How many chimney pots?

Hi, Louise here from Newcastle Counselling. I am a counsellor and EFT practitioner based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

As autumn approaches, I’ve been enjoying the light as it plays down on buildings and through the leaves on trees. I’ve been reflecting on how it can help ease the feelings of stress in our lives.

The benefits of exercise are well known. Going for a walk can help us when we feel down, release tension when we feel stressed and give our minds greater clarity. I would like to suggest a small change to the way you walk so that you can reap even greater benefits.

When you walk, I would like you to count the chimney pots! Or look at the light through the leaves on the trees. Or decipher the clouds into mythical creatures. Try this for a week and notice any changes in your mood.

We don’t just communicate with others by our body language, we also communicate with ourselves. Did you know that when people were asked to hold a pen between their teeth whilst a joke was told, they found the joke funnier than those who just heard it? The reason is that your face is ”forced” into a smile. There is feedback from the smile which the brain interprets as something being funny.

Spend a moment reflecting on phrases we use that describe body language. “Things were looking up…” when things are going well. “He was downcast” when he was feeling low. “On their knees…” when they were feeling desperate. There are many of them.

If we walk looking up, then our spirits will be lifted too. I am not saying that this will fix all your ills and make life perfect, but it is a helpful tool to have in your kit. It can help lift low mood and relieve stress and anxiety. However, do watch where you are walking so you don’t fall down a manhole!

I work with folk who are feeling stressed and anxious or are overwhelmed with life. I help them through counselling and EFT (which is a bit like acupuncture for emotions where you tap on parts of your body rather than use needles) to develop strategies to help them deal with stress, anxiety and low mood.

If you feel you would like some help, then please get in touch with me at Newcastle Counselling: 07901 218 165 or (see the contact page). I have bases in Gosforth and Jesmond. I also offer on-line counselling services.


Are You Missing Out?

Are you focusing on the wood amongst the trees and missing out on seeing the deer?


When I was at primary school, the bell would ring three times to mark a change in lessons.  Whenever there was a fire drill, the same bell would ring continuously for a time.  If it was a lesson change-over or lunch time you had to line up by the classroom door.  If it was the fire drill you lined up at the fire-door in alphabetical order.  Sometimes I would be confused and line up at the wrong door.  The thing is, I was picked on and called names because of this.  Why?  My surname began with an ‘A’ so it was obvious I had gone to the wrong place!

Moving forward in time.

At university, I would go out to clubs and pubs.  I particularly hated going to night clubs.  I am short.  All my friends where somewhat taller than me (not hard!).  Night clubs are noisy, any conversation took place above my ears so it was hard for me to hear.

Moving forward in time again.  I started my counselling training.  I seemed to find it harder to hear discussions taking place in a big room more than most.  By this time in my life I had realised that my hearing was not as good as other people’s.  I had just accepted how things were as I could hear well enough.  However, once I was practising counselling skills while training I thought it would be worth seeing if my hearing was actually worse than I had realised.

Guess what?  I have significant hearing loss.  In truth, this loss had not been a big problem beyond awkwardness and embarrassment at giving the wrong or bizarre comments in conversations.  I did not know anything different.  I had done well at school, university and enjoyed different hobbies.  I had had a successful career as a dentist.  I had an eclectic taste in music.

I will never forget the day I got my hearing aids.  It was a beautiful spring day.  A friend came with me and thought I was hilarious.  You see, I did not know that the indicators tick in a car.  I did not know you can hear puddles when you drive through them.  I did not realise how loud pedestrian crossing beeps are.  Every time I had a new sound I couldn’t help but comment on it!

When I got home and opened the car door I froze in my tracks.  We have birds that nest in the front garden.  The sound they make is beautiful and I have always enjoyed it.  This time was different.  I had no idea how musical they were.  It was astounding!  All these notes!  It was the most amazing sound I have ever heard and I sat in the car with the door open listening to it for 15 minutes before I could drag myself away.

Over the next few days I found other sounds and qualities of sound.  Music gained more dimensions.  I misinterpreted less words.  Don’t get me wrong – it was strange and took a while to adjust to but there was a new world for me to discover that I did not know existed.


My question to you…

What are you missing out on?

Are you blinded by work?

Are you deaf to the child within you that is pleading to be heard?

Are you overwhelmed by stress?

Have the expectations of others (or yourself) put you in a box so that that is your world?


Perhaps it would be worth spending a little time reflecting, listening and looking to see.


If you would like help to explore these then give me a call and arrange an initial free chat to see if counselling is for you on 07901 218 165.

A Game of Chess Anyone?


As anyone knows who has played me chess with me, I have one strategy, split into two parts.

  • Get both Queens off the board as soon as possible.
  • Eliminate at least half the pieces on each side as soon as possible.

For me, the only way for me to find a way through the game is to clear some space.

It’s not a bad analogy for life (at least the way I play chess: I know grandmasters will disagree).  Chess is complicated with thousands of different combinations of movement of pieces available for each game.  So it is in life.  In chess some moves may be inconsequential, whilst others are key.  So it is in life.  In chess some of the key moves involve a lowly pawn and the “neither here nor there” move uses a high piece.  So it is in life.  Sometimes choices are to be made where it really doesn’t matter and other times it is and it is not always the big decisions that have the most significance in our lives.  Sometimes, sacrifices have to be made.  So it is in life.

There are fundamental differences between life and a chess board (just in case you haven’t noticed!).  We do not have to move in a prescribed fashion, nor is the function of our life to obliterate the other side (whatever the other side is), nor is our world black and white.  However, what many of us share is the desire to achieve a goal.

Some of our local schools are running chess competitions and I know a few of the kids taking part.  Listening to them exchanging strategies and de-constructing games played to see how they can improve is fascinating.

What is your strategy to reach your goal?  Have you actually thought about it or just jumped in with both feet?  Which decisions really matter and which can you relax about?

Personally, I probably need to de-clutter; metaphorically and literally, just as I do when I play chess.  Being in a room that is full of unfinished paperwork, half-drunk cups of tea and general-untidiness, is not good for me.  Perhaps I need to pay attention to my chess strategy and create some space so that I can see what I have, what I haven’t and where I need to go next.

The only problem in writing this blog is that I have now given away my one and only strategy for chess!  Game anyone?



If you would like some help to explore issues you are having in life, then please do get in touch by email: or phone 07901 218 165

“In the Middle of Difficulty Lies Opportunity”


Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

However, sometimes, the path seems long.  In fact, not only is it long and full of challenging obstacles to cross but it’s uphill with the end not in sight.

It is really important in those times to look after yourself, to take a break, look around you for support.  The person in the photographs appears to be alone.  It must be hard to cross a fast flowing river on your own, especially when ahead there is only fog, mist and a mountain to climb.  It must feel overwhelming.

Yet, he is not really alone.  There is at least one other person there: the one who took the photograph.  By talking to that person, perhaps together they can support each other, bringing comfort and a different perspective.

Sometimes, the path can be too difficult or dangerous to travel at this time.  Perhaps you haven’t yet developed the skills, are not strong enough or perhaps you need more help.  In the middle of photo-1433878455169-4698e60005b1this difficulty is opportunity.  Opportunity to learn something about yourself, to be real with yourself and opportunity to learn something about others.  Allowing yourself to step back and see things from a distance away can enable you to do that with greater clarity.  You may identify strengths you didn’t know you had, see support where you felt there was none or a sign pointing in which direction you should travel.

The quote, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” can feel so unhelpful at times and as a colleague pointed out, it more often feels like, “Every silver lining has a cloud!”

Both can be helpful.  Both give an opportunity to learn.  We learn as much from the hard stuff as the good, be it the cloud giving us insight or the joy of finding the silver lining under the cloud.

Are you finding opportunities in the midst of difficulty with clouds and silver linings, whichever combination they appear in?




If you would like to explore difficulty and opportunity in your life further with me, then please drop me an email on or call me on 07901 218 165.



What does this picture say to you?

I have asked a few people about this picture and it has been described in different ways. Some talked about the “physical properties” of the picture (for example, it’s a trike outside a house,” others talked about the trike, for others the photo provoked their own memories or caused them to project stories onto the image. It was interesting to see how thoughts changed as they examined the photograph more carefully.

Some people saw the image as sad: a trike chained so it can’t be played with. Others saw it as full of love: a trike chained so it wouldn’t be stolen. Some noticed straightaway that there was a broken rear wheel, missing handlebar tassel and possible missing pedal; others took a little while. All agreed that the wheels seem to be somewhat bent, the handlebars rusting (one missing a tassel), the paint work is generally in a good state with the seat saddle looking pristine and the owner’s name clearly written on the wheel.

What do you see when you look at it?
A story?
A memory?
A metaphor?

For me, this photo conjures up an image of a much loved trike, racing around corners, coming close to knocking people over whilst a friend rides on the steps on the back clinging onto the driver whilst squealing in delight at the race.

I noticed the wonkiness of the wheels. Perhaps there was a tumble: cut knees and grazed elbows, shock and tears. Then, more tears as the realisation dawns that the beloved trike is damaged. I wondered if the owner was fearful of how their carers’ might respond to the carnage of damaged trike and hurt people. Perhaps they had already been warned not to go too fast? Perhaps they had been sent to on an errand and were later home than agreed?

The trike is very securely secured to a post of some sort. Very securely! A heavy duty chain with an even heavier duty padlock. The message is sent, “I am off limits, leave me alone!”

On the post itself, there is a huge plaster… the kind that you stick over a cut knee. I wonder whether it is there as an assurance to the trike’s owner that just as their wounds are being tended to, their trike will not be forgotten either and is being kept safe until it is time to look at it.

I may be a soppy over thinker but I think there is a metaphor for life here.

Life can be fun, racing round, carrying friends, friends carrying you. Sometimes it gets a little scary as you round a corner too quickly. Sometimes you make an error of judgement and don’t stop quickly to avoid collision or stop too early before the finish line and not reaping your rewards. Other times, life plain gets in the way and you hit a pothole which send you flying.

It is important to surround ourselves with people who can help us put ourselves back together again, giving us the TLC we need so we can get back on the bike. Perhaps, it is not just you but your trike that needs attention? Perhaps you need to stop and check your brakes and that your wheels are on straight so that you can get the most out of life. Perhaps too, we don’t need to spend too much time worrying about the aesthetics of life… do unpolished handlebars really matter when you are doing what you need to do, playing (taking account of others) and having fun at the same time.

When you see a snap shot in time of life, what assumptions do you make about it? Is it really representative of what it appears to encapsulate. Photographs lie but can also tell the truth. To help work out which, you need to know the story behind it. My challenge to you?… Don’t make assumptions that things are rosy because they look rosy or bleak because they look bleak. Look at what is in front and behind and see what can be learned from.

“Live Life as though nobody is watching, and express yourself as though everyone is listening”

Nelson Mandela.



When we were growing up we had a cat.  She had a beautiful nature: she’d come and find you when you were upset, she never bit or scratched but would walk away when annoyed.

When she got older it was as if she decided that she had to be more serious.  She stopped behaving like a kitten, chasing leaves, feathers and toys around the house.  Except… except when she thought no-one was looking!

Sometimes, when I had been alone and quiet in the house I would hear her going nuts running around the house.  I’d walk into the kitchen and she’d stop and look at me as if to say, “it wasn’t me, honest!”  Other times we would see her in the garden chasing leaves but as soon as we went out she’d stop and walk away disinterested in the leaf.

There were times we would play with her, dancing tin-foil balls on strings.  She would love it and then suddenly realise what she was doing and stop.

The cat loved playing those games and we loved watching her.  However, as she got older it was as if having fun was something you did when no-one was watching.

On another occasion, I remember listening at the door to children playing a game.  They were totally disinhibited.  The sounds were of animated discussion, raucous laughter and serious points of opinion being expressed about how the princesses were to be saved by the knight from the big monster.  They were so engaged, they hadn’t spotted me.  Suddenly, they did.  Their faces blushed and the noise quietened.  I commented that the game they were playing sounded great fun and said that there was no need to stop playing (and by the way, here are biscuits and drinks).  They returned to their game but a little more inhibited it than when they were unaware that someone was listening.

I think that there are lessons to be learned here.  Of course we need to be aware of our surroundings and take them into account in our behaviour and attitudes.  However, there are times we need to just “let our hair down” (for those of us who have hair) and relax, be ourselves.  Perhaps, in doing so, we might even discover more about who we are.

If you feel you would like to explore more about who you are or would like to find out more about whether counselling is right for you, email me at


Newcastle Counselling, meeting you wherever you are on your personal journey.


Are you up for some criticism?

Or, when criticism comes do you feel like hiding?


When a person feels valued, they are more likely to be open and receptive to what is said to them.

Have you ever been in the position where someone is giving you some well-meaning advice?  Perhaps that advice is sorely needed (making mistakes and needing guidance is a normal part of human life).  Perhaps you don’t actually need the advice but they are the type of person who has an innate need to give it to you anyway.


How do you respond when that advice is given?

Do you nod your head in appreciation of their wise thoughtful comments?

Do you give them the impression that you are listening, giving careful consideration to their thoughts whilst internally screaming at them to, “Shut up!”

Do you tell them what you think?

Are you so used to hearing well-meant suggestions and criticism that you doubt your ability to effectively deal with the scenario or activity at hand?

Have you been in the reverse situation where you have been giving a friend, colleague or family member some sound advice?  How have they responded?


Being able to give advice or constructive criticism is a valuable skill to have in life.  No one likes to hear they are doing something badly. Imagine a teacher who tells a pupil that they work hard, their spelling could be better but the imaginative story lines they come up with are great.  That teacher will likely get a more positive response from the child than the one who only points out the spelling errors.

I once heard a statistic that for every positive comment a child hears, they hear ten negative ones.  That is not just from teachers but parents, family, friends, strangers, the world.  Is it not surprising that their eyes glaze over when we point out they would have a fully charged phone if their room was tidy enough to find the charger in the first place!

Just stop and think for a moment.  Who in your life (real or imagined/fictional) are you most likely to listen to what they say, receive it and then weigh it up to see if it applies to you in your situation?  What were they like?  How did they treat you?  How did they speak to you?

I am guessing that they are someone who listened to you, would have heard your opinion and, most importantly, communicated that you are a valuable person.

Why not spend a little time imagining the “perfect” characteristics that would allow you to be receptive to advice that is being offered.  That doesn’t mean that the advice given is correct but that you can hear it, consider it and weigh up whether it is appropriate and then feel free to act as you choose.

Having spent some time thinking about how you would like to be advised, spend some time contemplating the other side of the coin and how you could better communicate ideas to others.


As an aside to all this; if you are someone who does not love or respect yourself it is hard to love and respect others.  Struggling with self-hate and self-name-calling sabotages our ability to live life to the full and affects our relationships with others.  Learning to love and respect yourself is not about becoming selfish or self-centred, it is about becoming self-aware and learning how to grow as a person and setting yourself free from yourself.

Just as a child will often hear ten negative comments for every single positive, the same was probably true for you when you were a child.  These words are “graffiti” written on our hearts and can become incorporated into our identity.  The good news is that they don’t have to stay there!


If you would like to explore more, then please contact me on


Newcastle Counselling, helping you to explore wherever you are on your person journey.


“If you have nothing to dance about, find a reason to sing.”

Melody Carstairs

People have always sung.  All cultures do it; perhaps by humming a repetitive tone, creating a beat or fluttering melodies.  Singing (and music) is known to be beneficial.  It makes us feel good.  You can’t turn on the television without there being some kind or music or talent show.  The radio is full of music.  People are walking around with their headphones glued to their ears listening to music.  Why would we do this if it wasn’t so pleasant?  The answer is that we wouldn’t.

Singing is thought to release endorphins and oxytocin.  These are chemicals that are produced by the body in times of stress and distress.  Broadly speaking, they help to alleviate stress and anxiety.  Endorphins also are the body’s natural painkillers (they work in a similar way to codeine and morphine without the addictive side-effects).  They can create feelings of euphoria and wellbeing.

If you want to think of other examples where singing has been therapeutic just consider the times that a baby is sung to sleep or comforted by a song.  All of us have an inner child (even if we don’t want to admit it).

I was thinking of a teenager I know who struggles with anxiety.  She discovered that playing the piano and singing would make her feel better much quicker than moping about in her room.  Being a teenager, part of her wanted to mope and that was fine but sometimes it got in the way of doing things she wanted to do.  She discovered that singing One Direction songs loudly served two purposes… it punished her brother and made her feel much better.  Her parents will now suggest she goes for a “sing” in her room.

Why not try having a “good old sing-song” yourself?  It’s great because not only does it release these “feel good” hormones, it helps you to control your breathing.  You don’t need to know the words, la la la is fine, as is humming.  If you are finding that you are stuttering over your words, you may find that singing them helps you to get then out easily.

Any song works.  I know someone who sings “Jingle Bells” at any time of year.  If you don’t know what to sing or perhaps life is too hard or sad to sing then sing a song about that.  Country music and blues are full of songs about hard times.  If singing the song means that you start to cry, then that can be cathartic too.  Allow yourself to express your joy, anger, excitement and sadness.  What you are feeling is what you are feeling.

If you want to maximise the positive effects of singing, consider joining a group.  Singing in a group is known to have an especially positive effect.  You don’t need to be good.  The others in the group don’t need to be good.  The group doesn’t need to be good!  Just singing together, as a unit is positive.  It is possible that this is to do with creating a sense of belonging and community.  We all like to know we belong.

If you feel that you would like to explore things further with me, then please contact me at: by Stuart Miles


“I want a sticker!”

Image courtesy of Mister GC at
Image courtesy of Mister GC at

Before I trained as a counsellor, I was a dentist.

On this particular day, with her mother, a confident 8 year old walked into my surgery, “I want a sticker,” she said.

Reassuring her that she could choose a sticker at the end of the appointment I asked if she would climb up onto the chair.

“No,” she said firmly, “I want a sticker!”

I repeated my message that stickers would be available later and that more than one could be rewarded as various tasks achieved.  (I would award a sticker as small steps towards a bigger goal were reached).

“But, I WANT A STICKER NOW!” demanded the 8 year old as she stamped first her left foot and then her right.  Her mother watched on and smiled at me awkwardly.

Again, I repeated my message nicely but firmly.  A sticker would be awarded if she sat on the chair and let me look at her teeth using the little mirror.  She could even watch me using the handheld mirror.

“NO! I want a sticker!” She stamped her feet indignantly.

I decided to negotiate down and suggested that if she let me look in her mouth with a mirror whilst sat next to her mum (i.e. not on the dental chair) then a sticker would be forthcoming.

“NO! I WANT MY STICKER NOW!” she shouted.

Unfortunately, this little lass did not get her sticker as she refused to get into the chair or let me look in her mouth.  Her mother did not feel able to encourage her and I certainly was not in a position to force her.


In life, it is not uncommon to either “have to do” or “want” things that we feel are out of reach.  For this eight year old, sitting on the dental chair was a big ‘ask’.  It might have a big ask because she was afraid but too anxious to say so.  (Many people who are scared hide behind aggression and perhaps she expressed that through her demand for a sticker).  Or, was it a big ‘ask’ because she was used to getting her own way and I was asking for a change of behaviour that was a step too far for her?  Or some other reason entirely?

The point is that perhaps encouragement and strength from her mother, or a different, more realistic goal set by me would have meant she got her important sticker. bplanet
Image Courtesy of bplanet

What about you?  When you are faced with a task that is out of reach or even, just out of reach, do you find yourself demoralized, irritable or become demotivated?  If you can, surround yourself with people who will encourage you, not mollycoddle you or chastise you but will be there when you need them.

Try to make small steps in the direction of a goal you want to achieve and make sure you reward yourself with that ‘”sticker” when you do so.

Perhaps, you need more support.  If you feel you would like to explore difficulties with a counsellor then contact me to arrange an initial free session.


Newcastle Counselling, meeting you wherever you are in your personal journey.

Superman Visits the Dentist Akarakingdoms

Working as a dentist, I met some really interesting people from a wide variety of backgrounds.  One of my favourites was when a three (and a half!) year old Superman came along with his parents for his first dental check-up.

He had come to see me because his parents felt that it was important that they instilled good habits about the importance of looking after teeth.  They had had negative experiences of dentistry as children themselves after needing teeth removed due to eating lots of sweets.

When I first met Superman, he was three and a half years old.

From his perspective, walking into a strange smelling room with a bizarre looking chair (or might it be a bed) and seeing two unfamiliar faces was a very scary thing.  He looked around the room with big eyes: he knew there was something in those drawers behind the weird chair-thingy.  He might have been 3 & a half years old but he wasn’t stupid.  What was it that might be in those drawers?  His x-ray vision failed him – they must be lined with lead.

As he scanned the room for more danger, he spotted a small silver tray on a small, odd looking table.  This, covered with a white tissue, looked like something to keep a close eye on.  It probably wasn’t as dangerous as the unknown contents of the lead lined drawer, but you could never be too careful.

Now, everyone knows that pressing buttons is fun… and just as there is a strong urge to want to check paint wherever there is a sign that reads, “wet paint,” buttons that aren’t supposed to be pressed can also be appealing.  Superman had spotted buttons.

I invited Superman to press the buttons.  The chair (or was it a bed) moved!  This wee Superman had not yet acquired his flying skill and this provided him with a taste.  He discovered that it could go REALLY high and that he could lie him down and the chair would sit him up again.  He began to see that there could be an upside to visiting this peculiar smelling strange room.

Whilst on the chair, Superman’s bravery skill kicked in and he pointed at the funny looking things with long wires next to the chair.  I explained to him that I didn’t have the ability of super-strength blowing, x-ray eyes or super strength but I did have some other cool stuff I could play with.

I asked him if he would like to play with my favourite… a water gun that also blew air super-fast.  We managed to get a little wet, as did his parents!  It was fun.

Now, it was time to fly whilst I counted his teeth.

Superman climbed back onto the huge chair (or was it a bed) and opened his mouth super wide.  We gave him some special glasses so that his laser vision didn’t burn a hole in the ceiling.

Superman lived up to his name and kept his mouth super-wide so I could count his super teeth.


Tragedy struck…


… You see, in order that their son not repeat their experiences, Superman’s parents had never given him sweets.  Instead, he was given a box of raisins, often a couple a day for good behaviour or just for a treat.  What they didn’t realise is that raisins are full of sugar.  Whilst it is natural sugar, as far as bacteria in the mouth are concerned, there is no difference.  Many of the teeth in this Superman’s mouth showed signs of decay.

Over the next few visits, Superman and I perfected the skills of shooting accurately with the water and air “gun”.  He got to feel the ticklyness of a special cleaning brush and play with a miniature “spoon.”  Using his super vision to look in a mirror, he saw how his teeth changed and that it was okay and at the end of each visit, chose his reward sticker.

Whilst coming to see me, Superman developed another skill: the confidence that coming to the dentist was okay.  This was a skill he passed onto his parents who decided to come back for check-ups of their own. Vectorolie Vectorolie

Sometimes, we all wish that we were Superman.  I know I have wished that there was a super hero in me, especially when faced with having to do something I am scared of.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a secret superhero costume hiding in our wardrobes.  Most of us, facing difficult tasks have to wear our superhero costume in the guise of everyday clothing.

Perhaps, the next time you have to do something scary, think what “superpower” you could take.  Maybe it’s a magic piece of blue-tac you can fiddle with, magic controlled breathing or a hanky sprayed with a familiar smell.

Finally, remember even superheroes aren’t invincible and need help from others.  Don’t forget the inner super-power of courage to ask for help; from friends, family or professionals.


Finally, finally!  If you are having a hard time and feel you would like to explore this with a counsellor then get in touch.

Contact Newcastle Counselling



Newcastle Counselling, meeting you wherever you are on your personal journey.