Moving to another country is an experience to enjoy the present.

Moving to another country: an experience to enjoy the present.
By Citlalli Degollado*.

The first time I moved to another country was 8 years ago, I was 22 years old with a lot of emotions and expectations for the new adventure. Everything was new for me, I was decided to say goodbye to all my life back home: security, family, friends, comfort zone, everything that I knew was gone, and it was just me, my baggage, my flight ticket and all my dreams to live in France. I was there for 10 months, and although I can say today that it was one of the most exciting experiences that I have ever had, the path I had to walk was not always that easy. At the beginning I felt scared and nervous, I didn’t speak French and it was the first time I lived far from my family. The months passed and little by little I learned to speak French, the culture and the way of life. I still missed my country and all my life there, but at the same time I was enjoying the scenery, the weather and why not? All the uncertainty, not knowing anything about what was going to happen. Now, 8 years later, I am 30 years old and I left my country for the second time, in another situation but with the same dreams. After new experiences, there is a moment when you understand that change is inevitable and sometimes necessary, when the fear moves you instead of blocking you, like a spring that pushes you up and helps you to continue.

So, what happens when somebody moves to another country? First, it is important to know that it is a change, and as every change we live, there are many emotions present in this process: fear, nervousness, uncertainty, euphoria, happiness and hope, among others. Psychologically, this change is like a grief, because we say goodbye to life as we know it and we go through different stages, such as excitement, sadness, fear, one emotion after the other. When we move to another country, at the beginning it is the honeymoon, in this moment everything is perfect, we are excited about the new life, what moves us is the novelty and the desire to discover. After some weeks, the cultural shock shows up, the new way of life is not exciting, we have to learn some new rules and habits, and things like the food, the language and the weather start to have some influence in our physical and emotional body. But life continues and we keep going, after some months, we start to adjust ourselves to this new life and that includes trying to insert ourselves to activities and to meet new people. Maybe they won’t be as special as our friends back home, or maybe they will, but they will definitely help us feel accompanied, with someone to share time, feelings, thoughts, and to learn from the other. Finally, we arrive to the last stage, the adaptation is done, when we understand that even if we are not at our place, our identity is still with us, we can learn and change some things but the essential stays, it is an integration between who we are and all the things that we have lived.

Although the adaptation process is something everyone will live, each person will experience it differently and according to their situation, context and emotional and personal resources. For example, it will not be the same for someone who moves away with her family because of a job opportunity, with certain economic security, than to someone who is fleeing her country due to a social conflict. In any case, it is important to have in mind that adapting to a new socio-cultural context implies walking through different moments that require emotional work. Understanding that it is a process, a path and not the destiny, helps to enjoy it more and take advantage of the moment.

“Since we just have the present, let’s live it as best as we can.”

*Citlalli Degollado is Gestalt Psychotherapist.
She works with adults and couples.
Currently she lives in Brighton, and she is giving psychotherapy to Spanish people.

Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.

skype: JessValentine
follow her on Twitter, FB and IG: @getwellbrighton

MenTool Kit: Join Jonathan’s Monday Night Men’s Group in Brighton, East Sussex

Hi, I’m Jonathan and as I started MenTool Kit up I guess you may want to know a little about me. Most of my 20’s and early 30’s were spent on improving and finding myself. I would say this is a life long journey, but it was more so in those years. This involved lots of reading, experiencing and just being in order to learn as much as I could. The older I go, the more I became interested in sharing this others and helping people the best I could. I became a Level 2 Pilates matwork instructor to be able to help people physically (which then reflects in mental well being), a Level 2 Reiki Seichem healer to help people energetically and a Mindfulness based CBT therapist to help people’s minds. It is a lifelong learning journey with workshops and training regularly being attended in all manner of modalities. Even with all this I still felt that something wasn’t quite right. In Pilates I loved getting guys involved as it’s often seen as a female orientated exercise system (even though it was invented by a man). I would go to well-being events and see women talking about empowerment and setting up groups and again it didn’t feel right to me. I believed men need this just as much as women. In fact, when you look at suicide rates for example, you could say that men now actually need this more!!! So this is why I set up MenTool Kit. It’s time for men to connect to one another more deeply, time to support one another and time to grow together. We can evolve the modern man together!

Read more about Jonathan here:

Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.

skype: JessValentine
follow her on Twitter, FB and IG: @getwellbrighton

Marriage Counselling and Couples Counselling Online: Book Today!

Are you looking for help in your relationship? Are you feeling stuck? Has your husband or wife had an affair and it is something you just can’t move on from? The Brighton Mental Health and Wellness Centre can help!


I offer online counselling via SKYPE for couples. Chat with a Chartered Counselling Psychologist in the privacy of your own home. Confidential and private marriage or couples counselling in the comfort of your own home can be provided at convenient times that work around your work or family schedule.


Many couples have very young children and cannot make the time to meet with someone to talk over worries, issues and/or concerns. Also, by having the privacy of SKYPE sessions it can take away the embarrassment that some partners and couples might experience.  By booking a 60 minute marriage or couples counselling session you can save your marriage, have support through affairs, build confidence, talk about sex or lack of sex, parenting, and much more.

Have you ever wanted to jump start your relationship because it’s getting stale? Book a couples counselling session or course of sessions to examine how you can do this.

It’s easy, quick and convenient. Because after all, we live busy lives and it’s not easy to manage our relationships in a happy, calm, constructive way.

How do I book an online marriage or counselling session today? 

Simply email me: and give a brief background on your needs and then we can book a convenient time for you and your partner.

SKYPE: JessValentine

I look forward to hearing from you.


Learn how to break unwanted patterns in your relationship

Contact the centre today! 07810 744 821 (t)


Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.

skype: JessValentine
follow her on Twitter, FB and IG: @getwellbrighton

Mental Illness Stigma: Living with Others’ Judgements


At Brighton Wellness Centre, we are well aware of the mental health stigma that pervades our society. Even today, with the many pioneering organisations and charities helping those with mental illnesses, the rise of medications such as anti depressants and mood stabilisers and an awareness of psychotherapy, there is still stigma. People can react negatively, be harsh or not understanding because they do not understand the complexity that is mental ill health and the effects it has on the brain and behaviour.

Common stigmatised reactions may include language such as ‘You aren’t crazy, why do you need to take those pills?‘, ‘You should be locked up’,’You are behaving so bipolar‘, ‘People with depression are weak’ and so on. Mental illness is still sadly associated by some (who have no experience of it) with doctors’ white coats, straight jackets, life long hospital stays and never making a full, complete recovery. It may take generations to change these attitudes, although we are beginning to turn the tide!

While these perceptions of mental illness may have been the case 60 or more years ago, today the mental health world in the UK and other Western countries has moved on. Since the 1950s, the rise of medications that worked to help illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis, depressive/anxiety disorders and eating disorders have improved drastically. With the rise of SSRI medications that work on the brain as anti depressants as well as newly developed anti psychotic medications, mental illness sufferers are able, in most cases, to return to their normal lives. This coupled with psychotherapy can truly change lives. The policy of recovery is also a great shift from the past. Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists don’t just aim to manage symptoms, they aim to set you on the path to recovery.

The feeling of judgement and of someone thinking you are ‘crazy’ is awful, sad and terrifying. For every person that understands and supports, you may get those who can’t and won’t understand you. You can lose friends or loved ones due to this, which is appalling. Support networks are badly needed for those with an illness in particular. So, don’t be stigmatised to those with an illness. Help and love your friend and loved one, give to them, provide a listening ear and a hug.

As someone with experience of mental health, I would say there is still a long way to go in terms of stigma. I talk and blog about my experiences, raise money for mental health charities and have just started reaching a wider audience. However, I still feel I cannot fully disclose my illness under my real name. This is due to the fact that it is still not hugely understood in society, so to be associated with it could be upsetting. Yet, I hope that within a decade or two, this will change. I blog to change attitudes and highlight awareness which is badly needed.

This is why I support Jessica Valentine at Brighton Wellness Centre. She focuses particularly on womens wellness and provides a therapeutic setting and a listening ear to all her clients. Psychotherapy of any kind is truly beneficial in helping you manage symptoms and difficult emotions. By taking the step to going to psychotherapy, you are battling stigma as well as helping yourself move forward.  Remember, there is nothing wrong or weak in talking to a therapist. In fact, you are being incredibly strong for seeking help and reaching out. Hopefully, any therapy you undergo will also help you to change your life for the better.  Reach out today.

Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.

skype: JessValentine
follow her on Twitter, FB and IG: @getwellbrighton

Why Do I Have Social Anxiety? Can Social Anxiety be Treated?

by Holly Woodley

Social anxiety is an intense fear or worry over social situations and is surprisingly common in the general population, although rarely reported unless severe.

One of the most influential explanations of the onset of social anxiety disorder is the cognitive model:

  • Faulty cognitions in the individual manifest during social situations that possess them to believe that they are in danger of being seen as inept, boring or stupid, which could lead to people disliking them or ignoring them.
  • The model begins with the social situation, which activates the assumptions of perceived social danger, and in turn, the processing of the self as a social object.
  • These cognitive processes can lead to behavioural symptoms, for example the patients’ avoidance behaviour, or somatic and cognitive symptoms, such as the intrusive thoughts of what others may think.
  • The theory proposes that people don’t initially possess the symptoms of social anxiety disorder, they simply have to believe that they do, and their actions of avoidance help to reinforce these biases, which in effect helps them to manifest.
  • Early maladaptive schemas affect the way the individual thinks and processes situations, and have been shown to be more commonly present in those with social phobia particularly, in the sense of disconnection or rejection, but also including self-focused attention, anticipatory processing and post-event processing.
  • Post-event rumination is suggested to be one of the main cognitive biases in those suffering from social phobia. It is suggested that socially anxious individuals negatively perceive themselves and the way they have previously behaved in a social situation, which takes over their attentional resources causing them to negatively over-evaluate . This in turn will influence avoidance of similar situations in the future.
  • In addition, the idea of pre-event rumination has been offered, which involves the individual negatively anticipating an event with obsessive faulty thinking, which may influence them to avoid it before anything negative has actually happened.
  • Those with social anxiety disorder also appear to have attentional biases to threatening stimuli, which may account for why they find social situations particularly intimidating. If all the focus is on the negative aspects of a situation, the individual will feel a heightened sense of fear. This has been shown in studies where attention is monitored, and individuals with social anxiety disorder pay more attention to relevant negative stimuli, for example threatening faces compared to neutral ones influencing a state of panic.

There is also an overall feeling of low self-efficacy that is suggested to result from childhood relationships, for example peer rejection or overprotective parenting styles. This could potentially arise through acts of conditioning, for example observing others being embarrassed or humiliated in social situations. It has been suggested that because shyness has a negative stigma, this promotes social avoidance.

Genetics and biological processes are also proposed theories of the manifestation of social anxiety. Evidence has been suggested to support a biological explanation of social anxiety in terms of neuropeptides. Oxytocin is believed to be a peptide linked to social behaviour as it facilitates approach behaviours, and impacts on social bonding and trust, by linking the amygdala to socio-emotional areas of the cortex. It has been observed that those with social anxiety possess lower levels of oxytocin than controls, due to a variation in the CD38 gene that regulates its secretion. A-allele carriers on the SNP rs3796863 appear to have higher levels of trait anxiety with particular vulnerabilities to developing social anxiety than the C-C allele.

The function of this neuropeptide is to reduce excessive amygdala activation to threatening stimuli, therefore with a reduced amount, this repression is dampened, increasing the fear that those with social anxiety feel. In addition, there is also reduced functional communication between these areas of the brain during stress inducing situations, reducing the positive emotional effects that the peptide has on social behaviour.

An additional biological perspective is associated with genetics and heritability. Data has shown that direct relatives of those with social phobia manifest higher rates of the same disorder than control patients do. For example, it has been found that the phobia is more likely to manifest in children when one or both of their parents suffer from the disorder also.

Risk factors for social anxiety have been found to be highly hereditable (66%), which appear to have higher impact in young people, suggesting that genetic risk factors have higher influence in those who develop social anxiety in their youth.

It is suggested that the overall process is that genetic vulnerabilities make those more susceptible to environmental influences concerning the onset of social anxiety disorder, which integrates both explanations of the manifestation of the disorder. There have been significant gene environment interactions found in terms of stress or attachment types for example, suggesting that this interplay between nature and nurture is a solid explanation for the onset of social anxiety disorder.

One of the most common form of treatment of social phobia is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Patients can attend between 8 to 12 sessions with a therapist in a one on one setting. The therapy involves forms of exposing patients to their feared situations with support, and should aim to help the individual understand the irrationality of their fears. This individual therapy may also involve teaching different types of social skills, either verbal or non verbal. These may involve anything from keeping eye contact and retaining posture, to specific word use, voice, volume and tone, or easy conversation topics. Methods of relaxation are also taught, to help diminish feelings of apprehension or the general physical arousal induces from social situations. What is described as ‘cognitive restructuring’ is another tactic used which aims to correct faulty cognitions within the patient. This works by getting the individual to analyse their own statements or social expectations to understand why they may be irrational, which may in turn aid in reshaping the maladaptive schemas.

Once someone appears to be making some form of improvement, cognitive behavioural group treatment may be suggested, to help ease them into a welcoming social situation with others who have the same feelings as themselves. This gentle ease may drastically help the treatment process. Sessions may include discussing various social skills techniques with others, and learning interaction techniques with each other. Group members may also find themselves being exposed to anxiety provoking situations in a structured and graded way, starting with minimal exposure which gradually increases once the phobic becomes at ease. The efficacy of group therapy for anxiety has been shown by Mychailyszyn, Brodman Read and Kendall (2012) who found that 64% of children who participated in the FRIENDS (a specialized form of CBGT for adolescents) programme no longer met clinical criteria for social phobia after treatment.

An emerging form of group therapy that may also be an option is mindfulness and acceptance based group therapy. In these therapy session mindfulness strategies are used to increase the feelings of acceptance of unwanted physical symptoms, for example trembling, or anxious thoughts, such as feelings of embarrassment. This in turn reduces the feeling of panic that a phobic will experience when they sense their face blushing or their hands shaking. There has been an effect size of 43% observed for the success of this treatment in those with social anxiety.

Trials have shown group therapies to have a positive effect on the reduction of symptoms in social anxiety, for example decreases in subtle avoidance behaviours, cognitive distortions and attention focusing and rumination. However, there do appear to be more issues with group therapy as opposed to individual therapy, for example, a group first needs to be formed before therapy can begin therefore potentially taking longer to initiate. It has been suggested that overall individual therapy is more successful for those with social anxiety disorder, as a majority of patients find the group setting too intimidating to handle whilst still going through treatment, which could potentially worsen their feelings of fear. More feelings of self-consciousness may be induced with feelings of scrutiny. In addition, individual therapy allows the therapist to form a more careful and personal assessment of the patient, in turn catering for a more effective treatment system.

Both therapies have their advantages and disadvantages, however the right programme should be based on the patient’s individual progress and preference.

To see references, turn to the next page.

Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.

skype: JessValentine
follow her on Twitter, FB and IG: @getwellbrighton

Changing Habitual Behaviours for a Happier Life – Anxiety Disorders.


Do you have behavioural habits that you know you are repeating over and over, and want to learn how to stop them continuing?

Our behaviour is such a challenging thing to change because the mind and our thought patterns and chemistry are so complex- and so individually unique. Once we begin certain behaviours and repeat them over and over, they become automatic and our brain continues to act in the same way unless we take control and change it. This is to do with the way the brain processes hormones such as adrenaline and the memory of previous behavioural patterns.

So, how can we change negative or destructive behaviour patterns that can perpetuate illnesses such as anxiety disorders? (Please note this is similar in other disorders e.g. addictions but this article will focus on anxiety disorders).

The most important thing if you have an anxiety disorder (e.g. generalised anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD, social anxiety) is that you can change your habits but it will take work, perseverance and support.

I have suffered from social anxiety in the past, coupled with depression. This made it extremely difficult for me to go out to occasions where there were lots of people, for fear of negative judgement, such as at weddings and on public transport. The psychotherapists I worked with taught me that these thoughts were ‘irrational’ and I had various courses of Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) to unpack my negative thoughts and limiting beliefs on paper.

However, what really helped me to change my habits surrounding going out and socialising was something I call exposure therapy. By going out with a few friends and then on the tube, around more people I slowly desensitised myself to new surroundings. I then found that I actually wanted to go out more, and it didn’t feel quite as frightening as when I stayed indoors and cancelled my plans. I didn’t want to hide away.

For those of us with anxiety disorders, we can be triggered by anything in the subconscious and our body chemicals (cortisol and adrenaline). I still have bad days and I know you will too. Yet, you can get better and feel stronger, if you take charge.

If exposure therapy sounds too big an idea, break it down. As mentioned, I had CBT and psychotherapy but there are so many therapies out there that can help too and everyone will have unique symptoms and triggers. Talk with a qualified therapist or your GP to see what therapy plan is best for you.

You may find that Mindfulness CDs work for you to help you stay present and do deep breathing or meditation, art therapy, hypnotherapy or in depth talking therapies. CBT can also be beneficial in changing behaviour patterns but this will depend on the individual.

If you need help changing your negative behavioural patterns, get in touch with Jessica Valentine, therapist at Brighton Wellness Centre.

Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.

skype: JessValentine
follow her on Twitter, FB and IG: @getwellbrighton

The Impact of Divorce: Is it Contagious?

Can divorce be contagious? If my girlfriends are leaving their husbands, should I?  What if my husband’s mates are all single?  Will he want to be single, too? Divorce can be a moot word.  It can bring an enormous amount of uneasiness when spoken about in certain circles.  But, why is there a negative stigma when it comes to divorce?

We have lived in a society where people get married, have children and then stay together until ‘death do us part’.  The 21st Century has presented us with different options.  As divorce rates grow, so do our families, with step-children, step-parents and co-parents.  But with the 21st Century and its ideals, why do we still cringe when we hear that someone is getting a divorce?

Someone came up to me the other day and said, “I had no idea you were divorced.  I am really sorry.  I didn’t know.”

I responded probably quite unusually according to society’s majority with, “that’s okay – I have never been happier!”

I guess everyone has different views about divorce, especially if children are involved.  I think that is really the worst part of divorce – if children are involved.  All children want is their families to be in one place at one time.  Even though children are very resilient and can cope with change sometimes easier than adults, they still want a family unit.

Is that the reason why we cringe when we hear someone is getting a divorce- if children are involved?  ‘Oh, those poor children.’  ‘But what about the children!’

Psychologists have proven that it is healthier to separate than to argue in front of children.  It is not healthy for children to grow up in a hostile, angry and an unbalanced environment.  Children can also sense when there is a coldness in the room.  Even if a couple ignores and avoids each other it is an unhealthy environment for the children as well as the couple.  Children learn and model everything.  If love and friendship is not present in a couple’s relationship the children WILL be affected.  It will affect them with their interpersonal relationships both same sex and opposite sex patterns.

The impact of divorce on a family unit should not go amiss.  Divorce affects everyone differently.  And, there are many reasons why people get a divorce.  Sometimes it is a healthy choice for your children when separating from a toxic person.  Perhaps someone in the family doesn’t take the parenting role seriously.  For whatever the reason, I do not think we should judge people for having to go through something traumatic and stressful such as divorce.  Whether or not children are involved divorce is still stressful.

Hopefully we will realise why the divorce rates have gone up drastically.  Perhaps we should reconsider how we got into the relationship in the first place.  Co-dependent relationships often take us on the journey down the road to divorce.

Divorce is not catchy, nor is it a toxic plague.  Divorce is a break-free clause that is given to married folk who need a get out of jail card… literally.  Some choose to break free and some people are thrown into it without choice.  Whether you choose to leave your partner or your partner took it upon himself to leave you- it still hurts.

If you or anyone you know needs support please contact us.  We have plenty of counsellors who have experience with couples counselling and divorce support.

Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.

skype: JessValentine
follow her on Twitter, FB and IG: @getwellbrighton