There are a range of reasons why people approach us to arrange psychological therapy; some of the most common motivations are:
- Anxiety, Stress & Fears
- Low Mood / Adjustment to Loss
- Relationship Difficulties
- Traumatic Events
- Personal Growth
Bristol Psychology Services provides thorough and thoughtful assessment and effective, evidence based psychological therapy for adults experiencing a wide range of emotional difficulties. We have affiliated therapists we can refer to who can help with any of the concerns outlined below.
Anxiety, Stress & Fears
Everyone feels anxious at times but for some people worry can become overwhelming and get in the way of enjoying life. Anxiety tends to relate to the future so worry often revolves around ‘what ifs’ with a focus on threats, danger or not coping. Sometimes worry is ‘generalised’ but often it can settle on a particular area, for example worries about health, often called ‘health anxiety’ or concern about performance in social situations, known as ‘social anxiety’.
When anxious thoughts are accompanied by compulsions to carry out certain actions (such as hand washing) or mental rituals (such as counting, or repeating phrases), this is known as ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’.
Some people develop intense fears of certain situations or objects, which is commonly referred to as a phobia. Common phobias are: agoraphobia (fear of open spaces); animal and insect phobias; fear or flying; driving phobia and fear of yourself or others being sick.
Intense anxiety can sometimes lead to panic attacks, or strong ‘waves’ of anxiety accompanied by very unpleasant physical sensations such as a racing heart, shaking, sweating and feeling dizzy. These physical symptoms result from the mind misinterpreting a situation as threatening, which causes the body to react with a surge of physical changes designed to help the body react as effectively as possibly to an anticipated ‘fight or flight’ situation. Of course nowadays stressful situations, such as being stuck in traffic, or being under pressure at work, don’t often require us to run away or attack, but we still get the primitive fight-flight physiological changes which can feel quite frightening. Sometimes, the physical symptoms of panic may be misinterpreted as dangerous, which can lead to further anxieties, for example a pounding heart may lead to thoughts such as “I’m having a heart attack”.
Anxiety, phobias and panic generally respond very well to a range of psychological treatments including cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. Research indicates that mindfulness based approaches can be very effective in helping us cope with daily life stresses, leading to improved well-being as well as some possible benefits for physical health. A key part of all these treatments is increasing understanding of the vicious cycles of worrying thoughts, anxious feelings and physical sensations. Skills are then taught to help reduce the impact of worries and to increase the ability to take helpful, positive actions.
Low Mood / Adjustment to Loss
A common reason for seeking psychological therapy is having experienced life events which involve loss: loss of an important relationship through divorce, separation or bereavement; loss of role, status and purpose through redundancy or loss of freedom and physical integrity through chronic pain, medical illness and treatment. Whatever the reason for the loss, it is common for people to experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression and hopelessness.
There are a number of psychological approaches which can be helpful for loss and associated low mood including cognitive and metacognitive therapy. Acceptance and mindfulness based therapy also have a good evidence for improving low mood, with the latter having been shown to be particularly effective in preventing relapse for people who have experienced depression.
Experiencing difficulties in relationship with others, whether work colleagues, family members or with a partner, are common reasons for seeking therapy. When we experience psychological difficulties, it is almost inevitable that our relationships with others will be affected, so to some extent, relationship issues are often relevant whatever the primary reason for seeking support. For some people, however, relationship difficulties may be the primary reason for initiating therapeutic input. Many people find therapy helpful for increasing awareness and understanding of the patterns of reacting that are getting in the way of the kind of relationships they wish to have. Therapy may also involve learning psychological skills to improve important relationships, with communication often being central to this. Finally, people may seek therapeutic support with the aim of exploring and finding ways to reduce the impact of distress associated with difficult relationships from the past as well as those that are on-going.
When something completely terrifying and unexpected happens, it is common for people to later experience distressing emotional symptoms which can overwhelm their ability to cope. About 25–30% of people who have experienced a traumatic event may go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is used to describe three main categories of symptoms, outlined below.
- Re-experiencing symptoms: intrusive memories about the event which make take the form of ‘flashbacks’ or nightmares.
- Hyper-arousal: feeling startled or jumpy and being hyper-vigilant to danger.
- Avoidance: avoiding people, places or situations associated with the event as well as avoiding thinking about what happened.
Appropriate evidence-based psychological intervention can be very effective in resolving the long-term effects of PTSD. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are the treatments of choice for PTSD.
Increasing numbers of people are seeking therapeutic support to improve general well-being, life satisfaction and contentment, prioritising emotional health in a similar way to how we may optimise physical health through taking an interest in diet and exercise. Those seeking therapy for personal growth may wish to better understand emotions and patterns of behaviour with the aim of being more effective or less stressed at work. Often ending or starting a new relationship may be the prompt for seeking therapy, with clients keen to better understand patterns of relating so they are best equipped to negotiate this important life transition. Emotional health affects every aspect of our daily lives so gaining enhanced personal insight and equipping oneself with practical psychological skills is often seen as a valuable and worthwhile investment.
We regret that we do not provide services for certain complex psychological difficulties. Please see our FAQs for more information.