Problem solving strategies

Blog Post No. 43

17th February 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Magic models – how to get back your energy quickly after you’ve had a setback!

Coping with setbacks
skilled-helperThere are lots of things that we have available in our popular culture to lift our mood after we’ve had a setback or hit a major problem which is stressing us. We’re often advised to do retail therapy, eat chocolate, get down the local for a drink, book a holiday, buy a DVD, get our hair done, go and watch the latest film, eat exotic take-out food, and so on. The list is endless. Generally, we try to do something which will take our mind off problems and distract ourselves. But does this approach work?

Actually, these popular solutions have a few drawbacks:

  1. They cost money (what if we have none spare, and are struggling to survive?)
  2. They may have a physical cost for us (a hangover, or weight gain, for examples).
  3. They are short-term palliatives, but they do not work in the long run. (They produce short-term pleasure, but they leave us open to longer-term pain!)

Basically, their effect doesn’t last very long – it quickly wears off. Have you noticed how soon we can forget a brilliant party that we went to, or how rapidly we get used to that new outfit we bought?

When I am fed up, or feeling low, I personally like to use techniques that I can use anywhere, work quickly, don’t cost anything financially, are easily understood, and quickly bring me back to that state of happiness and deep appreciation of the marvel of life and of human beings that I usually have!

Here’s­­­ an example of a way of ‘re-framing’ your problems, which can be really helpful at times.

smoky-robinsonThis was said by Smokey Robinson’s mother:

“From the day that you’re born, till you ride in the hearse, there’s nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse!”

Good, isn’t it? Perfect if you’re stuck in traffic and you’re trying to get home for your tea after you’ve been grafting away at work all day, and there’s no way out of the situation. But the situation could always be so much worse than it is.

My approach

In this blog, I want to share with you two great models I use when I have a problem or setback and I’ll explain to you how they work and hopefully you’ll find them of value to you in your own life.

Actually, to be completely honest, they don’t cost anything financially, but there is a price. The price is making a mental effort to open your mind and try them out. Are you up for that? Or have you dismissed them already? We’ll see – here are my two favourite models:

The first model: The ‘Six Windows’ model

honetpieThe first one was created by Dr Jim Byrne, and is called the ‘Six Windows model’. This, like the Smokey Robinson quote above, is a way to re-frame your problem or difficulty so that it shows up as less stressful.

It consists of five perspectives which Jim borrowed from Buddhism and Stoic philosophy, plus one which I contributed!

How to use the ‘Six windows’ model

Six-windows-model3

  1. Firstly, you think about the problem or hassle that is getting you down at the moment. Have you got a clear picture of it in your mind?
  2. Secondly, holding this problem firmly in your mind, you look at it through each of the windows in turn (see the diagram above).

At the top and bottom of each window is a statement that is a viewpoint on life, or a world view – or what some people would think of as a helpful belief. Now experiment with taking on this view of life for a few minutes, as if you decided to agree with the statement for a short time.

Read the statement and then think about your problem, from that viewpoint. Or, to say it another way, try the idea on for size like you would if you were getting a new suit from a shop.

As you look at your problem through the perspective of each of the windows, see if the statements have any effect on how you see your problem. Do it slowly and carefully, finishing up with Window No.6.

By the time you get to window No.6, if you have really taken the ideas on board, there should be a change in the way you see your current problem. And window No. 6 emphasises the ‘pay dirt’ that is in every problem that we have – the reward that we get for having it. Problems strengthen us in different ways!

These viewpoints, or world views, have been created over a long time. You don’t need to know their origins in order for them to work. This process is a bit like the way we use electricity. Most of us don’t know how electricity works, but we still can use and benefit from it.

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The second model:

robert-holden-bookRobert Holden’s STOP technique

The STOP technique is very simple, and the four letters stand for the following words: Strengths; Teaching; Opportunities; and Positive.  The idea is to ask yourself the following questions:

Strengths: What strengths do I have that could be used to help me to cope with this problem?

Teaching: What is this problem teaching me?

Opportunities: What opportunism arise through this problem?

Positive: Putting the negative aspects on one side for the moment, what positive things could come out of having this problem?

How to use the STOP technique

Here are some general guidelines on how to use it. Sit down in a quiet place with a pad and pen.  Then work through this checklist:

  1. Think of a problem or hassle that you have at the moment. Check out how you feel about it.
  1. Now write down a list of the strengths that you have developed in your life as you have coped with all the challenges that you have had to face. There will be a lot. If you have no idea, ask a family member or good friend who has seen you go through various dilemmas or difficulties. Ask them for some suggestions. These strengths will help you cope with the challenge you are now facing. It is good for you to see what resilience skills you have developed.

montapert-quote

  1. Then when you have finished the list, and have read through your strengths, return to your problem and ask yourself, “What is this problem teaching me?” 
  1. The next step is to look again at your problem, and ask yourself, “What opportunities am I getting from having this problem at this time?” There will be new skills or experiences that you can’t gain any other way than having to deal with the problem. “Problems are sent to test and teach us!”  Humans are problem seeking beings! 
  1. Finally, we come to the “Positive” bit – What have you got so far from having your problem? What have been the positive gains from having it? Search hard and there will be positive gains if you keep looking. The worst case scenario might be that having this big problem has taught you that you can endure big problems; that they don’t have to defeat you! But they can also make you a better problem-solver.

Einstein-callout.JPGNow return to how you originally felt about your problem before you took it through the ‘STOP’ model. Do you see the problem in the same way or has there been a shift in your view of it?

Conclusion

In this blog I have described two models, or mental strategies, which you can use as a way of tackling a problem that is getting you down, or you want to resolve in some way.

Both models work by getting you to see your problem from a different viewpoint, and if you try them out, you will get the benefits of being less affected by your problem than you were. You will have some hope and sense of possibility that wasn’t there before, and your mental ‘load’ will be lightened.

Also, you’ve got the models there to use again and again in the future, when life throws up another challenge, as it inevitably will. The more often you use the models, the quicker you will get at recovering from an unexpected problem.

Book-cover-frontThe models are taken from “Stressbusters” by Robert Holden, and “Holistic Counselling in Practice” by Dr Jim Byrne, if you want to know more about the origins of the models.

And if you want to learn a range of such models, you can also consult me for coaching/counselling in the area of problem solving and decision making, using thinking skills: including the Skilled Helper model from Gerard Egan.

Happy thinking!

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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The best kept secret of counselling and therapy

Blog Post No.146

10th  July 2016

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog:

jim-nata-couples-pg-w300h245
Counsellors in Hebden Bridge

The best kept secret of counselling and therapy: The role of the client…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

 

Introduction

One of the best kept secrets of counselling and psychotherapy is this: The qualities of the client are at least as important as the qualities of the counsellor, in terms of determining the outcome (positive or negative).

But how can we refine this insight, this secret, so that it becomes clearer and more helpful or useful?

Defining client qualities

The first thing we could do is to try to define some of the most important client qualities.  Here is my own attempt to do that:Fool-type

  1. If the client knows they have a problem that they cannot resolve for themselves; and they realize that they are committed to resolving it nevertheless; and they twig that somebody else might have some kind of expert knowledge which could help them to solve their problem; and they realize that a counsellor or therapist could be just such a person: then they have a fighting chance of being able to access counselling, and to make good use of a counselling relationship and related processes.
  2. If this person then becomes a willing counselling client, and they have had the kind of experiences of being parented – when they were a child – which allows them to ask for help, and to take advice and guidance – then they have a good chance of being able to find out what their counsellor has in their toolbox which they could use to resolve their own most important problem(s).
  3. The more developed the client’s emotional intelligence, the better they will be able to able to manage their relationship with the therapist, as well as their own perceiving/feeling/thinking involvement in the therapy.
  4. The wiser the client is, the more they are going to be able to benefit from whatever they can learn from their counsellor or therapist. We are thinking here of the insight from Lao Tzu’s book, the Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dao-Day-Jing). In this book, Lao Tzu writes about the ‘way of the world’, or insights into the nature of reality. He goes on to say that, when a wise person hears about the ‘way of the world’, they follow it absolutely. When a middling person hears about the ‘way of the world’, sometimes they follow it, and sometimes they don’t. And when a fool hears about ‘the way of the world’, they laugh out loud.  Clearly a fool will gain little or nothing from counselling and therapy; and a middling person will lack the self-discipline to optimise the opportunities for learning from their therapist.  But a wise client will learn well from a good therapist.
  5. The Arabic Apothegm (or saying, or maxim), which I discovered at the age of fourteen years (while rooting through a mound of second-hand books, outside a Dublin bookstore), suggests that there are four kinds of people.

Teaching-learning5(a) The person who is ignorant, and is unaware of their ignorance: They are seen to be a fool, and the advice is to shun them.  (A counsellor could [almost certainly] never help them!)

5(b) The person who is ignorant, but is aware of their ignorance.  They are seen to be in need of teaching, and they may prove to be teachable.

5(c) The person who is substantially enlightened, but who is unaware of their enlightenment.  They are seen to be asleep, and are potentially able to be awakened. (A therapist could do a good job here).

5(d) And finally: the person who is enlightened, and who is aware that they are enlightened.  They are seen to be wise; and the advice is to follow them.

Type 5(d) individuals make good therapists.  Types 5(b) and 5(c) can obviously gain from counselling and therapy.  But type 5(a) is unlikely to gain anything from counselling and therapy.

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Understanding the barrier

There are at least two or three ways that we can come to understand the barrier that prevents particular kinds of individuals benefiting from counselling and psychotherapy.

Habit-creaturesFirstly, from Zen Buddhism, we learn something about individual perception.  There is a Zen saying to the effect that, “When a thief meets a saint, all s/he sees are pockets!”  Thieves are interested in pockets, and the rest of us are driven to focus our attention on whatever our personal past taught us to focus our attention upon.  For examples:

(a) A person who has a particularly difficult kind of childhood will develop what is called ‘an avoidant attachment style’.  They will strive to operate in a remote and distant way with others, because of lack of trust, or fear of control, or expectation of rejection or hurt.  Such an individual is highly unlikely to seek out a counsellor or therapist, and if they do, they are likely to be too remote to benefit.

(b) A person who is prone to operate from what is called ‘Critical Parent ego state’ – which is to say, a person who engages in negative judgements of other, and who tends to put others down; to play a game of ‘Top Dog- Under Dog’ with others – such a person is highly unlikely to come to counselling or psychotherapy; and if they do, they are unlikely to be able to learn well from their counsellor.

(c) A person who is arrogant and harsh, or whose mind is closed to new learning, will not be open to any inputs from a counsellor.

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Secondly, a person may be ‘sent’ to counselling; or ‘dragged along’ by a parent, or couple-partner.  They are not enrolled into the value of the counselling process.  They are coerced to go.  So they have no understanding of what is possible in the counselling process.  Therefore, they cannot use the counsellor’s toolbox (or relationship support); and so they cannot benefit from being there.

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Thirdly, there is a therapeutic understanding of personal change in which a person is seen to proceed through the following stages:Pre-contemplators

3(a) Pre-contemplation: The person is not thinking of changing anything about their way of being; their life; or their relationships.

3(b) Contemplation: The person is aware of some discomfort or unworkability in their way of being, or the circumstances of their life.  And so they are beginning to think about the possibility of changing something.  So they might be willing to read something on the subject, or to ask questions, to think about the problem and how it would be good to change it.

3(c) Preparation: The person begins to plan some kind of action, to ameliorate their problem. This could include looking for an expert to help, including the possibility of looking for a counsellor or therapist, or a coach, etc.

3(d) Action: The person begins to take action to change their unworkable situation.

3(e) Maintenance: The person makes some gains or improvements; but now they have to keep remembering what they changed to produce this improvement in their life, and to keep maintaining that, in whatever ways may be necessary.  They may slip back, and then repeat the helpful change process, to move forward again.

A person at stage 3(a) may be sent to see a counsellor, but they cannot benefit, because they are not contemplating any kind of change.

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Fourthly, a counsellor may try to persuade such a pre-contemplator that they could benefit from some particular kind of personal change, but that will not have as much impact as many counsellors assume.  Why is this? Because:

No-question(a) As Postman and Weingartner, two great educators, wrote many years ago: “No question, no teacher!”  That is to say, if the student has no question, then there is no call for an educator.  Education only occurs reliably when the student is open to instruction.  (The exception to this rule is in the basic moral teaching that goes on in families and schools.  We have to instruct the young in good, pro-social tendencies and behaviours, and penalise them for breaking the rules, if we are to live in a civilised society!) But in terms of broader learning goals, it is better to wait until the individual is curious before presenting any knowledge inputs. And:

(b) Postman and Weingartner’s perspective is supported by that of Marilyn Ferguson, who wrote this statement:

“No one can persuade another to change.  Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.  We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal”.

Again there are exceptions to this rule: Advertising, ideological memes which take over the mind, and political rhetoric.  But what is true in Marilyn Ferguson’s statement is this: You cannot reliably open the gate of learning of a fellow adult, in a counselling or therapy context.  The client has to be there because they want to be there; and they have to be open to learning something if any learning is to be achieved.

(c) Carl Rogers had a way of expressing this, which goes like this: “I know I cannot teach anything to anybody.  I can only create an environment in which people can learn”.

A good counsellor, therefore, knows that s/he depends upon having a good client – a keen learner – if anything good is to come out of the counselling and therapy encounter.

Certainly, we can try to teach the client (meaning creating a favourable learning environment for them) – but if their ‘gate of change’ is locked from the inside, there is nothing we can do about that!

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Dr Jim's photoPostscript: I would like to thank my wonderful clients – almost 900 of them – who, over a period of almost eighteen years, have come to see me; worked hard on their problems; used my toolbox of models and techniques, and my relationship skills (as a secure base); and figured out how to build a better life for themselves.  Many of you have sent me testimonials*** about how well I served you, and what you gained, and how much better you now feel.  What has been missing up to now is this:

I hereby publicly acknowledge that you were at least half of the solution of your own problems.  Without your openness to change, there would have been nothing I could do to help you.  Without your willingness to look at painful aspects of your past history, nothing would have changed.  Without your courage, and you fortitude, your resilience and commitment to change, we would both have been wasting our time sitting in the same space.  Thank you for making my work productive; and for making my life meaningful.  Go well!

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: Dr Jim

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Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Barbara Sher on achieving your goals and dreams

Blog Post No. 31

28th April 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Barbara Sher on achieving your goals and dreams

Barbara is one of the best coaches I have ever seen

Introduction

Live-the-life-you-loveIn this blog I am going to describe some of the valuable insights and advice that Barbara Sher gives to her audiences in her ‘You Tube’ videos.

Barbara is a speaker, career/lifestyle coach, and best-selling author of seven books on goal achievement. Her books have sold millions of copies and been translated into many languages. She explains why finding your dreams reveals your unique talents.

This insight can help people who are struggling in jobs they don’t like and who have become unsure of what they want to do with their lives. Her advice can help people who don’t know what their talents and unique gifts are. What she says can also help people who know what their talents are, but have a resistance to doing anything about it, and can’t understand why.

About Barbara Sher

I came across Barbara Sher’s video extracts a few days ago, and although I had heard of her, and read one of her books about twenty years ago, I didn’t really know her work at all.

The great thing about seeing someone on ‘You Tube’ is that you can hear some of their main ideas right away and get a strong grasp of who they are. And I was really impressed by her. She is very authentic and genuine, and she has created some very powerful coaching strategies which can help people struggling with the challenge of expressing their talents, in a world which may disregard them.

callout-AmericansHere’s a relevant statement she makes:

Americans think if it don’t make money, it don’t count! Try telling that to Leonardo Da Vinci or Einstein!”

That is one of the most empowering quotes I have heard for a very long time. It’s not just the United States where that view prevails. (It explains why one of the most important and difficult job in the world, which is being a mother, is so underrated and devalued in many cultures. It doesn’t earn money, so it’s not rated; being rich, having lots of cars and houses, is considered the real deal instead. Even if the money results from raking muck!  Very sad!)

Why you must do what you love

This heading is the title of one of her ‘You Tube’ videos, and she states this principle as follows:

“If you’re doing what makes you happy you are contributing your talent to the world…you’re doing what you were born to do, and what your species in the world needs you to do, and you can do better than anyone alive.”

(There are obvious reservations to be added here.  For example, if you are a sadist, and you are really enjoying hurting other people, that is not your calling!  So we are talking about doing things within moral limits here).

first-boook-coverBarbara Sher describes her mission as helping people to do just that. But she states what the obstacles might be, very clearly:

# It might not make money, or not make money right away.

# You might have the attitude that it would be being wrong and selfish to do it.

# You might be resistant to doing it.

# You might be in an isolated situation, and not know how to do it.

# You might not know the right people or have the right information.

# You might need the support of people who would say, “Did you do it yet? Let me help you.”

She does point out that, although it’s your obligation to do what you love, you may have to practice it in different ways:

# Full time if you were born rich.

# Part-time if you have to hold down a job.

# “Don’t insist that it turns into a career”.

A goal achievement formula

callout-doingwhatyouloveIn her ‘You Tube’ clip entitled “Isolation is the dream-killer” she describes the amazing events that took place in some of her ‘Success workshops’ in New York, where people came to the front of the group and told the group what their dreams were.

She asked people to describe their wishes, and then asked them what the obstacles were. So the formula was:

“What is your wish?”

“What’s your obstacle?”

Because this exercise was done in a group setting, the other members of the group were able to help with possible solutions to the obstacles described by whoever was sharing their wishes or goals.

Some of the ways that the participants helped each other were truly moving, and heart-warming, and the group helped lots of people achieve their goals.

She describes one client whom she had, who found it incredibly difficult to think of what they loved, and Barbara tried all sorts of questions out on her and had nearly given up on her ability to help the client.

Barbara had a policy of not charging the client if she was unable to help them, and was on the verge of not charging this particular client for the session, because she had been unable to help her identify her dream goal in life.

Second-book-coverBut then she noticed that, as the client picked up her bag as she left, she had a book with her – and it was all about gorillas! So Barbara asked her why she was reading the book, and the facial expression of the client completely changed to one of extreme happiness. She loved gorillas, she declared, but couldn’t see how she could achieve her dream of working with them.

Barbara thought this was very significant.  But the client said to Barbara: “But doesn’t everybody love gorillas and want to work with them?”

Barbara said, “Come back into the room and get out your cheque-book – I’ve just helped you find your dream job”.

The virtue of persistence

Barbara had tried dozens of ways to identify this client’s ideal job and had almost given up when she spotted the book.  This illustrates something about the flexibility, creativity and persistence of a good coach in trying to track down what is going on with the client.

The client does not know what to tell the coach or counsellor.  The counsellor or coach does not know which questions to ask.  So they have to keep going until they ‘strike gold’!

This is one of the main things I love about this kind of work!

Barbara’s ‘You Tube’ videos are full of amazing examples of people’s goals and how they had given up on them, but sometimes, when they told them to other people, things changed.

Humans are natural problem-solvers

In Barbara’s TEDx talk in Prague in 2015, she explains that we are all natural problem–solvers. We can all listen to someone’s dream, and let it pass us by.  We see no reason to intervene in what the person has told us.

However, if that person then tells us what the obstacles are to getting the dream, then our problem-solving skills are hooked, and we’ll automatically come up with all sorts of creative ideas.

callout-yourfeelingsSo if we want to get help from others regarding our dream, or vision, we have to tell them the obstacles.  Try it and see!

Barbara says, during her 2015 TED talk,

“Never laugh at anyone’s dream“.

This talk is full of great examples of how people can get what they want.

If you can’t share your dreams with a group, she recommends that you get a coach or a class.

Conclusion

What Barbara’s talks (and her books) do is show you how to achieve your goals. She also has considered and explained the inner resistances we may have in following our goals. She explains how nature is not the least bit interested in us achieving our dreams – nature just wants us to be safe and not have any feelings of anxiety.

She considers that there’s always a resistance to going for what you want, but you can’t let it stop you. That’s why you need a group of people who believe in you, or a coach or a class.

“You can’t arm-wrestle resistance”, she says.

I hope you take the time to look at her ‘You Tube’ talks, if you don’t feel that you have got your dream job, or treasured goal, and want to reshape your life.

I’ve just treated myself to three of her books from Amazon, so I’m looking forward to their arrival!

Happy dream–achievement!

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor-Tutor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843629

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A rave review of the WDEP model – a simple, all-encompassing model to help you achieve your goals

Blog Post No. 28

26th March 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: 

Introduction

Blog-28We all benefit from having ways to think about our goals and our progress.  In this blog, I’m going to present a brief description of a very helpful little model which can be used to check to see how well your goals and your actions line up.  This is called the ‘WDEP Model’, from Reality Therapy (RT). I also provide a video demonstration of how this model is used, so you can see what it looks like in practice.

What is the WDEP model?

This is a really straightforward model which helps us clarify changes we want to make in our lives, using a short sequence of questions:

W = What do you Want?

D = What are you Doing to get what you want?

E = How well is this going (the Evaluation stage)?  And:

P = Let’s re-Plan, or produce an explicit Plan linked to what you Want. Is there a more effective way to get what I want?

Out of this questioning process normally comes some fragments of story, or some insights, which may or may not fit well together; and with which you can work to make sense of your situation.

 CartoonAs I said above, this model comes out of Reality Therapy, which has the goal of helping clients to learn to be more aware of the choices they make in their lives and how these choices may be inefficient in achieving their goals.

If our behaviour is seen as a choice that we make, then this makes us feel more responsible and in command of our lives.

wdep-modelReality Therapy was created by Dr William Glasser, an American psychiatrist, and it stresses the importance of the client taking responsibility for their own behaviour. Also the client needs to feel safe and that the counsellor is a respectful, caring and trustworthy person, as they work together with the model.

How does the WDEP model work?

More-detailed-WDEP-model

The Reality Therapist works with clients to explore their wants and what they are doing to achieve those wants, evaluating whether what they are doing is helpful or harmful to their goals, and finally helping the client plan ways to change their behaviour.

The creator of the WDEP model itself was Robert Wubbolding, who was born in 1936 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He worked as a counsellor in the school systems and also worked with the U.S. Army’s drug and alcohol abuse programs.

A practical demonstration

Here is a link to a video clip at YouTube, showing Dr. Ed Jacobs and Dr Tori Stone demonstrating the WDEP model in action:

Demonstration of the WDEP model.***

Conclusion

Crossroads -image

If you are able to easily reflect on your experiences and are clear about your goals, and are able to plan and develop logical steps to help you achieve them, then you’ll be able to use this model as a self-help tool.

However you may find it easier with a professional listener who can help you clarify your goals, and who can assess your understanding of the implications and changes needed to bring them into existence.

Also, a good coach-counsellor can identify your blind spots, self-putdowns and ways in which you may be unknowingly self-sabotaging.

Have a great Easter, and I hope you find the model of some use.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor-Tutor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843629

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