How counselling helped Phillip with his anxiety and depression

When Phillip came to see Mark, our experienced therapist, it wasn’t difficult to understand why he was suffering from depression and anxiety. In the previous two years he had experienced significant, life-threatening health problems. A restaurateur, his livelihood was in his words ‘slowly killing’ him. He had experienced two traumatic bereavements, which while some years ago continued to affect him. And his view of himself was far from positive. In fact Phillip described himself as ‘a mistake’. In the month prior to seeing me he had considered suicide. ‘I’m on antidepressant medication,’ he told me, ‘but it’s not working.’ It’s interesting how people come to choose their therapist. When I asked him why he chose me, he replied because of my photo. “You looked kind,’ he said, ‘and your type of support – Human Givens Therapy – that really appealed to me, too.”

Establishing an effective counselling relationship

A theme running throughout our counselling was my ability to accept Phillip for who he was. “I know I can come here each week and not be judged regardless of whether I have screwed up.” His entire world was based on judgement: from himself, from his employees and customers and from the grave. ‘My parents never wanted me,’ he said. ‘That’s why I am a mistake.’ I came to learn that counselling acted as an emotional pressure valve for Phillip. My acceptance of him opened the valve allowing bits of pressure to be safely released week by week. Phillip therefore looked forward to our sessions and this positivity acted as a catalyst for change. For the first time in a long time his depression started to lift. The counselling also took the pressure off Phillip’s other relationships to. His wife especially felt hopeless because she did not know how to help her husband. Knowing that I could take the pressure away led to a strengthening of their relationship, which understandably had become strained.

The role of emotional needs

As a Human Givens Therapist one of my early aims is to establish how well a client’s emotional needs are being met. One of the key ideas of my approach is the link between mental health and emotional needs. Poorly met emotional needs result in stress, anxiety and depression. Well-met needs result in ‘feel good’ emotions. I therefore got Phillip to complete the Human Givens Emotional Needs Audit (ENA). The ENA allows someone to pinpoint their unmet needs and Phillip quickly highlighted those he wanted to focus on: the need for control, the need for meaning and purpose and the need for status. Our work then became about getting these important needs more effectively met in Phillip’s life. I was able to explain – WITH CONFIDENCE – to Phillip that his anxiety and depression would improve as he felt more in control, rediscovered a sense of meaning and purpose in life and felt more important (status) and less like a mistake.

Phillip starts to turn his life around

To feel more in control Phillip made the decision to sell his business. Simply identifying this as a possibility was a revelation to him. Before he could see no end to the stress of his 24/7 existence, whereas now he could start to dream of ‘a normal life.’ To find greater meaning and purpose Phillip began to think about what he could do professionally. A few years ago he had been a football coach and this memory led him to think about mentoring young people. As for his belief he was a mistake I worked with Phillip in a supportive, but nevertheless challenging way to change it. I suggested that he was a great father and husband (true); a successful businessmen who employed and gave a livelihood to many others (true); and in the near future a great mentor and role model to disadvantaged young people. Phillip said his status would ‘take time’ but he no longer saw himself as a mistake.

Positive outcomes

I worked with Phillip for a year meeting twice a month. Although it took him some time he did ultimately sell his business. Four months after our final session I received the following from him:

“Hi Mark – long time no speak, which I suppose in my case is a good thing. Just thought I would drop you a line to say thanks for all your help. It has completely changed me as a person and put me on a new track in life. I am now working as a teaching assistant and enjoying every minute. So out of my comfort zone working with 11 year olds, but it’s great. Anyway, not going to bore you with the details, but just to say thanks for everything you have done for me.” Phillip

Do you suffer from anxiety and depression or know someone else that does who you are concerned about? Please get in touch for advice and support on how you can approach this issue.