Two Kent women who have joined forces to launch a new counselling practice say they are determined to change attitudes towards mental health and seeking help. Dominique Wynn, from Hildenborough, and Catherine Palmer, from Sevenoaks, have founded 7oaks Counselling which offers support for a range of life challenges. The pair feels passionate about providing support in the community and further afield to people seeking counselling to help them cope with experiences such as: death or loss; relationship problems; depression; phobias; anxiety; eating disorders; suicidal thoughts and self-harm. There is also a preventative arm to the business as 7oaks Counselling also provides support for people wishing to maintain healthy emotional and psychological balance. This is aimed at people who don’t necessarily have a ‘diagnosed’ mental health issue but who need guidance through trying times, challenges or projects that would benefit from having a mentor on board. Dominique and Catherine’s aim is to take the stigma out of the dated notion that counselling is solely for individuals seeking help for mental health difficulties. Both Dominique and Catherine decided to embark on counselling careers after personal experiences which included one of them experiencing the loss of a close family member. Dominique, who completed her placement at Sevenoaks Area MIND and currently works in a children’s centre in Tunbridge Wells, explained: “Unlike in the United States, many people simply don’t seek help when they need it. Mental health problems are so deeply misunderstood and people are afraid to admit they are suffering. They suffer in silence and the consequences of that can be tragic. “So many people are under pressure these days, whether it’s at work or at home. The extended family of old has all but disappeared and people just don’t have an easily accessible outlet to talk through difficulties which they are experiencing. It is an unrealistic notion for modern society to hold an expectation that everyone is able to cope alone. Asking for support is a strength and not a weakness.” As well as having their private practice in Sevenoaks, Catherine counsels parents and users of a children’s centre in Tunbridge Wells. She has also provided bereavement counselling at The Hospice in the Weald, Pembury, and worked at Knole Academy, in Sevenoaks, where she counselled students. Catherine says “The support we offer can be short term and involve just a few sessions, or longer term. We basically provide non-judgemental and emotional support – the type that can’t readily be given by a family member or friend. “We offer integrative counselling - a personal approach to counselling which involves blending more than one theoretical model to suit the needs of every individual.” Dominique and Catherine met while studying at K College in Tonbridge in September 2008. They went on to achieve their Diploma in Counselling at the Wealden Psychological Institute in Crowborough. Dominique Wynn (DipCouns, MBACP) and Catherine Palmer (DipCouns, MBACP)are both qualified Humanistic Integrative Counselling Practitioners, graduating from Wealden Psychological Institute, Crowborough. They are registered members of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP), the professional body which provides a framework promoting safe and ethical counselling practice. As integrative counsellors, Dominique and Catherine integrate the theoretical models of Transactional Analysis, Gestalt therapy and Person-Centred therapy. To complement and support these three core models, they have been trained to use a number of additional supporting theories. These include: Egan’s Skilled Helper model, Attachment theory, Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development and Petruska Clarkson’s Therapeutic Relationship. Their aim is to open a London office in the near future. There is a 7oaks Counselling Facebook page and Twitter feed to provide further information, links & support in the area. For more information, please go to www.7oakscounselling.co.uk. ENDS Press enquiries please contact Suzi Christie on 01435 830031 or e-mail email@example.com There is also a photo available of Dominique and Catherine. Below is a case study that helps to illustrate the type of work carried out by 7oaks Counselling. Case Study Fiona came to 7oaks Counselling because she was feeling desperate. She was finding it increasingly difficult trying to cope with her feeling of depression. She had suffered a serious illness 18 months before which meant that she could no longer work. She found that she was drinking more and more and she now realised that she had become dependent on alcohol. For Fiona, life had lost its meaning and she no longer felt motivated to get out of bed in the morning. She resented people and was slowly alienating her entire family. She had thoughts of ending her own life. My role was to provide Fiona with a safe space where she could freely express what was going on for her without feeling judged or misunderstood. I did not tell her what to do. What I did do was to offer her structure and support. We were able to build a solid working relationship and Fiona felt more able to open up to me. In time, at a pace which suited her, Fiona came to speak about a loss which she had experienced in childhood. The more recent loss of her job seemed to be the catalyst for her depression. She felt that she no longer had an identity. She became aware that she had kept her feelings of grief locked away for many, many years. The process of revisiting her pain took courage and I was able to offer Fiona the support she needed to work through the feelings which she had been suppressing for so long.