Happy birthday pandemic

A developmental view on our struggles with a prospering little one

“Dear Pandemic,

You are now two years old and have developed quite a character already. It took us a while to realise that we all are your parents and that you are now in our lives. Many of the adults still struggle with demanding responsibilities.

Your motor skills keep us on our toes, Just recently you started running and climbing. It is sometimes scary how easy it is to lose sight of you. Then we can’t find you, only to have you appear in places we thought we had safaguarded from your access. We protect areas that are not suitable for you, but you still gain access.

Recently you started carrying more and more things with you, attracting family members, colleagues, neighbours and strangers with your temparament. Everyone around seems drawn to watch how you become more self-aware. Some think this is cute and harmless, but we are not always so sure. Currently you are all that matters to you. You have discovered to scream “No!” to anything we propose and your moods can truly be contagious.

When you stubbornly resist direction at this age, I do wonder how much waywardness there might still come in a few years. And I shudder. Seeing you interested in other children makes us curious and we are stunned by how well you seem to observe and imitate.

We have seen so many different ways of parenting and we clearly see the helplessness and overburdening expressed on clumsy and failing approaches of interaction. A lot of the parental behaviour is inconsistent and oftentimes arises out of convenience, complacency but mainly stems from stress. It’s the over-activation of the constant need to be vigilant, but also the toll of emotional rollercoasters – endlessly swinging from high to low.

Moments of joy and hope come crashing down with despair and a deep sense of loss of control. Dealing with this young pandemic can be challenging in Hong Kong, Asia and worldwide. It is helpful to seek coaching or counselling with a registered counsellor who can help to understand your own psychology and to provide you with tools and techniques to strengthen your capacity.

Your language skills are stunning. Just recently you surprised us with more letters of the greek alphabet and with an unusual appetite for the longer words. In addition, you also frustrate us with your rapid development of new and more refined behaviours. Entertaining table after table in a restaurant? Not a problem for you. Goofing around with air crew members? Yup, they can regress to toddlers themselves when interacting with you.

As inexperienced parents we need to remind ourselves of some basics to deal with a 2y-old. Being knowledgable and prepared for the development and challenges to come is a good start. Exercising pretend play is absolutely age appropriate (i.e. by using virtual communication channels or bringing travel destinations to your home through food, movies, music and activities AND by exploring and expanding on the things around like growing plants and flowers at home, visit nature, outdoor sights and activities.”

Riding the tiger – How family reunions bring out your inner child

Family reunions act like time machines. The identities and independence we created for ourselves come crashing down the moment we arrive in familiar circles. The matrix of generational dynamics has us acting and feeling the deja-vus of our inner child.

The Drama of Coming Home

Festive holidays often mean a coming home – figuratively, literally and nowadays also virtually. Because of tradition, good intentions and the part of us that is looking forward to reuniting, we tend to suppress some negative factors that soon start to aggravate.

“Tiger years are years of change and the tiger stands for quick action. This can mean hot temper and drama at home.”

Tom Jones

Clashing Past and Present

Holidays come with cultural and traditional norms and obligations plus expectations regarding the behaviour of hosts and guests alike. Oftentimes creating a screen of perfectionism or a facade of flawlessness. Returning to the familial home and community for the holidays creates pressure to conform to expected behavior which is now at odds with one’s identity.

The inner child awakens with more force when we are spending time with family members in close conditions. The wounds of our unmet, neglected and abused psychic needs start hurting more than usual. Research studies have shown that most people describe parts of their family relationships “conflicted or “ambivalent” and a significant prevalence of estrangement between family members. 

Four fundamental psychic needs

  1. Belonging & Attachment
    • The desire to belong, connection and community is essential to our survival and hence makes us all social beings. The child in us hardwires disruptions during early childhood from neglect, rejection, abandonment and abuse. Parenting shapes the attachment styles we internalise as adults.
  2. Autonomy & Safety
    • As much as we strive for belonging and attachment, we also long for exploration, self-expression and independence. Safety is gained through control. The more we are or feel in charge, the more we are or feel in control. “Control Freaks” are driven by the anxiety of dealing with uncertainty.
  3. Gratification & avoiding listlessness
    • Learning to tame this need correlates with success, but it also causes frustration and low mood. Spoiled children struggle with unfulfilled cravings often acting out in an agitated way. Unhealthy lifestyles are often connected with an excessive satisfaction of this need to compensate neglected other needs.
  4. Recognition & Acceptance
    • As social beings, we all seek recognition and acceptance from others to feed our sense of self-worth. Parents can equip us with a good amount of self-worth, which then protects us from being overly needy. However they can also fail to do so, which then often leads to behavioural patterns of people pleasing, self-sacrifice or approval seeking.

Acting out of inner conflict

Many of my clients in Hong Kong carry a strong inner conflict between autonomy and attachment. They find themselves in a zone of suffering between the pull of powerful, rich, egocentric, critical or traditional parents and the push of autonomic growth and control of their own educated, gifted and competent selfs.

Meeting with family typically induces a mixture of excitement and dread in many people.  However, with forethought and realistic expectations we can sidestep family drama and even create new positive memories. Old wounds may resurface and we easily fall into behavior patterns that are hauntingly familiar. 

Furthermore, the pressure is on to give the impression of our best selves, that we are living our best lives (thanks, social media!).  Such is the need for approval and acceptance that we will forego our autonomy.  The disparity between feelings and actions will distress the individual, making tensions between family members rise.

Nurturing your inner child and those of others

Self-awareness first

Work out when and how you are going to factor in self-care whilst you are out of your usual routine.  If you know being around people 24/7 is simply going to wear you out and you get grumpy when you get tired, plan for some downtime.  Even people who adore the holiday season and their families usually need a break to recharge.

Setting Boundaries

Before you get home, consider making it clear ahead of time exactly what activities and events you are willing to participate in this year.  Encourage others to do the same.  Setting such boundaries will protect you and your family in the long run. Did you know that setting boundaries makes you happier?  Setting realistic expectations ahead of time will prevent disappointment and the risk of others loading on emotional blackmail on the spot.

Lower your expectations

Rather than mentally trawling through the Rolodex of past grievances before you get home, filling your headspace with negativity, try to use this time for forethought by mindfully setting your own realistic expectations … and lowering them!!!  Acknowledging your own triggers ahead of time and accepting the family situation for what it is will help you to keep a cool head when you get there.  Ultimately, you can only control your own actions, trying to manage others will only lead to disappointment and frustration.

Activity vs Idle time

Plan plenty of (optional) activities for everyone to do together. Try getting active to shift any negative energy; go for a long walk in nature, pick a funny interactive board game or cook something together.  This could be the opportunity to forge new positive memories rather than focus on past hurts.  After all, research shows that our memories of past events are rarely accurate anyway.

Backing up for self-protection

Finally, work out your backup plan if everything gets too much.  Before conflict breaks out or someone says something hurtful, have a mental, emotional and practical “escape route” planned out when you feel the heat rising. 

Knowing you have this option sorted just in case ahead of time will improve the likelihood that you can distance yourself from the drama and retreat before you get sucked in.  It is about you being able to take a step back and consider the situation with perspective. 

Booze to ban in the month of Jan

counselling for alcohol coaching change habits

The non-drinking movement

The new year is upon us. It’s a time to review our habits and behaviors of the last 12 months and identify what changes our happier, healthier future selves will thank us for.  In 2021, 6.5 million people aimed to complete ‘Dry January’, an increase of a whopping 2.6 million people on the previous year.

The great news is once we put down the booze, we begin to see multiple improvements across health and performance.

Impact on mood and emotion

Firstly, by abstaining from alcohol, you won’t have to deal with erratic mood swings or ‘hangxiety’ (the common hangover anxiety).  Alcohol disturbs the normal release of your neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.  Alcohol is a sedative, so your brain compensates by exciting the stimulatory systems. 

It seems to affect people more severely if they are already prone to anxiety, typically those using alcohol as a social lubricant.  There’s a lag time, so these signals continue after we stop drinking. A 2013 study on rats still felt fear, depression, and anxiety symptoms 14 hours after alcohol blood levels reached zero.

Impact on sleep

A common mistake people make is to consider alcohol as a sleep aid. Yet sedation is not the same as regular sleep.  In reality, alcohol plays havoc with our sleep cycles and the quality of our sleep after drinking. Our hours in bed are littered with micro-awakenings, preventing us from achieving restorative sleep. 

A study on just under 100,000 Japanese students found alcohol to disturb a multitude of sleep functions, including short sleep duration, difficulty initiating sleep, and waking up early.  The disturbance effect increased with the number of consecutive days the participants drank.

“Hop on the bus, Gus; you don’t need to discuss much.

Just drop off the key and get yourself free”

50 Ways to leave your lover, Paul Simon, 1975.


Impact on Cardiovascular functioning

People rarely consider the detrimental effects alcohol is having on their cardiovascular function.  Drinkers collectively raised a glass upon hearing the news that one glass of red wine might lower the risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and stroke. 

However, people rarely stay within the recommended guidelines, and doctors would prefer we abstain from drinking altogether.  Indeed, binge drinking is the top factor leading to premature death for males under sixty.

Impact on weight and shape

A common side effect of giving up booze is weight loss.  We tend to forget about the hundreds of calories contained in each glass we’re knocking back, but these often show up later on our waistlines.  This effect compounds when one considers that alcohol causes a spike in the body’s insulin secretion (to deal with all that sugar consumed!). Blood sugar levels then fall, hindering exercise performance.  

Impact on workout and fitness

Furthermore, alcohol stops the absorption of vital vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, B12, folic acid, and zinc.  Without these, the human body cannot generate new cells, build a robust immune system or metabolize food efficiently. 

Of course, when you’re not so hungover, you’re also more inclined and motivated to hit the gym rather than the biscuit tin.  Trading a pint for a gym pass will not only help you drop the pounds but will have innumerable benefits for your body and mental health. 

Beer isn’t a good post-gym drink, either: it won’t help you re-hydrate or supply energy. Alcohol dehydrates you because it is a diuretic, meaning that it makes you pee and remove fluids faster than other drinks. Instead, reach for some (coconut) water.

Impact on sexual performance

If all that didn’t get your attention and convince you to take a break from drinking, perhaps this will: alcohol ruins your sex performance.  Sure, a few drinks lower our inhibitions and make potential partners seem more alluring (hello, beer goggles).

But when it comes to the crucial act, males may find their ability to maintain an erection or ejaculate impaired.  Sober sex might sound intimidating, but reassuringly, almost three-quarters of Cornell University students reported being sober when they had their best sexual experience.

Forming healthy habits

For most people, drinking is nothing more than an ingrained behaviour requiring distraction or replacement with more rewarding activities to overcome. Remember that most of our drinking really is just a bad habit, often starting with browsing you favourite wineshop online or stopping-over at the convenience store on your way home.

A period of abstinence will help your mind to form new healthier habits and your brain with learn to pass through the bottled racks unimpressed. Bad habits lead to a closed state of mind from which we deem healthier alternatives less attractive. We risk missing out on the real rewards in life: meaning, intimate connection and achievements.

Counselling helps to increase awareness of unhealthy habit loops and enables sustaining change of thinking and behaviour. Seeing a counsellor in Hong Kong or online provides the support for you to add the emotional and physical strength back into your life.

Committing to dry January and joining thousands of other people may be the kick-start you need to break this habituation, teach your brain new reward pathways, and give your whole body a chance to perform optimally. So raise a glass of Perrier to the new year and you may just find that sober life is a resolution that endures.

Men’s Mental Health: Don’t suffer in silence!

The COVID-19 pandemic and its response measures have had severe consequences for the mental health of people worldwide.

Depression, and particularly male depression, has gone up all over the world. Parents with young children have had to juggle watching young children and working from home as daycares worldwide shut down. Travel restrictions meant that some haven’t seen their family, friends and partners for months.

For people who are living home, lockdown measures have meant little to no social interaction. The result is increased stress, loneliness, anxiety and depression. Coupled with anxiety regarding the health of ourselves and our loved ones, reductions or loss of income, and the state of the world,  and we have a recipe for a mental health disaster.

Download free MENS MENTAL HEALTH pdf-one-pager here


Many men have learned to rely on relationships based on “doing”: bonding with coworkers or sports with friends. While women are traditionally more comfortable talking on the phone, texting, and having video calls, many men reserve these communication forms for family and partners – at best. When this becomes the main or only form of communication, many men struggle.


Hong Konger’s livelihood has been tested for a while, not only by the restrictions due to the pandemic. While both men and women suffer from this consequences, many men tend to over-identify with their jobs. Not being able to earn, to provide or simply being busy invokes feelings of failure. Cathay’s mass lay-offs and the like will affect the economical landscape mid-term.


While men and women both suffer from stress, depression, and anxiety, men are traditionally conditioned to repress their feelings. While these attitudes are shifting, it’s not easy to unlearn lifelong habits. When men feel anxious asking for help or being vulnerable, their stresses pile up. The result can be severe and debilitating anxiety. 


Men’s depression or anxiety often go hand-in-hand and can go undiagnosed. On the surface, we may see irritability or self-medication with substances, alcohol or sex. Physical symptoms of depression such as fatigue or body pain (back pain, tooth aches, …) are also common in men.

The way male depression manifests is poorly recognized by our current diagnostic criteria and approaches. Traditional concepts of masculinity deter men from seeking help, making the problem worse. It’s evident that while reducing mental stigma is essential, it’s not enough. We must also understand that men and women require different solutions and tailor treatment options accordingly.

Getting well versus Staying well

As a society, we like quick and easy solutions. With men, this tendency can be even more pronounced. Stereotypically, men are more solution-oriented, while women might prefer to give more space for emotions and understanding. And if the problem is that we’re feeling bad, we need to find a solution towards feeling good, right? Reality is a little more complicated than that. While external conditions significantly influence our internal state, we can’t expect our mental health to depend on them.

The good news is that the common mental health issues in men can be treated and that we can apply many successful measures of prevention. Depression and Anxiety as well as Stress and Loneliness are manageable and treatable. Learning coping strategies can make future episodes shorter and less intense. Treatments can help you reduce negative thinking, create strategies to tackle problems and improve relationships.

Getting Well

  • Educate yourself
    • Understand what you’re dealing with can help you come up with the best coping mechanisms for you
    • There are many good videos, podcasts, and blogs that you can find online for free
  • Start noticing and open your awareness
    • Work on challenging your negative thinking
    • We all have stories and core beliefs that we picked up early in life that may be no longer serving us
    • Picking up a mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of negative thinking patterns. As you do so, you’ll learn to let go instead of becoming attached to them
    • Practicing CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) sheets can help you change these thoughts at the core
  • Connection is King
    • Connect with yourself – remember The Matrix “…do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place?…”
    • Connect with others – remember Along Came Polly when Mr Feffer speaks the truth: “…it’s not about what happened in the past or what you think might happen in the future – it’s about the ride! There is no point going through all this, if you not gonna enjoy the ride…”
  • Turn to a professional
    • Many men have a lot of resistance to going to therapy. It’s worth examing to see why that is. Are you ashamed of admitting you have a problem? Or is it that you’re afraid that if you talk about your pain, you will be overwhelmed by it?
    • A good therapist will make you feel heard and understood. They’ll also help you learn to solve your own challenges through new tools and coping strategies. 
  • Medication
    • Remember that medication takes time to work and isn’t a permanent all-encompassing solution
    • Medication can help you feel more stable so that you can build a stronger foundation for your mental health with therapy and other solutions.

Download free MENS MENTAL HEALTH pdf-one-pager here

Staying well

Remember that good mental health requires maintenance. While it may be tempting to drop all your new habits once you start feeling better again, this can backfire. Think of it as a diet: you can lose the weight, but if you start drinking soda and eating friend and sugary food all the time, you’re likely to gain the weight back. The same goes for depression and emotional wellbeing in general. Living a balanced, healthy lifestyle is just as important when you’re feeling good as it is when you’re struggling. 

  • Monitor your early warning signs
    • As you become more familiar with your inner world, you’ll learn to recognize warning signs before things get bad
      • Less reading, more Netflix? Less Sport, more deep fried Food?
      • Recurring thoughts like “No one understands me.” or “I am a failure.”
      • And you might begin to pay attention to physical symptoms of fatigue, heaviness, tension or shallow breath.
  • Keep Social with friends, family or in a group of likeminded
    • Any group of common interest can provide a safe space where you can learn to be emotionally vulnerable while receiving support from others facing similar challenges.
    • Join a men’s group. There can be something profoundly healing about sharing openly in a group of men – precisely because it’s so unfamiliar to many of us. In a study of older men (usually considered non-responsive to therapy), the men’s group was a valuable tool in treating depression.
  • Make time for Self-Care
    • It’s crucial to find the strategies that work for you. In a study of 465 Australian men, eating healthy, keeping busy, exercising, humour and helping others were their top strategies for preventing depression. Other successful methods included spending time with a pet and self-reward.
    • Most of the things mentioned in this article can be forms of self-care: support groups, physical exercise, counselling & therapy, eating healthy
    • Self-care can be making sure you get some quality-time with your Self. Outdoors beats indoors, Walking meets Talking.  


Singaporeans’ struggle with wellbeing and the need to find a counsellor

Why it is important to find an English speaking counsellor in Singapore and how to do it.

According to an article published by the WHO in 2018, mental health is defined as, ‘a state of well- being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.’

As per the latest studies conducted in Singapore, 1 in 7 people has been shown to have suffered a mental disorder in their lifetime. Statistics show that in Singapore, the three most common challenges with mental health are: obsessive-compulsive tendencies, depression & low mood and unhealthy lifestyle choices. 

According to my experience with Singapore-based clients, the most common issues are relationship skills and maintaining mental and physical sanity in the midst of career adjustments and family drama – often with family abroad and difficult to stay connected with in times of travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

Face- to- face therapy sessions have become slightly challenging owing to the fact that individuals are encouraged to socially distance themselves from one another. This has resulted in an increase in telehealth services, i.e. the delivery of health services via online video conferencing.

These services have an array of advantages such as; having access to a therapist from the comfort of your house. Having access to a therapist without having to leave the house has made it that much easier to seek the services of therapists.

The ability to access mental health services without leaving the house has also been advantageous in that most patients and doctors/ therapists are able to practice social distancing and keep themselves safe from contracting Covid- 19. This period of life has been difficult for most individuals since it’s brought about loss of jobs, financial insecurity, loss of loved ones and a lot of instability. Online therapy services have made counselling sessions accessible.

Steps to take

Counselling and online therapy can be tailor-made. It is up to the individual and his/her counselor to decide what type of intervention works for the individual. Some of the approaches include;

  • See a therapist / counselor – there are several types of therapy sessions available such as individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy and support groups.
  • Expressing gratitude – enables one to keep track of even the tiniest things that go well in one’s life and thus gives an individual the opportunity to shift their focus onto their agency: moving, shifting and placing attention.
  • Journaling – writing down helps to reflect and reappraise situations, feelings and experiences.  My tip is to try to write your observations in third person in order to take a step back from your own mind and the drama that it unfolds around the SELF / EGO.
  • Maintaining a supportive network – family, friends and colleagues can support you. It is important to identify a few – not many – people you feel safe to confide in.  Past trauma and adverse experiences can make it difficult to trust – that’s ok. Counsellors are an alternative as they have to adhere to ethical and professional standards of confidentiality and care.
  • Self-care – all to refresh the brain or in other words the connection of the mind and the body
    • Body – sleep!!!, physical exercise such as running, cycling, swimming, yoga or tai chi
    • Diet – less sugar, less fat (no deep fried), plant-based protein, experiment with ways of fasting
    • Meditation – focus attention or/and open awareness, be present – moment to moment, recognise your judgements


  1. IN FOCUS: the challenges young people face while seeking mental health help https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/in-focus-young-people-mental-health-singapore-treatment-13002934 
  2. Mental health, strengthening our response https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response#:~:text=Mental%20health%20is%20a%20state,to%20his%20or%20her%20community
  3. Depression https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/101/topics_depression 
  4. Depression https://www.singhealth.com.sg/patient-care/conditions-treatments/depression/overview 
  5. Teenage depression; signs, causes and treatment https://www.healthxchange.sg/wellness/mental-health/teenage-depression-signs-causes-treatment 
  6. IMH; wellness https://www.imh.com.sg/wellness/ 
  7. The state of mental wellness in Singapore https://adelphipsych.sg/the-state-of-mental-wellness-in-singapore/ 
  8. Types of mental health treatments https://www.psychguides.com/mental-health-disorders/treatments/types/ 

How to find a Hong Kong-based counsellor in times of pandemic? update

Before choosing a therapist, start by assessing your current situation and what you hope to achieve in your sessions. Are you burned-out at work? Perhaps you’re struggling with low self-esteem? Your experience will manifest as feelings, behaviours, thought patterns and physical sensations.

Constant unexplained irritability can be a sign of anxiety and overwhelm. Pay attention to changes in appetite and disturbed sleep like insomnia. Stress and anxiety can show up as tense muscles, nausea, or headaches. Coping behaviors can include self-medicating with alcohol, distracting with social media, news and overworking.

Start with a quick self-assessment:

> What is your current challenge or struggle?

> What do you want to achieve in the process?

Once you’ve recognized the problem, think about what you would like to achieve. You might have a particular goal for therapy, like “I want to move past a second date with a partner” or one that feels more undefined, like reaching a better understanding of the connection between your childhood and current habits, relationship issues or emotional distress. Once you’ve figured out what you’d like to gain through therapy, you can set out to find the therapist that will help you.

Considerations for finding a counselor that suits your needs

Generally, when looking for an English-speaking counsellor, coach or psychotherapist, you want to check out several areas:

  • Qualification – the counselors’ education and professional qualifications, work experience and therapeutic approaches trained in
  • Personal fit – the likelihood of how you get along with your counselor might depend on some of your preferences and specialisations offered
  • Hands-on concerns – office location, working hours, punctuality and availability of session slots
  • Readiness for pandemic – in times of 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th waves of new positive tested COVID-19 cases it is paramount that your counsellor caters for a smooth and flexible transition between facemask-to-facemask and online consultations.

Life in Hong Kong is often transient, there are several practical concerns that should matter regarding the mutually committed work. Consider the level of spoken English, general reliability and the length and frequency of absences. 

Qualifications and Professions

One of the first things clients typically look at when choosing a therapist is their legitimization. It’s important to distinguish the various types of counselors and therapists based on their qualifications.

A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in Psychiatry. A Psychiatrist can diagnose mental disorders, write fit for work assessments, and prescribe medication. A Clinical Psychologist has a Doctorate – Ph.D. or PsyD in Clinical Psychology. A Psychologist can administer psychological tests and write reports and assessments. However, they cannot prescribe medication. Counsellors and Psychotherapist have frequently trained in therapy approaches that go along with their services offered – like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance-and-Commitment Training (ACT), Couples Counselling, Mindfulness-based approaches, Trauma Treatment,

There are Master’s degrees in counseling that offer thorough training. Therefore, if you’re seeing a Counselor, ask what their qualifications are. A Life Coach is a different type of training. While some Licensed Counselors and Psychologists choose to obtain a Life Coaching certificate, many Life Coachs undergo shorter qualification periods. Some Life Coaching certificates can be obtained in just a few months, compared to many years it takes to become a clinical professional with medical and academic degrees.  

Consider the goals that you have set and your practical limitations. If you do not think that you will need medication, perhaps you don’t need to see a Psychiatrist. However, if you think medication might be part of your path, seeing a psychiatrist is important.

Practical Concerns

When choosing a counselor, you also need to factor in practical concerns. If your sessions demand a long and uncomfortable commute, your sessions will have a negative connotation in your mind. If your counselor isn’t fluent in your Native language, you won’t feel fully understood. Therefore, make a list of practical concerns you have, and bring them up in your initial session. Ask the counselor if they do online sessions if one of you will need to switch from face-to-face consultations to video conferencing.

However, Therapeutic Alliance is key!!!

While qualifications and practical concerns are significant, the most important thing you should pay attention to is how you feel during your sessions. Studies show that one of the most important factor in determining your therapy success is the relationship between you and your therapist – also known as the therapeutic alliance. The quality of the therapist-client relationship is a reliable indicator for positive outcomes – regardless of the therapeutic approach

The Therapeutic Alliance is king and queen of your therapy castle.

A therapist might have decades of education and experience, but if you don’t feel that they care about you, you might struggle to make progress:

  1. Your counselor should be warm and empathetic – making it easy to share openly
  2. You want to feel that they understand you and that they have your best interests are heart
  3. The positive working alliance models the way, you will experience what it’s like to have a genuinely trusting relationship

You also want to make sure that your practitioner is “walking the talk.” Your counselor should be a role model for behavioral change. Pay attention to clues that point to whether they’re living according to their life values, i.e. leading a healthy lifestyle with balanced sleep, diet, physical exercise and social network. A healthy sign is also when they are able to set professional boundaries to help you stay focused and committed.

The Best Way to Find a Good English Speaking Counselor in Hong Kong

Start by making a list of potential practitioners that you find through:

In your initial session, talk about your goals for the sessions. Ask them what approach they take. The specific method they use might not be as important as the fact that they have a structure and would be able to outline key concepts in the process if and when you ask. Pay attention to how you feel during your initial session. Do they make you feel at ease? Do you think that they understand you, or do you have to over-explain yourself? However, don’t let the session be a monologue by you. The counselor should be telling you about their approach, they must be able to let you know how they relate to you and how they feel and plan to continue with you.

Take some time to reflect on your first sessions. If both, you and your counselor feel confident in your ability to work together, book another session. Congratulations, you’ve found your counselor! 

Dealing with grief and bereavement beyond counselling

If there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that sooner or later, we’ll all have to come to terms with losing a loved one. Here is a source to tap into and brace yourself for such an unavoidable and profoundly difficult inevitability.
Griefcast, as their tagline clearly states, it’s a podcast about grief and death. You’d be forgiven for thinking that a first glance it sounds like a podcast that you want to stay well away from, but it’s actually presented by comedians, so it’s much more fun and uplifting than it is depressing. Every week, it’s a funny, tender and very human discussion about the pain, confusion, and often downright weird and awkwardness of death.
So why should you listen? Grief is isolating. It’s scary, disorientating, and can take many years to come to terms with. Hearing relatable stories and experiences that may very well sound familiar to you is a beautiful reminder that you’re not alone, there is no right or wrong way to feel, there’s definitely no time frame, you’re allowed to relapse, and say you’re doing just fine.
Of course, everyone’s process of losing a loved one and grieving is unique, but there are common threads, as host Cariad explores. Having lost her father as a teenager, she often talks and finds common ground with guests about the anger, and sometimes even annoyance they feel. A key take-home message, make sure someone has your online passwords and banking details! As well as things that they feel guilty about, and why that’s okay. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable and almost rude the first time you laugh after losing a loved one, or especially whilst a loved one is gravely ill. The host and her guests often talk about the strange limbo between receiving a terminal diagnosis and dying. The nervous anxiety, time standing still, and the one night you go out and forget everything for a few hours.
As well as sharing experiences about grief, the podcast explores the, if anything, even less discussed topic of dying. What it’s like to live with someone undergoing invasive medical treatment, and how it can take a while for the reality to dawn that someone isn’t going to get better. It’s packed with practical advice, not from doctors, instead from normal people who have been there. Things like the physically demanding nature of taking care of someone at home, the difficulty of communicating with doctors, and some things you might actually need to expect in your loved one’s final moments.
A podcast does not replace significant ways of healing and caring in times of loss and bereavement – like talking and social contact. Individual counselling supports people going through the grief process with a professional understanding of each of the phases that require specific care. The counsellor or psychotherapist offers kindness, compassion and empathy. Unfortunately in Hong Kong’s fast paced environment the aggrieved often receive sympathy instead and find it less helpful.
Griefcast helps to develop acceptance, by taking a scary subject that you’ve probably seldom taken time to consider, and making it normal. Coming to terms with your own mortality and the mortality of your friends and family is never going to be easy, but avoiding the topic entirely makes it far harder. Whether you’re dealing with a terminal diagnosis, the loss of a loved one or you’re not yet ‘in the club’ this podcast elegantly and sensitively lets you know what you might expect, reassures you that you’re not alone and opens the door to further healing conversations.
You can listen to Griefcast on
Apple Podcasts https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/griefcast-with-cariad-lloyd/id1178572854
BBC Sounds https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06vttqs
You can also follow them and join the discussion on Twitter by following @thegriefcast.

Oh Please!

An interesting new thought was introduced to me the other day. My client declared “I am a people pleaser”. I was curious to hear more and asked her what she meant by that and why she brouhght up the label. It turned out, that she held a rather positive understanding of her behaviour of pleasing the people around her. On many occasions and in many different areas of her life, she would make extra efforts to accomodate others oftentimes in an unneccessarily hasty manner.
For her, the meaning of doing this was control. She stated confidently “I can control situations and people when I’m in charge and can influence the turn of events”. I was puzzled and needed a moment to reflect. “Ok” I said, “give me an example”. She said “For example in the office before Christmas, my boss asked all of us in the team to come up with ideas to plan a dinner event with a group activity afterwards. I quickly got to draft a proposal with 5 restaurants and 5 activities as an online poll and sent out the link for everyone to vote. Took me under 20’ tops!”
“And?” I asked “that seems to be a nice gesture and good team spirit. But where is your element of control here and your influencing the turn of events?” She replied impatiently “Isn’t that obvious? Of course I only proposed restaurants I like and activities I wanted to do. Genius, don’t you think?”. No, I did not think. “Genius” did not occur on the list of things in my mind about her behaviour and her underlying mindset.
I wanted to know how her proposal and online poll was received and she said “I got quite some good feedback – people like it when they don’t have to think”. “And how do you feel about doing all that?” She looked down and said “I think it is great that I help everyone to save time and at the same time be able to do the things I want to do.” Having had known her for a while, I was not so sure about this being her true motivation for acting in such immediate and overpowering manner – pausing all other tasks in her role as a business manager which demanded acting in a timely manner on much more relevant matters.
I was intrigued to enquire more about what she had anticipated the outcome would have been without her “people pleasing”. First we needed to reframe her language a bit: It transpired that “restaurants I like” rather meant “restaurants I feel safe going to” (being very much afraid of food poisoning) and “activities I want to do” more clearly meant “activites that allow me to hide in the crowd without being exposed” (being socially anxious of redicule and judgement by others).
Anxiety and Phobia was the driving force behind her acting. Her immediate and overarching behaviour allowed her to not even get close to experiencing any. She had developed a very sensitve strategy to avoid emotion, physiological symptoms and she made sure early on to not having to deal with any anxious mindgames – the fearful thoughts and images of anticipation leading up to a dreaded event.
Moreover, she managed to deny her strategy of avoidance with a mental self-campaign of “control” and “pleasing people” – as in doing good for others and for herself. Was that really clever? I wondered how much hypersensitivity, effort, tension and sacrifice she must have constantly been putting in, in order to maintain this shield of energy that protected her from experiencing anxiety and fear.
I also wondered if she had ever thought about facing her demons with the same stamina she demonstrated day in day out? I wanted her to be happy and well.

Urban Dads or alive

Are you expecting a baby or recently became a Dad?
Do you have questions about labour, birth & the early months with a new baby?
Would you mind discussing your questions over a beer with likeminded men?
Join Sofie Jacobs, qualified Midwife and founder at Urban Hatch for a fun and informative evening where you will discuss the challenges of being an expecting and new Dad.
Expect to walk away with tips on:

  • Supporting your partner pre and post birth
  • Coping with sleep deprivation
  • Managing life and work as an expecting and new Dad

Wed 24 October 2018
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM HKT
10/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building
43-55 Wyndham Street, Central
Hong Kong
register via Eventbrite

Zero Tolerance – The pros and cons of rigidity

Many of my clients practice abstinence on a yearly basis, very often for a month or so. It is similar to fasting in some ways but often with a very different mindset. I think the main thing is, that you do it mindfully and where necessary with proper medical supervision.
It is a good idea from a couple of perspectives. Firstly, if your brain has it firmly etched on some habits, you can learn or unlearn things like a mandatory cup of coffee in the morning. We don’t need coffee to be more alert or to work. That is something we put into our minds with these habits. But learning to drop these things and to give the brain a chance to unlearn these habits and behavioral paths is not a bad thing to unlearn the core belief that I need to have that.
Secondly, since you have had the experience that you can actually go without alcohol or coffee or sugar, the brain will remember that. You are able to know that you did it before. These experiences are a very good foot in the door against addiction, abuse and over use.
I question the logic behind going back to the excesses you have just liberated yourself from. My wife and I did a fairly stringent and unsupervised fasting program once and it was not a good idea. We found we needed a good balance and the surveillance of a nutritionist the second time around and it was so much better. Just recently we did our third fasting according to the Buchinger Method: We had such positive changes in lifestyle so there was no way we were going back to previous nutritional and lifestyle choices.

“We had such positive changes in lifestyle so there was no way we were going back to previous nutritional and lifestyle choices. You are much more relaxed because of the changing of your habits so why sabotage things? It was far better to make those positive changes, like much more energy and brain awareness, permanent and sustainable.”

You are much more relaxed because of the changing of your habits so why sabotage things? It was far better to make those positive changes, like much more energy and brain awareness, permanent and sustainable.”
On extreme behavior
When it comes to setting and achieving goals, It’s not essential but it is very much human nature to swing from one extreme to another and is much harder to keep a balance somewhere in the middle. It’s seems to be much easier if you set 100 percent rule, but it’s not easier for many to keep it right.
For instance if you say, every single Monday I am going to the gym. Well, how realistic is that compared to setting a goal to go three times a week and having seven days to make it happen? The tendency is to strive for and set records that are often doomed to fail. Competing and proving things and setting goals is in our culture, but it is often actually just replacing another craving attachment.
Are a lot more people in HK today making conscientious efforts to improve their lifestyle choices? There is no doubt Hong Kong is rife with a lot of distractions, temptations and opportunity. So yes I would say it is a challenge for a lot of people to maintain a healthy balance.
It is certainly more open now and acceptable for people to take periods of abstinence and there is a high priority put on things like detox retreats and other sporting getaways.
Tim Noonan interviewed Sebastian for an SCMP article. Read the article…