Siglind Willms & Anne Denniss
written by Anne Denniss
Siglind Willms and I gave a workshop on Co-Counselling and Depression in May at McCoCo 2000. We would like to share the content of that workshop with you here.
Siglind Willms is a Therapist and Co-Counsellor and has run a Therapy Centre in Münster (Germany) for 25 years. She has been treating people with depression and encouraging them to take up Co-Counselling. I have been working with this topic for 20 years and after meeting Siglind started to run workshops and groups based on our joint theories. Our workshop at McCoCo was our first chance to work together.
In recent years I came to the conclusion that Co-Counselling as it was had supported me with many things, but it had not helped me to overcome depression. Siglind and I present here an approach that we believe can help many Co-Counsellors to overcome their depressive mood.
Depression may come from the following sources
We believe that people with a depressive tendency can do Fundamentals at a time when they are healthy, after they have been brought into balance by therapy or medication. They can learn Co-Counselling in the normal group with the guidance that if you have this tendency you slant your Co-Counselling in a certain way, as explained here. A maintenance dose of medication is sometimes necessary and that is fine as long as the person can listen and give attention to others.
The elements of a Stay Well programme we suggest are:
1. Physical Exercise
Take more exercise every day
Use small Co-Counselling sessions to find out how you wish to do that
2. Use Celebration a lot
By celebration we mean that you focus your attention on and express positive and joyful qualities of yourself, others and life.
(Spoken, written or sung Celebrations, New and Goods, What I enjoyed ).
If your mood lowers, use celebration more
3&4 Short sessions 15 20/25 minutes and light catharsis
Why work in this way?
My experience when tired or very low or upset (and role play is not available ) is that celebration and rational thinking, or moving about and switching attention can often be more beneficial than catharsis to raise and stabilise my mood. Sometimes going to see a good film may nurture a person with low mood more than digging into the past.
5 Role Play
The only time that we recommend strong discharge is in role-play where there is a time-limit on it.
It can be noted that discharging on literal description alone to set the scene may not bring relief. Taking those details into role-play and using our aggression constructively within the situation, to the persons involved, can shift us from victim to a more healthy, assertive place.
It is important however ill and depressed you are or low in energy, to do this. Energy will rise rapidly even when the client feels they have no strength to do this exercise
In this Siglind recommends the expression and use of your Aggressive energy.
Work in a group of between 3 and 5 people each having about 20 minutes.
1. Literal Description
2. Client chooses counsellors as role players
3a. Use of triggering sentence: You shouldnt have
When ready move on to
3b. Use of triggering sentence if necessary: You shouldnt
When ready move on to
3c. Use of triggering sentence if necessary: You shouldnt
4. Finish the session in the normal way:
Working with the literal description session first and then moving onto role play with the set prompts, makes this exercise extremely powerful.
I find that Role play can be backed up by using life action to support the work of the session
6. Rational /Cognitive work
6a. Life Action
6b. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
The part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that I find useful is the search for thinking errors in my thinking and breaking these errors down to a rational level.
Try putting your tongue out, imagine a lemon squeezed onto it.
I learned to analyse my thoughts with Cognitive Behavioural therapy and
detect the 'Thinking Errors' in them.
By restructuring these thoughts and 'thinking errors' positively I find I am far more cheerful and healthy in my outlook.
Here is an example
The thinking errors present in this statement are:
Emotional reasoning works like this: I feel bad in my body therefore
something is wrong
The point of this exercise being to shift attention from negative
tunnel vision to a greater variety of scenarios.
A PAT or "Positive Automatic Thought" may be adopted.
I believe that the practice of CBT on an ongoing daily basis can support and complement Co- counselling in areas which are not normally reached in some people: the areas of heavily entrenched, negative basic beliefs
CBT is offered in Britain on the National Health Service for depression and other mental health disorders.
JanPieter Hoogma and I have created a structured course that is run in Edinburgh to teach people techniques to identify, breakdown and change their negative Thinking Errors. This course is called Interrupt your Negative Thinking
7. Support and Fun outside Fundamentals
for those who experience low mood as an ongoing challenge
A peer based support group can be run.
This is how the Edinburgh group ran:
Being part of a group and being totally accepted in this area of low mood, at whatever level it is experienced, seems to help people in a structured and supported way to be creative and playful.
Life actions are taken on this making it possible to take the discoveries into everyday life and on the kinds of things that got us down like mess in the house, procrastination .
People come into the group when they are fit enough to learn the techniques to Stay Well, if they dip too low to be afloat in the group the agreement is to get one way support until they are well enough to join again.
A group like this runs well alongside the co-counsellors other Co-Counselling activities, rather like 12 step groups at CCIs.
Enjoy staying Well
Siglind and Anne