Bolster! Bolster!

Bolster:  definition to ‘boost, strengthen, reinforce, encourage, sustain.’

Watching the movie Mama Mia! the other day (a film I find simultaneously terrible yet irresistible) I was struck by a scene where one of the characters, Sophie, is struggling with relationship problems. Her two friends have very different styles of helping her through this. One friend gets ‘sucked’ into Sophie’s negative emotions, overtaken and overwhelmed by them – agreeing with Sophie and identifying with the awfulness of her predicament. The other friend, when she sees this happening, charges in, whispering furiously to her friend that she should “Bolster! Bolster!”. She encourages Sophie to gain perspective, to remember that not all is bad or lost and that she will get through this.

Through the eyes of a counsellor, both of the friend’s approaches have merit. Sometimes we need that friend who will just sympathise with us, show us compassion and not try to talk us out of our misery which we need to feel in order to get through. But most certainly we also need the other friend who will help us to take a step back, remember who we are and what we are capable of and to encourage us to carry on going through despite life’s difficulties.

So what can a counsellor add to what friends bring when we are experiencing life’s problems? Well, counsellors have a huge toolbox of powerful bolstering equipment designed specifically to help people struggling with anxiety, depression, compulsive behaviour, relationships problems and a host of other emotional and psychological issues. Yes, my clients come with all kinds of emotional suffering that is real and quite often unavoidable. There can be tears, anger, hand wringing and soul searching, and there is lots of empathy, compassion and quiet listening. But there is also always a focus on the ‘bolster’. This can take all sorts of forms and is very personal and unique to the individual client: a gentle reminder of the resources the individual already has; the struggles they have prevailed over before; the values that give them focus and keep them going through the storm; breathing, body and cognitive techniques to manage their anxiety; new ways of looking at depression that are helpful. The bolster is important and at the heart of effective counselling that can help you get on with your life again with renewed self-belief and confidence. If you would like to find out more about how counselling may be able to help you then I would love to hear from you. You can contact me on 07957 234 950 or at

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