Counselling work and those autumn leaves
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Geoff Boutle MBACP (Snr Accred)
3rd September, 20150 Comments
The late summer and early autumn can be a challenging time. The summer sun still has something to offer but the cold winds of autumn are starting to show. That migration from long days of light and warmth into something cooler with darker nights to come, can impact upon us in many different ways.
And if that introduction leads you to assume that this is going to be an early note on the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) phenomena, then prepare to be disappointed. SAD comes later. Instead this is an invitation to consider how we may wish to think about the changing seasons.
The movement from summer to autumn presents us with a choice. How do we want to react to this impending change? Should we decide to mourn the passing of the long days of light or celebrate the recent holiday period? Do we look back at those recent selfies taken in fun places and laugh or do we mourn what has now been lost?
And as for what lies ahead. It can be a time to look forward to the fun events of autumn and winter from Halloween to Guy Fawkes or to fear the onset of the bad weather with long dark evenings.
The importance of recognising that there are usually choices to be made is a key issue for work in the counselling room. A key part of the process of selecting the right option is to first accept that there is a choice to be made.
Friends can be quick to tell us how we should be and what we need to do to make things right in our lives. Counselling can help in rather different ways. Therapy reinforces the maxim that the most powerful choices are those ones we make for ourselves.
An effective counsellor can help clients to understand what those options are and what may lie behind them. Different counselling approaches can assist clients to work across the challenges of choice.
Therapies based on psychodynamic work may be particularly helpful in developing a stronger sense of self and self-awareness. The cognitive behavioural (CBT) family of techniques can build on that understanding and encourage the client to effect real change. Other therapeutic approaches such as existential work can encourage a realisation and acceptance of personal choice and accountability.
This note was triggered by reflections on the changing season, but a focus on this concept of choice is also valid for many of the other personal issues that we face. We are shaped by the events which have happened in our lives. We cannot change them and nor should we pretend that they did not happen. It is however our choice as to how to remember them.
One approach is to consider the phenomena of ghosts and ancestors. Ghosts are those scary things which can cause unexpected fear and alarm. But ancestors? We all have ancestors. Without them we would not be here. It is very much up to each of us to decide how to view those ancestors and how much time to devote to them. We have a choice.
If ancestors belong to a time of long ago then what about people and events in our recent past? How shall we choose to view those who have impacted upon us? Should it be with humour and affection or with hurt and anger? Again, there is a choice to be made.
Let us come back and look again at that choice as to how to view the summer which is fading and the autumn which is coming into view.
The seasons move on and that is how it is. We cannot change the fact that the hours of daylight will reduce and that the temperature will slowly drop. We can however decide how to be with that change.
We can remember warm days gone and choose to enjoy the sparkle of the frosts to come. Or we can grieve for what has been lost and fear what lies ahead.
It is our personal choice but that idea of holding options is not always an easy concept to work with. When an individual becomes stuck and when a difficult internal narrative continues to repeat without resolution, that may be a good time to talk with a therapist and engage with a counsellor to work through that process of deciding how to be.
And a personal view as to when those leaves start to fall?
Well the seasons are there to be enjoyed whatever the time of year - and perhaps that is also rather like life itself.
About the author
Geoff Boutle is a BACP senior accredited therapist working in private practice in North Hampshire
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