Back to work!

I'm excited announce that Counselling Psychology Stavanger opens again at the end of August!  I've been very fortunate to have had a wonderful year of maternity leave, but now it is back to work and it's great to be back in the chair again. I've still got a few appointment times available, and am able to offer reduced rates for students or unemployed people who would not otherwise be able to afford counselling.  Please contact me to find out more.

Why not let September 2017 be the time you decide to make a change in your life?

Beginnings and endings

  The beginnings or endings of relationships are frequently what bring people to therapy: births, deaths, divorce, separation or relocations can also be important in what brings the therapy relationship to an end. Much has been written about the importance of beginnings and endings in therapy, today however, is the end of this stretch of my life as a counselling psychologist and the beginning of the next stage of my life, as I start my maternity leave and await the arrival of my second child. Every career has ups and downs, and the time I have spent working in private practice in Stavanger has been a real high. I have met many interesting, well travelled and thoughtful people, at all stages of their lives and relationships, and working in such an internationally diverse community has provided so much to think about.


Thank you to all the clients, colleagues, friends and family who have supported my work.  I will be back, just watch this space!

Free being me!

FBM-Badge-English-300x226 Last week I spent an evening with the Stavanger Brownie pack, talking about self-esteem.  I had been invited to help them kick off their part in the international World Girl Guides 'Free Being Me' campaign:

'A one-of-a-kind programme! Through fun and interactive activities, children and young people learn that body confidence and self-esteem come from valuing their bodies, standing up to social pressures, and supporting others to be more body confident. By working together, leading others and speaking out, participants will be empowered to make a difference in their local and global communities.'

I had a great evening, it was really good fun and lovely to meet such an enthusiastic and engaged group of girls.

Exercise and mental health

Jeremy Johnston Do More Movement
Jeremy Johnston Do More Movement

Now that the evenings are lighter for longer and the weather is a little warmer, I find it harder to keep up the excuses for not getting out in the fresh air and doing some exercise.

Research has shown that exercise is incredibly important for good mental health, with regular exercise strongly linked to recovery from mental health problems:

‘If you keep active, you are:

  • less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense
  • more likely to feel good about yourself
  • more likely to concentrate and focus better
  • more likely to sleep better
  • more likely to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you try to give up a habit, such as smoking or alcohol
  • more likely to be able to keep mobile and independent as you get older
  • possibly less likely to have problems with memory and dementia.’

From the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists

In conjunction with one of the most persuasive fitness fanatics I know, personal trainer Jeremy Johnston, (who also happens to be my brother!), have a look at these top tips for getting started and maintaining your motivation:

Train for health and enjoyment:  If you're not enjoying your training or workouts do something new.  Try a new class or ask a personal trainer for some help. If you don’t enjoy jogging that doesn’t mean you’ll hate the adrenaline rush of hill sprints. Bored of the gym? Try rock climbing. There are hundreds of ways to challenge your body and mind at the same time and it doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be a chore. Keep trying new things until you find something that gets you fired up and excited.

Ignore 90% of social media:  It's not real and won't make you feel better about yourself.  Stick to the profiles that make you smile and inspire and motivate YOU, avoid the rest and don't worry about what other people are doing.

Set new goals: Whether your goal is weight loss, waist size or completing a 10km run, ensure you have a relevant target to keep yourself challenged. Try having short, medium and long term goals so you are always working towards something that’s within sight. Don’t be afraid to change them. They are your goals and no-one else’s.

Invest in your well being:  Whether that means buying a Nutribullet to make your own juices, buying new gym kit or an expensive watch that records steps/calories and everything else, do it.  If the money helps to build good habits and routine, it's money well spent that will more than pay back in the long term.

Indulge occasionally: You're not a professional athlete so you don't need to eat & train like one.  Eat ice cream, eat pizza.  Just make sure it's part of a balanced diet and don't indulge to excess.

Don't stress and panic about falling off the wagon: Everyone does it.  Just remember what you're wanting to achieve and why and go again.

Be totally honest with yourself:  More often than not we know if we are taking an easy option.  Stop and think about your decisions before you make them.

So, what is stopping you?

If you want to find out more about how mental and physical health are related, have a look at these links:

Whether you are going for a walk, a hike in the mountains (perhaps easier for my Norwegian readers!), a run round the park, training for a fun run or even a marathon, yoga, boxing, weight lifting, swimming, Nordic walking, playing a team sport, sailing or getting competitive on the tennis court, keep it up!

‘Would recommend it to every parent!’


Yesterday was the final session of the Spring 2016 Developing Parenting Skills course, and we finished with a very thoughtful discussion on parenting as a team, along with a wonderful selection of international snacks and treats bought in by the lovely participants!

A few of the really positive comments I received as feedback:

  • ‘I very much enjoyed the course and the group.’
  • ‘I enjoyed learning new things, especially when it helps me be a better mom.’
  • ‘I really enjoyed hearing so many different stories and perspectives – realising how similar our experiences have been – and how normal!’
  • ‘Would recommend it to every parent! Many things will start you thinking about issues/reasons that didn’t cross your mind before.’

I’ve put together a selection of the resources that we used on the course, or which I referred to, which can be found here, along with a selection of books on parenting and child development which were recommended by participants on this course, the previous course, and members of the Stavanger International Parents Facebook page. Thank you to everybody who contributed the names of parenting books, blogs or websites which they have actually found helpful, rather than anxiety inducing!

I’ve also been posting links about children’s mental health on the Counselling Psychology Stavanger Facebook page, to tie in with the UK’s Children’s Mental Health Week, which was in February. Here are the links again:

Young Minds Matter

Tips to build children’s resilience

Understanding childhood – key stages in your child’s emotional development from birth to adulthood

Talking to your children about mental health

How to help children and young people be more digitally resilient



Raising Emotionally Resilient Children

I was given an incredibly warm welcome by the ladies of PWC Stavanger yesterday, on a very cold, snowy morning.  They asked many thoughtful and interesting questions about the challenges of raising emotionally resilient children away from the support and familiarity of 'home', and as part of a globally mobile life.  It was lovely to get such positive feedback and a few more parents signing up for the Developing Parenting Skills, Confidence and Self-Esteem course, which begins next week.  Thank you PWC Stavanger!

Here are the powerpoint slides: PWC - Raising ER TCKs and the handout: Supporting ER in TCKs

Emotionally Resilient expat and third culture kids

Welcome to 2016 and three forthcoming events

Welcome to 2016.  It's been a cold start to the year here in Stavanger, but come and join me at three forthcoming events, for a chance to think, explore, reflect and learn.  I can't promise there won't be a thick layer of ice on the ground outside, but I can promise a warm welcome and a chance to meet new people in a 'koselig' atmosphere.

It’s going to be a busy year for Counselling Psychology Stavanger, beginning with an invitation to be the guest speaker at the PWC Stavanger General Meeting, on the 13th January, which I was delighted to accept. I’ll be talking about raising children away from 'home', some of the challenges and things to be aware of, and strategies to help develop and support children's emotional resilience, wherever life takes you.  It’s a topic that is important to me, from both personal and professional perspectives and I’m looking forward to it hugely. The meeting is open to all PWC members, anybody who is considering joining PWC, or anybody who is interested in the topic. See here for more details.

The following week, I begin the Developing Parenting Skills, Confidence and Self-Esteem course, hosted by the British School (BISS), but again open to all members of the community. I’m very excited to be leading this course for a second time, and looking forward to meeting another group of parents who want to take the time to explore and reflect on their experience of being a parent, and to share and learn more about how they can develop their skills, confidence and self-esteem. There are still a few places left if you would like to join. Please just get in touch.

On February 11th I’ll be talking at ISS (the International School of Stavanger) about how parents can support their children's emotional development, better understand anxiety and will share strategies to encourage listening and talking, as part of the ISS monthly Morning Connections meetings. It is always lovely to be asked to talk about a topic I find so interesting and important, and I’m really looking forward to meeting more of the ISS parents and staff.

These events are all open to the community, so please do come and join one or even all of them. I look forward to seeing you there!

In the UK the national Children’s Mental Health Week takes place from the 8th to the 14th February 2016, so these events are very well timed. I’ll be posting regularly on children’s mental health during January and February, on the Counselling Psychology Stavanger Facebook page, so please like the page to follow these posts.

Men's mental health in November

U9MVEPCXR9 ‘Anyone, of any age, can be affected by poor mental health. Many men find it difficult to share their problems and try to remain ‘strong and silent’ rather than getting support when it’s needed, despite the detrimental effect this can have. It’s important to be proactive about your mental health, be aware of risk factors and symptoms, and stay connected with your friends and family.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health problem, the most important first step is to talk to someone. Whether it’s your doctor, your family, your friends, or an anonymous person on a support line – advice and effective tools are available.’ Movember UK

During November, I have been posting about men’s mental health on the Counselling Psychology Stavanger Facebook page. November, has become Movember for many, a time to raise money for and awareness of men’s health, focusing on prostate and testicular cancers, physical inactivity and poor mental health.

In 2014 suicide was the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 in the UK. Behind this statistic are the shattered lives of the men who feel that suicide is their only option, and the devastating losses to families and communities. The cultural and personal barriers that may prevent men from seeking help need to be challenged so that asking for help is seen as a sign of strength and courage rather than of weakness or a lack of masculinity.

In light of this, here are some good sources of information and support. Please don’t suffer in silence - ask for help, whether that be from a family member, a friend, your family doctor, or a psychologist, it is the hardest, but strongest and most important step towards feeling better.

Your family doctor should be able to provide you with support and guidance but other organisations are available:

In Norway:

In the UK:

Back to school!

On Friday I was back at the British School in Stavanger to talk to the MYP assembly about looking after their mental health.  It's a long time since I've stood at the front of the assembly hall and I was just a little bit nervous!  However, the students were incredibly receptive, answering questions and volunteering suggestions with great enthusiasm and I really enjoyed the morning.  At the end of the session I asked students to write suggestions, on coloured paper, of how they could look after their own mental health, or how they could support a friend and to stick them on the wall on their way out.  The results are in the photo below - they had some great ideas and I hope that the chatter I could hear as students left the hall means there are some new conversations about mental health happening. It was also lovely to meet some of the students who had further questions, and a few aspiring psychologists looking for career advice!

MYP students' suggestions of how to look after their mental health.

Confident parents and confident children!

Developing parenting skills, developing confident children!

Being a parent can be wonderful, but it also brings many challenges. Bringing up children to be confident and emotionally healthy whilst living away from the support of family and friends, and juggling the commitments of work and family life, is not easy.

Last week I led the first session of a new course on developing parenting skills. I have a lovely group of truly international parents to work with, who have bought their curiosity, energy and enthusiasm with them to the group. I think I am going to learn a great deal from them as we explore and reflect on what being a good parent means to us, our relationships and influences, how we listen to and talk with our children, deal with challenging behaviour and an awful lot more.

The course consists of 10 sessions, and is held in the shiny new premises of the BISS College in Forus, Stavanger. Aiming to provide a supportive and empowering environment, and the opportunity to give you time to think about your own and your children’s confidence and self-esteem, this is a really positive course to help you develop a range of skills and approaches to be a more effective parent.

If you are interested in finding out more, or would like to sign up for the next course, beginning in January, please contact me.

Finishing off August's focus on adolescent mental health (and a lot more links!)

‘With good mental health, children and young people do better in every way. They enjoy their childhoods, are able to deal with stress and difficult times, are able to learn better, do better at school, navigate the online world they grew up in so they benefit from it and enjoy friendships and new experiences. Childhood and teenage years are when mental health is developed and patterns are set for the future. So a child with good mental health is much more likely to have good mental health as an adult, and to be able to take on adult responsibilities and fulfill their potential.’

Young Minds

adolescent mental health

Adolescence (approximately ages 11-25) is a potentially very challenging time of life, with many transitions to be made, new life experiences to be navigated and changing relationships to be negotiated.  My focus this month has been on adolescent mental health, with the aim of getting people talking about this often difficult-to-talk-about subject.  As part of this I led a workshop for Middle Years (MYP) staff at the British International School in Stavanger (BISS), and spoke with parents at the MYP open evening.  I'll be back at BISS to talk to the students themselves at their morning assembly in October.  It's a long time since I spoke in assembly!

So, please, get informed, look at the links below and in previous posts, talk about mental health and emotional wellbeing with your parents/children (delete as appropriate), send them these links and start the conversation. You’ll be pleased you did.

Links for young people, parents and teachers:

Young people – if you’re not sure how to start looking after your mental health, have a look at these pages, and the links in my last post

This is a really helpful guide to thinking about your mental health, from Rethink and this is a great You Tube video thinking about mental health from JacksGap.

What can parents, carers, teachers and other adults do to support young people? There are many things that we can do, principally supporting the development of emotional resilience.

Here is a short guide to supporting resilience, from the American Psychological Association for parents and teachers

And here is a longer one from Boing Boing, a UK Community Interest Company working to promote resilience. This book is a free download, written by young people, for parents.

MYP parents working on a group task during my talk on adolescent mental health.

BISS MYP staff during a workshop I led on adolescent mental health.

Adolescent mental health - some great links!

A few to be going on with, more to follow soon... A fantastic guide for young people about looking after their mental health, from Rethink.

Stem4 a UK based charity raising awareness  of commonly occurring mental health issues in teenagers.  A great resource for teenagers and their parents and teachers, with lots of information about identifying mental health problems and what to do next.

The Site is another UK based organisation providing young people with a 'guide to the real world'.  There is a huge amount of information about mental health, relationships, school stress, and more.

Young Minds, more great information for young people and their parents and teachers.  Particularly worth a look is the Headmeds section 'straight talk on mental health medication' for young people.  This is information which can be tricky to find, so this is a great resource.

Professor Sarah Jayne Blakemore talks about the 'Mysterious Workings of the Teenage Brain' in this fascinating TED talk - well worth a look to find out what is going on in there!

Another TED talk, this time by Carol Dweck, an American Psychologist, on the Growth Mindset - this is the theory that no trait is fixed, we can all grow, change and improve.  Really inspiring.



Focus on... Adolescent mental health in August

Later this month I will be leading some workshops on adolescent mental health in Stavanger, so I thought that this would be a good focus for a few posts over August, particularly with the new Norwegian school year beginning in a couple of weeks.

So, if you are a teenager, or you live with a teenager, are expecting one in the future, know one , or just were a teenager once, please follow me here and on Facebook for regular posts during August, with enlightening and helpful links and support.  adolescent mental health

Young Minds (a fantastic organization, please see below for more) define mental health as ‘the strength and capacity of our minds to grow and develop, to be able to overcome difficulties and challenges and to make the most of our abilities and opportunities’.

Good mental health incorporates our capacity to form and maintain healthy relationships, to learn and play, to develop into a mentally healthy adult. The teenage years are often characterized by a push against authority and the boundaries set by family and school, by new and sometimes challenging behavior. This is entirely normal, and in many ways a healthy exploration of our place in the world, but sometimes young people, their parents or teachers become worried by the young person's distress, difficulty coping or by challenging behaviour, and then it is important to seek help as soon as possible.  A great source of information is Young Minds ‘the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people’. The Young Minds website has lots of information for young people and their parents, carers, teachers and other professionals. Take a look.

For more on adolescent mental health over August please take a look at, and like, the Counselling Psychology Stavanger Facebook page.


So what is bibliotherapy?

bibliotherapyI get a huge amount of pleasure from reading, both fiction and non-fiction, and my default reaction to any new situation, problem or stage in life, is to buy a book. I was delighted when I discovered that using books as therapy is a recognised, well established and research supported approach to supporting mental health, and goes by the rather wonderful name of bibliotherapy. Bibliotherapy is defined as using books to help work through, understand and resolve emotional concerns.

I recently added a Bibliotherapy section to this website, as it is an area I find really interesting and so accessible. Many people will have had an ‘aha’ moment reading a novel, a poem, biography or self-help guide, a moment of clarity, catharsis and inspiration. I’ve added links to some of my favourite books, but would love to hear some of your suggestions. I’ll add them to my Amazon wish list!

Presenting at INN Stavanger

In November 2014 I was excited to be asked by International Network Norway (INN), an organisation supporting the international and expat population in Stavanger, to give a presentation on ‘Dealing with the Unexpected’. This talk was prompted by the uncerScreen Shot 2015-06-14 at 13.51.50tainty in the oil industry and the sometimes very sudden changes people are having to make in terms of their work roles and relocation plans. I was even more pleased to be asked to repeat the presentation in May 2015. The diverse and truly international audiences asked many thoughtful questions, and I had many interesting emails in response.

Dealing with the unexpected 13th May 2015

The main focus of my presentation was on the benefits of developing emotional resilience in preparing for and coping with the unexpected, particularly in expat and cross-cultural life. Emotional resilience is defined by Janssen in The Emotionally Resilient Expat as ‘the ability to recover from and/or adjust to negative events or significant change… also to maintaining or returning to a positive view of oneself during and after such turmoil.’

By developing emotional resilience we increase our capacity to cope with the unexpected more successfully. We can all increase our emotional resilience, whatever our age, stage of life, background or current situation. It may not be easy, in fact it may well be immensely challenging, but the American Psychological Association describes emotional resilience as involving behaviours, thoughts and actions that anyone can learn and develop ( The key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you, as part of a personal strategy for developing resilience.

If you would like to find out more, please get in touch.

Beginning at the Tasta Helseloft

I was very pleased to start working with the excellent team at the Tasta Helseloft at the beginning of the year. The Helseloft is a health centre in the Tasta shopping centre and houses a variety of practitioners specialising in physical and emotional health care, including physiotherapists, osteopaths, masseurs, and so much more. It is a one-stop-shop for all your physical, and now psychological, health needs. I am thoroughly enjoying working with such a friendly and approachable group, and they are very tolerant of my terrible attempts at Norwegian conversation in the lunch break! At Tasta I am able to provide a safe, clean and professional environment in which to see clients, with a comfortable therapy room, spacious waiting area, free parking and several very nice coffee shops in which to sit and reflect, post-session, with a cup of coffee.

Therapy room at the Tasta Helseloft