tried and tested

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I currently work in private practice as a counsellor, offering CBT, EMDR, and
Person-Centred counselling. Some would call this eclectic or integrative as I
often use a variety of methods in order to achieve a best-fit solution for clients,
rather like bespoke counselling.

Alongside the obvious core conditions, that I believe should be in place in
most counselling settings, I have found a very helpful set of books that are
useful to many clients I see, namely those of Dr Claire Weekes (1, 2, 3). A
great many clients are referred to me with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms
and they are often extremely upset, typically thinking that they are going mad,
about to die, or suffering from some awful and incurable illness. More often
than not, this is not the case, and those familiar with anxiety will appreciate
the tricks that it can play.

In these times of hastened throughput and the impending need to be cost
effective, I have found that bibliotherapy is a most effective aid to my clients
and can be viewed as a form of homework if one is practicing CBT. I am
aware of the ever popular Rogerian remit to allow clients to find their own
answers but I also believe that, if you have a perfect solution for a client, why
not put them out of their misery and tell them what’s wrong!? Person-Centred
purists may rail against this directive method, but, as Eric Berne believed, I try
to make the patient better. This can often be achieved simply and cheaply …
without the need of a psychoanalyst’s couch for ten years…where, even then,
a positive outcome is not guaranteed. Clinical psychologist Dr Roger Baker
also has a brilliant book out about panic attacks (4) which I also highly

Amongst other things, Claire Weekes stresses acceptance as part of
recovery: she encourages anxiety sufferers to face, float, accept, let time
pass; and whilst these things may not seem very difficult to grasp, it is their
simplicity that lies at the heart of their efficacy. Indeed, acceptance can be
used for addictions and cravings and for overcoming a host of other life

What makes these books so successful? Well, they are undoubtedly
informative and instructional (both Weekes and Baker trained as medics) and
they are written for the lay reader in clear English, so they are accessible.
The prose is comforting but not condescending and gives readers a sense
that they’re not alone. In other words, they are not out there with the fairies!
They never stray into the lands of mystical reverie or the kind of poppycock
that is so often parodied in counselling send-ups.

In short, the books are a mixture of informed psych-ed without psycho-babble
or pseudo-science, shot-through with case-studies and page-turning accounts
of how anxiety can debilitate the uninitiated. They bring knowledge and
comfort. Some might say that they’re a bit too conversational but I have yet to
meet a client who is not conversational, so in this sense, the writing reflects
the ongoing chatter that can permeate a client’s anxiety state. Although
Weekes’ books were composed thirty years ago, they are seminal works and
it seems as if every word has been carefully chosen in order that readers can
come to glimpse a new way of thinking, drawing them gently towards

Additionally, these bibliotherapeutic methods work in the here-and-now and I
think that clients are more likely to believe in something that they see in print.
Such techniques also avoid conjectural speculation such as “perhaps you
have latent aggressive urges emanating from your childhood, that are seeping
out in the form of panic attacks?” Perhaps they do, but I have always found
that clients are really looking for answers and this sort of fishy prevarication is
often nebulous, inaccurate, confusing, and disorientating. Most clients want
to find an elusive cure and be rid of their bad feelings. Perhaps they also
have a blood sugar imbalance! This is just as likely.

These reader-friendly and compelling volumes give encouragement to clients,
often demystifying the plethora of anxiety symptoms, and usually lead to a
great improvement in my clients’ lives. The books also say a lot more than I
could in a typically prescribed six-session CBT set. Alongside simple CBT
interventions, I have found that bibliotherapy is a huge boon for clients across
the whole anxiety spectrum. Without wanting to go over the top – if I haven’t
already done that – I think that these books should grace every counsellor’s

Admittedly, this is short-termism to a large degree but my clients have
reported many improvements and, if their lives don’t change instantly, at least
they understand that they’re not about to be sectioned. This in itself can be
respite enough to turn off the adrenaline tap for a while. If clients are not
natural readers, there are also videos and audio cassettes available from the
Claire Weekes organisation that are listed at the back of her books and on a
related website .

One will never garner long term recidivistic fees using these methods, but the
Thank-You cards and emails that festoon my office are testament that
something is going right. To this end, I believe that, at least for me and my
clients, these methods are tried and tested.

1. Weekes, C. (1977) Self Help for your Nerves. London: Thorsons
2. Weekes, C. (1972) Peace from Nervous Suffering. London: Angus &
3. Weekes, C. (2000) Essential Help for your Nerves. London: Thorsons
4. Baker, R. (1995) Understanding Panic Attacks & Overcoming Fear.
London: Lion Publishing

Written by Anthony Hall-Shaw, November 2007.
Qualifications: Diploma in Counselling (BACP recognised), Diploma in
Counselling (integrative counselling), EMDR practitioner, member of BACP,
Adv Cert CBT, PGCert Counselling, and just completed an MA Counselling at
the University of Manchester.
I work in private practice, taking clients with anxiety disorders, PTSD, eating
disorders; and work predominantly for two agencies who provide referrals.
It is acceptable for readers to email me via my website –

I confirm that the above manuscript has not been submitted elsewhere or
been accepted by any other publication. It is entirely my own work.
Anthony Hall-Shaw

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