porn and gambling are particularly problematic as they are all available “on-tap” and are difficult to avoid. Why not get your fix of gambling by betting on televised racing which you can play back later at high speed? Internet porn allows you to have 200 women before breakfast. These activities give a buzz at the time and your behaviour is reinforced. It is easy step to do this to feel the buzz when you feel down or depressed. And it is here that your problems really start as you learn addictive, automatic responses to such things as anxiety, stress, loneliness, boredom and so on.

Unfortunately, your brain adapts to this high level of stimulus and “damps down” its response. You crave more stimulus to get the same fix and you get trapped inside this vicious circle. Not only that, but you end up feeling bad about yourself as you find you cannot get yourself out of this. Which then makes you repeat your addictive behaviour, which makes you feel bad and so on. The changes in brain chemicals bought about by the addictive behaviour also affect the frontal brain and impairs the executive function. This means that you become more impulsive. You neural pathways have created a “Brian”.

Your challenge is to unlearn these maladaptive responses and rewire. See part II which will come as soon as I’ve written it…

 

Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .

Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.