A combined introduction to counselling by Miscarriage Support Auckland Inc. and Megan Downer. Megan is a qualified and experienced counsellor and a member of NZAC who has a private practice specializing in pregnancy loss and infertility.
Many people cope with the pain of miscarriage through the support of family and friends and don’t feel the need to see a counsellor. This is meant as a guide for those who are contemplating whether counselling would be helpful for them following their experience of miscarriage.
People usually come to counselling when they are facing a crisis. They may feel they are coping okay but would just like to talk to someone who understands. On the other hand, they may be finding it difficult and need support. Counsellors are trained in the best way to help each person to have a better understanding of their thoughts and feelings and find strategies to cope with what is happening. Do not let pride, fear, rejection or lack of trust prevent you from seeking counselling.
You know when counselling would be helpful when you continue to;
- feel depressed, anxious or distressed and unable to cope with ‘everyday life’
- have little control over your emotions which is upsetting and unlike you
- question thoughts and feelings about your miscarriage
- feel disturbed by images from your miscarriage
- want reassurance that what is happening is normal – you are not going mad
- experience loneliness and feel the need to isolate yourself from others
- find your mind stuck in a ‘miscarriage’ loop, unable to find peace
- feel uncomfortable with strong emotions e.g. guilt, shame and anger
- need someone to talk to that understands
- feel you are not being kind to or treating yourself well (eating, drinking & exercise)
- avoid thinking about your miscarriage and feel you haven’t dealt with it
You may also feel that friends/relations are unable to understand your experience and;
- give advice when all that is needed is someone to listen
- leave you feeling uncomfortable from inappropriate comments
- feel you don’t want to burden them with your problems
- could be frustrated that you haven’t moved on
- desert/avoid you when you need them
- you feel unable to forgive them
- you find difficulty being near them when they have children/babies/are pregnant
- you feel you’ve let people down
- you would rather to talk to someone you don’t know
- you are having frequent arguments with your partner and feel they don’t understand you
Counselling can offer you the opportunity to;
- talk with someone you don’t know whose role it is to listen without judgment
- talk about your miscarriage and validate your experience
- receive reassurance and support while processing your grief
- have a fuller understanding of your thoughts and feelings
- find strategies and skills to cope with your thoughts, feelings and situations you maybe finding stressful
- a safe, caring and confidential environment where you are given the opportunity to talk about what you need to
About professional Counsellors;
Counsellors are there to create the supportive relationship required for healing to take place when coping with the unique and devastating experience of miscarriage. They confirm your permission to grieve. Counselling is not something that is ‘done to you’ but a process where you are able to discuss and work on issues when you feel ready to in ways that are comfortable and acceptable for you.
Some trained Counsellors (Psychologist or Psychotherapist belong to their own professional body/society) will be members of the ‘New Zealand Association of Counsellors’ and have MNZAC after their name. This ensures they are qualified and maintain professional standards like having their work supervised and keeping up with training. Search the Association of counsellors’ website www.nzac.org.nz to find a counsellor which will also show their area of specialty. Each has their own way of working and it is important that you feel they are the right fit for you. You can change counsellors if you are not happy with the way they work, but talk about it first to plan a proper ending and to discuss a referral to another counsellor. Not all counsellors are qualified so we suggest you check out their qualifications before making an appointment.
What if the counsellor brings up a whole lot of difficult issues that are overwhelming?
- You can choose what to discuss and the depth of it
- Counsellors are experienced in working with those who feel vulnerable and stressed
- It is important to discuss feeling fragile and worried, and together you can talk about how to manage this
- Grief is painful, especially discussing issues that have never been revealed before but often there is relief in doing so
Can partners come?
It depends on the counsellor – just ask them. They are familiar with the impact of crisis on relationships and how men and women grieve differently, so they can help you separately or together. Seeing a counsellor together may help you both understand each other better. See; http://www.miscarriagesupport.org.nz/for-men/
The timing of Counselling is unique to each person but can be:
- immediately after a miscarriage if necessary
- 2 – 3 weeks later – when the realization of what actually happened can suddenly become more real
- when experiencing re-current miscarriage
- months or years later
- after another loss or grief experience renewing old feelings with it (compounding grief)
- when the pain of unresolved miscarriage resurfaces especially on meaningful anniversaries
Even after a long interval, although less intense and shorter, it is not unusual to experience grief again. It can be triggered by many things like becoming grandparents for example but also sometimes just by time. You may feel you can get through this without help and at other times feel you still have unresolved grief. The important part to healing is addressing the experience of the loss itself, not the length of time involved.
At the first interview, expect to find out;
- the frequency of appointments
- the length of time support is available
- the way the counsellor works
Normally this session will be spent getting to know about your situation and you may begin to discuss what you want to achieve from counselling, be it short or long term i.e. as little as one or two sessions to several months.
How do I find a counsellor?
- if you have been hospitalized when miscarrying, ask to see a social worker while there or try calling back later as some hospitals offer counselling following discharge (this can be time limited)
- some work places offer ‘Employee Assisted Program Services’ providing a certain number of free counselling sessions
- some Community Counselling Services provide free or low cost counselling
- ‘Youthline’ or ‘Lifeline’ offer free professional help – Auckland callers can go to the Pregnancy Centre, 13 Maidstone St, Ponsonby at ‘Youthline’ or call them on 0800 37 66 33; email: email@example.com
- try a local CAB, GP, Midwife, church or friends for a recommendation for an appropriate qualified person
- the internet shows counselling services plus the ‘New Zealand Counsellors’ website nzac.org.nz
- their list includes specialist counsellors for miscarriage, grief and loss who would be the most helpful
- when choosing a counsellor, it is a good idea to have a phone conversation to establish their professional qualifications and background and to decide whether you are comfortable with them.
Prior to the first appointment the set fee and method of payment should be discussed. The costs vary from $90-$150 NZ for 50 minute to an hour session. Some counsellors have a sliding scale for those on lower incomes which can be queried. Cancellation fees are usually charged when 48 hours notice is not given unless there are unforeseen circumstances.