News, updates, articles and discussions from healthcare professionals.

What Is A Doula & What Do They Do?

What Is A Doula?A doula is a person who provides support to women throughout pregnancy, labour, birth, and sometimes the postnatal period. They’re not medically trained and don’t provide advice, but can help with practical tasks, provide informational support based on their experience, and look after emotional needs. Doulas can be appointed at any point during pregnancy or in the weeks or months after the birth of a baby. Some doulas—typically known as birth doulas—will focus on the journey to pregnancy and labour itself, while others—called postnatal doulas—specialise in providing support in the first stage of motherhood. It’s also not uncommon for doulas to take on both duties, working with the same family from the beginning of their pregnancy into the early years of their child’s life. It's important to note that they’re not a replacement for medical professionals such as gynaecologists or midwives. Instead, they should be seen as a complementary service—providing additional support above and beyond the basics.  What do doulas do?Doulas are typically highly-experienced in maternal matters, although medically untrained. Their experience and expertise means that they can be flexible to the needs of the family they’re working with, taking on a broad range of roles.Typically, doulas will provide services such as:Spend time getting to know the family they’re working with and building strong relationshipsAnswer questions about pregnancy, birthing options, and early childhood responsibilities, easing concerns with their experienceProvide emotional support, wherever it’s needed, during pregnancy and in the postnatal periodDeliver one-to-one support, encouragement, and reassurance during labour (whether at home or in hospital)Help ease the transition into feeding the new-born baby and provide other baby care supportGive new parents the opportunity to have rest, space, and the chance to talk things through in weeks following birthEvery relationship between a family and their doula is different, and the duties that doulas take on reflect that unique relationship. They’re generally highly adaptable people, capable of doing what’s needed to give families the most positive pregnancy and birthing experience.   What are the benefits of having a doula?The experience that doulas bring to the table in their relationship with expectant families can be invaluable in smoothing the bumps on the life-altering journey of having a baby.Some families will find value in simply having somebody on-hand to provide information and emotional support, but there is also evidence showing that doulas can have tangible practical benefits.A synthesis study, compiling the findings from 51 other separate medical studies across 22 countries, found that the benefits of having a doula may include:Increased likelihood of a vaginal birth, and decreased likelihood of caesarean or instrumental birthsDecreased likelihood of the need for pain medicationA shorter labour processIncreased satisfaction with the birthing experienceThe communication gap between the mother and the delivery staff being bridged, resulting in smoother dialogueDecreased likelihood of the baby having a low five-minute Apgar score  How much do doulas cost?There are lots of factors that affect how much a doula will cost. As with any other service, prices will change depending on where in the country they work and how much experience they have. The level of service provided will also factor into the cost, with some doulas playing a more comprehensive role than others.It’s also important to remember that doulas work in all different ways, including being self-employed, NHS employees, employees of private organisations specialising in doula care, or even volunteers. Where you find your doula will likely also have an impact on how much their services cost. As doula costs can vary broadly, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with the ones that you’re interested in learning more about and asking them directly.There are also some organisations that have networks of voluntary doulas across the country, including Doulas Without Borders, dedicated to providing support to women experiencing financial hardship. Are doulas insured?Given that they’re not medical professionals, doulas aren’t regulated or legally required to be insured. However, some will have private insurance for their services. As with cost, the answer to this question varies from doula to doula, so asking individual providers is the best way to find out.  How to find a doulaYou can find doulas in your area with My Health Assistant. You’ll find all the information you need to find a doula who suits you, including a summary of their experience and any training they’ve completed, and you can contact them directly through our platform. 

Read more

Difference Between Nutritionist & Dietitian

What’s The Difference Between A Dietitian And A Nutritionist?‘You are what you eat’, the popular saying goes, and it’s not far wrong! Diet plays a large role in our overall health, factoring into everything from general wellbeing to risk of disease. According to the World Health Organization, a healthy diet combined with a fit and active lifestyle, can contribute towards minimising risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Healthier dietary choices also improve overall nutrition, helping people to maintain more optimal body weights. This, in itself, can also reduce the risk of health complications.But adopting a healthier diet is a process that’s fraught with difficulties and challenges for lots of people, from not knowing what their diet should include to having difficulty sticking to it over the long term. Nutritionists and dietitians exist to help people overcome these obstacles.However, there are key differences between dietitians and nutritionists that not everybody knows about. We’re here to break down what they both do and what qualifications they need, so you can make a more informed choice about which one to go for. What is a dietitian?Dietitians are healthcare professionals that work with patients to assess, diagnose, and treat dietary and nutritional problems or conditions. They’re the only professionals working in the field of nutrition that require formal qualifications and are regulated by law.Their role involves providing practical guidance to help people make healthy choices in their diet. Dietitians commonly work with people who have recognised medical conditions such as diabetes, allergies, IBS, and eating disorders, but can also provide their services more generally to people seeking advice unrelated to a specific condition.They will often work as part of multi-disciplinary clinical teams alongside doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and other professionals to deliver complete healthcare plans. Registered dietitians are required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in dietetics (or a related science undergraduate degree with an postgraduate qualification in dietetics). These qualifications all involve a mandatory placement working in the NHS, which means even newly-qualified dietitians will have clinical experience. All dietitians are also required to be registered with The Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), a regulatory body that upholds standards across the healthcare sector. The title of dietitian or registered dietitian is only applicable to members of the HCPC. Whether they practice in the NHS, a private clinic, or on a self-employed basis, the fact that all dietitians are governed by the same ethical code ensures they work to the highest standard. What is a nutritionist?Nutritionists are specialists in the field of diet and nutrition, but aren’t formally qualified or medically regulated. They provide advice to people looking for support in making healthier choices in their diet, breaking scientific knowledge down into simple action plans.They typically work with people who need help with achieving a particular health-related objective, whether that’s losing weight or supporting athletic development. Their role doesn’t extend to providing medical support to people with recognised health conditions, like eating disorders or chronic diseases. A nutritionist will often focus on delivering actionable advice, typically in the form of personalised diet plans that address the specific concerns of the person they’re working with. Some will specialise in particular areas, such as sports nutrition or infant nutrition, while others will function as generalists.  There is no formal education path or qualification required to be a nutritionist, and the title isn’t protected by law. However, nutritionists can hold the title of registered nutritionist (sometimes shortened as RNutr) if they are registered with the Association for Nutrition (AfN). Only nutritionists with a BSc in nutrition or a related subject and three years’ experience qualify for this accreditation. The differences between dietitians and nutritionistsThe main factor that differentiates dietitians from nutritionists is that only dietitians are medically qualified and regulated by law. They both provide fundamentally similar services, but the remit of a dietitian extends beyond an advisory role and into one as a medical professional. This means they are equipped to formulate and provide dietary advice that is specifically targeted at addressing recognised medical conditions. Nutritionists, on the other hand, can only work to provide general diet and lifestyle advice outside of the realm of medical support. To summarise, here’s a table that compares the main differences between dietitians and nutritionists: DietitianNutritionistMinimum qualification requiredBSc in DieteticsNoneClinical experience requiredNHS placement during degreeNoneAccreditation requiredHCPC membershipNone (AfN optional)Able to provide nutritional adviceYesYesAble to provide medical adviceYesNo Which should you choose?The decision between seeing a dietitian or nutritionist really comes down to what sort of dietary support you need. If you’re looking for qualified medical advice regarding how a condition like diabetes, IBS or an eating disorder, only a dietitian is qualified to provide it, ruling out nutritionists.If your objective isn’t necessarily medical, but more related to lifestyle or personal development, a nutritionist is open to you as an option. Key differentiating factors that might help you make your decision include price, availability, and proximity. As is often the case, looking around for options nearby and comparing different dietitians and nutritionists can help you to make up your mind. You can browse dietitians and nutritionists in your area with My Health Assistant to find one that suits you, and contact them directly through our platform.

Read more

Difference Between CBT & Counselling

The Difference Between CBT And CounsellingMental health has arguably never been a more important topic than right now. It’s estimated that one in four people in England will experience a mental health problem of some sort each year, whether that’s depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or something else entirely. The prevalence of these conditions makes it hugely important to understand what support is available to deal with them. If you’re suffering from poor mental health personally, or looking out for a friend or loved one that’s having a hard time, one of the first steps to take is to learn what help is out there.Thankfully, there are a lot of different avenues to explore when it comes to addressing or treating mental health problems. We’re here to discuss the difference between two of the most common routes – cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling. Both of these services fall under the umbrella term of talking therapy, but there are key differences between them which you need to know about if you’re trying to make a decision on which one is right for you.Read on to learn more about what CBT and counselling really are, what separates them, and how you can chose the one that suits your needs. What is CBT?Cognitive behavioural therapy, commonly referred to as CBT, is a talking therapy that centres around the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected, and that changing one can have positive effects on the others.It involves a trained therapist providing guidance on how to identify and correct the negative thought patterns that contribute to the effects of conditions like depression and anxiety. The theory is that, by learning how to notice these thought patterns as they occur, people are able to work on overcoming them and can regain more control over how their thoughts impact their feelings and behaviours. Importantly, CBT is a type of therapy that’s rooted in the present, not the past. It’s unlikely that CBT sessions will include what you might think of as ‘typical’ therapy, where you recall traumatic events from earlier life or talk about your childhood. Instead, it focuses on the problems you’re dealing with right now, and looks for practical methods of improving your day-to-day state of mind.Studies show that CBT is provably effective as a therapeutic approach for a wide range of mental health conditions including anxiety, eating disorders, anger control issues, general stress, and depression.   What is counselling?Counselling is another form of talking therapy that’s commonly used as part of a treatment plan for people with mental health conditions. While the term counselling is often used to describe talking therapies in general, it’s also a type of therapy in its own right.It involves attending sessions with a trained counsellor who will listen to the life problems or difficult feelings you’re encountering in a safe, confidential environment. It’s not the counsellor’s job to provide you with advice or tell you what to do to solve your problems, they simply provide an outlet that allows you to talk about what’s bothering you and work on uncovering any potential root causes. The most important element of counselling is that you are given access to a space where you can talk openly and honestly without fear of judgement or criticism. Seeing a counsellor can help you to learn more about yourself, your ways of thinking and feeling, and perhaps even guide you towards finding your own solutions to problems you’re facing.  There are different types of counselling available, including psychodynamic, humanistic, and Gestalt, but all forms fundamentally aim to relieve distress and help people to better understand themselves and the challenges they face.  Differences between CBT and counsellingBoth CBT and counselling are applied in the treatment of a huge range of mental health problems, but the basic differences between them mean that they suit different conditions, objectives, and types of people. Here’s a guide to some of the most notable differences between CBT and counselling.FocusCBT and counselling have completely different therapeutic focuses. CBT is very focused on delivering potential methods of dealing with problems that are being experienced in the present, while counselling has a broader focus that encompasses the past and doesn’t claim to provide a concrete plan of action, so much as promoting open discussion.StructureWhile there are similarities in the structure of CBT and counselling, in that they both take place in sessions that will typically last around an hour and be delivered regularly over the course of weeks, there are also key differences. Chief among these is that CBT sessions are generally more structured within themselves than counselling sessions, with a plan for what will be achieved and actionable outcomes. Counselling operates more fluidly, as the conversation guides the path of the session.SuitabilityBoth CBT and counselling can have tangible benefits on your state of mind, but they are most suitable for different conditions. CBT is generally most associated with depression, anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders, while counselling seems better suited to addressing only some forms of depression, as well as other mental health issues like stressful life events, bereavements, and fertility difficulties. ContentWhat actually happens during a session is another key difference between the two talking therapies. CBT is a relatively active process, during which you might discuss coping mechanisms, conduct thought experiments, complete worksheets, and carry out roleplaying exercises. Counselling, on the other hand, is primarily based in open, freeform discussion, sometimes accompanied by active techniques.   Choosing the right type of therapyIt’s understandably difficult to choose the type of therapy that’s going to help you best, but which one will have the biggest impact really depends on lots of different factors. You may find it helpful to carry out more research into CBT and counselling to make your mind up, but the best way to figure out what type of therapy to pursue is to see a trained medical professional, such as a GP.If you’re looking for more information about the different types of therapy available, resources like the NHS website and the mental health charity Mind can be invaluable. 

Read more

What Is Audiology & What Do Audiologists Do?

The Basics Of AudiologyIt’s easy to take them for granted when they’re working fine, but impairment to one of your five senses can be debilitating. Most of us will be familiar with the process of assessing vision, with over 12.5 million eye tests carried out in England alone every year and as much as 59% of our population wearing eyeglasses, but knowledge about the healthcare support available for our other senses seems less prevalent.We’re here to demystify audiology, the branch of healthcare that deals with the assessment of hearing, for you. Read on to learn everything you need to know about audiology, audiologists, and how they might be able to help you with your hearing issues.What is audiology?Audiology, a word which originates from the Latin ‘audire’ (to hear) and Greek ‘logia’ (study), is the branch of the healthcare system that deals with issues relating to hearing and balance. Combining modern technology with medical science, audiology aims to identify, assess, and provide solutions for a broad range of disorders and conditions, from tinnitus to natural hearing loss.What is an audiologist?Audiologists are the professionals who practice audiology. They are responsible for identifying, assessing, and helping people to manage hearing or balance conditions, and make full use of a broad range of assessment tools and technology. Just as an optician diagnoses eye conditions and delivers expert advice and tangible solutions to rectify their effects, audiologists strive to deliver solutions that help people to regain or maintain their level of hearing. In some cases, this will be as simple as providing advice about how to make adaptations that can help to limit hearing loss, in others, it will involve fitting technology like hearing aids to make a difference.Due to the complex nature of the role, audiologists are required to complete a 3-year degree in audiology that’s approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) or an NHS Practitioner Training Programme in audiology, depending on whether they want to work privately or for the NHS.What conditions do audiologists treat?In the same way that there are many different conditions that can affect the eyes and require the support of an optician, such as short-sightedness, glaucoma, and cataracts, hearing issues come in many forms. Audiologists are generally trained to treat conditions including:Hearing loss – Long-term and sudden hearing loss, which may be caused by natural degradation or a specific condition.Ear infections – Ear infections that cause pain, dizziness, loss of balance, or hearing loss can all generally be diagnosed by audiologists.Impacted earwax – Earwax build-ups that are exacerbated by impacting (causing denser blockages) can cause partial hearing loss and ear damage.Tinnitus – Characterised by a persistent ringing noise in the ear, tinnitus has a range of potential causes.Balance disorders – The inner ear is responsible for our sense of balance and can be affected by ear problems causing conditions like vertigo. What does an audiologist do?Due to the variety of conditions and issues that can affect the ear, our sense of hearing, and our balance, audiologists take on a broad range of responsibilities. They can carry out a variety of tasks during an appointment, including:Perform hearing testsMost people who attend an appointment with an audiologist for the first time will likely begin with a hearing test, or audiogram. This type of diagnostic test is designed to identify the recipient’s level of hearing, using sounds at different frequencies and volumes to build an understanding of what can be heard and what can’t. The test usually involves listening out for sounds and raising your hand or pushing a button when you hear one. The result of an audiogram is a graph that shows which sounds you heard, and which you didn’t, indicating the frequency or volume-based shortcomings of your hearing.Remove earwaxSome hearing issues can be caused by a simple build-up of wax in the ear canal, or more serious impacted wax build-ups that can in time cause damage to the eardrum. Audiologists can help to remove these blockages by using micro-suction or irrigation tools, providing a near-instant solution to minor hearing problems.Fit hearing aidsIn some cases, partial deafness or hearing loss are symptomatic of a more fundamental degradation in hearing. This can occur for a range of reasons, from natural degradation due to age to sudden hearing loss because of a health condition or environmental factor. Hearing aids are one of the most common solutions to more serious hearing issues like these, and audiologists are the ones who identify the need for one and fit the device itself. The process of fitting a hearing aid involves the audiologist tinkering with the settings to make sure it’s effective at improving hearing, and there will often be follow-up appointments to provide further optimisation.    Discuss products or medicationBeyond hearing aids, there are a range of other devices, products, and medications out there that can provide temporary or permanent solutions to some hearing issues. Audiologists, having assessed your condition, are best placed to make recommendations about which to pursue, whether it’s antibiotics to treat an ear infection or custom ear buds to protect the ears in loud environments.Provide adviceFinally, audiologists can simply act as consultants and provide advice that is geared towards preventing hearing loss, maintaining current levels of hearing, or continuing to enjoy the same quality of life with impaired hearing. 

Read more

What Is Occupational Therapy & What Does It Do?

A Guide To Occupational TherapyHealth conditions, whether they’re physical or mental, long-term or fleeting, can seriously inhibit the way you’re able to live your life. Whether it’s a broken bone stopping you from playing sport, anxiety making every working day a struggle, or symptoms of a chronic illness causing daily challenges, it can be tough to find a way to continue to do the things you need or want to do when you’re struggling with your health.Occupational therapy is a healthcare service that’s designed specifically to support you in living your life as close to normally as possible during these times. It enables people to retain their independence throughout (and often after) dealing with an illness, injury, or other condition, which can be a huge factor in overall wellbeing. We’re here to give you an overview of all things occupational therapy, including what it really is, what the process involves, and how it might be able to help you. What is occupational therapy?Occupational therapy is a healthcare service that focuses on helping people develop, recover, or maintain their ability to complete everyday tasks or activities, otherwise known as ‘occupations’. It’s a broad discipline that covers injuries, illnesses, mental health conditions, learning disabilities, effects of aging, and more, but no matter what it’s in response to, the practice of occupational therapy usually revolves around two key steps: assessment and intervention.These two steps – the monitoring of difficulties followed by the provision of techniques and approaches that can be used to overcome them – are invariably designed to help people to maintain their independence. Holding on to the ability to complete everyday tasks like working, socialising, exercising, and keeping their home clean can be an important factor in people’s wellbeing, and occupational therapy exists to help people do just that. What is an occupational therapist?Occupational therapists are the professionals who carry out occupational therapy. To become a fully qualified occupational therapist, you must complete a degree or apprenticeship degree in occupational therapy before registering with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). However it’s not uncommon for occupational therapists to also hold other qualifications and accreditations, as knowledge of psychology and counselling skills are also important facets of an occupational therapist’s skillset. What does occupational therapy do?The nature of occupational therapy depends strongly on what health condition, disability, injury, or illness is being treated. However, there are basic principles that underline the practice in general.As already mentioned, occupational therapists will typically begin with a monitoring or assessment phase, during which the therapist will develop an understanding of the condition you’re facing and how it affects your capacity to live your life to the fullest. For example, if an occupational therapist is consulting somebody with rheumatoid arthritis, they might notice things like poor range of motion, joint pain, and tiredness as primary symptoms that cause day-to-day difficulties with ‘occupations’, like inability to do a basic level of exercise or work a laborious job.With this knowledge, the occupational therapist can then move on to the second stage of their process, which is to formulate and deliver advice and actionable techniques on how to overcome these difficulties. This might come in the form of:Practising carrying out occupations in manageable stagesTeaching a different way to complete the same occupationsMaking recommendations on how to avoid or minimise the occupationsProviding devices that can enable occupations to be carried out with more easeUsing the same example of somebody with rheumatoid arthritis, after assessing the occupations their patient is struggling to complete, an occupational therapist might make interventions including:Formulating a recommended program of exercise to strengthen jointsSourcing specialist devices to make difficult tasks like holding small instruments easierTeaching modified ways of completing day-to-day tasks, like buttoning a shirtRecommending workplace modifications that can help make work simplerThe interventions made by an occupational therapist will vary depending on the condition they’re working with, but they all revolve around helping people to maintain their independence to uphold the quality of life they’re used to. What can occupational therapy help with?Occupational therapy is a healthcare service that’s applicable to many different conditions, ranging from simple injuries to complex learning disabilities. It’s commonly used to support:People with physical disabilitiesPeople in wheelchairs, amputees, and anyone with a physical disability such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis can potentially benefit from an occupational therapist’s interventions. These might include techniques for dressing or cooking, or recommendations on adaptations to the workplace to make their job easier. People with learning disabilitiesLearning disabilities such as dyslexia, processing issues, or ADHD can make day-to-day occupations more difficult, but occupational therapists can help develop techniques to overcome these difficulties. These might be focused on important tasks for independence, like cooking or cleaning, or developing skills for employment.People with long-term health conditionsAt the onset of long-term health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, COPD, and arthritis, occupational therapists can help to assess potential difficulties and deliver relevant interventions. These might be geared towards reducing pain from regular activities, maintaining good levels of fitness, or adapting the workplace to suit new needs.People with mental health conditionsDepression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions can all cause great difficulties when it comes to maintaining independence and proper functioning, but occupational therapists can deliver interventions targeted specifically at these issues. The focus in these conditions might be to improve their ability to look after their basic needs, engage socially, or manage their finances. People with debilitating injuriesInjuries, whether they’re short term or long term, can be jarring in that they suddenly impose limitations. Occupational therapists can devise strategies to overcome these limitations and regain independence, such as alternative ways to dress themselves, use of specialist devices around the house, or adaptations to the way they work.Older peopleAs people age, their ability to complete everyday occupations can suffer. Occupational therapists can support older people by developing techniques that help them to maintain their abilities or implementing specialist devices that help keep them safe, such as walking aids or changes around the home.

Read more

What Is Massage Therapy & What Are Its Benefits?

Everything You Need To Know About Massage TherapyStress, achiness, pain, tension – we all experience them at some point or another. And, whether they’re isolated side-effects of a tough week or symptoms of a broader health condition, they can be difficult to deal with. Massage therapy is one possible solution, out of many, to alleviating minor ailments like those mentioned above. Read on to learn everything you need to know about massage therapy, including what it involves, how it works, and whether it’s right for you.What is massage therapy?Massage therapy is, in essence, just the application of massage techniques for a therapeutic purpose. Just like regular massages, it aims to relax, revive, and repair tissue in the body, making use of rubbing and kneading movements to manipulate soft tissue and muscle. It’s a form of treatment that is often included as part of wider healthcare plans to address issues like physical stress, tension in the body, sports injuries, and chronic pain. By applying pressure and movement to problem areas, massage therapists can make a difference to both the wellbeing of their patient and the symptoms being addressed. It’s thought that massage therapy has been practiced for almost 4,000 years, with records of massage techniques appearing in the 16th century BC Chinese medical text Con-Fu of the Toa-Tse. That makes it one of the oldest forms of treatment still used in our modern healthcare world. What is a massage therapist?Massage therapists are the practitioners who deliver massage therapy. There are no formal qualifications required to become a massage therapist, but plenty of practitioners still undertake a diploma, degree, or apprenticeship to develop their knowledge of the practice and build experience. There are also certain professional bodies that provide massage therapy accreditations, including the Federation of Holistic Therapists and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.Types of massage therapyWith such a long and storied history preceding it, modern massage therapy involves lots of different types of massage, each with their own techniques, approaches, and benefits. These include:Swedish massageOne of the most popular forms of massage around, a Swedish massage is typically focused on relaxation. It generally makes use of a gentle touch and often scented massage oils, imbuing the recipient with a sense of calm.Deep tissue massageDeep tissue massages are much more utilitarian in their aims than their Swedish counterparts, focusing on deep penetrating techniques that get into your muscles and help to relieve tightness, pain, or tension. Sports massageSports massages are very similar to deep tissue massages, sharing a lot of the same techniques. However, whereas deep tissue massages are used to treat all sorts of conditions and alleviate broad symptoms, sports massages are typically more focused on one particular area of an athlete’s body with the aim of preventing an injury, or aiding recovery.Prenatal massageAs the name hints, prenatal massages are designed to suit expectant mothers. They have a variety of purposes, from helping to address aches and pains in the body to aiding relaxation, and can be administered al the way through the pregnancy process.Lymphatic massage Lymphatic massages are another specific sub-category of massage therapy, geared especially towards encouraging the free flow of lymphatic fluid throughout the body. This type of massage is generally suited to people who suffer from lymphatic issues, including inflammation.Benefits of massage therapyMassage therapy isn’t a cure for anything, but it is commonly used, either in isolation or as part of a more comprehensive healthcare plan, to treat diverse symptoms resulting from a range of different conditions. That’s because it’s been reported to have the potential to deliver a wide range of benefits, including:Stress reliefA study has found that massage therapy can measurably reduce stress, more so than taking some simple relaxation time without a massage. Whether you’re stressed because of a bad day at work, or you’re battling a more serious medical condition that’s getting you down, massage therapy might be able to help. Pain reliefMassages have also been shown to have a statistically significant impact on pain, helping to relieve overall pain level and emotional well-being. This is part of the reason it’s sometimes used by cancer patients who are undergoing other treatments.Boosted immune systemAnother study, carried out my researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, claims that massage therapy also had the power to boost the immune system, lowering the levels of cytokines, cortisol, and vasopressin in the body, and significant changes in lymphocytes (molecules that play a role in defending the body from disease). Improves sleepA range of different studies have also indicated that massage therapy can be a helpful remedy to sleep issues, including for the elderly and people who deal with insomnia, migraines, and fibromyalgia. 

Read more

10 Benefits Of Counselling

The Benefits Of CounsellingLife can be tough, and there’s not always a friend or family member available to lean on when you need them. Whether you’re suffering from a medical or mental health condition, going through a stressful time at work, dealing with personal tragedy, or something else entirely, counselling can be a much-needed outlet. As a talking therapy, counselling exists to provide you with a safe space in which you can talk through your problems without fear of judgement. A counsellor won’t fix things for you or offer specific advice, but the process of discussing what’s wrong means that you can take steps towards self-improvement and finding solutions to your issues. There’s plenty of research that backs this up. In fact, counselling has been shown to have a statistically significant impact on people with a variety of mental, behavioural, and emotional issues.  If you’re contemplating finding a counsellor near you for support with whatever it is you’re going through, but you’re not sure how counselling can help you, read on. We’re here to provide you with an overview of ten of the key potential benefits of counselling.New perspectivesFirst up, attending counselling sessions can help you to see your problems in a new light. It’s easy, when you’re fixated on something, to miss all of the facets of the situation or be unable to view the issue from an external perspective. But talking through the situation out loud with a counsellor in a one-on-one setting can help you to see things that you’d previously missed or approach the problem from a new direction. And that’s sometimes all it takes to find a resolution that makes things feel better or gets your life back on track.Improved communicationTalking with a counsellor can help you to develop your communication skills in two important ways. The first is that you get to practice talking about difficult, sensitive, or emotionally-charged issues in a confidential and judgement-free environment. This can be a huge benefit as the skills you learn follow you out of the counselling session and into everyday life. You’ll also likely improve your capacity to consider other points of view when you’re in conversation, making it easier to relate to other people, find common-ground, and achieve a positive outcome.Changed habitsDissecting and analysing your own thoughts and behaviours, as you often do in counselling sessions, is a critical first step in being able to change negative habits. Whether it’s a physical habit, like smoking or comfort eating, or an emotional habit, like lashing out in anger or being too much of a people-pleaser, counselling can help you to understand the thought patterns that take you there. In fact, some forms of talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, are specifically geared around helping you to recognise and neutralise negative thought patterns, potentially resulting in much more control over what you do.Increased self-esteemInsecurity affects almost everybody at some point or another. Especially if you have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, self-doubt about your appearance, skills, or personality can be a vicious cycle that it’s hard to break out of. But counselling can often address your self-esteem, either directly or indirectly, helping you to better understand yourself and accept your flaws or imperfections. And with self-acceptance comes confidence! Emotional regulationEmotional regulation can be challenging when you’re struggling with life, particularly for people with a persistent mental health condition or neurodevelopmental disorder, whether that’s depression, anxiety, chronic stress, ADHD, autism, or something else. Counselling sessions can help to improve your ability to recognise triggers that precede emotional dysregulation, develop effective coping mechanisms, and prevent your emotions from escalating. And, with better control over your emotions you’re more able to solve other problems, whether they’re yours or someone else’s.Stress reductionWhen life gets stressful, everything can feel like it’s falling apart. This, in itself, makes it harder to make improvements without outside intervention like counselling. There are a range of techniques that can be used by counsellors to help you reduce your stress levels, but a particularly relevant one is called Inquiry-Based Stress Reduction (IBSR). Studies indicate that this mindfulness-based approach, when integrated in regular counselling sessions, can promote self-awareness, self-compassion, and greater cognitive flexibility.   Better decision-makingThe practice of attending counselling and the lessons you can learn during sessions can both contribute towards improved decision-making abilities. The approach that a counsellor uses, which is typically methodical, logical, and compassionate, can provide you with a template for making decisions in the future, making it easier for you to slow down and consider your options. And the improved understanding, of both your own emotions and behaviours and those of other people, that you amass during the course of counselling can give you greater insight into what a good decision for you even is.Conflict resolutionCounselling is also a great way to both improve your own conflict resolution skills and resolve conflicts you’re currently experiencing in a positive manner. The first benefit is a by-product of some of the other benefits on this list, such as better communication skills, improved emotional regulation, and lower stress levels. The second benefit can come about when you attend joint counselling, either with your partner, family, or friends. This is such an important part of counselling that plenty of professional focus specifically on conflict resolution, specialising as couples counsellors, marriage counsellors, or family counsellors. Mental health improvementsThe impact that talking therapies, and particularly CBT, can have on mental health conditions like depression and anxiety have been studied at length. And while results are never truly conclusive in the realm of mental health, popular studies seem to indicate that therapy can have a tangible positive outcome in treating people with mental health conditions. It’s indicated that CBT, for instance, is effective as part of a treatment plan for people with anxiety and depression.Reduced suicidal ideationAnd, finally, counselling is also thought to have the possibility of enacting positive outcomes when applied to people experiencing suicidal ideation. Studies centring around psychotherapy approaches such as CBT and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) show that they can be effective at reducing both suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts themselves.   

Read more

Can you have faith and divorce?

‘Well, I don’t know anything about divorce and what your going through but hopefully this will help’ About 2 months before my Grandad, a staunch Methodist, died he gave me money to help pay for my divorce. He didn’t understand (or let’s face it, probably want to) but he did love me and wanted to help in a way he knew how. This may be a little bit like your Church, your family or your faith community. Perhaps they are not sure how to understand or to help support you through a divorce or break up but there is love and well-meaning. There is training around supporting with bereavement and loss, but the complications, guilt, trauma and sometimes abuse that comes with separation is less able to be supported in my experience. It is in our nature and servitude as a Christian to forgive and ‘turn the other cheek’. When it comes to different forms of abuse, that means that we can be in a relationship longer than most as we are hoping and praying for change. Strength and comfort can be drawn from a deep faith even in challenging situations. Churches are beginning to recognise the need for more education in order to support in this area but, when I searched online for studies and information related to Christianity, divorce and domestic abuse, there was very little recent study or information to be found. The nuclear family unit has been held in such high esteem for such a long time and it can offers a place of secrecy  - a place apart, private and not available for public discussion. It is only through the tight bonds and friendships within faith communities that the ‘meatier’ stuff be divulged. Before my own experience, I never really delved into ‘relationship stuff’. It can still feel very lonely both in a relationship that is broken and after separation, despite being surrounded by a wider faith community. There is added pressure relating to bringing shame and embarrassment on parents and other family too. Funnily enough, it was only once I was going through separation that I had very meaningful conversations with members of the Church whom I had only known at a very surface level. It is in our frailty and vulnerability that we often become more humble, open and relatable to others. Those conversations were powerful, amazing! In sharing our hurt and often tears, we were able to support each other to heal. I know that people will speak to me specifically now because of my experience and I am glad to be able to support others. My own faith has been enriched in a different way and I know that God can use me to support wellbeing in anyone going through the pain of break up or divorce, or even feeling alone or on the fringes for other reasons. In this way, CHURCHES and FAITH COMMUNITIES NEED YOU! We need the diversity of broken, scarred, wonderful humans to help to support each other and lift each other up each day. To women and men – we need to challenge the problems that patriarchy in scripture can allow, particularly relating to domestic violence.In opening up conversations and sharing experiences, there is love, hope and an embrace from a wider faith family. A family who may not always understand exactly what is going on, but want to help through love.  On a side note: The pictures are of a most beautiful monastery in Romania that I visited. The village lived in poverty, the monastery at the end of the road was immaculate. Not my idea of where God is if I'm honest but that tale is for another time!

Read more

Step by step.

Even as a teenager, with plenty of angst, I was able to hike off into the distance with my dog, Skip and tell him all my problems without him responding. He just listened. The wind against my face, the anger and sadness of my teenage woes being thrown out onto the breeze. I was then able to sit and feel a renewed sense of peace and togetherness, often taking in my surroundings and recognising my own insignificance as a comfort – my problems may not be as massive as they seemed, they can be overcome.I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm and have this space and freedom (and a non-judgmental dog who followed and sat by my side).As an adult, I still recognise my need for space, nature and the healing that it brings me. I love hiking. Nothing brings me more joy than being on the tops of the magnificent fells in the Lakes and if there is no one else there, all the better! It has massive health benefits: being outdoors, breathing well in the fresh air, fitness and it can be social too. I also go wild-swimming and this is something I grew to love after my divorce, I have found a wonderful and supportive wild-swimming community. The cold water submersion, the freedom and the social benefits are fantastic – ask Wim Hof!This is where I can link what I do to benefit others. I am a Break Up and Divorce Coach and am now offering a new type of coaching called ‘Step by Step’. I am based in the beautiful county of Yorkshire and offer coaching as we walk. I have a number of walks for different abilities and locations in Yorkshire. If you would like me to come to you we can add transport costs but I am happy to source a walk whilst we have our coaching session. If you would like to attempt a wild swim in North Yorkshire and link it to a coaching session, I can also facilitate this.Why am I offering this?As one of my roles, I volunteer as a Street Angel (those folk who give out water and flip flops) and, as part of this I undertake conflict management training with the police. Within this training, we discuss being alongside people, rather than face to face, it can be less daunting to chat side by side as we walk, plus there is the added fitness benefit. You are getting more for your money!I am also a huge believer in the healing power of nature. There will be moments of peace and tranquillity. If you need to let go of negative emotions, there will be time and space for us to do this and we will be in quiet and beautiful parts of the countryside. By the end of the walk, you will not only feel reenergised and reinvigorated but you may feel a sense of calm, clarity and a new strength and resilience to move forward, having been given tools to help you as part of my coaching.

Read more

Are you already self-employed and looking to connect with more patients?

My Health Assistant can be used as an additional marketing tool for business generation right through to a full virtual office ensuring your time is focused on patients and not admin.

Find out more