Counsellors Column – October 2015: The terrible price of “not being offended” in modern culture.

October 11, 2015

In my line of work, I complete a lot of reading.

A recent front-cover article in “The Atlantic” magazine highlights a topic that I have been observing for some time – a rise in the growing sociological assumption that “one should not ever be offended”. In it’s 8000 word tome, authors  Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt systematically detail the range of mental health disorders that can be attributed and multiplied within such a collective mind-set (see below for a partial list).

The primary tool that appears to be sacrificed in an apparent hunt for environmental utopia is the very tool required to survive in the world: the ability to develop and sustain emotional resilience and perspective under pressure.

Sadly, in both educational and familial settings, it is not uncommon for consequences to occur that far outweigh an actual event, so for example a teacher who displays a (recently formed term) “micro-aggression” in language whilst teaching to a class of students can be censured by the Academic Faculty, or an argument at a family dinner in 1975 can blossom into a 40-year family feud, simply because someone, somewhere, “got offended”.

A  question that I have found useful for people to ask themselves when confronted with the choice as to whether or not to be offended (and let’s be clear – being “offended” is most certainly a free-will choice) is this: “Is this a hill I wish to die on, or is it simply an uncomfortable walk?”

If we can’t seem to make people do what we want them to do against their own conscience or free will, then it seems likely that trying to control how people think and believe is equally doomed to failure, and that includes taking offence (whether or not it was intended).

Izzy Kalman, a international anti-bullying expert, is of a similar opinion when it comes to helping kids dealing with bullies:

With the evidence now in that “zero-tolerance ” school anti-bullying programmes actually contribute to a rise, as opposed to a fall in bullying culture, and recognising that for 6 hours a day our kids have to largely fend for themselves in a school environment, it makes sense to infuse emotional resilience and perspective into a family culture, regardless of stimulus or environment.

Because frankly, if we don’t teach and embed our children (and ourselves) with these skills, there won’t be enough social workers available to clear up the mess, and even if they were, simply attempting to do so would only increase the problem anyway.

Mollycoddling the Mind” by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt:

Common Cognitive Distortions

A partial list from Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J. F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn’s Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders (2012).

  1. Mind reading. You assume that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts. “He thinks I’m a loser.”
  2. Fortune-telling. You predict the future negatively: things will get worse, or there is danger ahead. “I’ll fail that exam,” or “I won’t get the job.”
  3. Catastrophising.You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won’t be able to stand it. “It would be terrible if I failed.”
  4. Labelling. You assign global negative traits to yourself and others. “I’m undesirable,” or “He’s a rotten person.”
  5. Discounting positives. You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial. “That’s what wives are supposed to do—so it doesn’t count when she’s nice to me,” or “Those successes were easy, so they don’t matter.”
  6. Negative filtering. You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives. “Look at all of the people who don’t like me.”
  7. Overgeneralizing. You perceive a global pattern of negatives on the basis of a single incident. “This generally happens to me. I seem to fail at a lot of things.”
  8. Dichotomous thinking. You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms. “I get rejected by everyone,” or “It was a complete waste of time.”
  9. Blaming. You focus on the other person as the source of your negative feelings, and you refuse to take responsibility for changing yourself. “She’s to blame for the way I feel now,” or “My parents caused all my problems.”
  10. What if? You keep asking a series of questions about “what if” something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers. “Yeah, but what if I get anxious?,” or “What if I can’t catch my breath?”
  11. Emotional reasoning. You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality. “I feel depressed; therefore, my marriage is not working out.”
  12. Inability to disconfirm. You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. For example, when you have the thought I’m unlovable, you reject as irrelevant any evidence that people like you. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted. “That’s not the real issue. There are deeper problems. There are other factors.”

Kind Regards, Steve Taylor, Director, 24-7 Ltd

For client practice feedback and testimonials, go here.

Steve Taylor 24-7 Ltd Newstalk ZB interview on Suicide Intervention Strategies

March 2, 2015

Counsellors Column – February 2015: What camping has taught me about relationships

February 15, 2015

For those of you who have known me over the years, you will have seen me mention from time to time about my family, and my daughter Eden.

“Edie” is 7 now, and over the holidays, an opportunity presented itself for dad and daughter to have a go at camping.

Disclaimer: I’m not the most practical “outdoorsy”person in the world, and up until a few weeks back, I had had almost no experience of camping (being kicked out of Scouts twice as a teenager probably didn’t help my skill set in this situation).

In situations such as this, Mum has Edie’s 18 month old brother Liam to contend with, an adorable little boy who has a penchant for running off in a particular direction, and never, ever looking back – the kid is either very securely attached, or desperately unhappy with his lot, but either way, he ain’t a strong contender for camping right now, owing to the parental containment issues he presents :)

Anyway, the online product voucher promotion service “Dailydo” was running a camping special, and I thought “Oh, why not?”

I then phoned a friend about the camping idea who has a daughter  the same age as mine, and together with his wife, we all picked a date, and away we drove.

On our arrival, I discovered two things: tents can be difficult beasts at times, and 7 year-old girls who are good friends don’t want to help with camp set-up, which is why my friends experience as  a LANDSAR Search & Rescue volunteer came in so handy at the time.

My opportunity to repay my friends kindness presented itself quickly: while he could read maps and all-terrain wilderness like you and I can read a “Hungry Caterpillar” picture-book, there was a few essential items he had forgotten to pack, which I had with me.

(“Packing” is a pretty loose term for how I prepared for this trip – when there simply wasn’t any more space in the car to put things, I just stopped looking for stuff to take).

Over the space of the trip, having never travelled together before, our two families worked in concert, often unspoken, and had a great time.

So, what did camping teach me about relationships?

1/ I learnt that choosing to doing new things is scary, but ultimately worth it: When I decided to embark on a camping trip, I was out of my comfort zone, I felt awkward, unsure, and at times clumsy – but I did it anyway. Relationships by their very nature can risk getting “stuck” in how things have always been – change is seen as threatening, when really, it’s just different. Positive change takes time, humility, and applied practice.

2/ I learnt that two people in relationship don’t always have to move “as one” to “be one”: The practicalities of my whole family going away together right now, for us at least, don’t suit – so I went away, and Deb stayed home. Couples don’t have to always head in exactly the same direction, or have exactly the same interests, in order to be together. It’s OK to have different interests or passions, as long as these same interests or passions don’t undermine the primary relationship, by being pursued as alternatives to the primary relationship.

3/ I learnt that reciprocity of goodwill matters, and that “tuning in” to the needs of others also matters – a lot: Our two families have different strengths and skill sets, and were willing to both help and be helped, reciprocally. There was no hierarchy of expertise, nor patronising undermining chastisement, nor a “tally score” being kept of how many times one had helped or assisted the other – we simply showed up when we needed to, for each other, and for our children. Relationships are not meant to be treated as competitions, where one party wins, and another party loses – because ultimately, when a relationship is a competition – both lose.

For us, there has been, and will continue to be, more camping trips.

In this experience, I’ve discovered skills I didn’t know I had, and a level of patience that has probably laid latent for years (have you ever noticed how something you buy from the shop can’t be packed in exactly the same space as the product originally came out of?).

Change and new learning is possible – we just have to show up and work at it, and when we do, the rewards will come.

Mine certainly have.

Kind Regards, Steve Taylor, Director, 24-7 Ltd

For client practice feedback and testimonials, go here.

Letter to the Editor 23/10/14: ACC need to start measuring service provider outcomes for Counselling (Steve Taylor, Counsellor, 24-7 Ltd)

October 23, 2014


“I read with interest the news that Australian Health Insurance provider Medibank had secured Counselling service contracts with ACC, and observed the angst of the NZ Counselling spokespeople in response.


Until routine client outcome measurement becomes an established feature in the provision of state-funded Counselling services, it won’t matter who is managing the contracts – the result will simply be what it has always been – millions of dollars being spent on a service for which no-one knows that actual efficacy of the service being provided.


The fact that the ACC Counselling service has returned to open-ended sessions (i.e. no limit), flies in the face of 70 years of Counselling Outcome Research, which shows that most clinically significant change occurs within the first 4 – 7 sessions.


It is a positive move that clients can now choose their own service provider, however I’m unsure as to whether the service provider still has to be registered with ACC, which would negate the client choice if service provider ACC registration was still required.


Until ACC formally introduce routine client outcome measurement for Counselling, and start basing their service provider decisions on evidence, not myth and popular opinion, my Auckland-based practice won’t be going anywhere near ACC as a service provider”.


Steve Taylor,


24-7 Counselling & Mediation Services Ltd



When advocacy goes well (Steve Taylor, Counsellor, 24-7 Ltd)

October 21, 2014

Thank-you to Fairfax Media for running the story, & Housing New Zealand for prioritising the case:

The case:

The result:

Counsellors Column October 5/10/14: Values, Boundaries, and Purpose: three key issues that show up in Counselling (Steve Taylor, Counsellor, 24-7 Ltd)

October 20, 2014

When people first consider attending Counselling, the reasons are many and varied, including crisis situations, unresolved, relationship difficulties, family problems that have grown beyond the families’ ability to cope, painful experiences of grief and loss and a host of other presenting issues.

According to the most recent industry literature, it is estimated that there are over 400 models of Counselling & Therapy available worldwide, and around 3000 Counsellors currently practice in New Zealand (this number includes state-funded and private practice agencies).

Only 3% of Counsellors worldwide measure their client outcomes: to give this measure some context, this equates to about 1 in 10,000. In this environment, it is helpful if some key common themes are identified, and in my own Practice experience to date, I have noticed three themes that are consistent in their presence in people’s lives.


Clients have often heard me describe “Values” as the template or framework upon which we live our lives, and upon which we base our life decisions.

Values can be both “caught” and “taught”, depending on either our family-or-origin experiences, or our on-going life learning and influences.

Values usually exist in the sub-conscious – we often recognise this when we say things like “that didn’t feel right”, or “I’m feeling uncomfortable about this” or some similar commentary.

The truth is that each of us can have Values, and yet be utterly apart from the values we hold to be true, at the same time.

We then experience a “cognitive dissonance” or a double-mindedness about decision-making, and have difficulty in working out the answer to the question “what is the right thing to do, in this situation?”

Knowing what our values are, and then living in accordance with these values, can go a long way towards resolving this tension, as we are no longer in opposition to ourselves.


Boundaries are the limits we put in place for both ourselves, and others. They are implicit and explicit “messages” that help teach others about how we wish to be treated, and teaches us how to treat others.

Boundaries are essential for the goals of being respected, for standing up for what we believe in, and for placing respectful sanctions upon those who would seek to assault our boundaries. In my observation over the years, if boundaries are absent in a person’s life, and then chaos is most usually their constant companion.

Boundaries are fluid in the sense that they can be re-negotiated with others on a platform of increased or decreased trust: if our values and boundaries are being respected by others, then we let those people come closer to us, and if our values and boundaries are not being respected by others, then we keep either them or ourselves at a safe distance from them.

Establishing and maintaining consistent boundaries, predicated on our core values is a key life skill, and one that can help to minimise painful and hurtful situations in our lives.


Our purpose is the reason behind that which we do, work towards, or pursue.

Some of the greatest (and at times most tortured) thinkers throughout the ages have attempted to answer questions of purpose: Who am I? What am I here for? What will be my legacy? How should one live? have been the common questions from Plato to Chomsky, from Augustine to Nietzsche, and from Aquinas to Derrida, and each has ultimately experienced the varied consequences of their thinking outcomes.

After working in the Social Services field for 18 years, in a host of different environments, and having met and worked with thousands of people across a range of cultures, I have come to the following conclusions on the issue of purpose:

1/ Everyone has purpose and something significant to offer to someone, or something – some people just have a little bit of difficulty discovering it for themselves. There are no “redundant” people in life, and people who believe they are “redundant” doesn’t make it so.

2/ No experience, no matter how trivial, how big, and no matter what the outcome of the experience, is ever a “waste of time”, or a reason to feel hopeless. Experience acts as a teacher, and if learning and wisdom result from the experience (painful or otherwise), then the result is ultimately useful, not useless.

3/ Regardless of circumstance or experience, there is always the (eventual) opportunity of getting back up. Our opportunity to “get back up” in the world we live in only ends when we draw our last breath, and until then, we still hold the pen to the story of our own life.

There will be times when people will feel as if they can’t write another word of their story, which may be appropriate for the time and place they are in – their job in such a life stage is simply to look around for a pen, and place it next to them to use when they feel once more ready to compose. Values; boundaries; purpose: three key issues worthy of further personal reflection and thought.

Kind Regards, Steve Taylor, Director, 24-7 Ltd


Dirty Politics? Decide for yourself

August 2, 2015


Investigate Magazine Article January 2014, on the crisis within the NZ Mental Health service (Steve Taylor, Counsellor, 24-7 Ltd).

January 13, 2014

Investigate Magazine have published a 9 page article in the January 2014 edition regarding the crisis in the NZ Mental Health service.

I am grateful that the author and publisher printed my interview component in the article almost word for word.

My interview begins on page 8 (which is page 17 in the magazine):

Mental Health in Crisis Article – January 2014

An excellent summary of the Feedback Informed Treatment client feedback methodology as practiced within 24-7 Ltd (Steve Taylor, Counsellor, 24-7 Ltd)

January 1, 2014

Does diagnosis in mental illness really exist? (Steve Taylor, Counsellor, 24-7 Ltd)

May 21, 2013

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