Vicarious Trauma

A therapist and client in a therapy session

Our job as a therapist

As Therapists or other professionals move further along their journey of personal

A therapist working with her client

development, self awareness and ultimately work towards self-actualisation it might be fair to say thatwe become less vulnerable. In relation to the vulnerability/stress model this leaves us more predisposed to taking on higher levels of stress, none more so in the stories we hear from our clients. Of course, some client’s stories touch us more than others and what of the ones about abandonment, neglect, abuse, trauma, emotional deprivation? It is our job but also in our nature to empathise with our client’s. With regards to empathy the paradoxical theory often stands up in that our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.

Dealing with Vicarious Trauma as a therapist

A woman sitting on bed looking worried and thinking

We empathise with the hard end of human suffering on a consistent basis. For some Therapists/Professionals this might be daily. This often comes at a price. At ACT Counselling Services we often hear stories from colleagues of ‘taking the client home with me,’ which of course means thinking about the client in one’s own time. We also hear stories of colleagues having nightmares, rescue fantasies etc. A lot of professionals will take issues of vicarious trauma to Clinical Supervision and whilst this might well be helpful there is so much more that can be done.

Can we learn from Buddhism?

Traditional Buddhism has been a long advocate of the ‘suffering’ involved in being a human being, yet A wise and kind buddhist monk teaching young childrenBuddhist Monks appear to remain compassionate and optimistic. What is their secret? Furthermore, can we as Therapists/Professionals learn from Buddhist Monks in order to offset Vicarious Trauma? Also, are there more practical steps that can be taken by Therapists/Professionals and their organisations to create a culture that protects us from the impact of Vicarious Trauma?

Do you want to learn more about Vicarious Trauma?

To find out more about the above and answers to the questions posed, visit our CPD Events page on this website and register for the ‘Vicarious Trauma’ CPD event scheduled to be delivered in Dunblane on Friday the 25th of August 2017. You can call us here at ACT Counselling and CBT Services in Glasgowon 0141 554 0838 or contact us online here.

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An Introduction to CBT

A head with text saying cognitive behavioural therapy act counselling services shortcourse

3 Day Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Course in Cognitive behavioural therapy modelGlasgow:

The ACT Counselling Services Team are looking forward to the delivery of another 3 day ‘Introduction to the Theory and Practise of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)’ short course in the coming week. This is a very popular course with workers from various helping professions nowadays being asked to have a basic understanding of what CBT is and to be able to integrate some of the techniques into the roles that they undertake with their service users. Furthermore, the course is very popular with Counsellors/Psychotherapists from different modalities who wish to add CBT techniques to their practice.

What the course offers…

The course offers participants some profound personal insights as the theory and techniques belonging to Hand writing core valuesCBT are turned on the self throughout the 3 days. This is mostly down to the evincing of beliefs, rules, values and attitudes from the unconscious mind into awareness. The necessity for this is to uncover self defeating patterns of thinking and behaviours. Every Human Being in this world today is locked in this vicious and often self destructive cycle. Once participants become aware of their own issues then they can often link the beliefs, rules etc back to their genesis which is often early childhood.

By course participants shining the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy lamp on themselves, we find that they begin to have a tremendous amount of faith in the approach which augurs well for working with other people.

At ACT Counselling Services we are passionate about the above. We believe that the vast majority of people are only living what a client once described as ‘half a life.’ This needn’t be the case. Too much time is spent ruminating or berating oneself over the past or spending time worrying about a future that probably won’t happen. This drags us away from our lives today and in a way switches us onto auto pilot.

As Fritz Perls said back in 1950:Hands raised to the sky with birds flying around

‘I find it fascinating that whilst in cybernetics they are trying to make robots like people and in everyday life people are trying to make themselves like robots. What are we doing?’

He also said more shockingly:

‘Too much time spent ruminating over the past or worrying about the future means you are dead already.’

Get in touch today to book your place:

Don’t let the above be you or the people you work with. Get in touch today with ACT Counselling and CBT Services and start living. You can call us on 0141 554 0838 or email us via our online contact form here. Alternatively, you can download our online application form here and post it to us.

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Question marks and text saying narcissistic personality disorder

Woman delivering a courseWorking with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The ACT Counselling Services Team have delivered several 1 day CPD events on ‘Working with Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ throughout 2015 and 2016. Whilst we thoroughly enjoyed delivering the workshops and the feedback received was excellent we did find it a challenge. The challenge lay in attempting to change the public as well as Therapist’s attitudes towards those who are unfortunate enough to have a narcissistic personality type.A bunch of cartoon monsters

They are not ‘monsters’

We found that most workshops at some point became about ridiculing narcissists. This seems to be a very common reaction. In fact, a lot of articles that we have read over the last year in magazines with a psychology focus appear to advocate how awful and damaging narcissists are. Whilst we agree that it may be the case that narcissists can cause a lot of psychological damage, we strongly express that ‘there is no point or value in turning people into monsters.’ Are we not in the profession of care and compassion?

Our conclusion…Woman thinking with lightbulbs above her head

Our team discussions have led us to the conclusion that lack of understanding is possibly a large contributor to the attitudes held towards people with narcissistic traits or indeed the disorder. As a result we hope to provide a little information on what actually lies beneath the disorder with a view to promoting understanding, compassion and a willingness to work with people with NPD or NPD traits.

What lies behind NPD…Stars on a chalk board

The common belief amongst most folks is that people with the way of being associated with NPD have had ‘too much of a good thing,’ or have been ‘repeatedly told how special and wonderful they are,’ furthermore that ‘you are better than others.’ This in our experience is not the case. People with NPD have experienced high levels of emotional deprivation and conditional approval. The reality is actually that they have been given the message by their significant caregivers that they are defective unless they meet with the conditions set by the caregivers. So in other A sad manwords, ‘you are only acceptable if you are perfect, achieve, gain recognition for the caregiver, be the best, do not show weakness, do not show emotion.’

The reality is that sadness, loneliness, isolation and hollowness sums up the Narcissists existence. We would suggest that this is not something to be mocked and ridiculed but understood and empathised with. A common trait in narcissism is a lack of empathy, unless there is a shift in the public and Therapist’s perception we are treating these people in the same way that we mock them for.

Want to know more?

If this article has been helpful and you want to know more about training or treatment for NPD then please get in touch and we will be delighted to help. You can call us on 0141 554 0838 or email us here.


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Borderline Personality Disorder

Coloured blocks saying BPD

1 Day CPD Event on Borderline Personality Disorder

The ACT Counselling Services Team will shortly be delivering a 1 day CPD event titled ‘Borderline Personality Disorder, Neuroscience and Psychotherapy.’ This will tshutterstock_362165852ake place on Saturday the 15th of October 2016 at Stirling Baptist Church and Family Life Centre, 2nd Floor, 61-63 Murray Place, Stirling, FK8 1AP. ACT Counselling Services Ltd are a private training provider who’s staff have a huge amount of experience of working with complex cases. Staff members have worked in the most challenging settings with the most severe and enduring types of disorder. We are passionate about sharing our knowledge, experience and conclusions to enable others to understand and/or work with complex cases.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?Man with different facial expressions

Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD for short is one of the most challenging presentations for clinicians to treat. It is without doubt the disorder that costs the tax payer the most money on a yearly basis. Despite these considerations, there is still little training on working with BPD, services available to treat BPD and Clinicians remain reluctant to add the treatment of BPD to their repertoire.

People often ask us ‘what is BPD?’ ‘Can it be treated?’ and ‘how does one even begin to treat it?’ Put very simply, the person who has received a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder constantly flips between different ‘schema modes.’ Modes are considered to be ‘states’ rather than ‘traits’ and are as such fleeting, short terms ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. Folks with a diagnosis of BPD will frequently ‘flip’ between the ‘vulnerable child,’ ‘Punitive Parent,’ ‘Demanding Parent,’ ‘Angry child,’ and ‘Detached Protector,’ although not necessarily in this order.

What does this mean?Girl with different facial expressions

The above means that the person who has been diagnosed with BPD spends very little time in the ‘Healthy Adult,’ ‘Nurturing Parent,’ and ‘Happy Child’ modes and this has a significant impairment on their quality of life.

BPD was for a long time considered to be untreatable but things have changed and it can easily be treated by clinicians with the correct knowledge, skills and attitude. In a universe based on opposites one need not just ‘be,’ one can ‘become’ the person they were supposed to be.The logo for ACT Counselling and CBT Services in Glasgow

Get on touch to find out more

If you are interested in finding out more, then please get in touch. You can call ACT Counselling and CBT Services in Glasgow on 0141 554 0838 or email us here.


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Attachment Theory Training

Mother cuddling her baby

Our 1 Day Training Course

The ACT Counselling Services team are currently travelling around Scotland delivering a 1 day training event on John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory and Lifelong Relationships. We are also very fortunate to have an extremely talented Neuroscientist contributing to some of the Woman delivering a courseinputs. Most of our knowledge in relation to Attachment Theory comes directly from John Bowlby’s Son – Richard Bowlby, who members of the ACT team were fortunate to be taught by. These events have been enormously well received and requests to deliver these events have been flooding in.

When writing and delivering the events, as well as in subsequent discussions we never cease to be amazed that the first 2-3years of one’s life will shape how one thinks, feels and behaves in relationships with others throughout the lifecycle. The very brief introduction to Attachment Theory offered below does not even begin to do the theory justice, so if it peaks your interest then, by all means get in touch and we will be happy to advise you of times and places where future deliveries of the 1-day event will take place.

What is Attachment TheoryMother and father with new born child

Basically it is an evolutionary and instinctual necessity for Human Beings to endeavour to form Secure Attachment Styles with significant caregivers. This is a basic aid to human survival. The human brain in 2016 is exactly the same as it was in archaic times (over 50,000 years ago). Our brains (when we are infants) do not realise that it is 2016 and most people in the western world live in comfortable and safe environments. Our brains respond as if we still live in the wild, amongst the animals and if an infant is not close to a larger, older and protective care giver then one might be eaten for want of a better word.

Forming a secure attachment

As such, infants engage in what is called ‘Attachment Behaviour’ in an attempt to keep the primary caregiver close by and to form a ‘Secure Attachment.’ Babies are born ready and know exactly what to do in order to form a secure attachment and as a result feel safe. How the primary care givers respond will actually determine whether a secure or insecure attachment style is formed.

What attachment behaviour involvesBaby crying and mother cuddling it

Attachment Behaviour involves the child crying when separated from the primary care giver. This is the child’s insurance policy as it is a very difficult (almost impossible) cry to ignore. Attachment behaviour also involves remaining close to the primary care giver and quickly returning to their clutch when feeling threatened. When the child is confident that it’s needs are being met then a secure base is established from which the child can begin to explore the world, safe in the knowledge that the consistent and loving primary care givers will be present and available on return.

Do you want to know more?

ACT Counselling Service LogoIf you want to find out a lot more about attachment theory, a lot more about yourself and more importantly how to improve the quality of life of yourself or others then simply get in touch using one of the various methods available on this site. You can call ACT counselling and CBT services in Glasgow on 0141 554 0838 or email us here.


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Triggers for Substance Misuse

3 stones saying stress, depress and anxiety

CBT group therapy for substance misuse…

With CBT group therapy, where clients are given the opportunity to work with their counsellor on a 1:1 basis regarding the substance and attend a group to address, arguably two of the most common underlying mental health issues associated with substance misuse, anxiety and depression.

Respective anxiety and depression manuals were compiled and given to each group member for them to use on a weekly basis and indeed keep for future reference after the group ended. In true CBT tradition an inventory was completed on a weekly basis and cross referenced with the previous week. Examples of other items covered throughout each group are:

-Cognitive distortions

-Automatic thoughts

-Thought recordsWomen stressed and drinking

-Identifying emotions

– Controlling breathing exercises

-Progressive muscle relaxation

-Graded exposure

-Daily achievement journal

-Behavioural activation

-Safe place imagery

-Activity schedule


-Strengths and qualities

Group work and its benefits…

There was always time for group discussion which led to another vital part of any group, that being mutual aid. As a facilitator it is a privilege to witness catharsis, universality and the instillation of hope within each group I have been part of. Indeed bringing each group to an end, listening to the changes that have been made and plans to do more of what has helped is inspiring and motivational to me. There is no better feeling than playing a small part in another human beings recovery.

As with any therapeutic /psycho educational setting, without the core conditions of genuineness, acceptance and empathy, neither groups nor 1:1 settings would have very little chance of building rapport, therapeutic alliance, working alliance, call it what you will, between the presenter/facilitator and attendees. Effective psychotherapy in any setting requires an effective therapeutic alliance between client(s) and therapist/facilitator.

Diploma Course…

The ACT Counselling Services PG Dip Level Diploma in CBT and Groupwork is the ideal course on which to learn and develop the knowledge, skills and attitude to become an effective group facilitator.

To find out more get in touch on 0141 554 0838 or contact us here.

By Mark Vance (PG Dip CBT)

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Substance Misuse and Therapy

Sign saying addiction we can help

Substance misuse and mental health…

It is a well known fact, and yes you have probably read or heard it before that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the most evidenced based psychological therapy available today and is the preferred therapeutic approach of the NHS. However, it is probably not the first modality one would associate with when working with clients presenting with substance misuse, having said that, CBT is very adaptable and can be integrated with Relapse Prevention (RP), Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), as well as other approaches.

What I do…

Group therapy with CBT therapist

I am a qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist working with West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service (WLDAS), my team is called The Moving on Service where currently, I hold the position of Counsellor/Line Manager working on a 1:1 basis with offenders and vulnerable adults. In addition I was responsible for compiling and presenting/facilitating the first group work program, appropriately named CBT in Groups which is open to the whole WLDAS service, moreover will now be open to the Addiction Care Partnership (ACP) that incorporates WLDAS, Social Work Addictions, NHS Lothian and Cyrenians Recovery Service. This is due to the successful pilot of CBT in Groups over the past 14 months. Groups have focused on anxiety and depression after my colleagues and I conducted a survey of our clients to ascertain their preferred choice of group work program, indeed the latest group has just ended after a 12 week run.

How the groups worked…

There have been 3 groups piloted, covering a total of 30 weeks, with accumulative referrals of 54 clients. There were 29 clients who did not attend or disengaged after 3 weeks, however a total of 25 clients remained consistently in attendance between the 3 groups: 6, 6 and 13 respectively.

Criteria to attend CBT in Groups (pilot)is simply to have had or currently have a substance misuse issue (stable enough to attend weekly groups), or have been affected by another’s substance misuse, that being a wife, husband, partner, other family member or friend and be working on a 1:1 basis with one of the counselling team at WLDAS.

Bringing two together…

My colleagues in psychiatry will proclaim, ‘get rid of the substance misuse and your mental health will improve!’ I whole heartily agree but if only the substance misuse has gone the possibilities of relapse significantly remain as drugs and/or alcohol are extensively used as a coping strategy. Therefore, I am of the professional opinion (as are others within the field) that when there is a dual diagnosis (mental health issue and substance misuse)both require to be addressed simultaneously, obviously helping the client to establish a period of stability regarding the substance is vitally important at the beginning of any intervention.

To find our more get in touch with us on 0141 554 0838 or email us here.

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Food and Mood

Lady smiling eating a watermelon with text saying good food = good mood

Food and Mood – Healthy Eating and Mental Health

By, Alana MacDonald, Specialist CAMHS Dietitian and CBT therapist.

Our brain – the organ that holds the door to a complex world of cognitive and emotional functioning; shaping our every day lives, social interactions, academic pursuits and of course, our personality. Yet this priceless asset is often neglected when we are considering a healthy diet. When was the last time you heard someone say, “I am going on a diet to improve my mood”? As a dietitian working in mental health and a CBT therapist, I often notice how physical health and appearance will take precedence when it comes to making dietary choices. However without a healthy and well functioning brain, so much is at risk!

Considering how foods affect our mood is no easy task. There are many aspects to dietary choices, meal patterns and emotional connections to food which all impact our mood.Vegetables

Eating Patterns

Let’s start by looking at eating patterns. Poor energy levels can lead to withdrawal, anxiety and short temperament. Hunger does not bode well for maintaining emotional balance or logical thinking. Our diet regulates our blood sugars, serotonin release and energy levels. Without a regular intake of healthy and balanced foods, we are left at risk of poor emotional control and poor attention. Eating every three to four hours can help us maintain a clear mind and a good control over our mood throughout the day.

Emotional regulation and concentration

Playing an equally important part in emotional regulation and concentration is the actual content of our diet. Basing our meals and snacks around whole foods such as complex carbohydrates, good quality proteins, fruits and vegetables will help maintain a steady supply of energy, vitamins and minerals to our brain over the course of the day. This supports our concentration, reasoning and emotional stability. Maintaining good hydration with approximately 6-8 glasses of fluid will also enable quicker thinking and reaction times.

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Relationship Patterns

Couple back to back with arms folded and in a huff with each other

Schema Focused Relationship Advice

The ACT Counselling Services team have had 2 insightful weeks delivering inputs 6 and 7 of the ‘Practising Schema Focused Therapy’ course. The themes have all been about perpetuation and ‘Repetition Compulsion’ (Freud, S), or ‘Schema Chemistry’ (Young, J). We think it is absolutely incredible that we, as human beings continue, albeit unconsciously, continue to play out very specific childhood experiences over and over again. This perpetuation causes us significant problems and distress, but we keep on doing it. The hardest part to come to terms with is that is actually our attempts to cope that continue to cause the problems. This often leads people to apporach ACT for relationship advice.

What went wrong…?

Woodland walk way with text saying the best us yet to comeWe pick our parents as partners. If you don’t believe this, then you are most likely in denial. No parents are perfect and we unconsciously choose partners who we hope will provide us with the opportunity of correcting what went wrong. As a result of parental deficiencies we, at some point, experienced anger, sadness or despair as a result of our unmet needs. Children however cannot tolerate these feelings and instead cling to hope. We perceive that the problem actually lies with ourselves and continue, throughout our lives to seek the corrective experience.

Want to find out more or get some relationship advice, get in touch to discuss signing up for the next course, beginning 04/05/16. More info on our website in the services section.

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Personal Construct Psychology

People problem soling and piecing a jigsaw together

The ACT Counselling Services Team have been developing and delivering a new input as part of the PG Diploma on Personal Construct Psychology (PCP). The first thing that we must remind ourselves of is that PCP is a philosophy as opposed to a theory. It is our opinion that it is crucial for CBT Practitioners to have an understanding of PCP as it enhances our understanding of CBT’s philosophical underpinnings.

What is Personal Construct Psychology ?

So what is PCP all about and why are we so excitable about it. I suppose the place to begin is perception and PCP is all about perception and making sense of things. As human beings we are meaning making creatures and our minds are just meaning making machines. We are driven to make sense of things. This translates into a therapeutic context as we attempt to make sense and find explanations for our client’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours and motivations etc.Two cartoon men figuring out what some complex language says on a board and them saying it all makes sense when put like that.

The trap that one must never fall into as a CBT Practitioner is to impose our sense or meaning making onto our client. If we do, we run the risk of not understanding our client or their issues in the fullest sense. So for example, when the client states they are anxious or depressed, how do we know what this is like for them. Unless we specifically ask then we are imposing our own understanding of what anxiety or depression is like for us, or indeed how we have heard other people describe what it is like for them. This is not representative of an individual’s uniqueness. Think about how other people’s feelings, behaviours and motivations etc are explained away in day to day life: ‘He/She obviously did that because……………,’ ‘You are feeling like that because……,’ so on and so forth.

The technique used to gain an understanding of what another’s experience is like is called ‘Suspension.’ How to use this can be discovered by enrolling on the ACT Counselling Services PG Dip Level Diploma in CBT and Groupwork.

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