Therapy can help families and carers come to terms with a loved one’s mental health condition or complex health needs, say BACP members Sarah Baker and Sian Wareing-Jones.
They were speaking after Dame Barbara Windsor’s husband Scott Mitchell talked about having regular therapy sessions following the acting legend’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s.
Scott, who has been married to former Eastenders star Barbara since 2000, told the Daily Mirror: “I look after myself, I take myself away and see a therapist. I have no shame in saying that.
“I sit down and get out of my head, it’s quite easy to be open about what is going on with myself.
“That helps me, it stops me going insane. I go every couple of weeks. If everyone had therapy there might be a few less problems in the world.”
Sian, counsellor and family support co-ordinator with Jersey Alzheimer’s Association, says people seek counselling to help them cope with what can be an emotionally and physically demanding situation.
She said: “They are at that stage of being frazzled and burnt out by having to manage caring, emotionally and physically, for someone else.
“A lot of it is people finding it difficult to cope with the emotional trauma of seeing someone in such a situation and nurturing someone through really difficult times.”
No holds barred
Sarah says therapy can help in a number of ways.
“One of things I think is most important, is it provides a no-holds-barred space in which people can express what might otherwise go unexpressed,” she said. “It’s a place to talk about taboo topics without censure or judgement.
“If there are already problems in a relationship, these can intensify because the things that were holding the relationship together begin to break.
“There can be a lot of emotion around the adjustment to the changes. For example, if someone has just retired and begins to show signs of dementia there is adjustment to the fact that they planned to relax or spend more time with the grandchildren and suddenly that gets blown out of the water.
“That no-holds-barred space is important because it normalises feelings, saying anybody would feel like that.”
Sian added: “I see people physically relax, their bodies relax in front of me because they have been able to say how it is in confidence. The relief of talking and sharing a burden with someone, who is not going to judge them.”
Scott, meanwhile, is running the London Marathon in support of Dementia Revolution. He said: “She thanks me for looking after her. I say to her, ‘you don’t have to thank me’. Barbara can’t be left alone any more. That’s the reality of it. She has to have constant care.
“She can’t look after herself but then we still sit and have dinner and watch TV and have normal conversations.”
He added: “It's not until it happens on your doorstep that you realise how devastating dementia is. There is still such a lack of awareness that surrounds the condition.
“I see it often with Barbara - people get very nervous around her and they don't know how to react or what to say. But it's so important that we understand dementia.
“This cause desperately needs as much attention and awareness as possible.”
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and want to speak to a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist, you can find one via our directory.