17 Mar 2020

BY: Alastair Dodwell

Therapy / Treatment

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Covid-19 Update

Important Statement

At The Surrey Centre, we are closely monitoring the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) and are following advice from Public Health England and the National Health Service.  Our highest priority is the wellbeing of our clients, our staff and the wider community.

Please do not come to our centre if you or anyone in your household:

·         Have any cold or flu symptoms.

·         Have a cough, high-temperature or shortness of breath.

·         Have been to a high-risk area or have had contact with a potential case, in which case do not visit for 14 days or until you are tested and cleared.

Please also read the latest update on COVID-19 which can be found on the UK Gov website:

We are closely following the expert advice provided by Public Health England and will update you as and when we can.

Video Counselling

We have set up webcam counselling as an option for all clients.

We use a number of tools – Skype, Facetime or telephone counselling if you cannot make it to the centre.  Please contact your therapist/dietitian prior to your appointment to set this option up 

We have also taken necessary steps within our centres to ensure health and wellbeing:  

·         When entering the centre please wash your hands.  Anti bacterial hand wash has have been placed within the centres for your convenience. However, regular hand washing is strongly advised.

·         We are maintaining our high standards of clinical hygiene throughout the centre, paying close attention to wiping down door handles and cleaning surfaces regularly with antibacterial sprays.

Thank you for your cooperation, please keep safe and we hope to see you at your next appointment.

If you have any questions please talk to your therapist or dietitian.

The Surrey Centre Team.

13 May 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery


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We are supposed to be happy on our birthdays, to celebrate, and as Marie Antoinette allegedly put it about the starving, to even eat cake! But she was a little girl at the time so perhaps she wasn’t being sarcastic and unfeeling at all. Who knows? My point is that what we say and how we say it always has to be understood in context. Thinking back to my birthday, the anniversary of my ‘time capsule’ landing on Earth, or to be less science fictional-sounding and more prosaically precise about it, I landed on a sterile, rubberised sheet on a hospital bed. I arrived through my mother’s ‘womb door’, as some religions poetically if bloodlessly refer to what mid-wives, who know all about the blood, call the ‘birth canal’.

Whether we use the language of health care professionals, or the language of religionists, or the language of science fiction writers, we can often all be talking about the same thing from our different contexts. And that’s before even considering the wider linguistic context of the country we come from! The context I come from tends to be emotionally biased and what I want to say with feeling in this blog is that our mothers deserve congratulation on our birthdays just as much, if not more so, than we do! They were our first ‘context’ without whom we would not exist even as we bathed in the amniotic bath they kindly grew us in. I am stating the blinking obvious again, it is true. But bear with me please.

It is usually understood by many cultures including our own, and deriving from a time before reliable, (fairly) easily available contraception began, that virginity is ‘lost’ or ‘taken’ on the first occasion of our experiencing fully penetrative sexual intercourse. But how many of us know, or have known, sexually active young people who notionally, but only notionally, understand the financial, social, educational, psychological and medical contexts that their urges are potentially putting them at risk of subsequently having to deal with? Perhaps we were one of them ourselves once! They may have had sex but, in general, they cannot really understand and/or grasp the reality of the implications of their actions until or unless they become pregnant or find themselves struggling with a treatment-resistant sexually acquired illness. And perhaps not even then. Unless we happen to be gay or transgendered or otherwise a member of a sexual minority, in which case awareness from an early age of societal bigotry and prejudice perhaps prompts a rapid development into a more mature sense of what the world is like than that of our peers; and unless, too, we are not able to have children, or don’t want any, virginity generally rolls back into history, in my opinion, when our first child is born. I am generalising, as I always do. But generally speaking, it is becoming parents that effects a step-change in our progress towards developmental maturity as adults.

In so far as our babies, especially while they are still babies, directly reflect ourselves and the care we give them, it is an absolute joy to celebrate their developmental milestones. And of course birthdays are pre-eminent among those. But I feel we should also, and just as much and at the same time, celebrate our mums and the labour they put into carrying and delivering us. It really helps to remember that, with their first child at least, they are actually new born themselves. New born mothers!

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

mountain-landscape 27 Apr 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery


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Mountains, Mole Hills and Common Sense

To an ant a molehill may be large, but common (ant!) sense will tell it that, for an ant, nothing need be too tall and it will soldier on regardless.

Common sense for us human beings derives from the collective, so-called folk wisdom of our forebears, integrated within our everyday experience. So, from what kind of clothes to wear in winter (warm!) to useful aphorisms worth considering in certain common situations, like ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, or again, ‘Pride comes before a fall’, there are hundreds of examples. And actually, of course, although it is a living, changing thing, our language itself has been bequeathed to us by the dead.

I am not talking as if I were some fervent, sub-Conan Doyle-type spiritualist about our actually dead loved ones and relatives speaking with and to us. Or am I?  Who knows?  Some people claim to see, hear and feel the dead both in their waking lives and in their dreams. Some of these get admitted onto acute psychiatric wards against their will under a section of the mental health act. But who is to say with any certainty that at least some of them do not have conversations with people now gone?

Collectively speaking, i.e., for most of us, death is a like vast mountain rock face up which we cannot climb and over which we cannot see. If, that is, we are facing forwards into the future. But churches, mosques, temples and shrines all attest to the wisdom of trying to mine at least some of what was learned in the past, even though between ourselves and our dead loved ones is another vast mountain of absolute silence over and beyond which only memory and imagination can try to reach.

For the dead and the not-yet born those mountains do not exist. They are not even mole hills.

But in this ever-changing, present world ‘valley’ of blood and bones and breath between the twin insurmountable cliffs of our, as yet, unconceived descendants and our already long dead ancestors (and theirs and theirs and so on), we experience the ever-changing light of the present. Within its beams we can make mole hills. We can make mountains. We can make prairies, savannahs, and deserts. We can make ice caps melt and whole cities disappear in explosions. We can do almost anything. And we do.

So, in the present of our own lives it can help to remember when we are frightened of our own feelings, for example, that we may be catastrophising. Or when we are feeling on top of the world, that pride comes before a fall. Or when we are putting off something we need to do, that a stitch in time saves nine. Or when we are depressed and it feels like a mountain, that we need comfort. Or when we are not sure about something that we need to confer with someone else in our ‘world of other people’ to ascertain whether it’s a mountain or a molehill.

It’s common sense really, a gift from the dead.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre


Camouflage face image 21 Apr 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Anxiety / Treatment

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A lit candle in daylight. A moggy in a dappled wood. An iguana coloured in perfect harmony with its jungled surroundings. A face in a crowded sea of faces.

It is wonderful thing to be able to be and yet not to be perceived or singled out.

There is a fit between us all which allows us to merge into a safe anonymity, a collective identity behind which our individual differences and eccentricities can be quietly hidden. We can be members of different kinds of associations or classes, from football supporters to baby showers, politics, or an interest in the weather; happily allowing our uniqueness to shine through only to a few trusted others and only when we want it to. Close friends, partners and children may ‘really’ know us a little bit more, or think they do, but in the end, do we even ‘really’ know ourselves?

Living in a world of other people, as we do, and also being shaped by it, as we are, as we make our way through a process of developmental change called life, it is sometimes hard, if not impossible, if we are honest, to know who and what our ‘true’ selves are without at some point running up against a brick wall of counter-truths which somehow give the lie to them.

So, we do what we can to fit in with what we hope and think best expresses what matters most to us. We can, if we are lucky, find it easy to shift from the domain of the personal to that of the group. Unless we are too rigid and inflexible either for reasons over which it is our fate to have little or no control like autism, cerebral damage, or intellectual disability, or an over-attachment to a collective ideological belief provided and shored up by institutional ‘isms’ such as politics or religions, and over which we can have some control.

But if we are anxious in social settings and lack confidence in relation to ‘the world of other people’ it is understandable that we want to conform to, (or equally conform by rebelling against), societal expectations about how we should behave. From how we dress to how we speak and the activities we participate in, there is a fitting in, a camouflaging, of our individuality that we feel we need to protect by so doing. But adopting and adapting camouflage to protect our private, deeper sense of self does not mean that this public face, or persona, is inauthentic. Unless, that is, we lose touch with or disconnect awareness from our underlying sense of our whole individual personality, private, naked, camouflaged, public, known and unknown. Under those circumstances we might find ourselves doing something harmful to ourselves, perhaps developing an eating disorder or an obsessive compulsion or even putting ourselves at risk of going mad.

So, don’t worry if your public persona does not completely or ‘truly’ reflect or express your inner sense of who you are, or even that it seems to morph and shift depending on whom you are with. We all need a persona with which to interact with the external ‘world of other people’. You don’t become an inauthentic liar having one and using it even though it does indeed shift and morph.

That lit candle in sunlight is still a wick dipped in wax with a flame on top!

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre


Bad News image for blog post 13 Apr 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery


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Bad news

Sometimes on this planet bad news comes from within. Within the body from a headache or a cut finger at one end of the scale to a cancer diagnosis or a stroke at the other. And within the mind, from a nightmare at one end to on-going symptoms of major mental illness at the other. Bad news from within is different from bad news in the outside world in that it is relatively inescapable so whether we want it or not we somehow have to deal with it. We can try to put it in perspective, or deny it, or embrace it, or treat it, but there it is. Inside us.

A long time ago I used to be a social worker. Sometimes I had to try to help little motherless refugee children. I could not tell them they would never see their mum again, although it was likely. All I could do was hope that my intervention might make a tiny difference to their experience of the world as now utterly malign.

Last night I had two separate dreams of each of my now dead parents. Quite something given my advanced age! Or maybe not. Neither dream was very nice. In one my dying mother, whose head I was trying to support on my shoulder as she lay in her hospital bed, jerked herself away from me crying out, ‘Vile, vile!’. In the second dream, set on Glastonbury Tor which played a big part in a long epic poem I wrote a few years ago*, my wilful, demented father was wandering off, being a law unto himself. Both dreams, subjectively anyhow, were ‘bad’ and both involved ‘negative’ images and negative feelings and reactions on my part when I woke up.

This is what they also left me with:

That ‘bad news’ from within when set alongside the ‘good’ reminds us that we live in a world that is always turning, presenting ever-changing contrasts, that the one consistent element is actually ourselves experiencing these external and internal days and nights of our lives.

That we cling onto life and love (if we can) because we are genetically and emotionally programmed, as it were, to do so. (I am not talking about intelligent design. I don’t do God).

That given how many of us there are, this ‘programme’ is evidence of how important each drop in the ocean of humanity is.

That being time-limited, we do get released from the human experience, but while we are alive, our job is to feel the bad news and notice not just that it affects us but also how it does so and even to try to consider why. And not just the bad news. Also the wind in the trees, a painting on the wall, a wonderful dream, a cloudless morning, a starry night, a loved one’s uniqueness, everything!

Doing so helps us to move on through the course of our lives; to allow ourselves to let our parents and children, alive or dead, be themselves; to recognise, unless we have been irredeemably damaged by the bad news we have been subjected to, that most of us are nice. And to try to care for those who for very good ‘bad’ reasons, like events over which they/we could not and cannot control, are not able to be.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

*’Searching for a Home’ in ‘Engenderings’ by C Clery, Chipmunka 2013


sign-direction-future-past 06 Apr 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery


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Ancestral and descendant voices

It’s a truism attributed to Santayana that the only thing we learn from history is that we are condemned to repeat it, i.e., nothing. How many times have I left a pot to boil over? Countless, believe me, but still I do it!

Insight doesn’t stop me. I know perfectly well I should turn the heat down just before boiling point is reached but still, half the time I forget to do so until it’s too late and the contents spill over.

So, it is clearly not about a ‘lesson learned’ that leads me to repeat my mistake. It is not about education. Or at least only in part.

What would my great, great grandmother have said about this? Or her great, great grandmother? Or grandfather? Perhaps they would have laughed. Or become impatient with me. Or would they rather have said as long as I don’t do harm and attend to what matters, (which is both different yet the same for everybody), all will be well? And what would my great, great grandchildren’s great, great grandchildren think, for example, of how little I did for the environment by cooking with gas?

Who knows? Who knows what those who are yet to come and those who have already left through the birth and death gates would say to me? Who knows what they say to us about the things we do?

Well, we do, we all do, if only we would listen to our blood and bones! But to do that we have to be able to hear. And to hear the voices of our ancestors and descendants it is necessary to be quiet. To switch on our inner ear. To open our inner eye. To taste our inner food, touch and be touched by our inner feelings and to pick up the scent of our unique personal meaning. Each one of us….

After writing that I fell back to sleep (I always write early in the morning and today was a Sunday) and into a dream.

I dreamt I was wandering around lost and confused, trying to be independent, not unhappy, but needing help. Everything was and was not familiar. I won’t go into detail, but it left me with this thought:

If in the mysterious and wonderful eternal present of our sleep, dreams are actually ancestral voices and visions, i.e., the voices and visions of the dead, merging their experiences and imaginations with our own and with those of those yet to come when we ourselves will be dead, then it is clear that they were telling me that, like me, they too got and will get lost and confused; that that is often how it is here on Planet Earth, part of the human condition, that therefore we must actively collaborate and cooperate with one another all the time, help each other, every single one of us.

Urgently, all of us, about everything!

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: TheSurreyCentre/Counsellors

23 Mar 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery


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Where to start? Where to start? Lines? Lines? Yes, okay. Yes, okay. Worlds? Worlds? Definitely! Definitely!

This can’t go on.

And it won’t! That’s enough of that. Especially as parallels are not identical. And neither are we human beings. But we do have collective patterns in common, which is a different matter. From physical characteristics like the fact that, other things being equal, we all have noses; through behaviour like the fact that, other things being equal, we all prefer to sleep at night; to mental functioning like the fact that, other things being equal, we think and feel and dream. So much so uncontentious.

Perceiving patterns, not only collectively, but personally and more minutely, which seem somehow to be similar despite the fact that they make themselves evident in completely different contexts or domains, is a different matter altogether!

Some examples: Bingeing (or restricting) on food with a parallel pattern of bingeing (or restricting) on relationship with other people. Or again and more straight-forwardly, experiencing a traumatic event and then subsequently having recurring dreams and flashbacks about it. Or again, and often more mysteriously, having experienced harm in the past and then repeatedly putting ourselves in situations which potentially or actually threaten to, or even deliver on, giving us more and similar pain in the here and now. Or again, and finally, for now anyway, repeatedly and inexplicably feeling guilty about all kinds of completely different things when we know in fact there is nothing to be feeling guilty about.

Patterns like this are often characteristic of people who seek therapy. They are cognitively and emotionally intelligent and perceptive enough about themselves to actually notice these sorts of parallels. They have also realised that their insight, understanding and ability to perceive parallel patterns, does not in itself make much, if any, difference at all to the way such patterns are adversely affecting their quality of life.

Parallel patterns in part, and speaking reductively, often might appear to simply be a product of our tendency as human beings to seek comfort in habit and making unconscious connections. But could it also be, from a more positive and purposeful perspective, that our even deeper, even more unconscious, self is trying to tell us something we have somehow forgotten or lost touch with? Taking the trauma example above, could it be that flashbacks and recurring dreams about what happened in the past, are telling us that we still have unresolved, connected feelings about it that need our attention now in the present so that we can forget about it, leave it behind us in the past where it belongs? Or again, referring to the example above of a pattern of bingeing (or restricting) on both food and relationship, that we need to attend to both to our physical and our psychological nurturing needs? Or again, if we are putting ourselves at repeated risk of harm, that we need to attend to why?

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam/

circles 16 Mar 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery


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Circles (in mixed metaphors!)

One way of describing life is as a line from birth to death. But, of course, that is amongst a myriad of other descriptions because there is more to our lives than just a straight line. I mean if we could look inside our bodies we would see they are full of cells whose structures are all more or less spherical, with a circulatory system that basically goes round. And if we panned out and looked down from space we would see our planet is more or less round too. A globe. A circle. So does that mean life is a series of circles, then, from birth to death?

But seriously…. Physicists talk of invisible things like sub atomic particles that are tinier than tiny, and other things, like so-called ‘dark matter’ of which they are made, that are bigger than all the skies. All we non-physicists can do is take their word for it and try to imagine some impossible place where the biggest and smallest things are identical, if only in their invisibility. To do that we perhaps have to look at ourselves! At how, to take just one example, we inflate our feelings so much and make them so huge, on the one hand, that at the same time we can’t help recoiling and distancing or dissociating ourselves from them, on the other, effectively rendering them miniscule, unimportant.

Even better, perhaps, than quantum physicists knowing that light is both a wave and a particle, we can know that our own contradictory feelings may not make logical sense but that doesn’t make them any less true. eg. ‘I love him’ and ‘I hate him’ can both be true at the same time. Both/And. Or again, ‘I want to keep slim and fit and go the gym,’ and ‘I want to slump in front of a screen with a glass of wine and a box of chocolates’. Again, Both/And.

We can go through phases in which our own particular circles always seem to be spiralling downwards. In our relationships, for example, we can find ourselves repeatedly falling into patterns of blame and recrimination when things go wrong; either blaming ourselves or our significant other despite knowing that in doing so we are conforming to a pattern that will get us nowhere beyond further reinforcing it, and despite knowing that there is more to the relationship than this kind of binary reductionism. We are sane enough to know that it is crazy to reduce our amazingly polyvalent feelings down to just one thing or it’s opposite; by feeling, for example, too guilty or too innocent and then going round in circles trying to shore up this stereotyped, over-determined simplification.  But still we do it, like an attritional dance on a floor we can never leave. Round and round.

If we cannot leave the floor gradually, gracefully with our dignity intact, perhaps another way off it is to be aware of the fractals* and random choices involved and make a ‘quantum’ leap, or step change into doing our dance differently. But in particular into not falling into the binary, Either/Or, trap. Circles are just not either vicious or virtuous. There will always be elements of both throughout our journey along the lines of our time.

*Look it up if you don’t know. It’s interesting!

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: TheSurreyCentre/Counsellors

reflections 09 Mar 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery


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Seeing the Other

Yesterday I had a small fall from the bottom-most step on the stairs. I wasn’t hurt and knew it had happened in part because the autumn nights are drawing in and I hadn’t put the light so I hadn’t seen it, had stepped from it as if I was on the floor.

As I sat on the floor nursing my knee it made me think about how limited, but therefore how full of potential to see more, our vision is. I am not talking about visual perception now. I am talking about the ability to see others and to recognise –re-cognise– and understand or empathise how things might be for them.

Often in my work it has been necessary when working with couples to ask one member of a couple what it is like for the other to show how much understanding he or she has for the other. Perhaps surprisingly, although on reflection maybe not, this often seems, and I emphasise ‘seems’ because actually it is not, much harder at a basic level for heterosexual couples than it is for gay ones.

Why this should be so is maybe obvious, but it is often hard to see what is directly in front of our faces. As I am peripheral to the problems in their coupledom it is perhaps easier from the position of my peripheral vision to see the incomprehension that each partner has of how the other person is affected by their behaviour at a very basic, even biological, level.

Although I am not wanting to bandy cod biology about by supporting people who reductively ascribe behaviour on the part of their significant other which they find difficult, to ‘pre-menstrual tension’ or ‘testosterone’, I do feel the genders would benefit more from looking and seeing exactly how their partner is different from them at this fundamental level which is otherwise all too easy to take for granted.

And I find myself generalising, speaking in truisms, stating ‘the blinking obvious’ which ironically can be so hard to see by partners in a couple who are in the full throws of anxiously or aggressively trying to differentiate connections with one another in their arguments.

How often have I had to put it to women that when their male partner is throwing his weight around emotionally and not listening to her, he is feeling exactly like a frightened little boy. And how often have I had to put it to men that when their female partner is from his point of view being unnecessarily fearful of him, he has never been a woman and doesn’t emotionally cognise, let alone re-cognise, how scary a man’s physical size and vocal volume can be when he is behaving angrily.

I know this will by seen by some as a sexist, ‘binary’ observation, but women and men are different; they are other. And for a good relationship they need not just to be aware of their differences and similarities, but proactively try to see them in all their obvious yet complex and subtle actuality in every single interaction they have together.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: TheSurreyCentre/Counsellors

sorrow-artwork 02 Mar 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery


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Tragedy Touches Us All

It seems to be part of the job of a human being to suffer and feel sorrow. But in addition to experiencing these things, and in contrast to most other living creatures, we not only have to feel them, but also to know what we are feeling.

Existentially this seems to require life to provide us with a fluidly chimerical, ever changing yardstick of contentments and happinesses by which to measure these sufferings and sadnesses of ours and hopefully more than counterbalance them.

Now I am ‘neutral in knowing’ – agnostic – about religious beliefs and ideas, if not about their importance, so please don’t think I am beating any particular religious drum in asking you to now consider Albrecht Durer’s ‘Man of Sorrows’ (1493)*.  Is there is a more accurate depiction of a bored and jaded sorrower? He faces you, in a caricature of what would now be called a relaxed manspread, one leg up, (on a bench? which isn’t visible). His pose would  jauntily signify the energy of his godliness if it weren’t for his wounds and the miserable expression on his face.  With his genitals against what looks like a wooden table top, he is listlessly cupping his sceptre in his left hand. The elbow of his other (right) arm is on his raised knee so that he can lean his cheek on his hand. There is nothing nonchalant about his pseudo-relaxed pose. His head bleeds decorous little drops of blood from the ironic mock-crown of briars on his head, and a switch – the one with which he was whipped? – lies on his own lap. Like Sisyphus in an older belief system, endlessly repeating his duty to suffer, his direct stare is more telling than his wounds and it speaks of how boring and depressing it is having to be a person of sorrows, but making it clear he understands it is actually his duty so to be. But what then, more precisely and exactly, is his duty? It is to feel our pain. And not that he seems to expect it any time soon, but he looks as if he might also even be grateful if in return we might be kind enough to feel his pain too.

What we humans can do perhaps better than most, though by no means all, other species, is engage in those on-going, multifarious communications we call relationships. And an essential element in any relationship of any value is empathy. That is, a feeling for what it is like for someone else. And embedded in empathy is a sense of morality defined as a consistent feeling of wanting to show care and consideration for him or her.

Above and beyond the fact that at times sorrow and suffering seems to be a necessary condition of the human experience, this picture reminds us that being in a state of chronic hopelessness as we suffer ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, we no longer expect empathy.  But actually most people are nice, we do have empathy and we do need it. Especially when we have given up all hope of it!

* Here is a link to the picture, if you want to look at it:


Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: TheSurreyCentre/Counsellors