Monday, December 13, 2021

Dealing with the horror question, “When are you going to have kids?”

 We chose not to have kids, so this one comes from the heart. Here are some extra notes:

Alternatives to "Mind your own business" from the rudest to the politest

My sex life and fertility status are private
You ask this every time we meet. Tell you what, when something changes, I'll let you know
Why do you need to know?
I don't know. So, what's new with you?
When the time is right. So, seen any good films recently?

If you want to opt for schooling them:

About 10% to 15% of Malaysian couples have fertility issues. Therefore, that question is considered rude/insensitive.

If you want to communicate openly

Statement of emotion
"I don't know. And frankly, I dread this question. It spoils parties for me, and holidays."

Block their arguing
"I'm not discussing it anymore."

Direct to action/new behaviour
"Please, don't ask me again. Don't talk to me about it."

"So, what's new with you?"

Enforce the boundary by walking away if they persist.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Resetting Career Priorities After The Pandemic - Two Things That Worked And One Thing That Didn't

Every August I have a think about my therapy practice and figure out what I want from the next 12 months. Last year I focused on picking up some new skills; this year I am focusing on growing my business.

To do that successfully, I had to consider my lifestyle, my other activities, and fit it all together.  The huge challenge is the pandemic. Continuing lockdowns and flareups in various countries create merry hell with the economy, and the uncertainty makes it tough to plan.

Even so, it's the end of the first quarter, and I'm hitting my goals, so here are some thoughts. If you're planning a reset in 2022, I hope this will be of use to you.

What really worked super well #1: clearing my mind of all the things that I kind of like but don't really need, and being brutal about not doing things that I maybe 'should' be doing but that I really don't want to.

This prep was fundamental. It came in two flavours: work and social.

Work: In the last few years I've had various revenue streams, and it's tempting to hang on to all of them. I listed them all, and looked at Return On Investment, ROI, to see how much work I put into every dollar earned.

I dumped all the ones that weren't giving good returns. I thought I'd freak about this, but it was surprisingly relieving.

Social: I realized during the first year of the pandemic that I find social occasions quite draining. I love small chats with small groups of people, but I don't like big gatherings. Also, I hate traffic jams.

I have stopped going to weddings and parties. And all my in-person socializing is now kept to one day a month. BUT, I have regular WhatsApp calls with friends, three to four times a week.

I thought this might be really awful, but it turns out so many people feel overwhelmed, that this worked out great.  

I also always say no to meeting strangers in person. Whenever there's a business person who wants to talk about an opportunity blah blah blah…. They get a strictly timed Zoom or a WhatsApp chat that lasts a few minutes. I may be missing opportunities but that's where the next bit comes in.

Bottom line: Getting rid of a lot of emotional burden that didn't pay off was a good move. It's left me energized to get cracking on the next thing.

What really worked super well #2: Setting a one sentence goal.

Usually, I try to fit various things in but this year I had one goal only. I decided that what I really want is to have two stable revenue streams. That is a split between the psychology and the corporate writing.

It boiled down to this basic:  "To have 18 to 22 client hours a week, and to maintain the writing contract I have at the present level."

The writing is what it is, and there's nothing to do there except for set aside the hours it takes to service the contact.

All my energy is therefore aimed at the therapy business. I was aiming at a 15% increase, which was doable in terms of time as I dumped the low-return writing clients. But it means I had to recruit new therapy clients.

To get that going means maintaining a certain level of marketing - just a little to trickle in new business but not too much because I am one person and can only take on a certain amount of work.

Also, I focus on depression and anxiety, but I want to make sure I have a spread of work (relationships, career issues, relocation issues etc) so I stay fresh. That means I have to adjust my marketing regularly.

I'm there most weeks, and if I keep doing what I'm doing, it'll be fine - as long as the economy is stable, and as long as the pandemic doesn't flare up again.

What completely crashed and burned: being too reactive

Initially, I was seeing what was what every few days. I should have known that's not right because big picture thinking is the stuff of longterm success. So I dropped a loop there.

With my business, I need to make a monthly goal, and to note holidays which impact on client hours too.

Also, marketing tends to take two months or so to kick in, and some of it needs two or three repeats. So some of the things I did in September won't be visible until December or even January.  

I have learned to sit back and not look at how I'm doing every day or even every week. I'm looking every few weeks now and by mid-2022, I plan to be looking just once a month to every six weeks.

Overall though, it's worked well and I'm really happy. I am on FB a bit less on my busy weeks, but I see you all more on the less busy weeks.

To sum up: being ruthless about streamlining, being super focused on a very tight goal, and then stepping back is working for me.

Let me know what you think. And if you're looking for a therapist, PM me ??

Thursday, November 11, 2021

It's okay to be not okay post-pandemic

Are you worried that you're not 'back to normal' with the lifting of the lockdowns? If so, you're not alone. Also, I think you should not worry about not being as you were pre-pandemic. Here's why.

We're being told that going out of lockdown = normal. No, it's not.

When we go out, everyone is wearing masks. It means we can't see expressions, and it reminds us of the pandemic. Not normal.

Also, everywhere you go, you have to check in, take temperatures and there are police and guards all over. Not normal.

If you're at work, there are SOPs, probably more masks, and you're constantly aware of having to maintain distance. Plus, you may be worrying that someone is infectious. Very stressful. Not normal.

Finally, if you do meet with friends, it's likely a part of the conversation is about the pandemic. While it's natural, that topic also reinforces the fact that we're in a pandemic. The tail-end of one, but still a pandemic.

So, my suggestion is this:
  • Things are not normal.
  • It's perfectly okay to feel what you feel.
  • Accept that having feelings is a good thing. Being human means having feelings.
  • Also, as emotions and feelings are notifications about your inner world and your environment, try to figure out exactly what you're feeling.  You may be uncertain, fearful, angry, sad, intent - whatever it is, just see what is going on with you.
  • Once you figure out what your emotions are telling you, help yourself cope. This can be tricky because it's intensely personal. But usually, knowing what's going on, plus a bit of breathing, and distraction (pet the cat! Talk to a friend!) can work wonders.
  • But most of all, know that your reactions are perfectly okay. This is not normal times.

PS if you need help figuring out coping strategies, contact me. We can work it out together

Note: Image by Bella H. from Pixabay

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Mental Health Therapy Session Gift Vouchers – An Ethical Gift For A Friend Or Relative

This is a sample. To prevent fraud, the real thing looks a bit different
Do you want to pay for a friend's therapy sessions? Or perhaps for your sibling or parent?

Paying for someone else's sessions is a kind gesture, but there are some ethical considerations. Thankfully, I've figured out a fix for this a few days ago, so no worries! See the end of this post ??

But first, let me explain why paying for someone else's session is an issue.

First, people who go in for therapy knowing that someone else is paying for it, often feel guilty. "I should be woman/man/adult/successful enough to pay my own way."

And because of this, they want to rush. "Can you fix me in one session, because I don't want to burden my friend/employer." But therapy works best when everyone is calm and thoughtful. Rushing tends to lead to poor results.

Second, getting help with mental health issues is a very personal matter. As personal as debts or having surgery for your private parts. And when someone else is paying, they know when you have a session.

With considerate givers, they pay and ask no questions. Even so, the person knows that they know, and it's uncomfortable. Maybe they feel pressure to report back. And that's uncomfortable because therapy is really, really private.

With less considerate givers, they say 'helpful' things like, "I just paid for your session. How's it going? You seem so much better!" While it's well meant, it rams home the knowledge that private matters are not very private, and that is uncomfortable.

In the past I have asked people to gift money to those they want to sponsor. But this week I had a brainwave and came up with an elegant solution: gift cards!

I'm selling gift cards for clients in Malaysia (RM100) and clients who are not in Malaysia (US$35). You may buy as many or few as you like, and hand them to whoever you like. They can use them when they like and nobody is the wiser.

And to make sure that it stays totally secret when or if these cards are used, the buyer gets no feedback. Just like when you give someone a book token, the bookshop doesn't tell you if it's redeemed or not, I will never tell which gift cards have been used.

Let me know what you think? And contact me if you want to gift mental health to a friend or family member.

NOTE: If you are buying for someone residing in Malaysia, you buy the Ringgit Card. If you are buying for someone residing outside of Malaysia, it's the US$ card. No exceptions. 

I do this because people earning Ringgit in a developing nation get a tiny break. You can read about my rates and my ethics on that in this post here

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

I'm reviewing my rates for therapy - but don't worry, I'm sticking to RM100/US$35 per hour


It’s that time of year when I think about my practice, which includes reviewing my professional fees. I charge just RM100 per hour for clients in Malaysia and US$35 per hour for overseas clients. That’s about 50% to 70% less than the average rate. I’m not putting it up this year, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

First though, you might wonder why therapy is so expensive. Basically, it’s because you can’t take on clients until you’ve done Bachelor and Masters Degrees. The minimum is 7 years training and that costs a bomb.

Also, the work is really intensive. For example, I spent 6 hours yesterday talking to people recovering from incest, sexual abuse, workplace bullying, cheating, and plain depression and anxiety. At the end of that, I was wiped. Because it’s intensive, I have to limit the hours I take on. If I do too much, I’ll burn out.

So why am I not following the trend and upping my fees to RM150 which is the basic low rate or to RM350 which I can also swing if I stick to CEOs and the assorted affluent people?

Because I’m a twit 😊

Seriously, it’s mostly because of ethics. I believe that the people who need help most tend to be the ones at the bottom of the pay scale. As for that pay scale, here are some facts from The Malaysian Department of Statistics

In 2020, the mean salary for men in Malaysia was RM2,093
In 2020, the mean salary for women in Malaysia was RM2,019

In 2019, the mean salary for men in Malaysia was RM2,477
In 2019, the mean salary for women in Malaysia was RM2,370

So between 2019 and 2020, men lost 15.5% in income and women lost 14.8%.

With the pandemic on top of this, I expect that 2021 is going to suck, too.

What I could do is means-test, meaning I ask people what they earn and charge according to a sliding scale.

I know this is a common practice but I find it horrendous for two reasons. First, people’s pay is very private. Actually much more private than sex. Second, although it’s not sensible, people do link self-worth to salary. So asking for a discounted price on the basis of low earnings may shame them.

I absolutely will not put my clients into a position where they have to share personal information that may also make them uncomfortable in order to get help.

As I can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution, I choose to maintain my charges for another year. As the price of living is going up, I will work a little harder, but know that this is the more ethical approach. <- like I said, I’m a twit 😊 but I do try and do things Right.

In a practical spirit, I may also see about getting a bit of sponsorship going in 2022 for my poorer clients. That may be tricky because it means dealing with a lot of ethical issues, but it may be worth checking out.UPDATE: I figured out how to fix this: GIFT CARDS!

Anyway, that’s the thought for today. I’m off to edit my new book and tomorrow I have a think about my website.

If you know anyone looking for mental health support, send them my way? 
Note Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Friday, September 24, 2021

Avoid self-sabotage in therapy by boosting your self-esteem


Since starting my practice in 2016, I’ve talked to over 250 clients over some 4000 hours. And one subject that keeps coming up is how good self-esteem is connected to success in therapy sessions.

So how does that work?

People go to therapy sessions for various reasons. If you’re caring for someone who’s sick or starting your own company, a therapy session is the perfect safe space to have an open chat about your thoughts and emotions.

Or perhaps you have identified an issue and want to make changes.  Like you want to manage your anxiety better. Or you’re bulimic and want to stop binging and purging. Or you want to stop falling into toxic relationships.

All of these are perfectly common issues but here’s where it gets tricky: if you want to figure out what’s going on, you have to look into yourself and figure out how you think and behave.

And this is where self-esteem comes in.

Self-esteem is what we think, feel, and believe about ourselves. If you have good self-esteem, you know you’re human, which means you’re nicely flawed, just like everyone else, good bits and less good bits, all mixed up. 

With good self-esteem, you dig inside yourself and say, “this bit of me I like and keep”, “this bit of me I don’t like so much, but I’ll keep it and call it a feature” and “that bit of me I’m not keen on so I’m going to change it.”

And the thing is, with good self-esteem, you can be as loving about the bits of you that you don’t like very much as you can about the rest of you.

If you have low self-esteem, you don’t believe in yourself, and you have that nagging feeling that you’re unworthy, a failure, or not quite right. And that leads to self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage refers to behaviour or thinking that stops you from doing what you want to do.

Like, if you’re caring for someone who’s sick and you know you’re burning out and feeling angry, hopeless and helpless, talking it through will help. But self-sabotage will whisper, “You should be an angel of mercy! What if they think you’re selfish or wicked?” And then those fears stop you from reaching out.

Of if you’re bulimic, self-sabotage will have you thinking, “If I can’t change immediately and without backsliding in three sessions, it proves I’m beyond hope.” And as changing habits and mindsets isn’t a 1-2-3, you’re essentially setting yourself up for failure.

What is particularly nasty about low self-esteem and self-sabotage is that after they’ve made sure you fail, they combine to whisper, “told you so; you suck” and then you’re afraid to try again.

So, how can you help yourself? First, follow the three commandments:


         Know you’re human, imperfect and that’s okay

·       Be as kind to yourself as you are to others

·       When your inner critic starts up, recognise it as stress talking and distract yourself. Make tea, pet the cat, walk the dog, clean a drawer, sing a song, whatever


And for a nice self-esteem boost, try this positive qualities exercise:

#1 Pick four of your positive qualities (here are some ideas)

Adventurous    Ambitious   Appreciative   Artistic   Brave  Calm  Charming  Clean  Clever  Considerate  Courageous  Curious  Decisive  Easygoing  Empathetic  Enthusiastic  Ethical  Fashionable  Forgiving  Frank  Friendly  Grateful  Helpful Honest  Humble  Humorous  Imaginative  Independent  Individualistic  Interesting  Kind  Leader  Logical  Loyal  Mature  Neat  Open-minded  Optimistic  Patient  Reasonable  Resilient  Responsible  Romantic  Self-confident  Self-disciplined  Thoughtful 

#2 Two or three times a week, look back over the last 48 hours and see where you displayed your four positive qualities. 

So if you picked humorous, you might say, “Yesterday I cheered up my friend by telling her my rabbit joke.” Talk to yourself, or journal, it doesn’t matter how you do it – as long as you do it.

It may feel a bit weird, especially if you’re used to being mean to yourself, but keep at it. This exercise will focus your mind on your good points in a regular, constructive manner and that will give you a bit of a boost.

Remember: the more accepting you are of yourself, the easier it will be to make the changes you want.

I hope you found this interesting.


Thursday, September 9, 2021

What's up, Doc?


Doctor, patient, diagnose – they’re powerful words that imply Science, Medicine and a certain reliability and objectivity.  But if you’re not standing in your doctor’s office, I strongly suggest you’re a bit careful.

There’s a chiropractor just down the road from me who wears a lab coat, calls herself “Doctor” and calls her clients “patients.” She also “diagnoses” her clients with various ailments.

I came across her because she terrified one of my friends with her “medical advice.”

So here are some facts:

Anyone with a PhD is a doctor. You can get a PhD in lots of subjects from Astronomy to Zoology.

Medical Degree holders are called Doctor – although they don’t usually have PhDs.

Vets are called Doctor although they don’t have Medical Degrees and usually not PhDs either.

There are lots of professions with their own courses that confer Doctor titles. This includes chiropractors, people who use massage techniques and exercise for healing.

Does it matter?

Chiropractors can be very helpful and healing, and a PhD in zoology might have some insight into human health too. I have consulted my vet for my own health and had some excellent advice (‘cause I’m a cow 😊)

However, they are not medical doctors.

Transparent and honest professional people will tell you, “I’m Dr Jane, I have a PhD in physiotherapy but I’m not a medical doctor.”  Or they just say, “I’m Jane, I have a PhD in physiotherapy.” They also avoid words like “diagnose” and “patient”.

Should we restrict who can call themselves Doctor?

Frankly, I don’t care what people call themselves, as long as they are transparent about their qualifications.

I run a mile from a chiropractor with a white coat who calls herself “doctor”, just as I run a mile from a clinical psychologist who calls her clients “patients.” I avoid them because anyone who uses souped up words like these is pretending to have training that they don’t have.

I find that misrepresentation extremely concerning. I don't trust people like that.

As there are lots of different doctors about, and social media doesn’t check credentials, I’m extremely careful of what I believe online. I ask a lot of questions and it’s surprising how many shady types are out there without a medical degree are giving “medical advice”.  

Here’s what to know about mental health professionals.

A psychiatrist is a doctor, a person with a medical degree and also a specialist. They specialise in diagnosing and treating mental illness. As they are doctors, they can prescribe medicine.

Every other kind of mental health professional, whether they are psychologists, therapists, counsellors, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, or other titles, are not medical doctors. They cannot prescribe medicine or sell you supplements. (And if they tell you that supplements are part of therapy, they’re scamming you.

As for my titles, I have a Master’s Degree, so you can call me Mistress 😊 Kidding! I’m not a doctor of any kind.

I have a Bachelors of Science with Honours in Psychology from Stirling University, Scotland and a Masters with Distinction in Counselling from Open University Malaysia. I’m also a member of some fancy schmancy organisations like the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy but I don’t put that anywhere except for my invoices because I don’t want people to be thinking MBACP means I’m a doc. Also, I make it very clear that I cannot diagnose, and I have plain clients who call me Ellen.

I hope you find this interesting. Tell me what you think in the comments?

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay