Abuse -the soft signs

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Abuse – what is it and how do we deal with it?

Anyone who has been watching the news this week may have heard the term “Coercive Control”

Coercive Control falls under new legislation which makes it illegal for your partner to abuse you using softer tactics than physical abuse.

The new behaviours which are covered by the law are…

When your partner

  1. Shares indecent images of you
  2. Restricts or denies your access to money
  3. Stops you seeing family and friends
  4. Scares you
  5. Threatens to reveal private things about you
  6. Places tracking devices on your phone
  7. Puts you down
  8. Acts with extreme jealousy
  9. Forces you to obey their rules
  10. Controls what you wear
  11. Makes you do things you don’t want to do

On their own and even if we think of just a few of these things, we may dismiss them as nothing to worry about or we may make excuses for our partner saying that they have issues which means they are a bit controlling but it’s fine we can handle it.

The thing to remember about this type of behaviour is that it is the same as bullying. All bullies need a victim and once they have found the victim, they steadily increase their control over them. The relationship falls into a pattern and before we know it, things have gone too far.

Figures show that 9 out of 10 women who were murdered last year were murdered by someone they knew. A shocking 85% of women were killed in their own homes.

Of course, domestic abuse does not only affect women in heterosexual relationships, it affects men and women in any type of relationship and can devastate lives.

In my job as a counsellor working with young adults, I often come across behaviours which fall into the above categories. I feel it is important to look at how people arrive in these relationships.

It’s easy and nice to have someone care so much about you that they want to do things for you, they may even defend sharing images of you on social media by saying you are beautiful or hunky and they want everyone to see that. But this is not OK!

I am not an expert in this field so if you are reading this and you are in the least bit worried about yourself or someone you know, PLEASE visit the Domestic Abuse Hotline for help and information for victims or for friends and families of victims.

PARENTS – Don’t think this only happens to adults!!!! Please talk to your young adults and help them to understand the definitions of abuse as early as possible so that they can recognise these behaviours sooner. Check out this powerful video…


Also, if you are putting up with an abusive relationship because of your children, you are putting yourself and them in danger.

There is help out there, it only needs to be a click away

If you like what you see here, please hit the “follow” button, leave me a comment below or contact me directly.

You can also see what I’m up to on Twitter and Facebook

If you liked this article, here are some more you might be interested in…

Where have all the Spice Girls Gone?

Divorce – what to tell the kids



Gee – A Real life story

I feel blessed to be able to do a job I love and to have met and continue to meet the super heroes that share part of their journey with me. The icing on the cake for me is that a few of these amazing individuals have agreed to share their stories with me.

I’ll be chronicling their stories in short bursts but will also make their full stories available on this site to devour and enjoy.

I hope that these stories will help teenagers who are in crisis but also educators and parents who want a chance to delve into the lives of young adults.

I am in a unique position to see a person as they really are. No pretence, no fear of disappointment, “no holds barred”.

I’ll also be following up the stories with information and help and advice for those who may be able to identify with some of the stories.

A quick disclaimer here… the following stories have been written with the knowledge and permission of the young people concerned. Names and some details have been changed to protect their identities and to maintain confidentiality for them and their families.

For my first Story, I’d like you to meet Gee.

What can I say about Gee… She’s smart, funny, awfully hard on herself, crazy, creative, strong, independent. She literally crawled and clawed her way through school and is now studying at University! Gee wanted me to tell her story as an inspiration to others and also as therapy for herself. She’s excited to see herself through the eyes of another.

Without further ado, please meet Gee.

Gee’s Story


Gee first “stropped” into my life around 4 years ago when she was on the verge of exclusion for her behaviour. A miserable Year 10, teachers and support staff had tried everything to get Gee to engage. I noticed very quickly that a lot of the staff liked Gee and wanted her to succeed. After a couple of meetings with her, I understood why.

Gee had a quiet determination about her. She was stubborn, barely spoke, constantly ducked out of lessons and didn’t seem to care what happened to her. Looking into her conker-brown eyes which were framed by endless black lashes, I saw a deep soul. It would be 3 years before I really knew more about Gee’s problems or before I would come to know the real “her”. I’m not sure, even now, if I or anyone else has, or will ever really know her.

Of course, this immediately became interesting to me and I wanted to help her reach her full potential.

Our first few sessions were quiet. Gee spoke exceedingly quietly and would cover her mouth making it even more difficult for me to hear her.

“No one understands” would become a stock phrase of Gee’s.

“Help me to understand” would become a stock phrase of mine.

We plodded through the last few weeks of year 10, I tried all the tricks in my toolkit to help Gee to open up, but I never gave up on her, and she never gave up on me. I was always honest with her and as time went on, I felt a maternal affection for her which I sensed was lacking in her life.

Gee’s relationship with her mother was strained. She had never known or met her father who was abusive towards her mother. Gee had two older brothers who had grown up and left the family home and two younger brothers who were the product of her mother’s relationship with Gee’s Step Father. The relationship had broken down and Gee’s Step Father took on a flat nearby, so he could still see his kids. To Gee’s disbelief, this included her.

Finally, things came to a head with Gee and her mother. Her mother threw her out of the home following a bitter row. Gee had nowhere to go and her Step father took her in. Gee’s mother would not speak to or have any interaction with her 15 year old daughter. The only person she had in the World was her Step father.

As Year 10 came to a close, I had little hope for Gee making it through Year 11. We agreed we would work together when she returned to school in September. That was when our journey really began.

If you feel that you can identify with Gee’s story so far, check out my tips for anxiety  and a look at what causes anxiety. Also what to look for when teenagers are unhappy.

Look out for my blog covering hints and tips for parents who are separating, coming soon.

Alternatively, check out some articles of interest here

Attachment “disorder”

Personalities and how they affect us


Please follow me on Facebook or Twitter or for more information, please contact me

Attachment-Do we really have a generation of Velcro kids?

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When I first came across “Attachment” I was very early on in my counselling studies and I found the concept very simple. I studied the work of John Bowlby and Harry Harlow. Bowlby theorised that attachment “issues” such as withdrawal and inability to interact, arose in children whose relationships with their primary care-giver; usually their mother had been either non-existent or damaged in some way. Psychologists later went on to theorise types of attachment and to argue about whether attachment behaviours and reactions in children are learned or inherent from birth.

Later, Harry Harlow thought it would be a good idea to deprive baby monkeys of their mothers by separating them at birth for the first few months of their lives and then monitoring their behaviour when they were re-integrated with other monkeys. The experiment had horrific effects. The baby monkeys indulged in disruptive behaviour, such as screaming and holding themselves rocking back and forth. They were bullied by the other monkeys and they also displayed self-harming behaviour. Further experiments found that when baby monkeys were provided with two “surrogate” mothers, one was a food source and the other, a doll wrapped in cloth; the monkeys developed an attachment to the doll and would cuddle it when strangers appeared, or they were scared in some way. They only visited the food source when hungry and returned to the doll for the rest of the time. I find the whole thing particularly distressing!

So, we now know how “attachment theory” works in principle. I hear the word a lot in my work and it seems to be one of those words that can be overused. It also seems to be portrayed as a bad thing.

Is Attachment “Disorder” a Disorder?

Attachment behaviours displayed in babies include clinging and returning to the person or people (or doll) they have decided is their primary caregiver. The caregiver does not necessarily have to return the favour (like the monkeys and their fake “mother”). Babies are drawn to those who will protect them and help them thrive, its basic human instinct.

Like any human instinct which is designed to protect us, we get pretty good at it.

Fast-forward 11 years and we have a teenager. Perhaps they don’t feel supported at home as their relationships with parents are changing. Perhaps their parents are absent, either physically or emotionally or perhaps they are cruel and uncaring. Teachers have the unenviable task of teaching 30 plus students and are not able to act as caregiver.

I was never that good at maths but to me…

1 teenager – care = trouble (think deprived monkeys here)

Bring on the school counsellor, student support specialist, caring teacher or adult. Our job is to listen, to not judge and to take these young adults at their word, giving them unconditional positive regard.

This helps

They become attached

To us…

Is it wrong? Or are they perfectly performing human beings?

I often experience this in my work and early on I was very scared that a young adult would become “attached” to me. I now feel differently.

Of course, they will become attached!

One of the roles of the caregiver is to support the child and to eventually guide them on their own path.

That’s counselling isn’t it?

I need your help, you need my help?

The “write” words at the right time!

Over the years, I’ve started blog sites and closed them down again, fearing that no one was interested. On a recent trip, I had the huge privilege of meeting someone who made a couple of comments that totally changed my thinking.

You see, I had been aiming at the wrong audience. I was trying to bring my World into the World of others who just didn’t really care much. Friends and family would humour me with the odd “share” or “like” but beyond that, I felt that my words were evaporating into the great blog graveyard.

I had been speaking to this wise person about my writing and was telling him about some stories that I had written based on my experiences of working with young adults. I was proud of the book, but didn’t know who would be interested in reading it.

“Who’s your audience?” he asked innocently. Well not entirely innocently, you see he is a graphic designer of books and works with editors and publishers all the time!

I couldn’t really answer his question except to say that I wanted people to know about the amazing resilience of young people today in the face of adversity.

“You need an audience!” He said. “It’s no use putting your work out there if it’s not relevant”.

After a “coaching session” we determined that actually, I wanted to share my knowledge on more platforms and, well, this is a start.

I’m going to try and write about some of the experiences I have and also how I work with young adults. I’m looking for your help and I want to work interactively with you so please tell me what you want to learn about or share what you already know!

To letting the info flow!

Please comment here or contact me and if you like what you see, please feel free to share the love with others.


Anxiety – Some practical tips

pexels-photo-313690.jpegFollowing on from my previous posts regarding anxiety, what it is; and also the effective use of mindfulness, I’ve culminated the two into some helpful hints and tips. These can be adapted for most situations.

pexels-photo-690598.jpegStress, anxiety, anger, etc. are all caused by chemical reactions which are triggered by thoughts. The thoughts encourage our body to react in a certain way which should help us out. This highly developed and efficient reaction ensures that faced with clear and present danger, such as imminent attack from a crocodile, snake, bear, Ninja warrior, etc. we are able to fight it…or run like hell! Commonly known as fight or flight!

Now, when we had to chase, catch, kill and drag our own food back to base, this was a really useful reaction. It even helped us when the Vikings invaded or a German rifle was pointed in our face. It continues to help those faced with life threatening situations every day, which is why we need to keep this reaction going.

So, now we’ve established that we’re all brilliant and our bodies are the very living example of perfection, we can start to think about exactly when we need the fight or flight reaction. And when we don’t.

Think about your situation…

Do we need to fight it?

Do we need to run like hell from it?

If you’ve answered “yes” to either of the above questions, keep reading the first part of this blog until you say “no”

So, we don’t need to exercise this amazing brain / body reaction in normal everyday life do we?

Let’s try something new. Here are some tips for helping you through your stress…

Try to keep a mood diary for one week so that you can begin to notice times when you are feeling stressed, there are also free apps you can use. Use smiley faces to track your mood at certain times of the day. Make a note of what was happening and why you felt the way you did. At the end of the week, review the diary.

Once you have begun to notice your anxiety and understand when it occurs, you need to make friends with it. Have a little chat. Your anxiety is your inner Ninja. It protects you and keeps you alive. This is brilliant. But your inner Ninja is a little over worked. He or she is starting to think that they have to be with you all the time. Please tell your inner Ninja that they don’t. They have to rest so that they can be ready when Viking attack strikes. Say to your Ninja…

You are my Ninja and I’m really happy because my body is working perfectly but you need to rest so that I can concentrate on what I need to do and you can be ready for when you are needed. I’m going to do some breathing exercises which will help us both to calm down”

Practice some simple mindfulness techniques – mindfulness is the practice of focusing your mind on one thing in the present with no thought for future or past. The great thing about mindfulness is that recent studies have shown it to be as, if not more, effective than drugs and some other therapies in treating depression and anxiety. But that’s not all. Those really clever scientists have even shown that by practising mindfulness, us amazing humans can CHANGE the makeup of our brains! 

elephant-africa-okavango-delta-animal-86413.jpegElephants Can Help!!

Sit comfortably on a chair with your feet on the floor, close your eyes. Concentrate on your breath and breathe in through your nose for a slow count of 3…one, elephant, two, elephant, three elephant

Hold your breath for a slow count of 3

Breath out for a slow count of 3

Do this 3 times

As you breathe in, visualise clean fresh energy entering your body, filling up your lungs with healthy air. As you breathe out, visualise the anxious, worried, dirty air leaving your body.

If your mind wonders whilst you are breathing, say hello to the thought and bring your awareness back to your breathing. Notice how the breath continues in and out, try and feel in your body where your breath goes and take notice.

soap-bubble-colorful-ball-soapy-water.jpgOnce you have done this, if you still have worrying thoughts in your head, imagine them as bubbles in front of you. Each bubble has a thought in it. Look at the bubble, imagine the thought as a word inside the bubble and then imagine it continuing its journey up into the air.

Another helpful mindfulness technique is to choose an object, a pen or phone anything nearby. Study the object with curiosity. Look at its shape, how does it feel to hold? How does the object feel against your skin?

You can practice these techniques every time you feel anxious or worried, it may take a little time but it will help.

There’s no need to let worry and anxiety get in the way of your life and what you need to achieve. Take charge today! Give your Ninja a rest and free your mind!



Mindfulness – What is it?


One of my best friends (I only have two, I’m an INFJ personality type remember!) asked me recently to do a turn at one of her charity events which she has based around wellbeing to raise money for her village hall and surrounding playing fields.

“Can you do some of your Mindfulness stuff and guide visitors through a meditation? Oh and by the way, just tell them what mindfulness actually is!”

It occurred to me that, although this word gets a lot of attention, people don’t really understand what it is. So here you go…a little bit of info.

The mindfulness movement has gained popularity in the last couple of years as a popular self help tool and one which can be of use to many people, especially young adults who’s brains are like little sponges and are quicker to adapt.

That doesn’t mean us over 16’s shouldn’t bother though, it just might take us a bit longer to get into it, but believe me, it’s well worth the effort.

Mindfulness has roots in some ancient Eastern meditation traditions – don’t worry! it doesn’t require us to train for years in a monastery and take a vow of silence. Mindfulness is indeed easily adapted into modern living, hence it’s popularity.

So, what is it? I found this the easiest definition courtesy of Gina Beigel, MA, LMFT who designed and developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Teens program which I have studied and use often in my role as a school counsellor.

“Mindfulness is noticing your thoughts feelings and physical sensations in the present moment”

So, basically it’s about taking a moment to just, well, be in the moment. Often mindfulness practice for beginners can include mindful eating or mindfully taking a shower. this would include using all 5 of your senses to undertake these tasks. These practices work well because they take everyday occurrences that we tend to move through on autopilot and encourage us to experience them as a whole.

So why bother? I already know how to eat and how to shower!


This is the bit that fascinates me (I know! I’m a geek!). Recent research featured on the BeMindful website tells us that mindfulness practice has shown itself to be as effective if not more so than standard treatments such as anti-depressants. Great news for our amazing grey matter which once again seems to outdo even the cleverest medical innovations! And its free! And there are no side effects!

Actually, there are side effects which include, better ability to sleep, increased sense of well being, reduction in stress or anxiety levels.

It seems that slowing down our thinking and concentrating on a a visual cue, a sound or our breathing; is a bit like when we exercise our muscles at the gym and the more we do it, the fitter we get. Now that sounds like my kind of exercise!

So why not give it a try, next time you are having a shower, try this…

  1. What can you see?
  2. What can you hear?
  3. What can you smell?
  4. What can you taste?
  5. What can you touch?

Try it with other everyday activities like walking the dog or eating your lunch. See it as special time with your most important companion…your Brain!


Why do I feel this way? Anxiety explained

pexels-photo-568027.jpegI am often asked by the young adults that I work with “why do I feel this way?” when I ask them to explain, they often can’t. They may report feeling angry, sad, lonely or just not themselves.

Further investigation will usually throw up an event or events either in their recent history or from longer ago that they have found traumatic. Alternatively, it may just be that they are more sensitive to life events such as managing friendships or exam pressure.

Imagine you are a mobile phone (not so hard for many young adults today) You may be viewing the home screen and using WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat etc. and that all works perfectly well. BUT… there are hidden apps running in the background. You can’t see them but they’re there and they drain the battery. Eventually, the phone will start to play up and we don’t know why.

Stress and Anxiety are reactions to these original events and how we learned to deal with them. When the brain thinks that it is under attack, it will start to react to keep itself and the body safe. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment.

The events that originally caused the worry, sadness or anger have been and gone. Unfortunately, their effects can last a lifetime if they are not dealt with. I tend to use this visualisation to help…

So, back to the mobile phone. Traumatic events are like taking a screenshot. They are then saved to the camera role where they are stored. When the camera (or in this case your brain) is confronted with something similar, it remembers the screenshot because it is embedded in its memory. This is when the anxiety reaction is likely to begin.

Sufferers will report one, some or all of the following symptoms. Dizziness, thumping headache, tenseness in the muscles, difficulty breathing or increased breathing / heart rate, butterflies in the tummy, pins and needles. There are many other reactions but these tend to be the most reported.

It’s important to remember that having an anxiety reaction WILL NOT KILL YOU! At it’s worst (a panic attack) the sufferer will either slowly return to normal or, in rare cases, will faint allowing the body to return to normal.

So, if this sounds like you…you’re normal! you’re brilliant! and your body works!

It sounds like a cliche but breathing really does help. Often, once people become aware of what is going on in their body, they can find it extremely helpful. I will cover more strategies in later blogs but for now.

  1. Learn how to breath. In for 3, hold for 3, out for 3 a few times.
  2. Ask a friend for help, tell them not to panic but to count with you through the breathing
  3. Tell yourself you’re ok! you work properly


Counselling and Coaching

As well as my role working with teenagers in schools, I also work privately. I have a few clients who have continued their journey with me after they leave school but mostly, I’m proud to say that I work on recommendation.

I provide a bespoke service which is dependant on the need of the young adult in question. Sometimes, one visit is enough to talk through a problem but more often than not, anxiety or low mood can be hiding a deeper hang up which needs to be addressed.

I pride myself on being able to work intuitively with my clients and I feel that I offer the service they need. This may be a little coaching and some strategies to overcome exam stress, or it may be longer term work which can also be done with consecutive sessions or with a session when needed.

Another service that I offer is to work in the young adult’s home (dependant on location) where many feel more at ease and more willing to talk.

In addition, I offer Skype sessions (I don’t love Skype as I feel the sticking and buffering can get in the way!) or emails.

My Counselling and Coaching work is entirely confidential except for times when I feel a young adult might be in danger in which case I talk to the young adult to help them understand and we may refer them to a parent or other medical professional.


One to one counselling / coaching session in the home within 5 mile radius of Lichfield, Staffordshire or via Skype

£40.00 per hour

Email response per query (one Email reply including advice and signposting)


I accept cash, Paypal or direct bank transfer.


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