This week, I launched my 'Talking About' Workshop series, taking place on the last Saturdays of September, October and November for 2023. I am passionate about supporting mental health in the community to increase awareness, provide information and enable change and transition. It is wonderful to be back hosting my own ‘in-person’ workshops again after a longer than expected interruption, due mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic. I also moved premises this year and combined with busy clinic work, it has taken me a while to get back to hosting workshops. That said, it is the clinic work that has steered the topics I have selected to talk about. 
The series starts off with a workshop 'talking about' communicating better. This is a topic I believe should be covered as a module in secondary schools, as young people start getting involved in relationships and prepare for the working life. Poor communication is perhaps the most common issue in relationships discussed in therapy. It is also an issue that crops up with individuals who are experiencing difficulties in the workplace, where poor communication causes confusion and frustration. Employees may find it difficult to address this with their managers, not knowing how to broach the subject or not feeling confident to do so. There is an over reliance on electronic communication, not least in environments where people feel they need to cover themselves from an accountability point of view by putting an instruction or response in writing via email, even though the recipient may be across a desk from them. Electronic communication via dating apps has also taken over the dating scene, especially since the pandemic lock downs. Resumption back to 'normal' does not seem to have changed this and younger clients in particular, report an apparent lack of confidence in personal approach in a social setting. Apart from this, many people believe that in general, the ready accessibility of mobile phones has killed the art of conversation with people opting to scroll on their phone rather than take part in conversation. All of these observations make it timely to address communicating better by well, ‘talking about’ it, exploring difficulties and challenges and picking up some tips on how to communicate better. 
The topic of anxiety has dominated the mental health narrative for quite some time now, often portrayed with a negative or pathological slant. Despite the welcome ease with which people now talk about anxiety, it does not mean it is well understood and or well managed. Particular concern surrounds how anxiety has apparently become a common affliction in school children of all ages and the facilitation of avoidance as a coping strategy. This does not help students in the long term as they face more and more challenges in life and when such facilitations are no longer available. Increased anxiety is a component of stress in workplaces, often resulting in employees having to take stress leave or sick leave, especially if 'burn out' is an issue. Again, a timely subject to ‘talk about’ in a group setting, like a workshop. 
A common denominator in ‘talking about’ communication and anxiety is the ability to talk about feelings. However, it is hard to communicate about feelings in words when we do not understand or recognise them in ourselves. It is hard to break patterns of anxiety without discovering the unexpressed feelings and emotions that lie beneath. So, this workshop is dedicated to further exploring a fundamental component of the other two. ‘Talking about’ feelings and emotions is a fairly recent development in Irish culture. It was not done by parents or their parents before them. Feelings and sex were not talked about, you just “kept going.” This cultivated generations where people felt isolated, confused, frustrated and ashamed. It contributed to anxiety and depression. There was an absence of modelling that having feelings is normal, that it is possible to talk about feelings and cultivating an environment that permitted that. It is not too late to learn, as anyone that has been able to attend therapy will agree. This brings me to another objective in providing these workshops. 
Not everyone can attend therapy, whether it is for time reasons, financial reasons or commitment reasons. It is not for everyone. But many people can manage a scheduled couple of hours on a weekend at a fee that is below the standard hourly consultation rate for attending a therapist, and walk away with some benefits. This makes some of the benefits of therapy, a bit more accessible to all. We have gotten used to attending events online and while it is handy to do so from the comfort of your own home, it has contributed to social avoidance and social anxiety. Loneliness has also become a significant issue as a result. There is a social aspect to attending a workshop in person, especially at the coffee break where attendees can mingle and chat. While group participation is a component of a good workshop, it is not mandatory if it is too challenging for someone to do. There is always something to be gained from a workshop, no matter what level of participation. Everyone should walk away with information they did not have before and some tips on how they can try and improve things for themselves and others. Have a look at some of our own testimonials to see what previous attendees had to say. 
So, I hope to welcome as many people as possible to the Autumn series. You can book a place here. Planning is underway to schedule additional workshops in the New Year. If you have any queries about current or future topics or the workshop formats themselves, please get in touch here. I look forward to meeting you at a ‘Talking About’ workshop!  
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