A BACP psychotherapist hopes a new BBC documentary examining the menopause will help more women talk about its effects.
The Truth About the Menopause shone a light on how the menopause affects woman and investigated which treatments, if any, could ease its side effects.
The film, which was fronted by the broadcaster and journalist Mariella Frostrup and aired on BBC1 on Monday evening (26 November), found that talking therapies could help reduce the symptoms.
Karen Ciclitira, associate professor at Middlesex University, where she teaches psychotherapy, said: “I think there was a problem in previous generations as there was a stigma attached. The more that these issues are discussed the better it is. The more barriers come down.”
Karen, a BACP member who has more than 20 years’ experience of working as a counsellor and psychotherapist, has a private practice in London’s Harley Street. She said that going through the menopause can have an impact on the mental health of women.
“There are certain issues around it,” she said. “It could be the feeling one is moving on from being a younger woman, giving up fertility, potentially not feeling as sexually active.
“It can be hard to distinguish which effects are physical and psychological. If one is going through unpleasant symptoms it affects how one feels about oneself.
“I have seen quite a few women in their 50s who have given up their careers to bring up their families and so, around the menopause, their families have grown up and left and they are feeling bereft.
“It is not just the physical symptoms and I think therapy can be successful.”
The programme followed a group of women who undertook eight weeks of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). They kept a symptom diary, which found there was a 64% reduction in the number of hot flushes and night sweats were down by 95%.
“It was pretty-much transformational for me,” one of the women said. “One of the things was about identifying catastrophic thoughts and I am just Miss Chilled now.”
“A lot of the techniques have been very useful,” added another of the women.
Revitalised and confident
Mariella admitted she was sceptical about the benefits of talking therapy before the experiment but said the results were “staggering”.
She said: “They were revitalised and confident, and so clearly it does have a huge impact.
“Something like CBT, which on the surface looks very simplistic, has incredible power to change attitudes and to change how we feel about ourselves.”
The Truth About the Menopause is available via BBC iPlayer for another 28 days from 28 November.
Visit our Therapist directory to find a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help with menopause.
The menopause can bring with it significant physical and psychological changes and take its toll on women’s mental health. Our members Emma Cullinan and Michèle Down look at how therapy can help.
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