A students reflections on studying counselling skills

Hello everyone,

I would like to share an article with you today, the article is an excerpt taken from the Institute of Counselling’s Journal ‘The Living Document’.

This article was written by a former student of the Institute of Counselling.

The article details the students reflections and thoughts on studying counselling skills and how the process has enriched her understanding of her personal life.

I hope you enjoy.

 

A STUDENT’S REFLECTION ON STUDYING COUNSELLING SKILLS

This article traces my progress through my studies with the Institute of Counselling. However it does not primarily focus on what I have learned, the knowledge I have gained and the skills I have acquired. Rather, it discusses the challenges I have faced, and it charts how my experiences have informed my learning, and conversely how my learning has enriched my understanding of my own personal life.

 

I am a staff nurse working in a unit for people with severe dementia. In the words of our psychiatrist, it is essentially “a hospice for people with dementia”. It is where clients are referred when all other care options have been exhausted. Thus, I frequently provide end of life care. This was one of the reasons I decided to explore a course in grief and loss.

 

While researching this, I stumbled across the Institute of Counselling’s Graduate Diploma in Counselling Skills. I chose this course for a number of reasons …

 

First, it offered a module in Grief and Loss Counselling; second, it provided training at a higher level than my undergraduate degree; third, I have always had an interest in, and hoped to study counselling; and fourth, it included an element of pastoral counselling. This was important to me, as I am a practising Christian.

 

During my first year, I studied two modules:

Foundation in Counselling Skills, and Grief and Bereavement Counselling Skills. On commencing the first module, I quickly realised that the essential qualities of Carl Rogers’[1] and Gerard Egan’s[2] approaches are those that underpin all elements of my nursing practice. These are genuineness, warmth and empathy. In fact, these qualities are the building blocks for all my relationships in life – both at work, and with my friends and family.

 

The second module focused on Grief and Bereavement Counselling Skills. Although the focus was on helping those who’ve lost a loved one, I found myself thinking more about how best to support families who were trying to make sense of this devastating illness, and the impact it was having on their lives. Indeed, many families grieve the loss of “the person they once knew” as dementia changes “the person they now are”.

 

I can identify with this sense of loss as my own much-loved grandma had dementia for five years. During that time, I witnessed her change from being a vibrant lady who loved to sing and dance to being a mere shadow of her former self, where she depended on others to meet her every need.

 

Gerard Egan’s model, ‘The Skilled Helper Model’ [1] was particularly relevant to my work as a nurse.

 

For example, when supporting loved ones I frequently find that the problems they present me with are not the core issues. This model helped me to explore and identify ‘what was really going on’ beneath the surface.

 

A case which illustrates this is a lady who was finding it hard to come to terms with her husband’s illness, and move him into long term care. By applying Egan’s model we were able to uncover that the key issue for her was actually guilt. Specifically, guilt that she had let her husband down, guilt that she had failed in her role as wife, and guilt that she could no longer cope with caring for her husband. Over time, she was able to work through these issues, using different counselling techniques and tools.

 

For example, we used Force-field Analysis to help the wife decide whether it was better for her to care for her husband at home or whether long term care would be more appropriate. This also helped her deal with her negative guilt feelings.

 

During my second year, I began to study Couple and Family Counselling Skills. This was a challenging module for me as both of my parents are alcoholics, and as a child I witnessed and experienced things that no child should see or experience.

 

Thus, studying the material highlighted my own need to address buried issues that I still needed to work through in an honest and open way. This was often very difficult for me. From a professional perspective, this experience showed me how important it is for a counsellor to work through issues that could interfere with the counselling process and relationship. That can help alleviate the likelihood of transference and counter- transference occurring.

 

When I started on this second module, I didn’t realise how useful it would be to my work as a nurse. I had viewed studying families as a means to an end: it was simply a module I had to complete to fulfil the requirements of my graduate diploma.

 

Although I frequently worked with my patients’ families, developing family and couple counselling skills seemed largely irrelevant to my job. However, I soon realised that my assumptions had been wrong, as studying a Family Systems Approach helped me better understand the dynamics within the family unit. This was reinforced by my research for an essay which detailed the benefits of using Systems Theory in the field of palliative care.

 

Studying this module proved to be challenging in other – unrelated- ways as well.

 

I suffer from severe asthma which is usually kept under reasonable control. However, during this time it became more problematic. I also developed polyarthalgia which was difficult to treat because of my asthma. In addition to this, I am a carer for a close friend. As her health deteriorated significantly, this increased the demands on me.

 

Although this was proving to be a very tough year, my module leader, Neil, was able to support me, so I managed to make it, and complete the work.

At present, I am working on the final module: Crisis and Trauma Counselling Skills. I have always found this area interesting. I am also aware that people facing crises have acute and serious needs.

 

In terms of my personal situation, shortly after commencing with my third year module I was admitted to hospital because of my asthma. There, my consultant gently shared that there was nothing more medicine could offer me. This was devastating news as I had always held out hope – but now that hope was gone. I returned home left to deal, in whatever way I could, with the impact that this news had had on me.

 

My consultant is excellent; however, I felt let down as there was a complete lack of emotional support in dealing with the news. I know my experience is not unique, and I really feel that counselling could offer a lot to people who are coping with a long term illness. Although the health service can offer us partial support, there is definitely a lack of holistic care.

 

On top of these concerns, a good friend passed away while I was preparing my first essay for the module. I felt heartbroken as the loss was sudden-yet many failed to understand the very real impact it had on me. To be honest, in some ways it felt silly as my friend was not a person: it was my guinea pig, Prince Harry. I had adopted this lad from a rescue centre. He was in terrible condition when I took him home – but he had thrived and blossomed into a cheeky little character. Hence, I was very attached to my pet. What made this so hard, even though he was in pain, was the guilt I experienced over ending his  .

 

The death of a much- loved pet is frequently underestimated and dismissed by many. As I prepared this article I spoke to several people who had lost their pets. All described it as a devastating experience, and one person likened it to ‘the loss of a limb’. Many described the same emotions as those associated with the loss of a human friend. However, they sensed few people understood how they felt, dismissing their grief as an overreaction. This is something that counsellors should note as often a strong bond of trust and love exists between a much loved pet and its owner. Hence, the loss of a pet can be devastating.

 

I am almost at the end of my studies now, and I can look back and say I have enjoyed it immensely. It has presented me with many intellectual challenges and life has added its own as well. It has certainly been hard work and has required me to juggle and prioritise my time and responsibilities. However, I have developed my skills and increased my knowledge.

 

I also believe I have grown as a person, and become much more confident. I am now considering my future options as I would like to move into an area of  work that is less demanding physically. That would accommodate my health issues-but also allow me to use my skills and knowledge to help other people in a meaningful way.

 

When I complete this course, I will embark on the Diploma in Youth Counselling. This should help me in my volunteer position as the children’s advocate in my church. I am sure this new course will bring further challenges, as well as new opportunities for developing my knowledge, skills and qualities as an individual and a counsellor.

 

References

[1] Egan, G. (2010). The skilled helper (9th Ed.). Pacific Grove, CA:

Brooks/Cole.

[2] Rogers, C.R. (1995). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view

of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

 

I hope you found this article interesting and insightful, remember you can let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

My next blog post will be posted in the next few days.

Thanks.

Best Wishes.

Ian.

http://www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk/

Counselling training and online courses

 

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Benefits and Limitations of Group Therapy

 

Being part of a group can enable you to receive insights from people who are close to your situation and can enable you to express/share your thoughts and opinions.

 

Group therapy can be an effective treatment for people.

 

Group Therapy
Group Therapy Session

 

Group therapy is a type of therapy that involves therapist(s) working with several people at a time, often 6 to 12 people who experience similar problems. Unlike individual therapy group therapy offers people the opportunity to socialise with others within a supportive and safe environment.

 

Group therapy can often be used alongside individual therapy and medications. It can show people that they are not alone in their situations and can give them the opportunity to meet others and socialise, which in some cases may be something that is lacking within their lives.

Group therapy can be carried out within community centers, private practices or mental health clinics.

 

How do People often Perceive and React to Group Therapy

 

 

Group Counselling
Group Therapy Counselling

 

Many people can feel intimidated by the idea of group therapy and feel nervous about being around and sharing intimate thoughts and details with others. Many individuals may find it difficult to share their thoughts on a one-to-one basis with a Counsellor or therapist never mind an entire group of people that they may previously have never met. The fear and stress of contemplating this can be overwhelming for some.

However, many people who initially felt agitated about group therapy can often become more comfortable within a group after a couple of sessions. It is also up to the person how much they would like to reveal about themselves to the group. The more the person is willing to open up and share about themselves, the more valuable feedback and insights from other members they will receive.

 

Group Therapy
social anxiety in groups

 

Sometimes the cohesion between group members and the psychological security of the group can enable and encourage people to express themselves and make clear the support that they need from others.

 

So what are the Benefits and Limitations of Group Therapy

 

Group Counselling
Group Counselling

 

Benefits and Limitations of Group Therapy

 

Some of the benefits of group therapy are as follows:

 

Group therapy can promote social skills:

Group therapy can enable you to interact with others and build your communication skills through participation within the group. Individuals who have experienced increased loneliness can often find these social interactions beneficial, life-enhancing and rewarding.

Self reflection and awareness:

Groups can teach you things about yourself that you may not have previously been aware of. This self awareness can be learned from listening to the group’s feedback.

 

Group Therapy Session
Group Therapy

 

Support and encouragement from a wide range of people:

Group therapy facilitates individuals receiving support and encouragement from a wide range of people. Individuals within the group can also observe what others are going through by acknowledging their struggles or issues, this can help them feel less along.

Group members can serve as role models:

Seeing others cope successfully with their problems can help group members feel encouraged about their recovery and in some cases be inspired. As people begin to recover they can then become role models for others. This can form a culture of hope, support and motivation.

 

Group Counselling
Group Therapy Session

 

Observe behaviour:

The benefits to the counsellor or therapist of conducting group therapy is that they can see exactly how individual members react and behave to others within social interactions. Group therapy sessions can give the counsellor or therapist a clearer understanding of how each individual behaves, interacts and responds to others within social situations to a greater extent than if this was simply expressed individually by the client, within a one-to-one session.

Safe environment:

Some people can begin to feel safe and secure within the group and therefore be more confident to display natural behaviours and express themselves more readily.

 

Some of the limitations of group therapy are as follows:

 

Group Counselling
Group Therapy Session

 

It can make people uncomfortable:

Group therapy sessions can become very intense and as a result of this can be more uncomfortable for some members, which could result in individuals feeling too uncomfortable to continue with attending group sessions.

 

Loss of trust:

Trust within therapeutic environments is very important, often clients will have to feel some trust towards a practitioner before ever attempting to disclose sensitive or/and personal information about themselves.

It may be much harder to develop trust with all the individuals of the group at the same time as the individuals would have to develop trust with a number of individuals they may not have developed personal relationships with.

 

Group Therapy
Group Counselling

 

Clashes between personalities:

In groups there will often be a variety of people who have different personalities, with some individuals having markedly different personalities than others. One example, might be that some sensitive or/and introverted individuals may feel intimidated by other individuals who are very assertive or speak loudly and frequently, this can often be interpreted or misinterpreted by others as ignorance or aggression. Another example, might be that when the group is sharing their thoughts there is a difference of opinion and viewpoint, this can often result in disputes between group members who have a different moral or ethical stance on an issue that is raised. Some individuals opinions on a matter can contrast with the values of another group member.

 

Some individuals can interpret rejection:

An individual can feel less of a bond with a therapist if they are in a group. Some individuals may have experienced rejection in their past or are currently experiencing perceived or actual rejection within their lives, they may experience social anxiety when being around others and in some occasions may have low self esteem, this may result in some individuals being highly sensitive to perceived or actual rejection from the group, which could make them feel uncomfortable, upset and anxious and in some cases could cause an angry reaction and outburst.

 

Group Therapy
Group Counselling

 

Limitations regrading privacy:

A person who is invited to take part in group therapy may feel a loss of privacy. Some people may not feel comfortable discussing past or present issues, feelings, thoughts and opinions that they feel are personal and that they are sensitive about. Some individuals may feel much more comfortable discussing such issues and feelings in the privacy of a quiet room with one individual, in which they have built trust and a bond with.

Large group discussions could also cause issues regarding confidentiality.

 

Social Phobia and speaking in front of a group:

For individuals with social phobia it might be difficult to speak in front of a group of people. For people who have experienced a significant amount of real or perceived rejection, the group may remind them of this and thus enhance these feelings of rejection.

For people who have experienced trauma and/or abuse then discussions about these issues that were traumatic to an individual within the group could trigger the feelings and thoughts of and related to this event for these individuals.

 

Group Therapy
Group Therapy

 

Individuals who are experiencing severe depression or who are currently in crisis or are suicidal would more than likely not be able to interact and function within this group to the extent that a group member would need too in order to gain benefit from the group. This is because they are not at that time in a strong enough psychological state to do so.

Summary

 

Group therapy can provide an excellent support system for some individuals and can give them a place to share their thoughts and opinions, they may also build important relationships within group therapy sessions that could provide them with a support network in which they can turn too in times of distress.

However, group therapy can be a bit overwhelming for some people who experience social anxiety or are experiencing significant distress related to psychological difficulties.

The effectiveness of group therapy and whether an individual would be best suited to group or individual therapy will depend on the previously stated factors. Some individuals may benefit greatly from group therapy and some people will not.

The Use of CBT within Schools

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in schools.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT in schools.

 

CBT Within Schools

 

It has been argued that the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in schools could reduce a variety of issues that pupils within schools might experience, some of which include, anxiety levels, self esteem, anger, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).

 

The need to improve the mental health of children and adolescents is increasingly being viewed as a priority in many countries around the world due to well documented health risks and the impact that mental health can have at a macro level upon economies and societies if interventions to address mental health issues are not applied early on.

 

cognitive behavioural therapy CBT in schools
cognitive behavioural therapy CBT in schools.

 

Teaching and training school staff and lecturers in CBT techniques may therefore, have an important impact upon the psychological health of children and adolescents and address issues early on, thus helping some children and adolescents with their mental health, emotions and behaviours in later life.

 

 

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychological Health

 

According to research for the BBC School Report half of teenagers cope alone with their mental health. Research for the Children’s Commissioner for England suggested that more than a quarter of children referred for mental health assistance received no support.

 

cognitive behavioural therapy in schools.
cognitive behavioural therapy in Schools

 

Research has also shown that the number of schools in England seeking help for students from CAMHS has risen by more than a third in the last three years. The NSPCC’s childline service has also reported a 26% increase in the number of counselling sessions with children regarding mental health related problems over the past four years with many pupils only getting help when others have perceived they have reached a crisis point.

Statistics from freedom of information requests from the NHS have also shown that the number of referrals to mental health services by schools rose by almost 10,000 from 25,140 in 2014/15 to 34,757 in 2017/18, more than half of these were found to be for primary school children.

 

Anxiety and children
Anxiety and children

 

Recently there has been much discussion on the impact and extent of poor mental health within schools. some articles have reported that four in five teachers (78%) have seen one of their pupils struggling with a mental health problem with one in seven cases involving the pupil suffering to the extent that they are having thoughts of suicide or displaying suicidal behaviours. Many reports have shown that less than half of those affected were able to access CAMHS care that could have helped them in their recovery.

 

Four in ten (40%) teachers believe the need for care has grown in the past year, 52% believed family difficulties were contributing and 41% identified bullying and exam stress as causes of emerging mental health problems. It is often teachers who witness the effects of bullying, family difficulties and exam stress on pupils. Many teachers have called for urgent support to tackle these issues.

A Department of Education spokesperson said that they want all pupils to grow up feeling healthy and have access to the right psychological support when they need it.

 

Children anxiety
Children anxiety

 

 

Introducing CBT Lessons Within Schools

 

Introducing CBT lessons within schools could enable children and adolescents to manage their emotions and replace their anxious or/and distressing thoughts with more helpful ways of interpreting and thinking about events.

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy within schools
Therapy within schools

 

Research has shown that anxiety prevention programmes given to children aged 9-10 within schools would be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms, according to research by The Lancet Psychiatry. It can also help pupils develop problem solving skills to cope with anxiety causing events and situations. Research has shown that anxiety is very prevalent in young people’s day-to-day lives as well as being a factor in increasing risks of poor mental health in later life.

 

 

Approaches to Introducing CBT Lessons Within Schools

 

CBT lessons could be introduced as part of the school curriculum. Another approach to introducing CBT lessons with schools could be training teachers and school staff to deliver CBT techniques and exercises.

One other approach might be to have professionals come into schools to talk to children and provide materials and online informational resources.

 

The benefits of CBT within the classroom.

 

CBT could help a child who may be suffering due to negative situations that have occurred in their lives and improve their ability to rationalise, cope with, focus and recall information. CBT would not just help children with issues they are already encountering but may also help them to preempt future difficulties.

 

CBT could help pupils to cope and respond differently to difficult issues that they face within their lives. If children can carry these techniques on to adulthood then this could help them to become well-rounded individuals.

 

Therapy within schools
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy within schools

 

Materials being widely accessible within schools would also give some children and adolescents an understanding on why they feel and behave in the way that they do, therefore helping them to deal with their emotions which may be upsetting and confusing to them. This may prevent thought patterns and emotions manifesting into future psychological difficulties.

 

Summary

 

Much research suggests that CBT could have a significant benefit to the psychological health of both children and adolescent pupils. The use of CBT techniques and exercises early on within a child or adolescents life could provide them with tools that could guide and help children and adolescents to cope better with events they perceive as stressful and confusing in both their current life and in their later life.

 

Due to the significant benefits of CBT upon young lives within society it could be argued that CBT should be an important contribution to the school curriculum within both primary and secondary schools.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article.

If you have any questions then please leave these in the comments section below.

 

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The Impact of Stress in the Workplace

 

Stress can be defined as our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. Stress can often result from experiencing something new or unexpected, or an event which you feel you have little control over or something that threatens your feeling of self.

Research and reports on illnesses relating to workplace stress have found that stress, anxiety or depression account for around 40% of all staff absences, which has cost an estimated £1 billion every year to the UK economy.

 

Stress Health Impacts
Stress: Health Impacts

Stress has been widely discussed in the last couple of years especially as our lives have become busier. and as new technologies are introduced into workplaces, one of the most cited reasons for workplace strain was overwork.

This is not surprising as many people are finding that their job tasks have increased and that they can find themselves working from home, for example, answering emails and researching online using personal devices.

Research has shown that 6 in ten employees experience stress within their job roles and have suffered work-related stress, with some of the most stressful job functions being identified as sales jobs and various jobs within the finance sector.

 

Stress and employee health
Stressed out.

 

Reluctance to Own up About Stress

Many people who have taken days off work due to experiencing stress have given another reason to their employers for their absence, such as having the flu, having a stomach upset or having measles. This might suggest that employers do not accept stress as a reasonable reason for taking time off work or/and that employees and employers do not perceive stress as a real illness.

However, the health impacts of stress on employees is well documented and shows significant negative physical and psychological health effects on individuals and has demonstrated a significant financial cost to many businesses and economies.

 

Short-term Health Effects of Stress

 

Stress and Health
Stress and Physical Health

 

Increased stress within the workplace, from feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with pressures, can cause an employee to have negative physical and mental health effects.

Some of the physical effects of stress include the following:

  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Headaches.
  • Heart problems and
  • Skin conditions.

 

Some of the psychological effects of stress include anxiety, depression and mental health problems..

People who experience short-term stress may find that they suffer from digestive problems and stomach aches, have poor or interrupted sleep patterns are off sick more often from work and are more likely to stay absent from their workplaces.

Long-term Health Effects of Stress

 

 

Stress and long-term effects
Stress over the long-term

 

Long-term exposure to stress is found to exacerbate or cause many serious health problems some of these are as follows:

  • Mental health problems like anxiety, depression and personality disorders.
  • Cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, strokes and heart attacks.
  • Obesity and eating disorders.
  • Skin and hair problems.
  • Menstrual problems.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.

 

 

Stress psychological and physical health effects
Stress: Physical and Psychological Health impact

The negative impacts of stress on employees suggests that this is a health concern that employers should seek to address, as the effects can be harmful for employees and for the employers business. Of course, knowing where to start with tackling work-related stress can be challenging for employers. However, having meetings to raise awareness and having an open and understanding workplace culture could be a good start.

Having policies and implementing appropriate measures to reduce and manage stress could result in a more motivated workforce, increased productivity, reduced mistakes and reduced levels of absence as a result of stress. It could also improve the employers reputation and demonstrate that they care for the health and wellbeing of their employees.

 

I hope you all enjoyed this article.

If you have any views or opinions on this subject-area then please leave these in the comments section below.

Thanking you kindly

Ian Morrison, InstituteofCounselling

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Stress and mental health
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How Does Social Media Affect Our Mental Health

Social Media and Evolving Technology

 

 

Social Media Mental Health
Social Media Use

 

It has been argued that advancements in technology have improved the lives of millions of people, for example, Smartphones are an item that many people especially within the UK and US cannot envisage living without.

Many teenagers have grown up in a world that has become more and more reliant on digital technology. This reliance and incorporation of digital technologies into our lives has resulted in performing tasks, such as social networking to be second nature to us, to such an extent that social networking does not now necessarily refer to what we do but can instead refer to what we are.

 

 

Social Media Mental Health
Social Media Teenage Usage

 

Many people’s usage and the extent of their usage of social media platforms can result from social pressure, due to the high number of people using these platforms. These platforms will often be used to communicate, learn about and keep updated about events and share information. Therefore, many people will feel a strong need to be part of this online community in order to meet these practical and psychological needs, this feeling has frequently been termed as FOMO, which is the abbreviation for ‘fear of missing out’. Therefore, people can feel that joining social media is a way to prevent them from missing out and connecting more with others around them.

Some have argued that this herd mentality and the need to be part of the group/community has an evolutionary basis, as for hundreds, if not thousands of years being part of and aligned with the group/community was often important for increasing an individual’s chances of survival.

 

Social Media belonging
Social Media and Belonging

Teenagers and Social Media Usage

 

What Effects do Social Media Interactions Have on Teenagers?

Studies have also found that teens between the age of 13-18 that receive a high number of likes on photos show increased activity in the reward centre of the brain, with many teens using the number of likes and comments they receive as a feedback mechanism on how well they have performed and their level of acceptance.

Productivity and Daily Life Tasks

Many studies have demonstrated that significant social media use can result in brain atrophy in grey matter areas of the brain, grey matter areas of the brain. Grey matter areas of the brain are the ‘sections’ where processing occurs, for example, planning, organising, impulse control and prioritising, if these areas of the brain become impaired than we can experience problems with getting things done and thus our productivity and possibly daily routines, can become negatively affected.

Reward-Centred

Many studies have also shown that those who receive a ‘like’ on a post can receive a rush from receiving this ‘like’, especially if the person is waiting in anticipation to see if their post will receive a ‘like’, this is due to experiencing a dopamine release, often being tied more to anticipation than to the actual reward , in this case, the anticipation of receiving a ‘like’ on their post.

 

 

Social Media and Mental Health
Social Media: How Many Likes

 

 

Social Acceptance

Other studies have found that teens were influenced to like photos, regardless of content if these had received a high number of likes, demonstrating the heard mentality on these platforms, the use of social media interaction as a feedback mechanism – tied to self-worth and acceptance and the need to feel aligned with the group/community.

So how has meeting these human needs affected their growth and usage rate?

 

Growth of Social Media Usage and Platforms

 

Social Media Usage and mental health
Social Media Bar Chart

 

Many of the social media platforms that people now use have grown exponentially, for example, social media platforms such as Facebook now have around 2.2 billion monthly active users. Twitter has around 335 million monthly users. The platform Snapchat reached 166 million in the first quarter of this month. The number of users of Instagram is set to surpass 111 million and the video sharing platform Youtube, now has over 2 billion users. This demonstrates the significant influence that these platforms have upon our day-to-day lives.

One study found that we spend around 50 minutes of time on social media platforms every day.

Social media usage from teenagers, according to previous research, is as follows, 66 percent use Facebook, 76 per cent use Instagram, 75 per cent use Snapchat, 47 per cent use Twitter and 30 per cent use Tumbler or Linkedin. Trends in teenage usage of social media has seen a move from Facebook to platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, however it is also worth noting that Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Social Media and mental health
Social Media Platforms

 

Most communications by teenagers on these platforms are carried out through text-messaging and for many adolescents, text-messaging is now more likely than person-to-person interactions.

Some of the reasons argued for the popularity and extensive use of these social networking platforms are there ability to meet certain fundamental human needs such as social support and belonging, these are often considered fundamental human needs as for much of human existence social support from the group/community was important for survival.

Another way in which social media is often utilised is to use this platform for self-expression, self-expression on these platforms would enable the person to form an identity and get feedback from the group/community, as feedback would be an important variable in formulating an online social identity.

 

Social Media Effects: Differences Between Adults and Adolescents

Recent research has shown that sharing information on social media increases life satisfaction and decreases loneliness for adolescents but yet sharing on social media has the opposite effect for older adults, suggesting the impact of social media use on individuals can vary, based upon age and a person’s stage of life.

So what are the documented physical and psychological effects on people of using social media frequently?

 

Effects of Social Media on Mental Health.

 

Social Media and Health
Social Media Impact Upon Psychological Health

 

There have been a number of studies and reports showing that high usage of social media can lead to mental illness, while in contrast there have been many other studies and reports that have shown that the effects of high social media usage on mental health are minimal.

Some studies that have focused on mental health have found the following mental health related issues regarding social media use these are anxiety, decreased self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, eating disorders and declining focus on work. Other studies argue that at the very least, high social media usage can lead to dysfunctional and negative impacts upon daily living. One study found a negative correlation between time spent on social media and negative body image feedback, it found that those who spent more time on social media had a much higher risk of reporting body image and eating concerns when compared to peers who who did not spend as much time on social media.

 

Social Media Mental Health
Social Media and Mental Health

 

As was previously mentioned a frequent term used regarding social media use is FOMO, which is an abbreviation for ‘fear of missing out’ and is defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”

 

Social Media mental health effects
Social Media FOMO

Higher levels of FOMO have been associated with lower general mood, lower life satisfaction, lower wellbeing and increased engagement with Facebook Some studies have found FOMO to be associated with social media addiction

This would suggest that FOMO could become a predicator or potential component of social media addiction and could potentially impact negatively upon a users daily functioning.

Other studies have found that young adults who spent a lot of time on social media were more likely to have sleep problems and develop symptoms of depression. Poor sleep has also been attributed to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and physical problems such as, but not limited to, a weaker immune system.

 

Social Media Sleep and mental health
Social Media and Sleep

 

So what are the individual and societal advantages and disadvantages of frequently using these social media platforms?

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media Usage

 

Advantages

 

Face-to-face social skills and social anxiety: Many adolescents are hardwired for socialisation, social media makes the ability to socialise very efficient, convenient and easy.  People who suffer from social anxiety or feel that they have poor social skills could benefit from using social media as these people may avoid, and not have much, face-to-face contact with others, so social media platforms may give them an opportunity, which previously did not exist, to socialise with others.

People who suffer from social anxiety disorder may not experience the same levels of anxiety, when communicating on these platforms, as they do when they communicate face-to-face with others, therefore this may offer them an opportunity to communicate with others and express themselves through using this online platform.

Marginalised Groups: People within marginalised groups, such as people who experience mental health issues, could find that they are able to express themselves more often and have greater opportunity to communicate and interact with others through using these online platforms.

Communication Efficiency: Regardless of location people can instantly communicate with another using social media. It can also be used to communicate with several people at once by using Facebook Groups. This efficient way of communicating with others from any location at any time, enables people to share their thoughts, find out useful information and learn from others in a short space of time.

Good Causes: Social media groups or pages can be used to promote good causes and share information with others to spread awareness of societal issues and topics that are important to people or that may better their lives. Due to most social media platforms usage being free, other than paid ads, social media can be a cost-effective way to spread and share important messages with others.

New Information: The latest updates on an issue, news story or trend can be shared instantly on social media with others. This enables people to be quickly informed, updated and act quickly on events that they deem important.

On occasions where news channels may edit a news story to convey a certain message or interpretation, social media can be used to provide the truth about an event, for example, through someone uploading or live streaming the event directly from their Smartphone to a social media platform.

Helping People: Sometimes social media can be used to reach out and ask for help from others, examples of this could be when a person wants other people’s opinion on something before they proceed to take action or when someone in your community or near by have lost something such as a phone or have a lost a family pet such as a dog or someone has been missing for a period of time. These can often be posted to social media to ask for peoples help and assistance. One example of this is that the police will now often use social media as part of their strategy in appealing for and obtaining information about a crime or a suspected crime.

Education: People can use ‘Groups’ created on social media that are focused upon certain topics in order to not only socialise, but to educate themselves on a topic. People can educate themselves within these groups from having conversations with other group members and from reading articles and information posted within these groups.

 

Disadvantages

Addiction: This can be described as the dark side of social media. Teenagers are found to be the most effected by social media addiction. Their extensive use of social media platforms to communicate and interact with others can result in them cutting themselves off from society. Social media addiction can also take time away from productive tasks or relationships with others within their households and daily lives, therefore affecting the persons close relationships, productivity and wellbeing.

Physical Health Issues: Excessive use of social media can result in people spending a lot of time sitting in the same position on their computer, this results in them not getting much exercise, such as walking and exercising. Social media can therefore distract people from exercising and doing other physical activities that can be beneficial for their physical health.

Negative body image problems:

Professional Reputation: Someone can impulsively post a comment or image on a social media platform that they later regret and which may impact upon their professional or personal reputation. Also, people can create false stories about others on social media platforms and have this shared with thousands of people. Businesses can also be affected by posts or comments which can harm their brand image/personality and reputation.

Cyberbullying: Many children and adolescents have been victims of cyberbullying. The relative ease in creating fake social media accounts has made this quite extensive. Threats, intimidation, rumours, slanders can be sent to hundreds if not thousands of people in a short space of time

Security Problems: Various security agencies have been found to have access to many people’s personal accounts. Many people have also had their accounts hacked into by hackers and by people attempting some type of fraud.

Less Face Time: Social skills require practice, it may be hard to build these social skills if people spend most of their time communicating and interacting online, rather than communicating face-to-face.

 

The previous research suggests that there are advantages and disadvantages to the widespread use of online social networking. There is a wealth of studies suggesting that there can be detrimental effects both psychologically and physically to excessive social media use. However, the key is learning to use social media in moderation through balancing communications online with face-to-face in-person communications and balancing social media usage with productive daily tasks. The wealth of information from previous research and reports published should help us to understand and have greater awareness on social media addiction and also to get a better understanding on when social media might be negatively affecting a person’s daily functioning, wellbeing and mental health.

 

I hope everyone enjoyed this article.

If anyone has any thoughts or opinions on this subject area then please leave these in the comments section below.

Thanks everyone.

 

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For Relief From Addiction, Tap Into Your Creative Side

Hello everyone,

Here is an article by a guest blogger.

I hope you enjoy.

It’ll make you feel better in so many ways, and that’s why therapists are adding a bit of creativity to their addiction recovery programs: to help patients achieve a greater sense of well-being that goes beyond abstinence. Whether it’s a strum of the strings or a brush to the canvas, the arts heal your damaged psyche and enrich your life physically, mentally and spiritually. Here’s how.

Health

This is the basis for good health. Difficult situations in life, such as being laid off, getting dumped or struggling with an addiction, can lead to stress, which has physical effects such as high blood pressure. That, in turn, causes even more stress. Creativity ends this vicious circle, as it brings peace of mind and helps you become energetically engaged with your body, according to A Lust for Life, a website devoted to well-being.

Tranquility

When you play an instrument, you focus your ears and eyes on what your hands are doing to produce a specific sound. This is a form of mindfulness, or being in the moment, in which nothing outside of you and your music matters, and that includes those worries and anxieties that you’ve been dragging around all day that are compounded by the pressures of readapting to a sober life. You can gain the same benefit from the visual arts.

Release

Artistic expression allows you to let go of the troubles that have been weighing on your mind. Painting is especially therapeutic for some people in addiction recovery. The Treehouse points out, “Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity, it allows an artist to bring out whatever emotions they’re dealing with onto the paper or canvas and leave it there. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little.”

Self-Esteem

Start with plucking a string while you tap your foot to the beat. Now, add another string to the mix. Then, place your fingers on the fingerboard, and add new notes to the composition. The next session, you’ll build even more complexity, and as your skills grow, you’ll learn to play songs in their entirety. Do you see how that works? Little by little, you become better and better. That’s how you accomplish things, and accomplishment is how you build your self-esteem.

Structure

Imagine yourself in front of the canvas for the first time, making your first tentative brush strokes. Seeking the same release of negative energy, you come back to the same place at the same time the next day to add to your budding work of art, but this time, with a steadier hand. You’re gaining skill, but also creating a routine, one that’s invigorating to your mind and spirit. This adds structure to your life, which you need to overcome the negative habits you developed in your previous life.

Positivity

“Express yourself in some way you enjoy on a regular basis, just once a day, and benefit from a more positive state of mind,” says a doctor writing in Psychology Today, citing research in which over 600 people were surveyed on their artistic endeavors and the positive and negative emotional responses they felt. The study also revealed that creativity increased happiness in their relationships as well as positivity in the workplace.

Playfulness

There was a time when you were full of hope, before the weight of the world came crashing down on your shoulders. That child is still there inside you, waiting to reconnect. Art offers a way to reach them. Children are masters at creativity, naturally diving into lumps of clay and pots of fingerpaint to bring their imaginations to reality, and here you are doing the same thing, adding a dash of playfulness to your life. “Nothing is more important than creative play through imagination. Never stop playing, and never stop imagining!” says writer Carmela Dutra.

Painting, sculpting, music – any of these creative arts can be added to your recovery efforts, whether in-patient or outpatient, 12-step or holistic. Talk your therapist for some suggestions, or begin your personal vision quest with a trip to the music or art supply store. Either way, it starts with you.

Image via Pixabay.

I hope you enjoyed this article.

You can post any questions or thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks everyone.

Ian Morrison, Marketing Manager, Institute of Counselling.

https://www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk/ 

Alternative Treatments for Addiction Recovery

Hello everyone,

The following is an article by Kimberly Hayes.

 

This article discusses alternative treatments for addiction recovery.

I hope you enjoy this article.

 

Determining the most effective treatments for addiction recovery isn’t easy, because not all methods work for everyone. Many experts agree that treating the body and the mind effectively helps people focus their minds and relieve stress and anxiety—triggers for substance abuse which often lead to relapses during recovery.

 

You’ll want to explore different methods with your doctor after you evaluate the holistic, non-traditional therapies available. The benefits they offer include:

 

  • A comprehensive approach that addresses your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
  • A more natural approach to healing by using the body’s ability to heal itself.
  • Accessibility for people who are intimidated by or uncomfortable about the more traditional treatment options.
  • An increased possibility that you’ll uncover underlying issues that talk therapy might not discover.
  • An opportunity to learn new skills and ways to exist happily in the world. You’ll increase your ability to maintain your recovery and more successfully and healthfully handle future challenges.
  • Less emphasis on religion; these alternatives don’t bash religion, but do provide a more secular approach, which increases their appeal for those who don’t follow a Western or Christian religion.
  • More emphasis on self-empowerment by encouraging recovering addicts to channel their own strength to overcome their addictions.
  • A willingness to stay updated with current research in evidence-based approaches, like cognitive behavioral therapy, to treat addiction and incorporate those techniques into their systems.

 

Mental health disorders are often intertwined with substance abuse disorders (SUD), and GoodTherapy.org provides a comprehensive breakdown of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) used in combination with traditional methods to treat mental health and SUD.

 

Alternative recovery methods

If you’re exploring other possibilities besides the traditional 12-step programs to aid in your addiction recovery, this list—while by no means exhaustive—is a good place to start.

 

Yoga. Often partnered with meditation, yoga gently improves your flexibility and helps your body to heal physically from the effects of substance abuse.

 

Meditation. Focusing on inner strength, peace, and connectedness, meditation helps you to narrow and focus your thoughts, block out negativity, and quiet your mind. By increasing your self-awareness, you learn how to embrace that inner strength and reduce cravings.

 

Exercise. Daily exercise, even if only 20-30 minutes a day, boosts your mood and releases endorphins, which increase feelings of well-being and happiness. Exercise improves the functions of your endocrine, pulmonary, and cardiac systems; improves oxygen and nutrient delivery; and positively affects your brain’s executive control processes, which include memory, multitasking, and planning or strategizing.

 

Healthy eating. Healthier food choices can control cravings, depression, anxiety, and other factors that trigger addictive behaviors. This food chart provides a roadmap of options that address nutritional deficits by incorporating more proteins, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals, omega-3 essential fatty acids, and fibers into your diet.

 

12-Step group alternatives. There’s no doubt about the efficacy of 12-step group programs; however, not everyone benefits from participating—for many different reasons. Other nationwide programs have existed for decades, including:

 

  • Women for Sobriety (WFS), a national self-help program geared toward women recovering from addiction.
  • SMART Recovery, which uses cognitive behavioral approaches in its 1,200 groups worldwide.
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety, founded by a recovering alcoholic in the mid 1980s as an alternative to AA.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery (LSF), which focuses on human efforts and individual motivation to maintain addiction recovery.

 

Regardless of where you are in your addiction recovery, experts agree that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Recognizing their effectiveness when partnered with more traditional treatments, many treatment centers have embraced alternative therapies. More recovering addicts are using these holistic treatments in conjunction with more traditional methods. While not a panacea for treating SUD, these alternative treatments do have a profound, positive influence on the recovery process—and beyond.

 

Photo Credit: Pexels.com

 

I hope you enjoyed Kimberly’s article on alternative treatments for addiction recovery.

You can leave any questions or/and contributions in the comments section below.

Thanks

Ian.