By Stuart Yeates, Children and Young People Counsellor & Psychotherapist
When faced with what they described as ongoing anxiety, Elliot turned to Sport 4 Life for assistance and guidance. Having struggled with their mental health since they were young and finding previous mental health support difficult or unsatisfactory. They were referred to my caseload so we could work together and see if we could help. At the time I explained that it would be a longer-term counselling relationship and we would delve into some difficult topics from their past.
As part of the relationship between us I wanted to provide a space by which they could explore their past difficulties and also speak about concerns they had. Little did we both know how significant our relationship would ultimately become to both of us.
During our time together we explored their gender identity and also worked through how that was expressed in what they described as being an awkward fit for many people, they often described how this provoked dysphoria for them and they felt that family issues at home made this seem worse at times. They described how their family had suffered through difficulties in the past and their father in particular struggled with his own mental health – they wondered if they were suffering in a similar way.
During their progress through our sessions together they described how they felt they were able to dismantle difficult beliefs about themselves and find a sense of self within our counselling
relationship. I was positively encouraged by their progress and they displayed an ongoing sense of self-awareness which they communicate to me as being new and profound.
Part of the development process in counselling requires that the client engages in both the scheduled sessions but also between sessions where self-reflection is engaged and encouraged. Eliot was very keen to keep up the development between sessions and often came to me with useful or pertinent information they had been reflecting on. Often you can see how much work and effort has gone into self-improvement and through our time together I was deeply impressed with how self-aware and engaged they were in their own work.
During their studies at university they were faced with a new set of challenges, this tended to be associated with self-doubts and insecurity about their ability. They often reflected on their previous experiences in academia and how they had often felt that they were letting themselves or others down. Early sessions were very much about building a firm foundation for them to work from and to express themselves genuinely and authentically. Each week we delved into their experiences and I was witness to their authentic self becoming more prominent and obvious.
Elliot still faces some challenges and we have recently been tackling some issues regarding their relationships and how they experience themselves within them. Often attachment issues occur and we are working together to try and find a way through these. A lot of work has been done around self-identity, self-acceptance and also acceptance from others. The latter of which appears to inform the discomfort they experience in dysphoria and their insecurities regarding past traumatic experiences.
Working together has provided us both with an opportunity to grow and understand ourselves, from my personal perspective I have not had the opportunity to understand gender-neutrality or gender
identities outside of the typical everyday binary. This has been useful for me to ask questions and to receive feedback in my approach. Being flexible and self-aware enough to recognise when we are not speaking from a place of knowledge is important in counselling and I felt that it was beneficial to ask questions and to seek correction when I stepped over boundaries or found myself floundering in our conversations together.
The relationship myself and Elliot have built has been really positive and often reminds me why counselling is such a powerful and profound experience. They have shown great resilience and have
consistently worked through difficult and often painful problems with me. On reflection of where they are compared to where they were I can only conclude that it has been a great success for us both.
Could you please tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Elliot, I’m a 23-year-old, non-binary student teacher.
Could you please tell us about how you became involved with Sport 4 Life?
During lockdown, I decided to explore areas in which I could grow, and decided to take the Sports Leadership L1 certificate to improve my coaching and presenting skills. In doing so, I became involved with Sport 4 Life, and was referred to Sport 4 Life's counselling services for ongoing anxiety.
Reflecting on your experience could you tell us about some of the positives that came from your involvement?
My experience of counselling has truly been life-changing. I have developed confidence, resilience, understanding of my emotional well-being, and have been able to reflect upon, understand and change many things in my life which have improved my mental wellbeing immensely. The experience of long-term counselling has enabled me to thoroughly explore multiple causes of my anxiety, addressing how past experiences affected my current mental state.
Was there something about your experience that you felt could be better or some way we could improve?
The experience was absolutely positive, in general, except that the process did not end as naturally as it should have, given the restrictions on further sessions. This left almost no time to transition to other sources of support.
Would you recommend the experience you received to other people who might need support?
Yes, absolutely – the chance for self-reflection and growth has been invaluable, and has enabled me to become a happier, healthier and more resilient person.