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which type of help?

(6 Posts)
Chrysanthemum5 Tue 24-May-16 22:33:34

Hi all
My life has got to the point where I need counselling and I'm not sure what type, or actually if counselling is right or something else?

Short story is that I grew up in an abusive household then married an abusive man. I'm now in a happy, respectful second marriage with two brilliant DCs. But, but , but I can't stop my anxiety and I know it's having a negative impact upon my family. I've had sessions with a CBT therapist but she didn't give me any tangible things to do so I stopped. How can i move on?

Long story - my father was abusive in every way. I had lots of siblings and mum worked six days a week to feed us. Mum was the cleverest child in her school but her parents wouldn't send her to university because she was a girl - which destroyed her. She constantly pressurised us to get to university.

Mum became ill when I was a teenager and spent the next two years in hospital. I took over running the house with my younger sibling. Mum died when I was 17 and my Dad moved his girlfriend in. I put up with it for a bit but a week after my 19th birthday I left (because of the violence) with my sibling and as much as I could carry and we never went back. I was at university by then and felt very out of place - no one else was poor like me, and it felt like they all had a 'real' family

It was tough but I don't regret it, and my older siblings helped so we were not alone.

The violence/abuse physically damaged my memory centre so I actually don't remember much which I think helps me cope.

I thought I had moved on but I married a very controlling man who ruled my life. After a miscarriage I found the strength to leave.

My second husband is very supportive and my life is completely different to how it used to be. My DCs have a completely different life to my childhood - I hope. They are 11 and 8.

I know my childhood was toxic and it was a constant battle between doing well at school (or my father would beat us) and not standing out (so never trying anything unless you would succeed). It was exhausting. And I feel life dealt me a rubbish hand but I did the best that was possible.

I don't want my DCs to feel the same, but my self esteem is so tied up in success that I know I make them feel bad sometimes. I want counselling to help me not pass on my damage to them

People tell me I will need to thoroughly explore my past but I just can't face it. I know my life was awful I don't want to face it again. Plus my memory damage means that it honestly is largely a blank for me - I remember the fear,but not why I was scared. Also people looking at me would never know, outwardly I have a very successful life. People tell me I'm so confident.

So, my question is - Can I realistically help this with CBT? Or do I need to explore my childhood thoroughly? I'm willing to do what it takes to ensure my children are ok, but if im honest I feel like crying at the thought of talking over my past. I know there are memories there that I don't want.

I'm fortunate that I can afford private support - but what is best?

Sorry it's so long - actually it helps just writing it out.

gingerboy1912 Tue 24-May-16 22:51:25

I found going right back to basics and talking about it helped in the long run . At the time it was hard really hard I felt exhausted vulnerable and angry all over again but my counsellor was brilliant. I had 18 sessions of one to one counselling , one on one Cbt, and group counselling over an 18 month period. Hth

Abb27 Wed 25-May-16 02:09:30

CBT will be focused very much on the here and now. They are unlikely to delve into your past too much. This might not apply to you, but as an example, you might discuss with your therapist that you have high standards and don't like to fail, and you might come to a mutual agreement that you have issues with perfectionism (just talking from personal experience). It's likely that he/she might ask you why you believe certain things, at which point you might say it was how you were brought up, but really that will be the most they would discuss that aspect. They would concentrate on specific beliefs you have I.e. 'I must succeed' or 'I can't fail', and they would help you to find ways of breaking down these beliefs, maybe through discussion, or they will set you material to read and tasks to work through. So, you would focus on specific beliefs that you have which might be detrimental, rather than concentrating on the source of the beliefs.

If you feel that approach is enough, then theoretically, CBT is enough for you. I wouldn't be put off CBT entirely from your previous experience, therapists can all operate quite differently and draw on different techniques to treat their patients.

Having said that, if you feel that you need to explore the root cause of some of the problems you are facing then it would be quite difficult for you to do that without exploring some of the past. Traumatic experiences can sometimes result in unretrievable memories and often people can work with a therapist to attempt to uncover them. This can be distressing but it can help to overcome some personal problems and find meaning with time. Some people aren't able to fully recall experiences, even after therapy, and some resort to more dubious approaches (e.g. Hypnotherapy).

I truly feel for you, it's such a dilemma. I hope you manage to find a solution that works for you. Maybe try CBT initially if that would make you feel more comfortable - you could even mention from the outset that you had some negative experiences throughout childhood which you feel have contributed to your anxiety etc. but you would feel more comfortable concentrating on the beliefs and their consequences, rather than the source. I think they will be fine with that as it fits with the general approach to CBT. If it works, then great. If you feel you might need to delve a little bit deeper, and you feel ready, then fine, if not, also fine.

If you go with a counsellor, I would chose one with specific qualifications relating to Psychology. Theoretically, counsellors don't need any formal qualifications and they often go off life experience.

I personally think that your best option would be to work with a clinical psychologist. All clinical psychologists have studied Psychology to PhD level and they are trained in lots of approaches and will
usually also offer counselling. A good compromise might be to find an experienced Clinical Psychologist who is trained in a number of approaches (including CBT). Set out what you are/are not comfortable with and start off with CBT. As time progresses, and you've established a good relationship, you can ask their opinion with where to go from there later on.

Tomaytoes Wed 25-May-16 03:51:28

Have a look at it's an alternative to CBT.

gingerboy1912 Wed 25-May-16 08:31:16

Abb is right I had Cbt after all the counselling.

Chrysanthemum5 Wed 25-May-16 09:11:15

Thank you all so much. I think you are saying what I think - that the CBT is really only scratching the surface so while it helps for a bit the underlying problem never goes away. If I'm honest I feel exhausted by the prospect of going over my childhood, and scared of what is there. Maybe the approach Abby suggests of finding someone who can do a variety of approaches, and discussing which one. I'm not great with boundaries so I'd need to try to be clear about what I'm comfortable with.

However, I feel buoyed by the knowledge that you've shared with me - that I'm not the only one who has needed support. Thanks for your comments.

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