Welcome to the Counsellor's Room...
A safe, confidential, respectful & caring space for discussing sensitive issues & exploring challenges.

- Antonia's Blog -

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Counselling, an emotional massage

When an adult is told anything is mandatory, and that they have to pay for it, walls and resentment are to be expected. Whilst counseling for donor and Surrogacy is essential, the sessions provide accountability and opportunity to discuss, ask and clarify issues of concern. Whilst shared experiences are common amongst donors and recipients, every relationship is different bringing a new set of complexities. Counselling stabilises relationships, contains their thoughts, assists in articulation and clarifies misunderstandings and ideas. Counselling is like an emotional massage. So next time it is suggested that you need to attend counselling, take the opportunity to meet your emotional needs.


How do you tell a child they don’t have a dad?

Donors in Australia are kind people who assist others have a family. Sperm Donors are not ‘dads in waiting’, egocentric men spreading their genetics or men waiting for a long lost child at 18. Donors provided their semen, gave blood, attended counselling, doctors and nurses appointments to donate their sperm for someone else’s benefit to contribute to a successful pregnancy and live birth. Donors do not get the opportunity to put effort in to a parent / child relationship. Yes they have the same genetics as other people in this world; people that brought him in to this world, his children and people who he helped bring in to this world. Donors are very special people that many recipients are grateful for their donation, not for their parenting. Donors in Australia are kind people who assist others have a family.


Sexual Assault is not sex, it is Abuse!

Justifications sux! “They have a high sex drive, they’re so sexy I couldn’t stop, I destroyed the evidence, it was consensual, I have a disability, I didn’t understand”. Very rarely is sexual abuse or rape about sex. More often than not, assault is about exerting power, control and meeting the perpetrator’s needs. A perpetrator does not care how their actions affect their victim; they do not ask if it is sexually pleasurable (Consensual relationships include mutual pleasuring). Assault is about the perpetrator’s needs, thoughts, ideas, and intent at the expense of a victim. Sexual assault may achieve sexual gratification for the perpetrator, really self pleasuring whilst using someone else’s body. Justifications are not helpful in understanding assault.


Bargaining with Grief

A heated debate between a Doctor, counsellor and Scientist provided 3 different perspectives. The Doctor advocating on behalf of the client asked the scientist for more tests. The Scientist, solution focused, weighed up the value. The counsellor provided the perspective; the answers are what the client needs to move forward despite our professional opinion of waste of money or time. Clients will keep searching until they receive the answer they can live with. Rightly or wrongly, professionals make decisions for clients all the time. Especially when as patients we can’t articulate our needs and advocate for ourselves. Grief blurs our ability to articulate what we are bargaining with. What answers are suffice to change our original plans. Counselling can help decipher our wants and needs, and grieving the need to live with the unknown.


Justifications, not helpful!

This is why I do this… Justification is an excuse that we end up believing. However it is like anxiety, stops us from changing. If we are aware of everytime we provide an excuse to our behavior, awareness is the first opportunity to decide to continue the same path or try something different.


Words That Hurt

Oh My God you're so fat....

When are you guys having a baby?

How often do we hear comments that people say innocently without thinking but you are left heart broken. Words can not be taken back, unsaid or changed. Once heard, the words don't discriminate between good or hurtful intentions. Unless narcisstic, most people speak with humour, sarcasm or stories.

I get that these words when hypersensitive, may cause you to question your body, how others see you and how you feel. These words are opinions, said in jest, said to have something to talk about because people feel the need and right to comment. They are opinions not facts and the speakers have no insight in to your sensitivities.

Hence looking after yourself is imperative. Learning to take in comments that are helpful and spit out those that hurt and not helpful. Opinions are not facts and you do not wear a sign that discloses your personal struggles. Your issues are still confidential. Surround yourself with people that are encouraging.


Alcoholism

Alcoholism affects more than the alcoholic. Their children, partner and family members may lose respect for them. Their slurred speech; inability to drive; inability to have sex; the smell coming out of their pores; their rounded body; internal and external ill health. These are just some symptoms. What about the excessive money spent on a liquid that ends up down a toilet or rotting the liver? Most Sundays are a right off- spent on to recovery time. The inability to enjoy oneself without alcohol is an addiction. Alcoholics are not the lonely men on the streets. Alcoholics are those that binge drink regularly... have a couple (or many more) every night. Alcoholics are the ones that think of drinking as a solution rather than a contributing factor to their problems. Alcoholics are not people to trust or people you can depend on. They can’t drive you to hospital if needed; they can’t have a full conversation without being affected by a chemical reaction. Alcoholics think of alcohol when they make their plans. Alcoholism is an external factor to be considered in your relationship.

Alcoholism affects more than the alcoholic.


Birth: The Emotion Of A Vaginal Delivery

Please note that this blog is not about the way a woman gives birth. The blog focuses on the raw emotion that women who experience a vaginal delivery live.

Sitting in my therapist’s chair, I am fortunate and honoured to be a part of many emotional journeys. However many people may feel too exposed or do not trust letting go and experiencing fully their raw unedited, uninhibited emotion. I promise you will stop crying. I promise you will feel relief and exhaustion.

Vaginal deliveries are the only example I can think of, in Western Society, where raw emotion and expression is welcomed and not condemned. The freedom to scream and push is not a luxury it is a necessity to ensure a healthy live birth.

Imagine the luxury to choose to express yourself in a safe respectful environment, where relief will be experienced. That is freedom and growth.


Mandatory Counselling For Donor Gametes

Mandatory Counselling
Within the provisions of the RTAC Code of Practice (which clinics must comply with) "counselling by a specialist infertility counsellor is mandatory for people donating or using stored gametes or embryos". The counsellor must be a member of ANZICA (Australian & New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association). I have been a member of ANZICA since 2007.
The RTAC guidelines for counselling stipulate three different kinds of counselling related to assisted reproduction: supportive, therapeutic and implications counselling.  For those donating or receiving donor gametes, i.e. Sperm, Eggs or Embryos, counselling is mandatory.

How many sessions?
The number of counseling sessions are not specified, however more than 2 sessions are not uncommon. Counselling covers a range of issues with the. Expectation that issues will be discussed in detail rather than this process being hastened. Discussion is encouraged between both members of the couple. If the recipient knows the donor, a joint counselling session is also mandatory to discuss issues such as boundaries, expectations, disclosure and future relationships.

Topics Discussed
When commencing IVF with donor treatment, you need to be prepared to discuss personal and sensitive issues. Issues related to choices, parenting, age, gender differences and partnership are discussed. There are many issues that need to be considered when thinking about creating your family through genetic material provided by a donor. Counselling helps you consider your emotional responses to this decision, the implications of having a donor conceived child, your attitudes towards informing the child and others, and the legislation regarding donor conception. Some donor specific topics discussed include;

  • Relationship where one or both partners are not genetically related to the child
  • The differences between known and anonymous donor, the implications and the possible impact on interpersonal relationships.
  • Advising children about their donor origins and rights to information
  • Exploration of donors and recipients thoughts regarding what to do with excess embryos, e.g. on donation, research/training and disposal of embryos 
  • Possibility of request from recipients for further non-identifying or identifying information on behalf of child before child turns 18.
  • Review of possible impact of donation on donor’s partner or future partner
  • The donor’s / recipients expected feelings toward the donor conceived children

These topics are not exhaustive and counselling will look at other issues that will affect the donor process.


Wishes & Expectations

“Honey I’ll only be 1 more hour” How often do we ask our partner how long they will be until they finish work, or come to bed, or return home from shopping? “One hour … one more minute …”  Answers that sound so familiar are usually ones the recipient wants to hear, not the one that reflect any accurate truth. These discrepancies usually reflect the speaker’s wishes to really want to only be one more minute or one hour, however their wants are not necessarily their needs. Whilst this conversation seems trivial  and not important in the grand scheme of issues in relationships, it is a precursor to expectations in a relationship, and an altering of the truth. Often partners are told the dress cost $50 when it may have really cost $90, or I drank 2 beers as opposed to 5 beers. Trust, rolling of the eyes, not saying what we mean and more talk geared about wishes than actual truths become more common. Successful relationships involve conversations that are often difficult and not pleasant. Whilst they may not represent what a partner wants to hear, these 5 minute awkward conversations will not lead to mistrust, years of resentment and belief in what the partner speaks.


Acceptance

Acceptance is a funny word! Why would you accept something you don’t like about yourself? No one said to embrace or like what you accept, just the need to acknowledge that there is something that needs to change.

A person diagnosed with liver disease does not have to embrace the love of illness, however accepting they are now unwell and affected may encourage them to change behaviours that will help lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Nothing will change before acceptance. An alcoholic won’t stop drinking before they realize drinking is affecting their life in a negative way. When acceptance comes from an honest perspective, there is the ability to make changes.


Vicarious Trauma

SES workers, children of beaten mothers, teenagers who witness self-harm, friends of those died, counsellors, friends and people who witness accidents, may be familiar to you. These people have experienced Vicarious Trauma and may not know.
Vicarious trauma affects people who hear, work with, witness, see or are affected by trauma. It can range from neglect and abuse, accidents, nature’s fury to acts of violence.

Our bodies are clever, however once we see or hear a vivid story it is very difficult to forget. We can’t un hear stories, we can’t forget what we see. In fact often trauma is etched in our brain more vividly due to heightened senses that trauma arouses.
Vicarious trauma interrupts sleep, thought processes, motivation and reoccurring thoughts. Often these symptoms are misdiagnosed as depression or burnout. However, every person who witnesses or hears about a trauma is affected. How we react, acknowledge, recognize and address these interrupting thoughts determine how well you live and deal with this information.

Self care is vital. Acknowledging that an event or story affects an individual is realistic and human. A therapist can assist in identifying what part of someone’s life or someone else’s life affects you.


Life with effort

Life is not fair. Life can throw curve balls whilst others seem to have more luck. We do however have some control in our lives, that is, the effort we put in to our own life.
Do you brush your teeth or floss regularly?
Do you wash and moisturise your face morning and night?
Do you exercise for physical and mental health?
Do you search recipes to cook different meals or do you cook the same meal regularly?
Do you phone friends or family members to maintain good communication?
Do you go beyond your comfort zone and search for further stimulation?

Life is yours to live, live it with effort.


Medication for children or parents?

How often do we hear judgements about parenting styles? Some people parent, whilst others Parent with Effort. Some children are born healthy, others with disabilities. Some children appear to others as precocious, confident, badly behaved, impulsive, destructive, and spirited amongst others. Psychologically or medically they may have been diagnosed with ADHD, Aspergers, or Gifted. High intelligence may bring boredom and frustration, Autism may bring relentless thoughts, and ADHD may lead to impulsiveness. These behaviours are quickly and often wrongly judged and labelled as bad behaviour. In some instances medication and professional support is advantageous. I ask parents to not sit in judgement on whether a child should or shouldn’t be medicated. Unless you can live with a child’s frustration lasting for hours in outbursts, every day, or a child’s constant inability to achieve an activity that other children seem to do with ease and be labelled stupid as opposed to finding the real blocks, judgement is not helpful. Medication may help children achieve what they need to to fit in to society and help their parents understand and cope with their behaviours long term. In addition, my experience sees parents seeking support, psychologically and medically to help them deal with their child’s extra ordinary behaviour.


Support Can Only Be Advantageous.

Marriage counselling addresses marriage problems as well as other issues experienced by couples. Often couples feel that marriage separation is the only option when dealing with issues
such as adulttery or communication difficulties. However, before a marriage breakdown becomes inevitable, marriage counselling brisbane can assist in discussing issues of family law, such as settlement options and custody of children. Divorce in Australia is at an all time high causing grief amongst many families. There are options apart from divorce. Marriage counselling brisbane discusses individual issues, couple and relationship difficulties as well as family dynamics that influence relationships.


Brain Blockers

I wish drivers knew other drivers were not perfect……
I was driving to work this morning, when my mind drifted and my concentration waivered, causing me to veer into another lane. Hoot Hoot, upon realising my poor position, I straightened the car. I slowed down so I could be next to the car that hooted so I could apologise. Instead the driver looked straight ahead with her middle finger stuck up at me shaking her head in disgust. I made a mistake, tried to apolgise and was not given the opportunity. I imagine she might be thinking, “bad stupid rude driver”. I on the other hand went to work thinking, “I made a mistake and was not able to apologise” making me a little despondent. So realistically I said to myself I should not let this ruin my day but I do need to concentrate on my driving. I wish drivers knew other drivers were not perfect and some may even have good intentions and manners.
However our brain blockers already made up our mind that the lady who was not concentrating should get off the road and learn driving skills. Brain blockers are preconceived ideas, often stemming from past experience. However they do not allow one to experience new interactions as the past ones predetermine our responses. Awe can change automatic responses by being aware of our reactions and habitual behaviours. Next time the phone rings, and it is Telstra, try to pick up the phone with a new approach, rather than “What do they want now?”


Parenting

Ask a child what does a mummy or daddy do? Answers seem to be;
Be there to hold my hair when I vomit
Watch me play basketball
Make me dinner
Play with me
Ask a parent who is their child and their answers vary between;
Skyla is my biological child, Tom is my stepson, and the list goes on.
So who is right? Definitions are important however relationships are more important.


Love


The other day my daughter said to me, she “doesn't want to be a mummy they have to work hard and do everything for everyone." I took the opportunity
to explain that was my absolute pleasure in life, because I love my family members. This got me thinking about love. Relationships can bring out the most passionate in all of us. It is our choice to exercise healthy passion or abusive passion. Love provides the opportunity to have your partner make you a priority and visa versa. I choose to be there and do things for the people I love.


Stubborness = Impasse

Some people attend counselling to discuss issues to help move beyond their impasse. Others describe it as a great chat with objectivity, different perspective, professional insight and the safety of confidentiality and no judgements. However it is important to take responsibility for what you bring to your therapy. A good therapist doesn’t know what they are not told. A good therapist will have insight and understanding, however, we are only told your perspective, experience and reaction to an issue or situation. Sitting in judgement and deciding what is true, what is exaggerated or tainted is not helpful, what is helpful is your need to you're your story and your feelings. Keep in mind that if you want to move forward, please present all aspects of your experiences; the good, bad, the ugly and embarrassing. Being cautious is expected but being stubborn, and sticking to your usual habits is what got you stuck in the first place. Being Stubborn prevents you from making changes and moving forward.


Counselling

1 hour of counselling provides a lifetime of therapy. Use this opportunity to talk, cry, shout, laugh, be confused and explain. Be prepared to be challenged, respected, listened to, made a priority, and not judged. Expect subtle changes and “aha” moments that will make you so proud of yourself. Be motivated, stimulated, assisted and taught to care for yourself.
1 hour of counselling provides a lifetime of therapy. Take the opportunity to spend time on yourself, mentally and emotionally.


Love Is Easy. Relationships are hard work.

Love can be magical, especially exciting learning about someone you care for. Lust is a stage and most often temporary. Ideally respect is permanent. Dates are initial but time together needs to be a long term priority. Self care and effort is inevitable when wanting to impress. Long term effort is ongoing and self care vital. Caring for another is an honour, caring for yourself, another and your relationship is a privilege and opportunity for a wonderful long term relationship.


Values

Abortion is an issue you may strongly disagree with. However if at a young age you were raped and pregnant, is your value of no abortion still the most helpful value to make decisions by? A confronting yet real example demonstrates that it is ok to redefine our values based on circumstances that confront us in life.

Our values have been taught and formed to guide us to make the best decisions for our lives. Opinions, thoughts, beliefs, preconceived ideas, families, cultural beliefs and other contributing factors assist in creating our set of values. At a certain age it is normal to question our beliefs and examine if they were formed by contaminated pasts or if they still suit our individual beliefs. However if these values create greater pressure in our lives, then these values are limiting, rather than helpful.

It is ok to redefine our values based on circumstances that confront us in life.


Emotions

Consider putting your mobile aside next time you hear sad news, sit with your emotions, have a good cry, scream or shake. It is important to recognize your feelings without being rescued by another voice at the end of a phone call. An example where this would be helpful would be; My boyfriend just broke up with me for my best friend. Are you sad because you are now single, distressed because he broke up with you, and / or angry that he is now with your best friend? Sorting out which feelings belong to which part of the story seeks clarity that only you can decipher. Technology is helpful and reaching out is resourceful, but there is time for both once you have processed the reality.


Needs

What do I need and want today? Very valuable question that ensures your needs and wants are met. It is your responsibility to ensure you look after yourself regardless who or what is in your life. Examples could be; I feel like rich filling food, I will choose a restaurant or make dinner to suit my desire! I am feeling emotionally vulnerable today and will ask someone for a hug! I have just woken up and will go to the toilet before making my phone call! I have some ideas on my mind, I will ensure I write them down or will act on them.


Support Network

Identify internal and external resources. Internal resources would be your own strategies that help you get through good and difficult times. Some examples would be; warm shower with a good cry, breathing, reading, taking time for yourself, recognising and acting on your own needs. External resources would be external activities and people you turn to for support. Examples would be exercise, family and friends. This could include professional people like a counselor and / or dietician. It is important to choose healthy coping strategies rather than ones that may eventually cause added problems. Healthy Strategies include: Relaxation Techniques Time out Hobbies Exercise Art / Music Going out Unhealthy Strategies include: Alcohol and / or drug use Self Harm Drinking excess caffeine Smoking Over eating Obsessive Compulsive Behaviours Remember strategies to make life easier need to be helpful rather than detrimental.