This month's blog is a little different from the ones I have done so far, but something I know needs to be talked about. So many people access counselling through their GP or are referred through services and encounter waiting lists, but most of those people aren't actually told what to do while they wait.
I have had many a conversation with people on waiting lists and with the professionals who run the services about what you can do while you wait, and the need for services to be more proactive in relaying this information to people waiting.
So today, I am going to share exactly that with you too!
Now, I will add in a caveat here and say that the information provided in this post is not an exhaustive list, but it's enough to get you started and keep you going for some time while you wait.
Let’s jump in!
First off, let’s start at the point of referral. It is always a good idea to ask the professional who did your assessment or who has referred you into the service for some tools and or resources you can use to help you manage your emotional experiences while you wait. If you are reading this and have already had this appointment, give them a call to touch base with them and ask them for some resources you can use while you wait.
Having something tangible to lean on can really help ease some of the pressure that emotional difficulties can bring. I have a range of resources on my website that I update on a regular basis, some of which might be relevant to the things you are struggling with. You can take a look at these [here] and as a special treat, use the code REFERRAL for 10% off all products.
In line with the first point, is my next one:
If you have been given things to do or take while waiting for your referral, try your hardest to do what has been instructed.
Now, I am just going to say here that I am not the biggest fan of medication, particularly for long term use, I am very honest with my clients and professionals alike about this. However, I do think there can be a place and time for them depending on the circumstances. I also think it's important to say that while I have spent most of my adult life in university, I am not a doctor, and any advice about medication should be taken and given only by a qualified professional.
As a consumer, medication and the thought of taking it can be very daunting. So I always encourage my clients to discuss any and every question or concern they have about medication with their doctors before taking it, and if you choose to take it, keep a diary of any and every symptom that develops so that you can regularly review the medication with your doctor. The process is collaborative. If you are taking medication and don't feel like you have had the opportunity to discuss your concerns or symptoms with a medical professional, then my advice while you wait would be to book an appointment and do just that. You can even write down all the things you want to ask and say so you don’t forget.
The next thing is often challenging or underrated and that is: try and widen your support network.
The reason I say this is that often it’s the support network or lack of that is causing the emotional distress in the first place! So, there can be a resistance or reluctance to let anyone else in. Despite my understanding of this, I also know that a lot of people come to counselling because of relational issues and deep down, have a need for secure and stable relationships with others. Having someone you can trust to lean on when times get hard is like gold dust, especially because physical and or emotional loneliness can exacerbate difficult feelings. I also want to add in the caveat that it doesn't have to be people you already know (although if there is anyone that is safe and secure in your life already that you can reach out to, that would be great). You can also find some really amazing people in online groups and communities. Have a look around on things like Google, Instagram, and Facebook. There are also professional services that offer online communities such as [Kooth] or [Qwell] and [Togetherall]. There are so many virtual communities out there now, it’s amazing! As always, remember to keep yourself safe when talking to people online. Never give up personal details that could lead you at risk of danger or fraud.
Next up, we have the now cliche “self-care”.
If you follow me on instagram or are signed up to my mailing list you probably will have heard me talk about self-care loads of times, and as I always say, self-care isn't all book reading and bubble baths. Self-care is whatever you need to help support you in the moment that isn’t harmful. Self care doesn’t have to be something active or proactive either. It could be rest, taking a break, putting down some of the responsibilities you carry, for example.
What is your relationship with self care like? Do you know how to identify the things you need? If you don't, that's okay. I’ll be honest, the answers are all inside of you, you just might have a little trouble accessing them.
A helpful way of learning what you need is to [listen to you], what does your body, mind and heart crave? What does it wish other people would do for you? When you have got those things, listen carefully to them for the hidden messages about the care you need. When you hear them, use them as a starting point for your self-care list. You can also pay attention to the times when you have felt good to help create your self-care routine. What scenarios leave you feeling elated, fulfilled or re-energized, those are also things that can be added to your self-care routine.
The bottom line is that professionals do not expect you to sit and wait while you are waiting for your referral. They expect you to be proactively doing whatever you can manage to help support yourself until they can. The thing is, they don’t make this clear and so I hope this blog has helped make it a little clearer for you today. Want to share any thoughts? Leave a comment below