Friday, 30 November 2012

Focus on burnout

As 2012 draws to a close, it’s natural to start turning our minds to the events of the past year – what we’ve achieved, how things have changed, significant occurrences, how we feel about the passing of time and the imminent approach of 2013.

It’s often at moments like these we reflect on the broad categories of our lives – relationship, job, health, family – and identify what’s working well and what’s not. In the spirit of such enquiry, this post we’re focusing on burnout, a condition gaining momentum in the public mind, and one which our therapists are increasingly encountering at 96 Harley Psychotherapy.

Which begs the question – what is burnout? Well, you’ll find various definitions, but basically it’s a state of depletion and exhaustion, caused by excessive and sustained stress in a particular role. It’s important here to distinguish what stress is too, since stress comes in many forms and is highly dependent upon individual factors. So while one individual might experience stress by being in work that is inconsistent with his or her values, another might experience it as a consequence of not being appreciated in an assigned role. Burnout is often associated with continued frustration and the perception (either real or imagined) that nothing will ever change, and that the situation is somehow hopeless.

Some of the symptoms of burnout include loss of motivation, a feeling of little or no control over work (or the area in question), a sense of helplessness, disengagement, isolation and a feeling that there is no worthwhile future. If that sounds like depression, you’re right – burnout is a kind of depression, and one for which, thankfully, a cause can be traced. Unlike stress, which we think of as a reaction to real-time pressure, burnout is a gradual process that occurs in response to pressure – physical, emotional and spiritual – over an extended period of time. With each small internal experience of ‘this isn’t working for me’ (combined with failure to address it) the momentum builds. Once it reaches the critical stage, there is no turning back.

Early warning signs of burnout include:
·          Physical tiredness – feeling tired a lot of the time, but especially when undertaking the role in question
·         Loss of motivation – where once the role may have inspired, now there is a heaviness associated with it and resistance to doing it
·        A decreased sense of satisfaction – and a diminished feeling of accomplishment when undertaking the role
·        Increased negative thinking – in particular, self-criticism and creeping despair about the future
·        Loss of concentration – where once the job was relatively easy, it is no longer taken in one’s stride, but associated with procrastination and inefficiency

By intervening on these symptoms, it is possible to ‘turn the ship round’, which many people do. But sometimes, the reality is, it's too late. This ‘too lateness’ can sometimes be absolutely necessary to break the pattern of passivity, the continued unwillingness to listen to the internal voice, now grown hoarse from repetition. Sometimes we are forced to stop, because of physical, mental or emotional breakdown. We literally have to step aside.

When this happens, there are many positive actions you can take. The first is to commit to taking time out, telling yourself that you have now reached breaking point and you are going to give yourself time to recover. It will be necessary to limit the number of activities you undertake and to rest a great deal. 

The second is to get support, perhaps from a counsellor and/or, if possible, from others who have experienced burnout. The tendency with burnout, because of depleted energy reserves is to isolate. While it is necessary to cut back on the activities you have been doing which led to the burnout, some activities will be supportive, such as reaching out to others. Talking to the right people about whatever it was that made you believe you had to keep going at all costs will be vital too.

When you are in this surrendered state and beginning to process some of the feelings associated with breaking down, a time will come when you will need to address what it is that isn’t working in your life and consider taking actions that are more consistent with your aspirations and aptitudes. At this point many discover the great gift of burnout – and begin to see it as a necessary development for getting on track with our true life purpose.

Sometimes burnout will be a signal that you need to change jobs or change career altogether. Sometimes it will be the catalyst for changing the way you do what you do and having you realise that, actually, you are on track. No matter what, the forced life appraisal that comes about as a result of burnout can be a major turning point and the beginning of a remarkable new phase of growth and productivity.

If you think you may be affected by burnout and would like to speak in confidence to one of our therapists, please browse our therapists section (details here) or, if you would prefer, contact the practice manager (details here) who may be able to point you in the right direction.

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Counselling in (neoclassical) style

Patients of Dr Robin Lawrence are in for a treat. For those who are unfamiliar with the Grade II listed house at number 96 Harley Street, it is arguably a national treasure, showcasing the superb work of Robert Adam (1728- 1792), the Scottish neoclassical Architect who was foremost of his day. Adam reserved some of his finest work for the consulting room into which Robin now moves (first floor rear) and you'll see evidence of his sublime craftsmanship in the ceiling frieze, parquet flooring and dramatic window design (the photograph above is of the ceiling of the adjacent room at the front of the house).

But enough about Robert Adams. Robin Lawrence is also engaged in his own form of craftsmanship - the craft of freeing mind and hearts with the aid of his own particular skill, psychiatry and counselling/psychotherapy. Robin currently divides his time between seeing private patients at 96 Harley Psychotherapy, and giving free consultations to patients at Holy Trinity Brompton in Kensington and the homeless at St Augustine's, also in Kensington. He is currently undertaking an MA in Theology.

To read more about Dr Lawrence's work interests and specialities, please visit our website Or, if you'd simply like to visit his office to ogle one of the most beautiful, historic interiors in London, contact the Practice Manager and we'll see what can be arranged!

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Friday, 16 November 2012

Introducing The Relationship Group at number 96

Communication is vital to building healthy relationships, on that everyone can agree. The Relationship Group at 96 Harley Psychotherapy is one of the psychotherapeutic community’s best kept secrets, offering, as it does, a weekly encounter with powerful group psychotherapy for those struggling to maintain loving communication within relationships of all kinds.
Led weekly on Thursday evenings by Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist Dr Robin Lawrence or Psychotherapist Sue Sutcliffe (the pair alternate the co-ordinating role), The Relationship Group enables individuals whose budgets may not stretch to individual psychotherapy to access the skilled intervention of two of the UK’s top psychotherapists at a world-renowned London address.
The sessions work on a bidding system, whereby individuals arrive on the night and place their ‘bid’ for a topic they’d like to have addressed. ‘Even if your bid is unsuccessful, the system works for everyone, since topics generally apply to everyone and everyone gets to hear what they need to from participating in the work of others’, says Tom Jones, Practice Manager at 96 Harley Psychotherapy, who takes bookings for this increasingly popular group.
Among the topics discussed are healthy boundaries, speaking up, respect for privacy, personal responsibility, commitment, finding common ground, cultivating support systems outside the relationship, negotiating disagreements and what constitutes a healthy relationship.
The Relationship Group starts at 7pm and runs for an hour, at a cost of £35 per session. If you would like to attend, please speak to Tom Jones (details here). 96 Harley Psychotherapy also operates a low cost psychotherapy service, staffed by supervised junior therapists, making access to quality psychotherapy affordable to most, consistent with the practice vision.

Written by Jacqui Hogan