What are the signs of mental wellbeing?
Being resilient, having the ability to take knocks and bounce back. Forming and keeping healthy relationships, knowing who our friends are and understanding our requirements and our boundaries. Having self-worth, valuing ourselves and having the self-confidence to make plans and set our own targets. Understanding the value of self-care and applying this to ourselves.
“We all need some time in the sun” said Rob from Southampton Voluntary Services at the Friday Forum I recently attended. So today I took a walk at lunch time. The sunshine lifted my spirits, the air cleared my head. I lifted myself out of my funk and was able to come back to work refreshed. I have resilience, I have the freedom to take a short walk and through dancing, keeping fit and sharing adventures with fantastic friends I practice my own version of self care. Most importantly I am able to be my authentic self at work, rest and play. I can take a shortcut from feeling stressed to being positive again
Building lasting mental wellbeing through Beyond Reflections
A short cut helps us through the day, but what gets us through the years? When people come to Beyond Reflections, they describe hitting rock bottom and needing help to move forward.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, the theme is tackling loneliness. Today I want to tell you one of our member’s stories about how she found mental wellbeing, developed resilience, learnt how to form healthy relationships, and went on to make healthy decisions about her transition to authenticity.
Elouise came to us three years ago. Being trans had been bubbling under the surface for years but finally the pressure built too much. She broke! She told our assessor that reaching out to us was her last hope for survival.
Our team put Elouise into a support group where she began to make friends, hearing other’s experiences and sharing her own.
After two sessions in her support group Elouise was introduced to her counsellor. Her counsellor explained that he was a therapist trained to listen to Elouise without judgement, to follow her lead and to work to his utmost to understand Elouise’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences as if he was Elouise herself. This empathic bond would create a safe space for her to explore her most intimate being. They would develop shared understanding of why she thinks and acts as she does. This understanding would empower her to take control of her own future. Building her self-agency, self-esteem, and confidence.
Eloise was terrified that if she began to transition, she would be caught in a process over which she had no control. She worked with her counsellor for two months before she first came to the session dressed as herself. The next week she was back in her old clothes. But that moment, that moment of visibility was indeed the pivotal moment. The unconditional positive regard from her therapist which confirmed her excitement, her fear, and her hopes for her chance to live an authentic life.
Everything is heard, everything is valued
Counselling is a many faceted process. People come, and they talk about the issues that have brought them to counselling. Often counsellors will only listen to those surface level issues. Work just with them. Bring the client back to those issues.
Beyond Reflections counsellors are trained to listen to the whole client. To hear what the client wants to say and what is being left unsaid. Elouise’s counsellor heard the words shouted from the side-lines and he gave every aspect of her his unconditional positive regard. He heard her fear and her hopes. In reflecting both back Elouise came to understand why she was stuck and to face her fear of moving on.
The client is the expert
Elouise knew that she was trans and she understood that she needed to transition to survive but she was scared that survival wouldn’t be enough. She feared she didn’t have the strength to thrive. She lacked the confidence and self-esteem she needed to make healthy decisions about her transition.
Stepping into understanding
The real Elouise needed to have a voice. But who is the real Elouise? With her Beyond Reflections counsellor Elouise was able to get to know herself. That first time she came to the session dressed as herself was the first time she saw herself reflected in someone else’s eyes.
Being seen for the first time affirmed to Elouise that she was on the right track. That for her transition was the way forward. She felt mental wellbeing.
Informed self-confidence grows in leaps and bounds
Not long after that session Elouise came out at work and not only was she well supported by her manager and her colleagues she was able to accept their support. She had the strength to know what she needed people to get right and the resilience to respect their own processing.
Building healthy relationships
When Elouise came to Beyond Reflections, she told the advisor she wanted to understand how to build healthy relationships.
Working with her counsellor Elouise was finally able to see her whole life she had been a people pleaser and had never asked for anything for herself. Protecting the big secret meant she had never been able to relate to people fully. She feared judgment for being her true self.
The new, aware, Elouise started speaking more in the support groups. Listening to others and sharing her own journey to help others.
Long-term therapy for lasting mental wellbeing
Elouise worked with her counsellor for 48 weeks. She came prepared with a list of things to discuss and never missed a session. Her thoughts began to flow freely, and she often explored themes previously hidden. She knew what it felt like to be given respect. Having experienced being heard and understood, Elouise started recognising those characteristics in others. She became able to trust her friends and to build healthy relationships.
Healthy endings bring new beginnings
Eventually, Elouise no longer needed her therapist. She had not only found out who Elouise really was, but she had the resilience, self-esteem, and confidence which good mental wellbeing builds and sustains.
The impact of Beyond Reflections
Beyond Reflections delivers lasting mental wellbeing. Damage to mental health is caused by repeated trauma, long term damage which has lasting ill effects. To achieve lasting, sustainable change needs deep, lasting relationships which is why Beyond Reflections therapists work with their clients for up to a year and our members can access our support groups for as long as they need.
We would love to hear from you if you want to help volunteer at our support groups. Or if you are looking for a counselling placement with a real difference, our counsellors are a mix of trainees gaining practice experience and qualified therapists. All of them say there is no work like this. Our work in supervision develops all our therapists’ abilities to empathically understand their clients.
*Elouise is a pseudonym and whilst her story will feel familiar to many of our members and other trans+ people she is an amalgamation of people’s experiences.