By Joanna Gardner
Dip IIP, MBACP, MASIIP
I HAVE been visiting the Algarve annually for holidays since I was two-years-old and have seen many changes since 1960. Now, a mother of four and, having always felt very at home in the Algarve, I recently decided to move here permanently with my two younger children Maria (13) and Holly (11) and our four dogs.
My career has taken me into many different areas with the common element being communicating and caring for others and listening to their problems. I left school and went straight into nurses training and, in later years, became a services manager for a variety of voluntary organisations, both in The Netherlands, for the military community, where I lived for five years and in England, where I worked for the National Health Service. While in The Netherlands, I also trained and practised in Child Abuse Prevention programmes, educating children on this difficult topic. I also co-ordinated and taught parenting skills to parents as part of a Family Advocacy project.
During these years, I realised my offices were fast becoming comfort zones for stressed members of staff, who included professional psychiatrists, counsellors, teachers and even the chaplain turned to me for support. I gained the labels “Our Listening Ear” and “Our Someone to Talk to!”
These experiences, over many years, led me to decide to train to become a professional psychotherapist and counsellor. I attended a four year college course in Cambridge, achieved my Diploma, qualified and began working with clients on an individual basis and with families and couples.
What or who is counselling really for? Well, it really is what the client makes of it and wants to use it for. Some people come to see me for personal development, or if they feel in a ‘rut’ to learn about themselves as a person and why their patterns of behaviour are a certain way. Through counselling, we can work together towards a person’s understanding of who they are, build self-awareness and confidence, explore what life means to them and enable them to make decisions for themselves and find solutions to their problems, thereby encouraging them to reach their full potential and lead the life of their choice.
Other people come to counselling for a variety of reasons, because, like the majority of people, they have reached a stage in their life when they may be experiencing one or more of the following emotions or situations: stress, low self-esteem or lacking confidence, bereavement and loss, relationship issues, addictive problems, guilt, loneliness, phobias, adapting to retirement or a new country, shyness, confusion, indecisiveness, sexual problems, emotional despair, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleeplessness or anger in their personal, work and/or social life and feel a sense of being overwhelmed, unhappy or confused with life in general. Some people may be troubled and feel frustrated with life and wish to reassess their personal situation, learn more effective ways of coping and developing as a human being.
Whatever the reason, counselling is an opportunity to talk and work through your personal problems and concerns with someone who is highly trained (yet not involved in your life) and non-judgmental, in a safe, confidential environment. We can have a chat with a friend or family member and feel better, but sometimes there are issues which are just too private to discuss with family and friends or too complicated to resolve ourselves. This is when it can be helpful to work with a counsellor whose training and experience enables her/him to understand the sort of problem you may be suffering.
The type of counselling I offer is tailored to suit every individual’s needs, whether it be short or long term therapy and I use a variety of different approaches in my work. I work with each client holistically (as a whole person) and I believe the physical and mental states are inseparable. If someone is mentally or emotionally stressed, in time the stress will show itself in the body for example, often by stiff neck, tense shoulders, headaches, anxiety or panic attacks, chest pains, or bowel/tummy problems.
Finding a healthy balance both physically and mentally and learning to be in the present rather than living in the past and/or the future, I believe is the key towards a peaceful, happier life.
To mentally check in with oneself through counselling is all about taking care of you as a person. Today, many of us frequent spas, gymnasiums, sports centres and beauty salons primarily to care for our physical bodies (and yes, this may actually have the side effect of benefiting our mental state to a degree), but how many of us think to make time to care for our minds? Scientists tell us that our brains are constantly active, even in sleep and yet sometimes they do not get the opportunity to unload, deal with issues or make space for themselves – this can feel like our minds going round and round in circles worrying about the same issue and not finding a solution and result in being unable to sleep properly.
Life is a journey, an adventure often full of surprises with joys, but also challenges and obstacles coming our way. From early childhood and throughout our lives, it is natural and important to us, as human beings, to feel we are capable (we can), we count (we mean something), we connect (we belong) and we have courage (we are encouraged and have confidence). These are basic fundamental needs to lead a positive, healthy life, but when faced with certain events or problems that threaten these needs in our family, social, work place or our intimate relationship, we can experience these ebbing away or becoming unbalanced. Again, counselling will work towards addressing this balance and re-establishing these. As Renee Locks, the poet said, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” With counselling we work together to adjust those sails and work through the problems that the winds often blow our way.
If you would like to make an appointment for an initial free consultation with Joanna (“Counselling in the Algarve”), to discuss the possibilities of counselling further, or would like an information leaflet to be sent to you, please contact Luzdoc on 282 780 700 or contact Joanna on 964 728 483. The cost for counselling is 50 euros per session, lasting between 50 to 60 minutes. Sessions can be scheduled in order to suit your needs, either weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
Counselling in the Algarve abides by the Code of Ethics and Practice of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and has no denomination or political affiliations. Joanna Gardner is a fully qualified counsellor and is a recognised member of both the BACP and ASIIP (Adlerian Society of the United Kingdom and the Institute for Individual Psychology).