How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

Knowing the right things to do and say while a friend or loved one experiences a panic attack can truly make a lot of difference to the situation. Panic attacks are very overwhelming and can be traumatic experiences. Anyone can find themselves on the receiving end and they are exceptionally common under high stress situations. Experiencing a panic attack for the first time can be very terrifying and distressing so having someone around who understands what is happening can help to bring them to a level of calm. For those who regularly experience panic attacks, it can be a huge comfort to them to know that you can help them when their anxiety flares up and they need a reassuring presence.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is when someone responds to a situation as if they are in real danger. It triggers physical symptoms that come about very suddenly, all caused by a sudden rush of adrenaline that is meant to prepare for a dangerous situation. However, during a panic attack, when there is no apparent danger or cause, the feelings of fear and panic are out of proportion and can start to escalate if the person can’t calm down or rationalise their thoughts with the situation. What makes panic attacks so overwhelming is when the symptoms start to fuel the episode as they can be very scary. Some people compare having a panic attack to having a heart attack because of how powerful the physical symptoms can be – and how frightening.

What are the signs of a panic attack?

Learning to recognise the signs of a panic attack will put you in a better position to help. If you can spot the early signs that a panic attack is building up, you can help de-escalate the situation before the more physical and frightening symptoms start to manifest. If you’re able to calm the person down and encourage them to focus on their breathing, the panic attack will be over much more quickly.

Someone having a panic attack may experience one or more of the following:

  • A racing heartbeat
  • Tightness in the chest and shortening of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Heat flashes or feeling very cold
  • Nausea
  • Numbness in the hands and sometimes face
  • Pain in the chest
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shaking and trembling

Many people experience different symptoms – some can be more severe than others. If you have experienced a panic attack yourself, your physical symptoms can be different to someone else’s.

What to do if someone is having a panic attack

The first thing you should do is make sure that you are both in a safe environment. Make sure that people aren’t crowding around and overwhelming the person experiencing the panic attack.

Stay calm

Your own behaviour will set the situation. Keep calm and controlled. It can help them to see you breathing deeply and they can mirror your breathing to help bring their own under control. Assure them that everything is okay.

Be present

Stay with them the entire time. If they do need space at any point, keep your distance but don’t leave. Make sure they know that you are there if they need you.

Show understanding and empathy

Validate their feelings and listen to them. If you show understanding and relate to their reaction, it’ll help them to rationalise their feelings and bring them under control.

Ask what they need

If they experience panic attacks often, they are more likely to know what will help them to ride it out. Ask how you can best help them. Do they need water? Do they need to go outside and get some fresh air? Keep talking to them and prompt actions rather than just give them assurances. If you can change the situation, it makes things more positive and realistic that they can get through the panic attack.

Encourage coping techniques

Talking them through breathing techniques will help bring the situation under control. Help them to breathe slowly and count for them if they are struggling to manage their breathing on their own. Sometimes, panic attacks can become very overwhelming and it’s hard to think straight. Helping them with counting their breaths gives them something to focus on and is the essential tool for managing anxiety and panic disorders. To start with, have them breathe out slowly for five seconds, then in again for five. Keep up the regulated breathing for at least five minutes.

What to avoid if someone is having a panic attack?

Sometimes while we have the best intentions, we can make things worse if we say the wrong things. It’s important that you understand what to avoid when someone is having a panic attack. While you may think that you’re helping, it could have the opposite effect.

Don’t tell them to ‘calm down’

Telling someone to ‘calm down’ when they become stressed is often the worst thing you can say because if only it was that simple. Avoid telling them to ‘stay calm’ or ‘don’t worry about it’. It is better to focus on how you can help them to calm themselves down.

Don’t try to solve the issue

Whatever the cause of the panic is, that’s not the pressing problem. Helping them through the panic attack is the priority then you can help them address what caused things to escalate in the first place. Reminding them of the trigger is only going to make them more stressed and more panicked.

Don’t make judgements or assumptions

If you don’t know what set off the panic attack, don’t make assumptions about the trigger. Judging their feelings and reactions will only make them feel much worse. You could end up making them feel less secure while they are vulnerable with you. Be matter-of-fact and compassionate.

Don’t overwhelm and ask questions that don’t help

When we have a panic attack, it’s almost like a mental bombardment. Don’t add to the stresses that are causing the panic attack to arise. Try to help them slow down the situation. Any questions you ask need to be for their benefit, not yours.

When to get help and who to contact
Panic attacks usually last around 15 – 20 minutes at their worst. If they aren’t calming down or you are worried about their heart rate, don’t hesitate to call out for help. Panic attacks have symptoms that are alarmingly similar to a heart attack. Call 111 for advice from the NHS if you need assistance.

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How Does Therapy Help Challenge Negative Thoughts?

How Does Therapy Help Challenge Negative Thoughts?

Learning to control your thoughts and reframe the negativity into a more positive outlook can improve your mental health. Negative thoughts are often automatic and we can’t do much to stop them from forming. What we can do is challenge them and stop them from persisting in our minds, occupying our thoughts while we try to go about our daily lives. Negative thoughts can cycle and begin to control the way we see everything around us. If left unchallenged, negative thoughts can become a real problem as they trigger physical responses, leading to conditions like anxiety and depression. To help regain control back from these negative thoughts, therapy helps to identify the thoughts and their patterns while giving help on how to challenge them.

Identifying unhelpful and negative thoughts

During a stressful situation, negative thoughts make matters a lot more difficult. A lot of the time, we can work through them and dismiss them as thoughts getting in the way of you dealing with the situation with a clear head. Part of therapy involves recognising when your feelings and reactions towards a situation stem from negative thoughts and learning to catch a negative thought before it spirals. It takes some practice and first, you need to know how negative thoughts are categorised so you recognise them.

  1. Catastrophizing
    This is when we try to prepare ourselves for the worst by assuming the worst case scenario is going to happen. For example, if you make a mistake at work, you may try to prepare yourself for the worst and think you’re going to get fired. While it’s a natural response for us to try and prepare, it’s not a helpful outlook when there’s no real evidence to support your thought.
  2. Black-and-white thinking
    Also known as ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking. This is where things are either absolutely marvellous or utterly terrible. If you make a mistake, you feel like a failure. There’s no middle ground which makes you set unrealistic expectations of yourself – and unfair self-judgments.
  3. Overgeneralization
    This pattern is where something bad happens and we then assume that it will keep happening. For example, if you fail a job interview, you believe that you’re not going to get a job. It’s unlikely that’ll be the case, but when negative events happen, we feel the need to prepare ourselves for rejection before it happens.
  4. Personalisation
    This is where you feel like everything is aimed at you and that you’re the source of the problem. An example would be if a friend or loved one is angry towards you or says something cutting, you immediately assume that you’re to blame. Instead, the case could be that something else got them in a bad mood and it’s not about you at all.

How to challenge negative thoughts

Thought challenging is a technique most often taught during Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as it’s an essential tool for people who have conditions where negative thoughts cause problems – such as anxiety and depression. However, finding ways to challenge negative thoughts is a part of most therapeutic approaches and there are some techniques that you can also practise yourself outside of therapy. Whilst it may not address the underlying reasons or be a substitute for talking with a therapist, training yourself in learning to catch negative thoughts, challenge them and then change them can potentially help towards feeling more positive.

Notice your thought

When negative thoughts appear, pay attention to them and categorise them. You can write it down to make it easier to identify them.

Analyse and question your thought

Once you’ve written down the thought, start to interrogate it. Ask yourself questions such as ‘do I have any evidence to support this?’ or ‘is this really true?’. Question whether or not there are any other outcomes than the one that you’ve thought for yourself. Also consider how likely your thoughts are. If you’re catastrophizing, for example, be realistic about your thoughts.

Adopt a different perspective

Put yourself in the shoes of a friend. If they had that thought, what would you say to them? Would you believe that their thought was realistic? Similarly, imagine what your friend would say to you if you told them that you feel a certain way. Would they agree with you? Are you right to feel the way that you do?

Reframing negative thoughts allows you to still deal with the situation and not dismiss it. Try to think of a way to resolve the negativity in a positive light. If you’re under a lot of stress at work and you feel like you’re not going to meet a deadline, instead of thinking that you’ve failed before you’ve started, break down the job into smaller steps. Remind yourself that you’ve worked to tight deadlines before and succeeded. Give yourself some credit and remind yourself of past achievements rather than dwell on past failures.

Record your thoughts in a diary

Keep track of your thoughts and how you challenge them. There are worksheets available with questions that you can use to break down your negative thoughts. A thought diary is a helpful resource to have on you because you will start to find that your negative thoughts form a pattern. Once you find that you managed to successfully challenge a previous thought, the process of catching your thoughts and changing them into a positive will go faster. With more and more practice, you’ll be able to train your brain into processing negative thoughts in a healthy and positive way.

Understanding the root of your thoughts

Where does therapy come in? While you can challenge negative thoughts yourself with CBT skills, having therapy will help you to further understand your negative thoughts. They don’t come from nowhere and more often than not, there is something unresolved that you need to address so you can have a much more positive opinion of yourself. Sometimes, challenging thoughts isn’t as easy to some people, especially if they are in a low place. Therapists can help you to work through your thought diary in instances where you struggled to challenge your thoughts. Keeping track of your feelings and thoughts will help you to better understand your mental health.

If you feel like you’re constantly spiralling down a hole of negativity and struggle to compartmentalise your thoughts, speaking to a therapist may help. If you would like to book an initial consultation you can do this online using our booking system or contact us using our form. We’ll do our best to help.

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What are the signs of depression?

When Does Stress Become a Problem?

Many of us will encounter some form of Depression during our lives, whether we go through it ourselves or it impacts someone close to us. We will all experience low moods as it’s a normal part of life, but when these negative feelings begin to impact our daily lives and exhibit as physical symptoms, it can be a sign of depression. Depression is a common mental health problem but It’s important to recognise that it can become a serious condition which, if left untreated, can interfere with our work, sleep, appetite and energy levels.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental condition which revolves around negative feelings which impact what you think, how you feel about yourself and others, and how you act. It’s commonly understood as a perpetual feeling of sadness and loss of interest in the things that you enjoyed about life. However depression is a lot more than feeling down and listless. You can start to feel physical effects that interrupt your daily life such as insomnia, loss of appetite, difficulties with concentrating and low energy and loss of motivation.

Statistics suggest that around 1 in 6 people have experienced depression at some point in their lives. While a common condition, not everyone is fully aware of the symptoms. Because of this, many people go undiagnosed, missing out on the treatment that they need to feel better. If ignored depression can develop into a more severe condition and at that point, it can be paralysing. If you and someone close to you is going through depression, reaching out for help is a crucial step towards getting control back of your life.

What are the common symptoms of depression?

Depression affects the mood and the body in different ways but most people experience the same common symptoms. If you are experiencing some of the following signs and have been for the past two weeks, there is a strong likelihood that you have depression.

  • Continuous feelings of sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and pessimistic
  • Irritability
  • Feeling guilt-ridden
  • Loss of motivation
  • Difficulty with decision making
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Difficulty with sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite – either a loss of appetite or overeating
  • Low sex drive and loss of libido
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhoea
  • Thoughts of death or suicide (ideation)

There are people with depression who live with the symptoms and can still manage to get through their daily lives still functioning. However, just because you can get up in the morning and go to work doesn’t mean that you should be leaving your depression untreated. Maybe you feel as if nothing will ever help or that you can’t get better? Part of depression includes feeling hopeless. The fact of the matter is that you can get help.

Depression & Anxiety

While different conditions, depression and anxiety can arise together as they both involve negative thoughts. Many of the changes to the mood are the same so sometimes the conditions can be mistaken for each other. Both can leave you feeling irrational irritability and hopelessness. Depression and anxiety can affect your sleep and your diet, leaving you with physical symptoms as well as emotional ones. The key difference is that depression leaves you with low energy and a lack of motivation. With anxiety, you’ll feel tense and jittery, often feeling on edge and fearful.

The risks of severe depression

Leaving depression untreated can cause a downward spiral as the feelings of hopelessness are left to continue. In more extreme cases there is a risk of encountering thoughts of death and suicide In these cases people can reach a point where they are unable to reach out for help themselves. They may feel trapped and without a way out and as a consequence start to have feelings of having no reason to live or thoughts of suicide.

How is depression treated?

Depression is often treated through medication and talking therapies. The action that we recommend is to first talk to a professional – whether that is your GP, a psychotherapist or a counsellor. Treatment depends on the severity of the depression. More severe conditions often benefit from a combination of antidepressant medication and therapy to address the symptoms and then treat the cause.

It’s important to know that you don’t need to wait for a diagnosis to get help. Your mental health is important with or without labels to identify what you’re feeling and thinking. Seeking out a therapist early on can offset the depression before it starts to interfere with your daily life. Learning important techniques to challenge the negative thoughts before they spiral will prevent them from taking over.

Getting help with depression

Taking the first step is the hardest and the most monumental towards recovery. It all starts with talking. Whether you reach out first to a friend or family member, acknowledging your mental health and understanding that there is something wrong gets you closer towards relief.

Based in Brighton? If you believe you have depression or need to talk to a therapist, you can arrange for an initial consultation Email us on to find out the next steps or book an initial appointment online here.

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Consulting Room, Psychotherapy and Counselling clinic in Hove

When Does Stress Become a Problem?

Interior of The Therapy Clinic in Hove

When Does Stress Become a Problem?

We have all been stressed. It’s impossible to not be during this day and age when we have so many things on our minds. Whether it’s work related or a problem at home, it’s difficult to escape when we’re in the moment. Not all stress is a bad thing. It’s a natural reaction to prepare us and gear us up so we’re in the best shape to tackle a problem. In small doses, stress is normal. Some people thrive under stressful conditions, perfectly able to function under pressure and then can unwind afterwards. However, there’s also the other side of stress. What if we can’t unwind? What if it doesn’t stop and we’re stuck in a stressful situation without any sign of relief? What if we’re coming home from work and we’re still stressed? That is when it becomes a problem and it interferes with your everyday life. Everyone deserves time off from stress.

What is stress?

Stress is a reaction to a problematic situation. In order for you to be in the best physical shape to cope in a potentially harmful situation, your heart rate increases, your muscles tense and your breathing quickens. This is all down to a chemical reaction in your body for when adrenaline enters your bloodstream in response to the stimulus that triggered your stress. Adrenaline causes a ‘fight-or-flight’ response, preparing you for danger. The issue with stress is that the reaction is often disproportionate to the problem. You’ll trigger the same physical reaction in your body that’s hard-wired in us all to get us out of threatening situations. So when you’re running late for a meeting or have an up-coming exam that you don’t feel prepared for, your body’s chemical reaction is the same as if you’re in danger.

What are the different types of stress?

There are two main branches of stress – acute and chronic. Acute stress is the form it takes when you need to have a burst of energy to deal with a current issue. It lasts only for a few hours, but it can become very overwhelming. Chronic stress stays with us if we’re living in a situation that is constantly firing off the triggers that make us feel threatened and under pressure. Both types of stress can affect our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

What are the symptoms of stress?

The moment stress starts to impact our health. It’s a signal that it’s time to look for ways to reduce stress levels so you can manage them. Stress tends to form a cycle where the symptoms themselves end up becoming a cause for stress in itself.

Emotional signs of stress

  • Agitation and short temper
  • Feeling overwhelmed as if you aren’t in control of the situation
  • Constant anxiety
  • Low mood and sadness
  • Fear of failure

Physical signs of stress

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Muscle tension and aches
  • Upset stomach including constipation, sickness and diarrhoea
  • Racing heart and palpitations
  • Frequent colds down to a reduced immune response
  • Dry mouth and thirst
  • Clenching jaw and grinding teeth (bruxism)

Psychological signs of stress

  • Lack of concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Memory issues
  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • Difficulty with sleeping (insomnia)

When is stress a problem?

The moment stress doesn’t go away naturally, it’s a problem. Your body can handle small bouts of stress, but not long-term. If not managed, stress can contribute to health problems. including mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Stress also has an impact on blood pressure and heart disease.

Identifying when stress is a problem is the easy part. The challenge is how to manage it and cope under situations which we find ourselves in. Everyday life doesn’t always give us the chance to make do on the fight-or-flight response. In these situations, stress can exhibit itself as anxiety, potentially even causing panic attacks. If we are able to tackle stress before it takes over, we’ll be able to reduce the symptoms and impacts on our mental and physical health. However, sometimes the cause for stress isn’t straight-forward and there can be many different triggers layered together. We might not be able to take ourselves out of the situation causing the stress, but we can better understand it and acknowledge what about the situation makes you feel a certain way. Once we know the root of the problem, we can start to address the cause and manage stress in a healthier way.

How to manage stress

Many different situations will cause us to feel stressed. Everyone feels stress for different reasons and you’ll not always feel the same level of stress towards the same situation as someone else might. The important thing is to recognise when our level of stress is causing a problem in our daily life Rather than worry about whether the stress we feel is justified.

Breathing techniques

Slowing down your breathing during a stressful time will lower your heart rate and reduce the physical symptoms of stress. If your heart is racing and the stress is building, take a moment to catch your breath. You should breathe from your diaphragm to ensure you make use of your full lung capacity so feel it go all the way down to your stomach when you breathe in. Take slow, measured breaths, counting 1 to 5, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you keep this up for five minutes, you’ll start to feel much calmer.

Set achievable goals

One of the main causes for stress is being confronted by a huge task that makes us feel completely overwhelmed. It can leave us feeling like it’s impossible to get done, that there’s no point in trying or that we have to work ourselves to the bone to get a deadline met. Rather than thinking of it as one huge undertaking, we can split it into smaller steps. Looking at a problem as a series of small tasks helps us to realistically set goals rather than stress out about an impossible one.

Be kind to yourself

Learning to care for yourself will help you to feel better about a situation. If you feel stressed give yourself breaks during the day. We don’t have to be busy every second of the day in order to get things done. Time out from the stress is necessary to look after your own health and wellbeing. If you blame or question yourself for the level of stress you feel it will almost certainly make it worse

Exercise regularly

Letting off some steam gives you that necessary catharsis. Exercise doesn’t just look after your physical health, but tops you up with endorphins that will improve your mood and outlook on things as a whole. You’ll also be able to take yourself out of the stressful situation for a moment and burn off the pent up energy that’s causing all the stress in the first place.

Talk to someone

You don’t have to struggle alone with stress even if that’s how it feels sometimes. If a situation is overwhelming you, then it can help to share the burden with someone. If you are struggling to manage stress You might want to consider seeking professional help Therapy can help you get through a stressful time in your life that you don’t feel able to manage yourself. Whether you’re going through a problem at work, relationship issues, money problems or legal matters, therapy can help you through the challenges you’re facing.

Speak with a therapist

If stress is becoming a problem and you’re based in Brighton, you can arrange for an appointment with one of our certified psychotherapists or counsellors. To get started on managing your stress, you can book for an initial consultation here, email us on or call on 01273 068175.

Interior of The Therapy Clinic in Hove

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Consulting Room, Psychotherapy and Counselling clinic in Hove

How Can Relationship Counselling Improve Communication?

Consulting Room, Psychotherapy and Counselling clinic in Hove

How Can Relationship Counselling Improve Communication?

Communication is key to any long-lasting, strong relationship. Yet it doesn’t always come naturally and it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes there can be issues getting in the way of communicating properly, either through a lack of confidence or belief that you’ll be heard. A past incident where poor communication led to a misunderstanding might result in giving up on trying, not believing that you can talk without dissolving into an argument. It can be disheartening when communication starts to break down which leads to a rift in the relationship. Arguments fail to get properly resolved when neither party is listening or being properly heard. It can feel like an ongoing struggle and frustrations can boil over to a breaking point. Couples therapy can help stop a relationship from reaching that crisis point through helping with better communication.

However, a relationship doesn’t have to be struggling to benefit from relationship counselling. Better communication skills can lead to a more rewarding relationship where both individuals form a better understanding of one enough, strengthening your bond. Happy, loving relationships blossom through respectful communication where both parties speak and listen.

Deal with communication challenges in a safe environment

Therapy gives you a chance to be open about your communication problems in a safe place where you can bring up sensitive topics without worrying about judgement. Sometimes, for us to communicate our feelings, we first need to understand them. Having a therapist to act as an impartial mediator and a sounding board helps you to analyse your own feelings. Once you find yourself in a safe place, you can start to pick up better tools for getting your feelings and thoughts heard within your relationship.

Teach you to be a better listener

Communication is a two-way street. During couples therapy, active listening exercises give you the chance to support your partner as a good listener. Many communication problems come about because couples aren’t giving each other the chance to speak. They interrupt each other as their need to be heard overrules the need to listen. Allowing your partner to speak and understand their point of view gives you the chance to think of your response while knowing their opinions and feelings first. You aren’t at risk of making your partner feel like you misunderstand or aren’t listening.

Be confident with expressing yourself

Self-confidence can cause problems with communication. If you don’t feel validated, you’ll be less likely to bring up how you feel to your partner. Maybe you are worried about how they will react? Or maybe you feel like it’s not a problem? Learning to understand that your feelings are just as valid as your partner’s will help you to open up and be vulnerable around them. This builds on trust as your partner has the chance to support you and listen to your worries.

Building on your communication skills in a therapy session reaffirms that it’s okay to talk about personal and challenging topics with your partner. As they then learn to listen and see your perspective, they will understand you better and be in a good place to help you when you need them the most.

Reading non-verbal cues

Communication doesn’t always use words. In couples therapy, you will also become more familiar with body language and cues that you may sometimes miss or misinterpret. You can also discuss how you interpret your partner’s body language and get their perspective on why they act that way. This builds on how well you understand each other and gives you both confidence to start a dialogue when you notice something off about the other’s behaviour.

Helps enforce positive language

Using positive framing in any conversation, with your partner or not, helps form a good discussion and avoids conflicts – even if you aren’t in agreement. If you take a moment to look at how to frame your point in a positive light, you aren’t going to be faced with a defensive partner who feels under attack. In couples therapy, you’ll learn how to use positive language when communicating with your partner.

Take accountability for your thoughts and feelings

One key communication skill is learning how to own how you feel. Arguments happen in a relationship, whether over something big or small. The way you take responsibility for your own feelings in the argument can make a difference and help you to reach a resolution sooner rather than playing the blame game. You can do this in therapy by learning to use ‘I’ rather than ‘you’ when you make your point. Your partner can then understand where you’re coming from, rather than feel like they need to defend themselves.

Understand your partner’s perspective

In a relationship, you don’t always have to agree on everything. Knowing where your partner is coming from always helps communication follow naturally. Even if you’re in a conversation where you don’t feel like they are going to see your point of view, respect that they have their own way of thinking – just as you do. Couples therapy helps you to better see things through their eyes. This helps rule out misunderstandings as you can take a moment to reflect on what they’re saying and think about how they’ve come to their conclusions. Rather than call them out on being wrong, you can understand their perspective and maybe even ask them if they thought about the problem a different way. If you then validate their feelings, they’ll appreciate that you’re listening and trying to understand, rather than simply flat out disagree.

Build on your communication skills by booking couples therapy

As every couple faces different challenges, the solution isn’t always the same for everyone. However, good communication is the starting point and it’s where relationship counselling focuses first. Learning to listen and understand while also communicating your own feelings will help you both to feel validated in your relationship.

If you are considering getting help with communication or any other aspect of your relationship you can get in touch with us by emailing We will then contact you to ask you to fill out a short information form before arranging an initial appointment for you with one of our couples therapists.

Consulting Room, Psychotherapy and Counselling clinic in Hove

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7 Benefits of Couples Therapy That Lead to A Better Relationship

7 Benefits of Couples Therapy That Lead to A Better Relationship

Arguments and disagreements in a relationship happen. You aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye on everything. Relationships can all benefit from having a safe space for both to just talk and get to understand each other better. While it’s normal to have arguments in a relationship, improving communication, understanding each other’s perspectives and coming to appreciate your own worth in the relationship all contribute towards finding resolutions faster.

Couples therapy benefits couples in all manner of situations. There doesn’t have to be a crisis point in a relationship to need the help of a counsellor. Below are some of the benefits that couples therapy can bring;

  1. Understand Each Other Better

    Part of couples counselling involves building on empathy in the relationship. Understanding your partner’s perspective and viewpoints helps you to rationalise their reactions to things you say and do. Their responses will make more sense and you’ll be in a better position to help. This helps resolve any misunderstandings which lead to friction in the relationship..

  2. Resolve Disputes With A Neutral Party

    Sometimes, you need a neutral mediator to get through a dispute that is really impacting your relationship. Friends and family can struggle to act impartially when it’s a personal matter that affects you both. Your counsellor is well placed to listen to both sides and help with a fresh perspective with what’s happening . Some disputes are much more serious than others and will take time to work out. Having someone neutral available to control the narrative away from cyclical arguments will get you closer to solving the conflict without fear of things escalating. As a result, you both understand each other’s sides of the conflict and develop further understanding.

  3. Improve Communication

    When you admit to friends and family that you’re having a disagreement with your partner, very often you get told to ‘just talk to them about it’. If only that was so simple. Communicating our feelings doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Couples therapy helps you to learn and feel comfortable with expressing how you feel.

    More than that, however, couples therapy also helps you learn how to listen. Communication is a two-way street. While you learn how to talk openly about your opinions and wishes, your partner learns how to listen. Conversation becomes more of an enjoyable practice for you both, leading to fewer disagreements as you can both communicate comfortably around each other.

  4. Restore Trust

    Trust is essential for any healthy relationship. Rebuilding trust takes time and a lot of commitment from both parties. Feelings such as rejection, abandonment, betrayal and guilt are hard to work through, but with enough patience, understanding and forgiveness, trust can be reestablished over time. Whatever the cause for the fracture or distress in the relationship , we can work together to heal wounds and help to build on feelings of mutual respect in a relationship. We encourage open communication to work through any future mistrust and fears, reinforcing transparency and a commitment towards the relationship.

  5. Good for Self-Awareness

    Couples therapy doesn’t just focus on the relationship. It also focuses on you and helps you understand your own needs and what you’d like out of the relationship. In therapy, you’ll have the freedom to explore your feelings and discuss them openly. What you come to learn about yourself may surprise even you and learning why you feel a certain way helps to validate why you become hurt in particular situations. Understanding your triggers and behaviours will also help your partner to understand.

  6. Deal With Roadblocks In The Relationship

    Couples therapy works through issues that you may struggle to work through on your own, or might be avoiding as they’re difficult to talk about. These roadblocks stop you from moving forwards or cause you to feel stuck or even cause you to consider giving up on the relationship entirely. These can be major life-changing decisions that neither of you can agree on or it could just be an impasse. Your counsellor can help unpick the situation and work with you on exploring the underlying emotions.

  7. Improve Intimacy

    Reigniting your passions for each other and rekindling your attraction can help reconnect a relationship that is drifting apart. Common for long-term relationships within a marriage, the spark can feel as if its dimmed. Couples therapy helps you both to talk openly about what you miss about each other. Intimacy doesn’t just mean the physical aspect of the relationship, but an emotional one. You can take comfort from each other through physical contact, but you can also reconnect by letting your partner in when you feel vulnerable. Feeling loved and appreciated goes a long way in a relationship.

Don’t let things fester between you and reach out to a couples counsellor

While many individuals are able to admit that they need therapy when struggling, couples are less likely to admit that their relationship needs the same help. Couples therapy is for relationships in any stage. If you’re both unhappy and unable to resolve the tension between you on your own, couples therapy is that safe space for you to work through your problems and come away as a stronger couple as a result.

Couples therapy isn’t just about resolving conflicts and moving past them. It’s about nurturing a bond that’s built on communication and understanding.

If you would like to arrange an initial appointment with one of our couples counsellors, email us at We will then be in touch with the next steps.

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How does couples therapy work?

How does Couples Therapy Work?

Society has progressed in leaps and bounds when it comes to embracing taking care of one’s mental health. The plethora of therapies and counselling available to people has become normalised as healthcare. Loving ourselves before loving anyone else is a common adage. So what if a couple needs help within their relationship and how they relate to each other?

Couples therapy can sometimes feel intimidating. Hopefully after this article, you will have some reassurance about your decision to incorporate couples therapy into your relationship and feel equipped with some knowledge of what to expect from it. We’ve asked Kate West, one of our therapists at The Therapy Clinic, some common questions about couples therapy.

What is the most common problem addressed in couples therapy?

You might be wondering if you’re experiencing the same issue or issues in your relationship as other people. Therefore, it might be helpful to know the common issues people go to couples therapy with. Here’s what Kate has observed:

“A feeling of disconnection – usually it’s an emotional disconnection that brings couples to therapy but this typically impacts a couple’s physical connection too. Conflict is probably the most common reason for the disconnection, feeling stuck in a pattern of blame. Or a sense

the other partner doesn’t notice them, is not accessible, responsive and engaged.

This creates a feeling of loneliness in a relationship and triggers our core fears around rejection and abandonment – we then move to often maladaptive ways of managing in turn creating further distress. Couples work really hard to resolve their struggles, but typically these ways of attempting to resolve can actually contribute to the problem, so couples go round and round in the same pattern.”

Disconnection often stems from misunderstanding each other. Did you know that people have different attachment styles and this can cause many of the communication problems in relationships? Check out our blog post on attachment theory and see if any of these resonate with you.

What anxieties do people have about approaching couples therapy?

It’s natural to feel nervous initially about taking this step in your relationship. Hopefully Kate’s answer makes you feel your anxieties are validated:

“Couples feel anxious coming into a space where they anticipate blame and judgement – no one wants to be labelled as the problem in the relationship. This is not what couples therapy is about and we work hard to move partners away from judgement and blame to look at what the emotions are underneath this.

“No one wants to be labelled as the problem in the relationship”

Couples therapy is usually the last port of call – typically couples wait an average of 6 years after identifying they need help to actually seek help, during which time the distress usually intensifies. So by the time they come into the space they feel like it’s all hanging in the balance. This is understandably anxiety inducing for couples who fear feeling they’ll need to make a decision as to the direction of the relationship. Again we steer couples away from this pressure and instead suggest just taking some time to make sense of how they’ve got to this place.

A contributing factor to the resistance in seeking help is a feeling of ‘we should be able to sort this out ourselves’ and/or ‘we don’t need someone else involved in our relationship’. All couples get stuck and it’s very hard to move out of these stuck places without some outside help.”

Feeling stuck in a cycle? Our services can help.

How should I approach the topic of couples therapy with my partner?

Couples therapy can help at any stage of a relationship, so rather than it feel like a communication of a distressed relationship/dissatisfaction/unhappiness/blame – i.e. ‘I’m really not happy with you, I think we need some help’, then approach it from a positive place of ‘couples therapy could help us feel more connected, I’d like to feel closer to you’, or ‘I think we’re a bit stuck, we keep playing out the same pattern of communication that’s not working for us, we should get some help with this’.

In this way, the partner is more likely to hear it as a reach for connection rather than an attack that can be experienced as a danger. It’s important to approach it from a place of both partner’s needing the help and support rather than one feeling like the problem. No one wants to come into a space where they feel they’ll be attacked, criticised or blamed.

It might also help to suggest it as ‘let’s just go for a meeting and see how we feel’. We appreciate that couples need to feel comfortable and that their therapist is a good fit. Plus that initial session will give you a much better idea of what the process will look like and you’ll be better able to decide how you’d like to proceed following that.”

“Approach it from a positive place of ‘couples therapy could help us feel more connected, I’d like to feel closer to you”

It’s not a weakness to need external help. Learn more about our couples therapy approach.

What can I expect from couples therapy at The Therapy Clinic?

Hopefully this blog post has helped you to feel prepared for couples therapy in general. Are you local to Brighton on Hove? Read on to learn what to expect from our therapy clinic:

“In the initial session we’ll work to get an understanding of what’s led you to seek help, how it feels for each partner in the relationship and what each partner would like from the process. We’ll also talk to you about how we work and what to expect as the work progresses.

From there, typically we’d work to all build an understanding of how you’re getting stuck in your communication and why, and help you to send clear coherent and direct communications around your emotions and your needs from your partner.

This builds trust, safety and intimacy. There is no one size fits all, though, so it really does depend on the individual couple. It might be that there’s been an injury to the relationship that’s completely eroded the feeling of trust, or a couple is struggling to agree on a specific aspect of their lives together, or they might be looking for help separating. You can expect that we’ll tailor our approach according to your relationship needs.”

Mobile phone image, Therapy Clinic Brighton,

To label or not to label? The impact of diagnosis

Mobile phone image, Therapy Clinic Brighton,

To label or not to label? The impact of diagnosis

In medicine, diagnosis is the process of identifying a condition based on a set of signs and symptoms. This is a key step in the treatment of the condition. This can be a double-edged sword in psychiatry. We’ll explore the pros and cons of obtaining a mental health diagnosis. 

What does it mean to have a mental health diagnosis?

An evaluation of mental health is meant to:

  • Identify anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, postnatal depression, eating disorders, and psychotic illnesses 
  • Distinguish between mental and physical health issues
  • Examine a person who has been referred due to difficulties at school, work, or at home

Having a mental health diagnosis means you have filled the criteria for a mental health condition as determined by your mental health team. 

Who can diagnose a mental illness?

The first port of call for a mental health related diagnosis is a GP. They may be able to diagnose you within a couple of appointments for common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. For other mental illnesses, it may require referral to a psychiatrist. 

Therapy clinics such as The Therapy Clinic Brighton can provide talking therapies and support you in your journey through diagnosis and treatment.

What are the pros and cons of a mental health diagnosis? 

Many people find that obtaining a diagnosis is an important step in their mental health journey. The reasons for this can include:

  • Having more of a vocabulary to communicate their struggles
  • Getting the right support at school or in the workplace
  • Understanding their mental health better and demystifying their symptoms 

Rose Gardner, founder and Clinical Director at The Therapy Clinic, says the following about diagnosis:

“For some people, a diagnosis can offer important validation and a clear way to describe their experience as well as a potential pathway to accessing help.”

If you feel that you could start to learn how to improve your mental health once you have clear terms for it, diagnosis might be a path for you. 

What are the drawbacks of a mental health diagnosis?

There are occasions when diagnosis is not necessarily helpful. According to Rose:

“For some people, a diagnosis can represent almost the opposite of validation – a feeling of  being put into a box on the basis of a list of symptoms rather than being seen as a whole person.”

Going to therapy should mean being treated as a whole person, rather than the sum of how many boxes one ticks. Therefore, a human-centred approach is required which supports and empowers the patient. 


Rose goes on to summarise TTC’s approach to diagnosis:

“At The Therapy Clinic, we recognise that people have very different views and experiences of diagnosis. It often comes down to how it feels to have a label. For some people, a diagnosis can offer important validation and a clear way to describe their experience as well as a potential pathway to accessing help. 

Our focus is on supporting individual clients to find their own way through the process.  Whether someone has an existing diagnosis, is contemplating the possibility of getting one or is struggling with the whole idea, the important thing is that we enable them to reach the best possible understanding of themselves and decide what is most helpful for them.”

It’s important to consider whether a diagnosis will be useful for you or hinder you. If a label would be useful for you to communicate your thoughts and feelings about your condition, pursuing a diagnosis may be a good idea. On the other hand, if you feel a label would be oppressive, it’s important to know that mental health is just one aspect of what makes you you. 

What is attachment theory?

Attachment theory is an important idea explored in connection to relationships. But what is attachment theory, and why is understanding it important for our relationships with others? 

What is attachment theory?

Attachment theory originated with John Bowlby in the 1960s. Together with Mary Ainsworth, he looked at infants reuniting with their mothers after being separated. From this, they were able to formulate 4 main attachment styles. These aim to examine how people’s attachment styles influence them to interact in their relationships.

What are the 4 theories of attachment?

Bowlby theorised that the 4 types of attachment are:

  • Secure
  • Anxious
  • Avoidant
  • Fearful-avoidant

Bowlby argued that humans are innately wired for connection. First and foremost, we are a social, relational and bonding species. He defined attachment as ‘a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings’. Attachment is concerned with emotion and the regulation of emotion.

Secure attachment

Ideally, with loving and attuned caregiving, we grow up to be securely attached. This means we’re able to attend to or stay engaged with distressing emotions without fear of losing control or being overwhelmed. We don’t need to alter, block or deny those emotions and so can use them to orient our world. Securely attached people recover faster from negative feelings and have more empathic responsiveness. Amongst other things, they have a reduced susceptibility to anxiety and depression.

Anxious attachment

If someone perceives others as inaccessible, unresponsive or even threatening, they may adopt secondary models and strategies. These can take the form of vigilant, hyper-activated, anxious ways of engaging with others. They can also take the form of avoidant, dismissing and deactivated strategies. Hyper-activated behaviour can include being pushy, demanding or angry. Deactivated behaviour can include numbing and withdrawal.

We all use fight or flight as a survival instinct. It can become a problem when it becomes habitual. This ends in constraining a person’s awareness and choices and limiting his or her ability to engage constructively with others.

Anxious attachment is characterised by sensitivity to any negative messages coming from significant figures. ‘Fight’ responses are designed to protest distance and get an attachment figure to provide attention and/or reassurance. Anxiously attached are generally preoccupied with others and their relationship. They can also be preoccupied with managing their own distress and they offer care that does not fit the needs of the other. They are desperate to feel loved and wanted. This can look clingy, possessive or paranoid when they fear attachment loss.

Avoidant attachment

Avoidant, deactivating strategies are flight responses. These are designed to minimise frustration and distress through distancing oneself from loved ones seen as hostile, dangerous or uncaring.

Attachment needs are then minimised and compulsive self reliance becomes the order of the day. Vulnerability in the self or perceived vulnerability in others then triggers distancing behaviours. Avoidant attachers take pride in their independence and see attachment as weakness. They tend to pull away when they need help most. They are not as attentive as their partners because they worry they will become too codependent, and this will take away their independence. They also can shut down emotionally during arguments or close themselves off from feelings.

Fearful-avoidant or ‘disorganised’ attachment

A third type of behaviour arises when a person has been traumatised by an attachment figure. He or she is then in a paradoxical situation in which loved ones are both the source of and the solution to fear. Under these circumstances this person often vacillates between longing and fear, demanding connection and then distancing and even attacking when connection is offered.

Why is attachment theory important?

It’s important to recognise that these adaptive strategies of flight, flight freeze in the face of attachment loss are protective strategies and therefore make complete sense. It’s not that a person is defective. It’s also important to recognise that around 50% of the population are insecurely attached, adopting either an anxious or avoidant strategy of managing their relationships.

Lastly, the most important part to understanding attachment theory is that it’s not set in stone. With some help, we can move towards secure attachment, or more transparent signalling of our distress. One which would invite a caregiving validating response to our vulnerability.

How do you move toward secure attachment?

Love was once impossible to define and was generally thought of as a strange mixture of sex and sentiment. We’re now able to apply the revolutionary science of attachment to understanding love and couple relationships. However, attachment style is not deterministic. Working models of attachment can change. Models of ‘self’ and ‘other’ can change. Using attachment theory, therapists see clients as stuck in self-limiting ways of perceiving and responding, rather than defective.

We understand that what keeps people stuck is not what happened in the past. It’s their way of dealing with it now that causes past messages and triggers to be confirmed all the time. The way we deal with it in the present is keeping the relevance, confirming and maintaining the centrality of traumatic experience.

Bowlby didn’t have enough time in his life to translate his work into a theory of intervention. But, he believed that if therapy can be successful, the change process can culminate in a more effective dependency. The client’s working model of self and other would be clarified. This makes it more coherent and adaptive. Then, their potential for positive relationships with others can be enhanced.

For a well-encapsulated visual of why attachment style matters and how understanding it can help us, have a look at this video.

Couples’ therapy is one of the many services we offer at The Therapy Clinic and we offer both short and long term models of therapy. To see how we can help you, please book a free initial consultation.

Placement Opportunities

Consulting Room, Psychotherapy and Counselling clinic in Hove

Work and Placement Opportunities at The Therapy Clinic Brighton

Be Part of the Team at The Therapy Clinic

Good news – we are offering placements to qualified and trainee therapists to come and work at the Therapy Clinic. Our placement opportunities are open to therapists at all
stages of their career from trainee level through to qualified, accredited and senior accredited

The Therapy Clinic Brighton are committed to providing high quality accessible therapy services and are looking for you to join our team of psychotherapists,
counsellors and psychologists.

We’re offering both trainee and post qualification placements for psychotherapists, counsellors and counselling psychologists.

If you would like to be considered for a placement read the attached document The Therapy Clinic_ Placements and apply no later than 30 November 2020.

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Sofa at The therapy Clinic, Therapy Brighton, Therapy Hove

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