“I Wish” lessons from childhood

Recently I saw something that struck a chord with me. A year six teacher spoke about the results of a creative writing project she had given to her class. She asked the kids in the class to complete the following sentence “I wish”.I wish_Eleos counselling blog post

One would think it would be healthy for children so young to write about their desires for a new bike, Xbox, or a new laptop or tablet. But instead of writing for their wishes for the latest high-tech gizmo. 20 of the 30 young kids made reference to the breakup of their families. Furthermore, the internal conflict in their homes and in the statement I wish they added “I wish my father would come back” I wish to get good grades so my dad would love me” “I wish my mother didn’t have a boyfriend.” “I wish I had one mum mum dad.”

Nobody would be surprised to know that the family unit is in trouble. But if you’re like me it is continually distressing that such young children struggle at a time of their lives where they should be having fun, making good relationships, forming real bonds.

Undoubtedly, every aspect of a child’s life is affected when a family breaks up, or there is instability. Without the ability to gain access to professional counselling many of the kids affected this way will drag their problems into future relationships, empirical research has shown.

Undoubtedly, research has shown, that without the proper professional help, the crumbling will repeat itself again and again

Popular misconceptions regarding addiction

The Disease Model of Addiction.

eleoscounselling_drug addiction_cocaine_skunk marijuana

The idea that addiction is caused by a brain disease is widely muted and has become part of popular culture. With little evidence support this hypothesis or idea, the” disease model” implies that there is a brain disorder called “addiction” which has somehow been caught or passed on genetically, to the person with the problem. Unfortunately, the disease model; as it has been come to be known, overlooks the fundamental human concept of choice; essentially, the idea that a person with an addiction is undertaking an active choice, therefore empowering themselves. Thankfully addicts can choose to recover and are not helpless to their addiction or victims of a brain disease.

Lessons from history about addiction

In the 1970s, high-grade opium and heroin were available to soldiers fighting in Vietnam.  It was approximated that 50% of all enlisted US soldiers serving in that war tried heroin or opium. Roughly 10 to 15% of them became, what could be called, addicted to that drug.

In May 1971 the New York Times ran the headline “GI heroin addiction epidemic in Vietnam” it was thought that the newly discharged veterans returning to the US would join the ranks of the hordes of “junkies” which lived in the inner cities of the US. The President at the time, Richard Nixon, ordered the military to begin drug testing veterans returning to the US. Not one veteran could sit on a plane returning home without passing a urine test. Any veteran found positive could if needed, attend an army sponsored rehabilitation programme: most of the soldiers past this test on the second try.

An interesting thing occurred when the soldiers returned to their civilian lives; they stopped using heroin; it lost its appeal. A drug that helps them in due hours of endless boredom and moments of terror lost its charm. Furthermore, drug culture, the financial price of heroin, and the stigma of arrest and criminal a record, may have been another driver to deterred veterans from using.

Dr Lee Robbins, a sociologist from the University of Washington, conducted a test program in 1972 to 1974.

Dr Robbins found that only 5% of men who have used heroin, in Vietnam, and had become addicted, returned to the drug within ten months after returning from the war zone.  Furthermore, only 12% had a minor relapse within three years. The startling result was counterintuitive to what, at the time, people thought exposed to a narcotic drug such as heroin, would have. In that period, it was thought that addicts would have an unbearable craving which would lead them continually reuse a strong narcotic such as heroin. Addiction specialists at the time heralded these results as groundbreaking, turning over the belief that a person was “once an addict always an addict”. (Satel & Lillienfeld, 2014).

Time to rethink addiction?

Unfortunately, this information laying in textbooks and research papers and was overlooked by the addiction industry. The cliché “once an addict always an addict” was later reinforced in the mid-1990s with a new idea that addiction is a chronic brain disease; this idea was promoted by Alan Leshner, the director of the National Institute of Drug abuse in the US. A person entering rehab would learn that they have a chronic brain disease called “ addiction” also medical schools would teach this model. In the US, the American Society of Addiction Medicine is quoted as saying that “ addiction is a primary, acute disease of the brain’s reward, impulse, memory and relative circuitry” (Medicine, 2011).

Forgotten history

Unfortunately, in so many ways whether US leads the UK follows. Indeed, various drug policy decisions advise to such as Bill Clinton, George W Bush and lately Barrack Obama, have all been briefed regarding the brain disease model, the brain disease model becomes a form of “dogma” and thus taken as truth rather than a form of truth.

Indeed, the brain does take a large part in the addiction process. The idea of a brain disease, by its very nature, implies a lack of control over will, personality and bodily functions certain some addictive behaviours do look like this, but the process is far more complicated. Dr Lance Dodes, in his book Breaking Addiction, makes this comment “the drive for addiction is normal” (Dodes, 2011, p. 40). Dr Dodes makes an interesting argument when he says that addictions are compulsions, Dr Dodes, in fact, says that addictions are a form of displacement behaviour. Fundamentally, when some people find it hard to deal with emotions and feelings, they are displaced to an addictive process. This certainly bears out the research from Vietnam, if you think of young soldiers away from home in an environment that can be incredibly boring one moment and the next moment incredibly stressful.

When one removes that stressful environment, such as returning home to the US that behaviour or compulsion becomes redundant. This view flies in the face of researchers whose dominant view is that addiction is caused by a chronic brain disease that alters the brain. Undoubtedly, taking any form of drug alters the brain. Nevertheless, any interaction alters the brain essentially, what researchers could be witnessing is the idea of neuro- plasticity: in which the brain is constantly changing and adapting to its environment and experience.

Nevertheless, understand the brain of any addict only gives the partial view of why they have become an addict in the first place.

If Dr Dodes hypothesis is right, then the conventional thinking regarding addiction and its treatment may have to be turned on its head. The idea carefully enshrined by 12 step programs that an addict is always an addict and is powerless to his or her substance or behaviour may have to be rethought. In fact, the addict or person caught up in the compulsion or compulsive behaviours is actively making the choice and thus empowering themselves.

Before closing this article, one cannot discount genetic factors, these today are not fully known but the process of addiction partly happens through the action of dopamine, this is one of the brain’s primary neurotransmitters. Normally dopamine surges in the so-called reward pathways or circuits when we embark on a pleasant experience such as eating, sex or other stimuli central to survival; fundamentally this is nature’s way of making us do the same thing again and again, thus ensuring the survival of our race.

The idea of “salience” is an idea offered by neuroscientists to describe the pull of the substance on the addicted person, this can be identified as a sense of desire or wanting or even needing in preference to liking. Neuroscientists have observed the concepts of salience, by tracing the interaction on the neural pathways as they emerge from the underside of the brain (an area called the ventral tegmentum); these neural pathways sweep out into other brain regions such as the  accumbens, hyper campus and the prefrontal cortex all of which are associated with judgement reward, motivation inhibition and planning.

The truth of the matter is that not every person who drinks or use drugs use them continuously over a 24-hour period, in reality, most people who have some form of an addiction get on with everyday life quite well. The polarity at the heart of any addiction is the fact that the capacity to choose not to use drugs coexists with the self-destructiveness of addiction.

Maybe it is time to rethink how we think about treatment of addiction? Rather than seeing this as an action of a weak-willed person turning this on its head and looking at as an action of a very strong willed person who is displacing to the only thing they know will work from at that moment.

We would be interested to hear your comments, please leave them in the comments box.



Dodes, L. (2011). Breaking Addiction: A 7 Step Handbook for Ending Any Addiction. New York: HarperCollins.

Medicine, A. S. O. A. (2011). Public policy statement: definition of addiction (Vol. 2016, pp. Policy statement): American Society of Addiction Medicine


Satel, S., & Lillienfeld, S. (2014). Addiction and the brain disease fallacy. [Addiction]. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 4(March 2014).







Exercise improves mental health

Ladies Doing Exercise in the 1920s_eleoscounselling_depressionuk

What the experts say

Relaxation is good for the mind; it helps de-stress. But going to the gym can have a similar effect. The BACP, the British Association for counselling and  psychotherapist, issued a statement last year stating that people who exercise three times a week are less likely to suffer from depression. Furthermore, if one does suffer from depression exercising three times a week can have a marked effect on any recovery.

The bodies antidepressant


It is a well-known fact that the brain produces its own antidepressant endorphins or happy hormones. Endorphins are a powerful antidepressant with no’s side effects.

The Royal College of psychiatrists has an interesting web-page ;I have put a link to the bottom of this page.

Their findings suggest that exercising helps you sleep better; you be less anxious and able to concentrate as one of the many benefits of regular exercise.

Anybody who exercises regularly  will know the enormous sense of well-being one gets and the feeling of being more energetic.

Benefits for people with PTSD

There is evidence to suggest that, when one focuses on one’s body when exercising this helps your nervous system become more mobilized. Having a nervous system stuck in neutral is one of the symptoms people with PTSD often report.

Paying attention to one’s body and the way is working and being aware of one’s muscles joints, and movement is one way of putting the nervous system back into gear.

There is no suggestion by any of these leading authority that one should go out and start running marathons. If you don’t have time 10 to 30 minutes of exercise regularly, certainly have major benefits to your mental health.

Often having a negative self-image is one of the symptoms of depression. Exercise not only has physical benefits, but there’s also a sense of being more in touch with one’s body, through the process of physical exertion; one notices one joint more, muscles.

Support system

In the height of depression,  it is often said one feels that one cannot face the world. Exercising alone can have its benefits, but what if one starts to exercising groups, there’s the added advantage of meeting new friends and thus increasing your support network, to help you in those times when you cannot meet the world.


One of the fears people who suffer from panic attacks is breathing heavily, so some forms of exercise may increase certain anxieties. This doesn’t mean that one cannot take regular exercise. Yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness meditation, also play their part in increasing your well-being.



Now that summers here it’s time to dust off those running shoes, put on some Lycra, and exercising at least three times a week.

An act of kindness in a hard-nosed world.

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863It Is often thought that we have to be hard-nosed to be successful in this world. Often people perceive kindness as a form of weakness and vulnerability. Nothing could be further from the truth. An act of kindness signals an incredible inner strength that is often never fully appreciated by others.

The story goes that Abraham Lincoln was hosting a dinner party at the White House. One of his guests poured his coffee into his saucer and blew on it before drinking. I’m sure you can imagine the fine ladies and gentlemen seated nearby were horrified at this social faux pas. Nevertheless, the story goes that, for a moment, the room was filled with an embarrassing silence.

Amazingly Lincoln took his own coffee poured it into his saucer and for the rest of the evening drank it straight out of the saucer, surprisingly everybody in the room followed suit. Therefore, one small act of kindness saved the White House guest an unbelievably embarrassing situation. This thoughtful gesture of one of America’s finest if not the finest president sets an example of kindness.

An act of kindness in life

It wouldn’t be surprised find out you never heard of Stephen Grellet, a French-born Quaker who died in 1855, a relatively minor historical figure except for these few lines which are likely to be remembered forever “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I do or any kindness that I show to any human being let me do it now”.

Who can you be kind to today?

Each day we have an opportunity to show a small act of kindness to people whether it’s spending a moment talking to someone and asking them how they really feel, rather than be satisfied with a “fine”.

Painkillers may give help to people with suicidal thoughts.

PANews BT_P-14c26646-8ab4-49bb-abc5-6a5e61e6bbdb_I1A recent article in new scientist magazine suggests research undertaken by a joint team of scientists working in America and Israel, have had some success in helping with clients overcome suicidal thoughts. The participants in the study were given painkillers (buprenorphine). The research suggests that there is some improvement in people’s thinking.

In this small study carried out in the US, by this joint team, participants were given the painkiller buprenorphine, because the low risk this carries from an overdose, also, the doses were kept low to carry less risk to the participant. Preliminary results show that people improved their mood on pain relief medication and were able to cope adequately with life.

It is thought that buprenorphine act on a number of opioid receptors in the brain, scientists of unsure which receptors exactly, but there is a promise that giving suicidal patients buprenorphine, may stave off the thoughts of taking their own life’s.

As yet GPs, psychiatrists and mental health professionals have nothing to help clients with suicidal idealization. This research may help thousands of people in the UK. The idea of a pharmaceutical which patients with suicidal thoughts could take to quell these suicidal thoughts has been asked for over 20 years by mental health professionals. Although this research is in its infancy, it certainly shows promising’s signs.

According to the phone helpline charity, the Samaritans   4,722 people in the UK took their own life in 2013, with the largest figure being in the male population at 3,684.

Suicide biggest killer of men between the age of 18 and 34, according to the Samaritans figures.


Love the most enduring thing.


Sad passing

Within the last week, I was to hear about the sad passing of a childhood friend’s father, he had been unwell for a short time, finally passing away, after a short stay in hospital. It may be a sign of my age, but I’m attending more funerals than I am weddings, these days. The man in question really invested in his family, particularly taking an active interest, in my friend’s hobby.

I’d often wish my own father was like this, actively engaging with his sons and having a common bond with them, such as a hobby.

Recently I have been struck by a posting that has been put on Facebook. Which was a copy of the last words of Steve Jobs, the Apple supremo. In which he talked about his work, his wealth and his fame as being worthless, realising that his own pursuit of wealth had made him, what he calls a “twisted being”. Jobs talks about love being the most enduring things, in life.

Paraphrasing Jobs, he talks about material things being lost, but the only thing that will endure is love.

Investing in family

My friend’s father invested in people, particularly his sons. He was a very practical man, but always had time for people.

In 1924 Bill Havens were almost guaranteed to win an Olympic gold medal for canoeing in the Paris games. Nevertheless, with this in mind, he was to learn that his wife was likely to give birth to their first child, whilst he was away competing. His wife was keen for Bill to attend the games, but Bill didn’t want to miss the birth of his first child. Bill was to stay at home and watch his first son Frank being born. There were times when he wondered whether he would have achieved his gold medal, but never regretted seeing the birth of his first child.

Just like my friend’s father, Bill poured his life into his son. After 24 years the Olympic Games were being held in Finland. This time it was Bill’s son Franks turn to compete for the gold medal, in canoeing. Frank was to telegraph bill with this message “thanks for waiting around for me to be born, I came home with the gold medal”.

 Are you neglecting family?

For Bill Havens family always came first. As with Steve jobs, Bill Havens realised that accolades tarnish, the same way the gold medals do. Are you neglecting your family today? If so think about it, neglecting them may have grave consequences?

Your sex is not defined by your brain?

black-and-white picture of brain_eleoscounselling


A recent article in new scientist debunks the idea, of male and female brains. After scanning more than 1,400 brains, scientists at Tel Aviv University revealed there is no difference between male and female brains. Although male brains are known to be bigger, than female brains the features inside that brain do not differ greatly.

The idea that, when a baby boy is developing in the womb, and when testicles are formed these discharge testosterones which defines the brain as male, has now been disproved by research.

When the research group in Tel Aviv looked at 1400 magnetic image residence scans of subjects between the ages of 13 and 85, they found very little variance between male and female brains.

One interesting, spin off from this research is that the team found is that there are variations in the size of brain areas, as well as the interconnections between them. The researchers found 29 brain regions, but in general seem to be of different sizes between people who identify themselves as male or female. These include the hippocampus, which is involved in the laying down of memories and an area of the brain, which is considered to play a major role in risk aversion called the inferior frontal gyrus.

When the researchers looked at individual brain scans they found that they had very few people that have all the brain features they would expect, based on their sex. In fact, across the 1,400 brain scans, the research looked at, between 0 % and 8% of the people had all male or all female brains depending on a definition used in the past.

It is thought that we all somewhere along the continuum, with a mix of brain attributes that would define as individuals.

Researchers at the University of Tel Aviv commented saying that most people are in the middle.


Gender myths

Men are preoccupied with sex.

Many studies have verified that men have more casual sex than women. Nevertheless, the female sexual appetite may be underestimated. Women in general are likely to downplay the use of pornography or masturbation while men tend to exaggerate their use.

Women tend to be bigger gossips than men.

Is a common held belief that women are better communicators than men. The reality is gender difference in verbal abilities is very small. In fact, in some posts specific skills, men outclass women.

Boys are better at maths than girls.

An analysis of 240 studies found that girls and boys are equally matched when it comes to maths. The variable is girls tend to perform as well boys in countries where there is more gender equality.


Maybe it’s time to live life like every day was our last?

eleoscounselling_making each day count

Life with purpose.

Undoubtedly, Prof Stephen Hawking has one of the most brilliant minds. He has often been compared to Albert Einstein. Unfortunately, Prof Hawkins has a degenerative disease called motor neuron disease, which is left him virtually paralysed, his famous talking computer has become his voice, and is now instantly recognisable because he is now unable to speak. Fortunately, technology has given Prof Hawkins a way of communicating his brilliant thoughts to the world. Nevertheless, before he became ill, he described his life as pointless, that’s right! Before he became ill, Prof Hawkins, one of the most brilliant minds, to have lived, called his life pointless.

It has been well documented that he drank too much and did very little work, but on discovering that he had perhaps a few years to live Prof Hawkins suddenly became focused, his life suddenly had a meaning.

The meaning of life?

Victor Frankel a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps and eminent psychotherapist, in his book man’s search for meaning says this “for the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day-to-day and from hour to-hour what matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning for a person’s life in a given moment”.

One can often lose touch with what life actually is. If we lived each day as if it was our last, the simplest things would have more meaning. We often overlook the most important things in life in pursuit of personal goals such as money in the bank, a bigger house, bigger car, and a glittering career.


If we were to live as each day was our last, the laughter of the child, a beautiful sunset, the company and love of friends and family or just walk in the woods, would have so much more meaning. It is often said, that the most miserable people in the world those who believe that they have an entitlement; that life owes them something. On close observation, a person like this never seems to be happy, because they never believe they are getting what they deserve.


The Dalai lama in his book the Art of Happiness makes an interesting comment saying that the “true antidote for greed is contentment”.

 Making each day count.

As we come to the close of the year, maybe it’s time to consider what things are precious to us, it is often at New Year that we re-evaluate our lives, and make resolutions for the New Year, perhaps one of those could be making each day count?


Is it time you de- stressed ?????

Christmas; a tifogme for re-evaluation, and de-stressing?

Christmas and New Year is often a time when we take a good look at what happened the previous year. Also, it’s a time when we rest, and spend time with our family. But for some this is not so.

As we fast approach the Christmas season, we thought it may be good to look at tiredness, and how there are two distinctive types.

The two types of tiredness are not too dissimilar to different types of clouds, the large clouds you see on a sunny day, or spring clouds bringing rain. The other is the type of cloud that predicts a storm front or sometimes bad weather, high winds, and all too frequent hurricane force winds.

The first type of tiredness is normal, it’s temporary and it comes after you finished a good job. Furthermore, after a time of rest, you bounce back ready to go again.

The other type of tiredness is a type of chronic fatigue, this builds up over many months, of stress and strain. Unfortunately, this type of fatigue doesn’t manifest itself as exhaustion. In fact, it is often masked by frantic activity, alongside impulsive behavior. Here are some of the signs to look out for.

Six warning signs that you’re stressed, and need to rest.



  1. If You or someone you know is finding it difficult to relax over a meal or coffee. They may be a sense that the person has to get on with something, but seems to lack direction or planning.
  2. If You or someone you know is finding themselves checking and rechecking emails, constantly looking, at their mobile phone tablet or laptop.
  3. If Your office desk, or workplace is piled high with literature, that you are about to read, designed to keep, you or someone you know one step ahead of their competitors, but it never seems to get read.
  4. If You or someone you know is not having time off, as it seems impossible to have a break or they may be constantly keep putting off having days off work.
  5. If You or someone you know may be having trouble sleeping.
  6. If You or someone you know, has spent any time “escaping” this may be drinking, eating too much mind sitting watching television.

If any of this sounds familiar? Then maybe it’s time you took some time off and re-evaluated.


Stresses is like boiling a frog


The truth is that stress is rather like boiling a frog, if a frog is put in a boiling pan water, it will jump straight out. The frog knows it’s hot and has enough sense to jump out of the boiling water. But if you put a frog lukewarm or tepid water, put it on the stove and slowly turn the gas up the frog and stay there till its boiled alive.

Stress can be quite like this, sometimes we don’t know we’ve been stressed or tired until we have a break.  Sometimes we can be poisoned by the belief that we are doing good things by working hard, but actually there is a point of diminishing odds.


Overindulging at Christmas: is your brain fooling you?

overindulgence at Christmas_eleoscounselling blog



As we are fast approaching the season for overindulgence, overeating and over consumption of alcohol. We thought it would be good to look at how food alters your mood.

Latest research in mood and food


It has been well recognised and researched, that certain foods, can alter your mood, but how much of that is actually true? In recent research published by Prof Kathy Magnusson at Oregon State University.

Prof Magnusson’s research has found that feeding animals, a sugary diet can cause changes in their gut bacteria, Prof Magnussen found that there is a direct correlation to cognitive ability- the ability to adjust to changing situations, and diet.

The significance of this is important, as your gut bacteria, actually weighs as much as your brain. It has been postulated that these microbes can actually affect your mind. Research carried out, using rats and mice, found that when rodents were fed a particular food type (a broth), containing a microbe that is linked to reduced signs of stress and anxiety It was found that the mice show less signs of stress, the more signs of well-being; this particular microbe is known to release an anti-anxiety neurotransmitter GABA.

Two reward systems, in food consumption: one based on mood the other based on want

Scientists have found that we have two basic systems, regarding food one of them is hunger, the other one is reward, the hunger system, is generated by hormones from your gut, and from fat cells, which sends information to your brain, telling your brain that you are hungry. Conversely, the reward system is more concerned with the type of food you eat, the key to this is a dopamine pathway which seems to respond more strongly to foods which are high in fat and sugar, scientists postulated this is because historically, certain types of food would only be available at certain times of year, and the and sister would stock up on, high calorific foods knowing that it would be unavailable later on in the year. Unfortunately, our modern environment, has an abundance of such types of food high in fat, sugar and calories. When studied in an MRI scanner, researchers found that certain areas of the brain light up when certain foods are offered, these are usually high in calories and thus greater activity in the brain’s reward center.

Do your genes predict that you will be obese?

An interesting byproduct for these studies, is that scientists now have discovered that the hunger and reward system are not too dissimilar, as there is now a growing awareness of how interconnected they are. Genetics has a lot to do with, our propensity to overeat, maybe something to do with a gene called FTO; strongly linked with weight gain. Scientists predict that there is a 70% increase in becoming obese should this gene be present in a person.



A recent study also showed that people with a higher level of a hormone called ghrelin, which is released by the gut, when we become hungry, also has a great deal to do with increased weight gain. The study found that, an increased level of this hormone, tells the brain that you’re still hungry, even after you’ve eaten.

MRI studies of this group, with increased levels of hormones, of found something quite startling, in that, this group of people’s brains responds differently when they show pictures of food, with increased activity in the reward area of the brain; the reward pathways and these people have been shown to be weak. Thus the drive to seek out more and more food.

Think again before overindulging

So, at this time of overindulgence, is interesting to bear in mind whether you are actually hungry or not, or is your brain fooling you.