What To Do When Your Husband, Wife or Partner Refuses to Go to Couples Counselling

Couple after a fight considering couples counselling, separation or divorce due to relationship problems
Individual therapy may be a better first option than couples counselling for relationships in crisis.

Relationship counselling starts too late for most couples and when one of the partners decides they need help, it’s not unusual for the spouse to be resistant. So what can you do if your partner won’t attend couples therapy?


People often delay relationship counselling out of embarrassment or to avoid cost. Some partners will refuse as part of the power-play that is occurring in the relationship. As an English-speaking couples counsellor working in Sweden I find that couples therapy isn’t always the answer to saving a marriage or other relationship. There are alternatives for dealing with conflict in relationships when couples counselling is not an option.

1. Find an English-Speaking Therapist and Access Your Own Support.

If you are struggling with convincing your husband, wife, sambo, or särbo to see a couples therapist, there’s no doubt you can use support yourself. You see the signs that something is wrong in the relationship and feel unhappy. You are both arguing too often, sex is non-existent, or you discover your partner is ‘cheating’ on you (being unfaithful). You might be recognising the toxic signs of emotional abuse, criticism, manipulation or even gaslighting. And you might be exhausted from trying to make changes. Your anxiety is a sign there is something wrong. In this situation the best thing you can do for the relationship and for yourself is to seek your own counselling support.

Expats and others living in Sweden know we’re instructed to always put the life jacket and oxygen mask on ourselves first. Why then do we try to appease our partners or sacrifice our own needs in the hope that our partners see this and change? When change doesn’t happen it can leave us feeling hopeless and depressed. When you’re already struggling with Swedish culture shock, climate or work-issues your relationship or marriage needs to be a place of intimacy and comfort, not one of distress.

Looking after yourself through getting individual support from a counsellor isn’t ‘selfish’. You can’t help someone from a weak position. Being generous with yourself will refresh you and make it possible to either save the relationship or protect yourself if you need to leave. Being stingy with yourself and denying yourself the care you need is more likely to result in you feeling resentful or regretful in the future.

Book an Online Appointment with a Counselling Therapist

2. Encourage Your Partner to Book into Supportive Counselling

Often, by the time couples agree on counselling, there is already a lot of toxicity in the relationship. It’s hard to come back to a loving relationship when so much hurt is being felt by just one of the partners, let alone both. When one person is resistant to couples therapy, even if that person eventually agrees to attend, it can take some time before they relax enough to trust the therapist and fully participate in the process. You might have more success in encouraging your sambo or spouse to see an individual counsellor instead pressuring them to attend a couples session. Going to relationship counselling together can present too high a threshold for some couples.

The suggestion your partner attends individual counselling will be more reasonable if you already have your own therapist. If you don’t, your partner might assume you are blaming them instead of seeing it as a shared issue. Be the person you want your partner to be and role model the self-care you would like them to take. When both partners access their own support each individual becomes clearer about their own needs. A relationship counselling session will be more successful when and if both partners feel ready to attend.

Speak with a Therapist from the Comfort of your Home or Office

3. Can This Relationship Be Saved? Is Separation or Divorce Necessary?

Relationship counselling has just two fundamental purposes:

  • To support the relationship or marriage to grow or…
  • To help the relationship come to an end and assist the couple to separate.

It’s not the job of the couples therapist to take sides or be a referee and support one individual over the other. If you are hoping this will happen in a couples session, it might be better to find a therapist just for yourself! Likewise, if one of the partners wants to end the relationship and the other doesn’t, couples counselling serves little purpose apart from providing the therapist with an income. In this situation, the relationship needs to end. Give yourself the support you need to transition into independence after separation or divorce.

If there is violence in the relationship, and especially if children are witnessing violence, there is no question: you and your partner must separate, at least temporarily. If it is your partner who is committing the violence and they won’t leave, contact the police but get out of harm’s way yourself in any case. No argument is worth risking your safety over.

A couple came to see me in Stockholm asking me to teach them how to ‘fight’ better. I told them it was not something I offered. If they wanted to remain together, I told them I could help them learn to listen to each other and also to be more assertive. There are never two ‘winners’ in a fight and more often it ends in both sides losing. Approaches like the Gottman Method or Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication can be used to train couples to approach each other differently. But these skills rarely work when all the goodwill has been eroded through fighting or toxic silences. This might be time to see a therapist about breaking up.

If you still feel love for your partner, and you know it is mutual, choosing an English speaking couples counsellor might offer a way back to intimacy and trust. But in any case, even if you are in doubt, don’t wait to get help. If you are experiencing unhappiness in your relationship, make an appointment with your own supportive counsellor or therapist today.

Help for Expats and other English speakers in Sweden

Cottage by a lake in sweden

Welcome to SwedenAdvice and Support in English

Expat or English-speaker living in Sweden? Or living in another country and planning to move to Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö or the Swedish countryside?

Help is available!

I offer therapy, counselling and coaching appointments for individuals over Skype webcam, via phone or through email exchange. If you have previously met with me face to face, we can meet again online and in-person meetings may be possible when I am visiting Stockholm. For more information contact me now.

Emotional Self Help Books for Expats and English Speakers in Sweden

I need help with Anger Management / Distraction / ADD / Overwhelming Emotions…(strike out what does not apply) …can you recommend something to read? 

Clients are often asking me for book recommendations. While self-help books aren’t the same as therapy or coaching sessions, they have their place and can sometimes be useful if reading is your thing. If you aren’t quite ready to attend counselling or want to try some things for yourself first, take a look at the categories below and try some of these titles. That’s also an inexpensive alternative. But don’t leave it too late to ask for human help. Often it is easier to recover when frustration or other emotions are not so overwhelming.

Here I’ve collected a few of the titles I’ve found to be useful and effective for dealing with anger, distraction, anxiety and out-of-control emotions. Some of these books were recommended to me by English-speakers who have come to live in Sweden. Others I discovered myself in the course of professional development.

Anxiety, Concentration, ADD and Mindlessness

Researching your condition on the Internet can hazardous! On many occasions I’ve been contacted by expats or other English-speakers who, after surfing around the net, fear they have ‘Adult ADD‘ (aka Attention Deficit Disorder). They talk of being easily distracted, having difficulty staying on task or constant forgetfulness. But neither ADD nor ADHD suddenly begin in adulthood. Unless you had serious problems with your schooling as a child, it’s more likely you are suffering from something associated with anxious states of mind or you just need to tone up your mindfulness.

Books for Improving Concentration and Attention (especially if you are worried about ADD or ADHD)

your brain at work coverYour Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long by David Rock.

This book provides, in simple terms, an in depth understanding of how the brain works and how to optimize use of your brain. Rock also discusses how and why the brain gets overwhelmed. If you are interested in getting a scientific understanding that can help you get back in control of your brain, this book could be helpful to you.
We live in a world with ever increasing distractions thanks to the Internet and technological revolution it has brought. This is no less true in Sweden than elsewhere. Modern communication seems to demand we are more accessible. Increasingly we find our attention divided between tasks. Rock exposes the effect of these demands on the brain. This is cognitive neuroscience, fairly detailed stuff, but explained in conjunction with practical tips.

Regaining Focus and Balance through the Strategy of Mindfulness

mindful path to self compassion coverThe Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher Germer.

Many of us are in jobs that require us to use our intellect all day long. For some, the best way to tackle an overwhelmed mind is not by using our intellect to understand the science of the brain but to live more in the present. That starts with being kind to ourselves and also means listening to the body and allowing it to tell us what it is experiencing and what it needs. When we spend most of the day in our heads, we can lose touch with the rest of our body. Mindfulness involves strategies that can be learned. This book will assist you get back to the present and find a new balance.

Germer’s book is an easier read than Rock’s, and his approach is different. It’s less about understanding neuroscience and more about connecting with and awareness of sensations and emotions. If you see yourself more as a ‘feeling’ type of person than a ‘thinking’ type of person, this is probably the better book for you.

The Chimp ParadoxThe Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness by Dr Steve Peters.

The Chimp Paradox is really about managing emotions (a product of our inner ‘chimp’) and using reasoning (our ‘human’ quality). Peters is a psychiatrist who specialises in sports performance and he is concerned with helping people to understand and manage their emotions and thoughts. This is quite a quirky book that lies somewhere between the drier science of Your Brain at Work and the warm, feel-good The Mindful-Path. Peters teaching skills are clear: the book is full of diagrams and metaphors. His models are easy to understand and fun to read.

If you like the idea of being coached, and you are ready to take up a new perspective on your performance, The Chimp Paradox might be the best book for you. It has been described as a ‘mind programme’, so be prepared to start reprogramming the way you respond to your emotions!

Books for Developing Calmness and Responding to Anger

WildmindWildmind: A Step by Step Guide to Meditation by Bodhipaksa

People often ask me if I do ‘Anger Management’. Well the first step in managing Anger is awareness of it and the emotions which precede it. Meditation provides one of the best ways to develop awareness of emotions. Despite what some people say, anyone can learn to meditate. It doesn’t involve ‘blocking out thoughts’ as such but the practice of focussing. If you are willing to try focussing according to a set procedure, you will find that you are meditating.

I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to have met Bodhipaksa (a Scotsman and veterinary science graduate formerly named Graeme Stephen) and can vouch he is a very decent chap! He has been practising Buddhist meditation for over 20 years and teaching for over 10 years. This is one of the simplest and easiest to follow step-by-step guides to meditation by an excellent teacher. It will tell you how to do the fundamental practices that help develop calmness and positive mental states towards others. These are proven techniques to respond to and reduce the influence of Anger and other emotions.

Guided Meditations coverGuided Meditations for Stress Reduction also by Bodhipaksa

This isn’t actually a book but a set of guided meditations on CD. There is also an audio-book version if you prefer that. So if you aren’t much into reading and prefer listening to a voice guiding you, you can use these audio tracks to help reduce your stress response.

Our thoughts affect our bodies both in terms of the sensations we feel and the emotions we experience. And what we feel in turn affects our thoughts. This cycling can leave us in a state of hyper-arousal or acute stress response (aka ‘fight-flight-freeze’). Focussed awareness can reverse this and bring us back to the present-moment experience. If you are struggling with stress, guided meditation could be a way forward for you. Try the CD and consult myself or a meditation teacher if you continue to experience difficulties.

CBT Books For Expats

Cover of change your life with CBTChange Your Life with CBT by Corinne Sweet

CBT means Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and it is ‘flavour of the month’ in Sweden right now. It’s not particularly new, having it’s roots in the 1950s and rising to prominence in the 80s and 90s, and is regarded as a ‘2nd wave’ therapy (we’ve experienced 2 more ‘waves’ since!). But psychoanalysis used to be the only talk therapy with credibility in Sweden and CBT is quite easy to justify through research evidence so more people have heard of CBT than Narrative Therapy. That’s not to say Cognitive Behaviour Therapy isn’t effective, because for many people it is. To an extent, CBT is also very favourable to self-help so there are a lot of books on the market to choose from.

I picked up Corinne Sweet’s book a few years ago on my way back to Sweden at the bookstore at Gatwick Airport. It is basic but I think it is one of the most accessible and easy to read texts on CBT. If you are suffering from mild anxiety, ‘catastrophising’ or various negative thoughts, this is a great starter for you to find out how to reduce fear and develop more happiness.

cover of Think Good Feel GoodThink Good – Feel Good: A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Workbook for Children and Young People by Paul Stallard.

I don’t work with children these days but a colleague showed me her copy of this book and I’m not surprised that it is a best-seller. There’s not much around in terms of CBT workbooks for children and this book also provides very helpful guidance to parents and clinicians. I’ve had parents contact me to ask if I will work in English with their kids. I usually send them to a child specialist because I am an adult specialist. If the CBT model interests you, I’d recommend getting a copy of this workbook, reading it yourself and then using it with your children. Sure it costs a bit more than the average book, but it is packed full of helpful activities and will provide you with an excellent grounding in CBT if you decide to see a therapist or counsellor in person. Obviously, if the difficulties are very serious or urgent, it is always best to seek help from a practitioner as soon as possible. In that case, get in touch with a ‘BUP’ (child and youth psychiatry) clinic directly or through a GP at Vårdcentalen.

One last suggestion… This summer, get yourself an Amazon Kindle. Okay, I admit it I am biased. I am a Kindle convert! But it is so much easier than travelling with a stack of books. You can read all of these books on Kindle plus novels or other non-fiction books as well and the latest version even works in bed with the lights out! If you don’t have one already you can buy a Kindle at this link.

Amazon Kindle pic

I hope to post again with some more book recommendations for inspiration, motivation and commencing a new life in Sweden. Just send me an email if you would like to be informed of new articles. I’m also available for consultations online over Skype webcam, by phone or email exchange. In the meantime, happy summer reading!

Sleepless in Summer: 6 Steps to Better Sleep in Sweden

Sleepless in Stockholm

What can I do to improve my sleep?
Is it normal to have trouble sleeping in the summer in Sweden?

Insomnia or having trouble sleeping is not just a summer problem for expats in Sweden. It extends to native Swedes and across the year. Every season I read similar stories in the Swedish press. Some struggle with winter sleep, when the days are short and darkness long. Others find it hard during the spring or fall (‘autumn’ to those of us not from America). For whatever reason, the turning of each season can have a similar disruptive influence.

But if you’re in Sweden and reading this between May through to July, chances are, like me, you’ll know what it’s like to be in bright sunlight at four in the morning or nine at night. I realise it’s even more extreme for those who live north of Stockholm. So I’ve put together a checklist of tips and included some links to products that might be useful…

1. Create a Good Sleep Environment

phillips wake up lightMake your bedroom as dark as possible and try to keep it cool. It’s worth investing in black-out blinds for summer in Sweden. They are quite inexpensive at IKEA. If you succeed in making your bedroom so dark that you can’t tell when it’s sunrise and sunset, you can create your own regularity with a wake up light. These are devices that simulate sunrise to help your body get into a more even rhythm. This Philips Wake-Up Light with Colored Sunrise Simulation is top of the range and comes with a choice of nature inspired wake up sounds, plus light and sound settings to help you go to sleep. Those who use wake-up lights tell me they are great and they are just as useful in the Swedish winter!

2. Avoid Stimulants Late in the Day

Obviously tea and coffee later in the day can mess with sleep patterns. As much as Swedes enjoy their fika, it might be worth declining those particular beverages after about 4pm. And I know they are difficult to avoid but computers, ipads, smart phones and television tend to emit light that also stimulates the brain. Save them for when you are not in the bed. If you like to read and it helps you to sleep, this Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t cause the strain of looking at a regular screen (Amazon offers a 30 day money back guarantee in any case). I’ve finally made the switch from paperbacks to a Kindle and I’m a complete convert to digital books now. And if you share a bed, it’s also less likely to bother the person beside you than having a light on.

3. Set a Routine for Going to Bed

Picture of a kindleMost of us followed a bed-time routine set by our parents when we were children. And those with children will know it works better than chaos. In addition to preparing the sleeping room and avoiding stimulants, this is an aspect of ‘Sleep Hygiene’. No, it doesn’t mean washing yourself before bed! It means having a ‘clean routine’. For some, a shower before bed helps but others find it makes them too ‘pigg’ (that’s Swedish for ‘alert’ or ‘peppy’). Discover what’s best for you. Our bodies have memory. They associate doing certain activities with required energy levels for certain times of the day. In short: we can train ourselves to sleep, even if we have developed some bad habits over the years.  Set yourself a series of steps and stick to the order of them. Some things to include are:

– Making a note of things to do in the morning (winding down for the day)
– Changing clothes into sleepwear
– Brushing teeth and going to the toilet (of course)
– Perhaps reading in bed (get a Kindle!) or listening to music using a digital timer that turns off the music after you have fallen asleep.

Jawbone Up BandIf you like gadgets, you might also like to take a look at the Jawbone Up Band. This amazing little device slips around your wrist and tracks your sleep quality including how often you wake up in the night and when. Knowledge is power! Apparently Rupert Murdoch tracks his movements using a Jawbone. You can set it to vibrate gently on your wrist within a range of time, ensuring you wake at your most refreshed (i.e. when you are in lighter sleep- it is very clever!). The Jawbone Up might also be a better alternative to the light device if you share your room with someone who wants to sleep in.

4. Keep Your Bed for Sleep (and Sex)

Anxiety is the enemy of a restful mind. If you are lying awake in the night worrying about not being able to sleep, it is probably better to get up out of bed and do something like read or listen to relaxing music. Keep your bed for sleep and sex. If you are agitated you could even do a little housework that doesn’t take much mental energy, but don’t take on any big projects. If your brain is usually in sleep mode in the early hours of the morning, then it won’t be working very logically at that time. Don’t make any important decisions at a time when you would normally be sleeping. And once again, avoid opening your computer in the night and definitely keep it out of the bed!

5. Use Medications and Herbal Preparations with Caution

Valerian bottleTrauma, grief and loss, adjustment… Occasionally things can happen in life that make it difficult for us to sleep at a time when sleep is particularly important. Meds can help but some prescription sleeping medication can cause dependency, so it is important that you discuss your needs with a qualified and registered medical practitioner and don’t just buy something over the Internet. The use of strong sleeping medication needs to be monitored so talk with a GP if you think you might need it.

However preparations that are available over the counter in Sweden in a pharmacy or health food store are generally fine to use, but you should also investigate potential drug interactions first if you are taking other medications. A herbal preparation called Valerian is available to treat insomnia as an alternative to sedative drugs. Some people also report that Valerian helps to reduce anxiety.

Also available is Melatonin, a naturally occurring substance that has been demonstrated to advance the sleep phase, promoting the onset of earlier sleep and morning awakening. Some shift-workers use Melatonin when re-setting their body-clock.

6. Talk About Your Problems

Finally, if you are having trouble getting to sleep, waking through the night or unable to get back to sleep, it’s possible that it has more to do with what is on your mind than the very long daylight hours of a Swedish summer. It can be a difficult step to take, but talking about your concerns can be an effective way to get a better night’s sleep, particularly if it leads to working out a way to resolve particular issues. I’ve tried to make it easier for people to meet with me by offering online consultations over webcam or phone but it is also possible to write to me via email and receive a reply, if you need and prefer the time to get your thoughts together.

Contact me for appointment times or my fee schedule. And please share this post with others on Facebook or through Twitter if you found it helpful.

After-Hours Counselling for Expats, Nightowls and Early Birds (in English!)

After-hours counsellors and therapists in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo are hard enough to find for locals. And the few English speaking psychology services available in Sweden also tend to operate during business hours. Online therapy and counselling is a perfect way for expats in Sweden to fit in a private consultation before work or when settling down for the evening.

Your Body-Clock: Are You an Early-bird or a Night-Owl?

We all have our own body-clock, sleep patterns and energy rhythms. Some are early risers, getting out of bed at 5 in the morning and using the time to do their own thing or to arrive at the office before everyone else. Some are ‘night-owls’ (I work with a lot of night-owls) who stay up to all hours of the evening online surfing the net, using social media, sending emails watching tv or reading books.

There are times when our preferred sleeping and waking patterns seem to clash with work schedules or the seasons. Nowhere is this truer than in the nordic countries, which have such extreme differences of daylight between the summer and winter months. A lot of expats, for example, find they have trouble sleeping when they come to Stockholm. The extra light in summer can leave them feeling over-tired while the darkness of winter leads to restlessness. But if staying up later or starting the day earlier than the average person suits you, why not use the time productively?

During winter months, from October to May, I have consultations with my ‘night-owls’ starting at 9pm (21:00) Central European time and even later. For many of my clients, this is the perfect time to talk about what is troubling them or to find ways forward with what they are trying to achieve. But not everyone wants to stay up late. Earlybirds are welcome to book a time from the early hours of the morning in winter (even as early as 6am) up until 9am. Some people choose to go into work a little later in the morning in winter, and starting with a coffee and chat on webcam provides a good way to get focussed too. My online clients appreciate being able to talk with an English speaking therapist outside business hours.

The Advantage & Benefits of Online Counselling for Expats in Europe

Privacy is the first thing that comes to mind for many people when booking an appointment online. I’ve worked with many individuals in high profile careers and quite a few celebrities as well. Being able to discuss personal concerns with a guarantee of confidentiality is a distinct advantage of meeting with a professional therapist over webcam. There is no clinic to attend, no waiting room, no need to explain to colleagues and no way to be seen publicly. You can meet from an office or your own room at home. I don’t just work with people in Stockholm or Sweden this way, but expats in Paris, Geneva, Berlin, London, Madrid and Copenhagen as well as cities in Asia and the Middle East.

Meeting with a therapist online also means efficiency for the time poor and busy. Many of my clients in Stockholm have young children, and making an appointment at 9pm or later means they can put the little people to bed before we start talking. The advantages of meeting later in the evening extend to not having to cancel when something urgent comes up on the job and they have to stay back a couple of hours. The early birds say that having a counselling session in the morning helps them to offload some stress and emotion before they start work. Not having to travel to a counselling practice saves time.

Finally, years of working as a counsellor in person has demonstrated to me that crossing the initial threshold to the therapy room is the hardest step for many people. I know a lot of you who are reading this blog will delay coming to see me, sometimes for up to 6 months or more. You might even be unsure how to choose a therapist. My advice to you is to bite the bullet and start now. You will probably feel better sooner if you start sooner. Contact me now and let me know you want to make an appointment. Online counselling and therapy is convenient.

Online psychology: Accessing Experience, Intuition and Wise-Counsel

When I was studying mindfulness meditation, one of my Buddhist teachers explained a model of decision making that has been effective for me ever since. He said we can draw on 3 sources:

  • Our own Experience
  • Our Intuition
  • The Counsel of the Wise

I’d say the purpose of talk therapy is to help you connect with all 3. We can discuss what you have learned from your life to date. We can talk about your gut-feelings and what those are telling you (and how to make more sense of your emotions). And you are welcome to ask my advice or join me in exploring the advice of others. This can involve conversations about other advice-givers, self-help ‘sages’ or what I call Experience-Consultants: those who have already been through similar experiences and life journeys.

You don’t have to do any of this alone. Whatever you are struggling with – counselling for a relationship, for separation or divorce, mood swings, anxiety, ongoing depression or adjustment to life in Sweden – talking it through can help. No matter if you are in a large city like Stockholm or Malmo, or a smaller town like Lund or Umeå (or even another city in mainland Europe), you can access therapeutic conversations at a time convenient to you. From October to May, I am available late evenings and early mornings (between 9pm – 9am) from Sunday to Thursday, especially for the night-owls and early birds. Take a look at my online options.

If you want to know more or make an appointment, send me an email.

And if you think someone else might benefit from this post, please share it on Twitter or Facebook today.

What’s the Purpose of Talk Therapy? 5 Different Reasons to Turn to Online Counselling.

Recently I was reflecting on all the requests I receive for online counselling, coaching and therapy. I’ve been providing therapy consultations over webcam and offering email counselling for several years now, and I’ve heard a diversity of hopes and expectations over that time. Here are some of them.

Strategies and Tools

One of the biggest reasons people contact me is to ask for ‘strategies’ or ‘tools’. The tools or strategies (or methods or approaches) they are seeking could be about improving confidence or happiness, better communication, managing mood (e.g. ‘anger management’) or coping with stress. You might have already tried some approaches you have read about or been told about previously but remain stuck or need some coaching. Or you might be looking to try something new. One size definitely does not fit all (even ‘CBT’ – cognitive behaviour therapy – can be many things to many people and, despite the claims, it doesn’t suit everyone). People sometimes arrive with an expectation that a therapist will fix or treat their mental health problem but generally the approach is collaborative: we treat it together, in cooperation.

Working Through Stuff (or working out stuff)

Life can be complicated. Self-help books only take us so far. But a conversation is dynamic and can take us therapeutically further than reading a book or doing the exercises it contains. When people talk with me about dealing with family relationships, for example, they sometimes need to modify the approach they have been reading about to suit what is happening at the time. Sexuality is another topic that can take some working out. Categories like ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ or ‘bisexual’ can seem very fixed at a time in one’s life when sexual identity is changing. Some dialogue can assist when working through our  relationship with our body, desires, public identity and the gender expectations of us. Talking about difficult topics can also make it easier for us to express ourselves. The useful thing about online counselling is that you have the option of requesting some notes from the session or you can exchange therapy emails as a way of holding onto your progress.

Interested in making an appointment to work out something? Click here to send an email.

Letting Go and Acceptance

When something changes, like a relationship or job or even something to do with our bodies such as an illness or disability, the adjustment can take time. We can benefit from some therapeutic conversations. Some people describe this as ‘grieving’ but this word might not fit for everyone. In seeking resolution, counselling can take an interesting turn. For instance, when someone special or close to us passes, we might be thinking of meeting with a counsellor as part of ‘letting go’. However I often find the counselling process leads people to start recovering their relationship with a loved one, and bereavement turns to remembering and holding the deceased close. With death as in life, there are many ways to resolution.

Getting a Sounding Board or Bollplank

When we are looking for answers, having someone experienced to help us ‘bounce around’ ideas, or ‘bollplanka‘ as the Swedes say, can be helpful. Many tell me that they are looking for someone impartial, unlike a friend or relative who might automatically side with them or play ‘devil’s advocate’. In a therapeutic relationship, it’s okay to ask for advice or reassurance. Counselling isn’t always about providing this, but even if it is not possible in a talk therapy appointment, we can explore what you are seeking and how you might get it professionally or on your own. Some people find that one or two webcam consultations are enough to find direction. Others meet with me regularly, like once a fortnight or once a month, simply because they find it helpful to throw around ideas before making decisions.

Making Changes in Life

Speaking of decisions, at certain times of life it can seem like we are at crossroads. Should I remain in the relationship or leave? Should I continue in Sweden or return home? Should I follow my career or take any job, just to earn some money / get into the society? People tell me that making personal changes can be easier when they hear some other perspectives. There are some stories I can share from those who have given me permission. But it is also helpful to explore the subject. Seeing our situations as ‘stay or go’ can produce more stress and often leaves it harder to make a decision about what to do. In this respect, the self-awareness and understanding we get from talking to someone else can open up the possibilities beyond what we had imagined prior to talk therapy.

Meeting for Talk Therapy Online

If you would like to meet online, there are several options available. Webcam conversations over Skype mean we can see and hear each other in real time. If you don’t have access to a computer or prefer not to be seen, you can choose telephone counselling if you don’t mind the additional cost of calling a Stockholm landline (I also have landlines based in London or Sydney, Australia you can call). Instant Message chat provides a slower, more reflective opportunity for meeting in real-time with the added benefit of not being seen or heard. It is entirely text-based conversation. Or, if you prefer to write in your own time, you can choose email counselling where you write me an email and I respond within 72 hours. You then receive an email you can keep referring back to in future.

For more information including my fees and availability, please contact me.

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Counselling, Coaching and Therapy in Stockholm

counselling in Stockholm

Counselling, Coaching & Therapy in English

I am currently available for online (Skype) appointments and consultations via Email Exchange. If you would like to find out more about my online services including online therapy and webcam counselling, or for an update on my availability, please contact me. These therapy services are available in English throughout Sweden and in other countries. I’m not currently providing appointments in-person in Stockholm and do not have capacity to meet with new couples at present, however you are welcome to contact me as an individual if you want relationship counselling.

Ask a question or make an appointment now

Check my qualifications and experience

Read more on Forward Therapy Stockholm

Cost of Services and Fee Schedule

“Tools for Better Living”: 6 English Speaking Coaching Sessions for Expats in Stockholm and across Sweden

This fall I’m offering a flexible course that combines both coaching and counselling in a short series of consultations. These sessions are designed specifically for expats and other English speakers seeking direction. Are you looking for some tools for dealing with change or adjustment? Interested in taking a series of sessions to kick-start your motivation? Read on!

Those of us who have been expats in Stockholm for a number of years know the winters can be tough. Swedes know it too and, although most of them have grown up with the darkness and cold that comes with a Swedish winter, many still struggle. Whether you are in your first few years of living in Scandinavia, or you have lived here all your life, there is good sense in using the autumn to prepare psychologically and emotionally for what is to come.

6 Sessions of Coaching or Counselling, 5 Suggested Themes

This series combines the approaches of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Narrative Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Life Coaching, Relaxation Strategies, Skills Training (including Stress Management and Communication Training) and Mindfulness. I’ve based it around a presentation of the most common psychological tools I use in my practice but will tailor it to suit your circumstances.

My approach is based on the idea that, through conversation based meetings, we develop ideas and strategies together that neither one of us might have envisaged using before. In this way, you bring your skills and knowledge as a contribution to the sessions and I also introduce theories and tools as possibilities for you to start using. Of course all the sessions and everything you say to me is confidential.

The plan below is a guide only and we can modify it according to your needs.

Want to know more already? Email me!

#1   Who Am I?

Our sense of identity can be quite important to how we manage in new situations or cope with change. Who are you and what has contributed to your sense of yourself, particularly since you moved to Sweden?

The first appointment is a kind of assessment where together we discuss what you would like to cover in the course of sessions and share whatever aspects of your story you would like to tell me. You also have the opportunity to ask me any questions you would like answered. At the end of the session I can give you an interesting identity-based task to take away and complete in your own time, if you like. ‘Homework’ is always optional. Some people want it and some don’t, so you can make the choice.

If you would like to know more about me in advance, read the About Ash Rehn page on this website. And I welcome you to contact me prior to the session if you would like to know anything more about me. It is important that we can work together and for you to feel a sense of comfort during our meetings.

#2   Recovering Energy, Motivation and Establishing Routines

It is not unusual for people to want to meet with a coach or therapist when they are at, or have been at, a low ebb. I’m used to seeing people struggling with motivation, lacking energy or feeling like they have failed. At the same time, it is not always that way. It can be more like chaos that needs sorting out. So part of our work together might be looking at what you want or what you appreciate about your life or what you need. Sometimes this involves considering your ‘vision’ for life. Sometimes people feel stuck, sometimes they feel lost, sometimes they just want me to help them sort through ‘stuff’ or ‘issues’. Whatever the case is, we can discuss it together.

#3   Managing Stress, Coping and Empowerment Strategies

How you deal with change often depends on your past experiences, the techniques you have learned or the resources you have at hand. In our sessions we can consider the skills you are using now as well as what you might need to recover or discover. If you are caught in some Mind Traps (cognitive distortions in thinking) we can identify these and determine alternative psychological strategies to help you escape or re-establish balance. I can also show you some physical practices you can use at any time to reduce anxiety and your stress response.

#4   Career / Relationships / Friendships / Family: Planning and Goal Setting

Would you like to show me what your life looks like now and what your ideal life would be? Often this can be a way of envisaging the future as well. Collaborative consultations can offer the first steps forward to making changes across a number of the aspects of our lives. Together we can explore changes you want to make in any or all of these areas and what might be required for moving forward. It tends to be much easier to do this in collaboration.

#5   Improved Communication for Relationships

Frustration and Anger are two of the most common emotions I discuss with people who meet me in Stockholm or online. If our needs are not being met, we can find our emotions about certain events and incidents spilling into other aspects of our life. And that affects our relationships. Taking an alternative approach to your standard way of communicating is one way to lower the frustration you are experiencing. I can show you some other possibilities and we can practice these in the sessions.

#6   Awareness, Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Building Resilience

It is not generally possible to change everything overnight. Meeting and having a conversation about what concerns you can also be a way of tapping into some other perspectives. Part of this work is about holding onto what you have learned or discovered. Part of the coaching can even include awareness-building techniques like Mindfulness. In these 6 sessions, I offer a start to a process that can take you in new directions. You might decide to continue with something new we discover together during our work or you might even decide to continue with me. With your permission, I will follow up by email at least twice over the 2 months following the series. If you want to continue, we can discuss the possibilities to keep going, what you have achieved and what might remain outstanding.

Pay as You Go or Save with a Package of Sessions

This flexible course is offered as pay as you go or you can receive 6 sessions for the cost of 5 if you pre-pay the series. You can attend just the first session and decide if you want to continue with no obligation to pay for more. You are welcome to decide a few days after the first appointment whether you want to pay for the whole series or pay as you go. I do ask for a deposit of 200 crowns for the first appointment but you have 7 days from the session to pay for the balance. Please contact me for further details of the fee.

No Guarantees or False Promises, but Possibilities, Opportunities and Open Dialogue

It would be quite unethical of me to make false promises about how successful this short series of appointments will be for you, particularly when I have not yet met you. So I don’t offer a guarantee that you will achieve everything you ever hoped for in just 6 sessions. But I do offer to be fully present with you for the sessions and to work collaboratively with you in ways you find comfortable.

It is my professional experience that once people start talking, what they are struggling with often changes or even dissolves. It does not happen at the same pace for everyone, but making a start will give you a better understanding of what might be required. I have chosen a framework of 6 sessions as many people find this is just enough to launch them into self-sufficiency. The relief of talking to a professional in a confidential setting can be influential, as can the possibilities for dialogue, acknowledgement, exploration and even confession.

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Ash Rehn QindsmBook Now to Secure Appointment Times

  • A limited number of these sessions are now available daytimes and evenings during September and October.
  • Sessions are available both in-person ‘face to face’ in Stockholm and ‘face to face’ by Skype webcam (or audio-only if you prefer).
  • Possibilities for continuing include the option of email counselling once the course is concluded.

Make an enquiry about available times and fees now through my contact page.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Ash Rehn BSocWk, MA, MAASW (acc.)

Relationship Counselling: Ending the Blame Game for Better Communication

How often have you been in a situation where your partner has blamed you unfairly or found fault with everything you say? Constant put-downs and negativity mean criticism is thriving in your relationship. Here are some ideas about how to nip them in the bud and start having better communication with your partner.

First up, let’s talk about language. I prefer not to use terms like ‘critical people’ or ‘blamers’. Anyone can fall into speaking critically of others. Criticism can take the form of always pointing out what is wrong, constant negative comments or picking fights. If it’s coming from your partner, it could be a sign of unhappiness of lack of fulfilment. But don’t take it personally: people who have been taken over by criticism are generally in a bad way!

Send me a question or enquiry

Criticism: You Can’t Fight Fire with Fire

When criticism and negativity becomes obvious, it’s time for action. But you can’t fight fire with fire. Imagine reacting to criticism with criticism… it doesn’t work does it? Most of the time when we are burning up with criticism we aren’t even aware of it. Pointing it out can just fan the flames. We need to be a little more strategic.

Start by checking your own reactions. To reduce the physical stress response, breathe deeply into your abdomen and relax your muscles as you listen to what your partner has to say. Accepting criticism is like receiving a gift that you don’t need. There’s no need to take offence. Just don’t catch the negativity being offered. If you react to criticism, you have basically engaged with it. And if you react critically, you have lobbed it back. Ever heard the expression ‘someone is going to lose an eye’? Once we are playing the blame-game, we have already lost perspective.

Non-Violent Communication


One way of changing your response to criticism is to indicate you have heard what the person has said and you need time to consider it. This way, you keep some distance between yourself and the remark. The idea comes from Non-Violent Communication or NVC, an approach developed in the 1960s that involves awareness, expressing feelings and asking for what you need. I recommend the above book ‘Non-Violent Communication: Practical Skills to Connect and Communicate Skilfully in Every Situation‘ that describes this approach in detail. With practice, anyone can improve their communication but it’s important to be assertive and have boundaries. If you are in a situation of physical danger or abuse, don’t stick around. Get out and get help.

There are a few simple things you can start doing now to change the existing patterns of your relationship. If this interests you, read on!

Call or email me now for an appointment

A repeated scenario I have witnessed in relationships is one partner putting aside their own needs to try to meet the needs of the other. Which of course doesn’t work too well. It usually ends up with the self-sacrificing partner feeling resentful when their own needs aren’t met. But we can’t neglect our own needs!

Does this sound familiar to you?

The situation generally worsens when both partners suppress their feelings and ignore their own needs to try to make each other happy. Both can end up feeling trapped and not knowing what to do. At the same time, the solution isn’t just about looking after one’s own needs. When in a relationship, we have to find a way to be with the other person. We have to be aware of our own emotions and look after our own needs but remain conscious and sensitive to the other person’s feelings and needs as well. It’s not easy, but when both people are generous with each other, it tends to expand the sense of the relationship. If both partners are tight and mean towards each other, everything tends to get worse and worse.

From Blame-Game to Generosity

If you’ve ever found yourself ‘playing the Blame Game’ with someone, you will know the story. We can get caught in a cycle of blaming the other person or blaming ourselves for a silly mistake or the unpleasant emotions we are experiencing. Non-Violent Communication offers a way forward through taking responsibility for – and expressing – our emotions while empathetically listening to the other person’s feelings and needs. Partners can’t always meet our needs. We sometimes have find ways to meet them ourselves but still communicate them to our partners.

Finally, there is always the possibility your partner may be right, even if the way they are saying something is not ideal. Working out what to take on board isn’t always easy. I offer confidential appointments in English in Stockholm, online counselling over Skype and through email. Fill out my contact form to make a start on improving communication. To break the ‘blame game’ pattern in your relationship, contact me today through www.ForwardTherapy.se or call me on 08 559 22 636.