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The Integrated Coaching Academy

Where Coaching and Counselling Connect

Prince harry, grief and how to really help

Prince Harry has gone very public about his mental health struggles resulting from the death of his mother, Princess Diana. In Apple TV’s ‘The Me You Can’t See’ he says he ‘boxed up his emotions’ for 20 years.

It’s true; people often attempt to deal with life’s losses and traumas by disconnecting and switching off their feelings.

The ‘box-it-up’ method can work for a while, as it did for Harry, but what tends to happen over time is that the lid of the box begins to lift all on its own and the anger and despair begin to tumble out in an uncontrolled way. For Harry, the lid of the box seems to have really started to open after his marriage to Meghan and the build up to the birth of his first child created a psychological pattern match to the trauma of his mother’s death.

Harry was filmed in an EMDR session with his therapist. It seems to have really helped. I wish he could also experience the Rewind Technique which was originated by Dr David Muss in the 1970s. It can be even more effective. I did some training with David. As a newly qualified psychotherapist many years ago, I was so amazed by the successes I was having for my PTSD clients that I wrote a book about it. It works in a similar way to EMDR by grounding the client and setting a cognitive task that anchors the brain into the neo cortex. It’s less well known simply because it hasn’t attracted the research and funding of the EMDR programme originated by Francine Shapiro.

Here, an EMDR therapist gives a succinct explanation about the underlying mechanism. She says:

‘The therapy works by the therapist creating a safe and trusting space. We identify the experiences … and bring them into the room in a gentle way to reprocess those memories so the past can be in the past and our past life experiences do not continue to create stress, anxiety and triggers in our current life’

The subconscious mind

What stays in the subconscious mind has the ability to control us. Allowing suppressed emotions to safely surface can actually process long term grief in just one session... if that is what the client wants.

Sometimes, however, the bereaved just want to speak, to be allowed to explore and express their emotions in their own time and in their own way. Fortunately, a Fusion Therapeutic Coach will have the empathic attunement to understand what the client needs from their practitioner.

Yes, if they want resolution, the Rewind Technique can achieve that quickly and efficiently but if they need to talk, a Fusion Coach knows how to offer the time and space for that to happen. It’s about making the model fit the client rather than the client fit the preferred therapy style of the practitioner.

My article this week looks at suppressed grief and how the reaction to unprocessed emotions can take us by surprise many years later.

I hope it helps…

Grief and how to really help

As James sat in front of me, memory after memory of his father’s death surfaced, released, and ran softly down his face.

‘He died when I was 10’, said James. ‘It was an unexpected heart attack. He went to work one morning and didn't come home. Mum thought I was too young to go to the funeral so I went to school on that day just, like any other day.’

James's mum wasn’t being cruel. She had hoped to protect her young son from the pain of seeing her so desperately upset at the grave side. She wanted him to escape somehow the turbulent and intense range of emotions that are a part of the journey through the grieving process. So she made life as normal as possible for him. She compensated by taking him on lavish holidays, buying him the latest gadgets and putting on her ‘I'm fine’ face in the daytime.

Crying alone

She had removed all the pictures of James's father in the house and he was now rarely referred to.

The mother-who-meant-well stayed strong and kept going. She was doing a good job she told herself. After a year, James seemed fine, was doing well at school and never mentioned his father at all.

But the grief hadn’t gone away and it was only after she put James to bed at night that she allowed herself to cry. What she didn't realise was that, in bed at night, James could hear his mother crying and would often cry himself to sleep too.

Both mother and son were going through an intense range of emotions they did not want to communicate to each other, for fear of causing more upset. They had both become isolated in a shared grief for the most well-intentioned of reasons and they were making a mistake that many of us make.

I must keep going

There are plenty of laudable reasons for not dealing with grief. People have to go to work to keep their job. They have to get the kids off to school. They have to mow the lawn, do the shopping, cook and pay the bills. They think if they give way to grief, it will be like a dam has burst. They won’t be able to cope with the deluge and will drown in a flood of their own tears.

But deferring grief is like living with an undetonated bomb. We fool ourselves that if we tiptoe around it, perhaps it won’t go off.

An open wound

However the loss and grief remain as a concealed, but still-open, wound. Although we may have put a plaster over it, it will not begin to heal until we acknowledge its presence and let some light and air onto the injury.

As Prince Harry has observed, death has become a sanitised business.

We try to ignore it. We clean it up with phrases like ‘passed over’, or ‘slipped away’ rather than saying someone has died. Or we wrap it up and leave it on a shelf in a darkened room that we try not to visit.

We are taught, in the face of adversity to stand strong. We must stay in control. We have to keep a very British ‘stiff upper lip’.

But grief is not an illness. It’s a fact of life. We will all lose someone we love and we will all feel the pain. Being able to ride the intense waves of emotion that come with bereavement is an example of mind management and asking for help or talking to someone about how we really feel is a sign of emotional intelligence, not weakness.

As a therapeutic coach, I have a range of skills in my professional toolbox. But for James, as with most of my clients who are grieving, I used the simplest, yet most powerful of them all.

I listened.

Frances Masters MBACP accred GHGI

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist, coach, training consultant and author of the book PTSD Resolution: Reclaiming life from trauma.

In 2009, Frances founded the charity Reclaim Life; training its volunteers to work in the new, integrated coach-counselling model, Fusion.

As founding Principal of the Integrated Coaching Academy Frances gained accreditation for her training from NCFE as Customised Awards; 'The Fusion Therapeutic Coaching, Counselling and Training Diploma in Therapeutic Coaching and the distance learning programme Certificate in Therapeutic Coaching Skills'

Training programmes also include

The Integrated Coaching Academy certified Fusion Mindfulness Based Mind Management Skills Certificate

and new online training Breathe Stress Away

Fusion® Therapeutic Coaching is an approved NCFE training centre, an organisational member of he British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Association for Coaching


Prince Harry, the 'box it up' grief model and why it doesn't work

Posted on April 19, 2017 at 6:50 AM

In a week when Prince Harry referred to his attempts to deal with the death of his mother, Princess Diana, by boxing up his emotions for 20 years, he clearly described how people try to deal with life’s losses and traumas by switching off their emotions. His older brother, the Duke of Cambridge has now also responded, saying 'it never leaves you'...'you never get over it'....'it's time that everyone speaks up.'

The ‘box-it-up’ method can certainly work for a while, as it did for Harry, but what tends to happen over time is that the lid of the box begins to lift on its own and all the guilt, anger and despair start to tumble out.

What do you do when that happens? An enlightened GP may refer you for counselling, only for you to be told there’s a three month waiting list, or longer. This is when the system becomes part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It’s clear we need more mental health practitioners and better mental health education too, so people can learn the mind management skills that become the building blocks of emotional resilience to life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Many years ago, I started a mental health charity called Reclaim Life in Bedfordshire and trained its volunteers in many of the core skills of therapeutic conversation. I’m pleased to say Reclaim Life is still going and still helping the local community.

I’m now working closely with Stephen Blackburn, Social Sense and the MindfulMe programme in the north of England, to introduce the wider community to the Fusion Model approach to mental health skills and training. Stephen also works for the Foundation for Ribble Valley Families and I’ve had the privilege of training and supervising their therapeutic coaching practitioners, watching the practice grow, with admiration, as more and more adults and young people are helped.

Word about all their good work has spread.

I recently heard FRVF have been nominated for an East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group Excellence Award, a real testimony to how highly their work is regarded by the CCG. Fingers crossed they win. How good would it sound to be able to say in their literature ‘The award winning Foundation for Ribble Valley Families.’

I’m proud to be a part of it.

Stephen sent me some client testimonials. This one caught my attention. It reminded me of my own experience of post natal depression over 25 years ago and how it started my professional journey to change the face of mental health for the better.

‘The Foundation for Ribble Valley Families has played a very important role in our lives as a family.

Witnessing my pregnant daughter sobbing, broken, desperate and in the darkest of places, hearing her say she could not carry on is, for a mother, the most unbelievable gut wrenching feeling of helplessness.

After trying and realising we could not be offered support for over 48 hours from her case worker; I knew that was unacceptable. I turned to the charity to help us! They did!

The foundation saw my daughter and me within hours. For my daughter, she was listened to and most importantly heard! For me, kind words of support, someone to share my fears with and an overwhelming sense of relief! She was safe!

My daughter was supported throughout her pregnancy, seen weekly. The life coach gave her time to express her anxieties working through them together; she was equipped to help herself feel she could take control, to learn strategies to relax; to cope.

This may seem dramatic but, now I share incredible moments and time with my beautiful daughter and grandchild. We are a loving, supportive family, however the Foundation for Ribble Valley Families came to our help when we needed it the most and we will be forever grateful to them.

Thank you!’

Changing mental health

There's no doubt that coach-counsellor integrationists are working at the cutting-edge of mental health. We are the trailblazers for a new wave of practitioners who are prepared to challenge the old ways and the status quo. We refuse to be tied to a one-model-for-every-client approach.

It's a privilege to be working in mental health right now. Although there are social and financial challenges, never in recent history have people been prepared to be so open about their own emotional well-being. Prince Harry’s honesty will do even more to help.

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