The Family Counselling Centre – Blog

What impact do you have on your family?

Being aware of – and taking responsibility for – the impact of our behaviours, wording and thinking on those we are closest to is such an important part of being a parent. We have so many opportunities to make a positive difference each day. Although we don’t always get it right, developing our awareness and making choices is possible and necessary if we are to live into our true potential as parents.

Click here to hear how our new Parenting Coach, Leigh Johnson, is trying to change how she impacts those around her. Let us know if any of these ideas are helpful – and share some ideas of your own! 

Our Director steps in as Bay Primary’s School Counsellor

The sign on Andrea’s door at Bay Primary …

The Family Counselling Centre are excited to announce that our Director, Andrea Nettel, has been appointed as the School Counsellor at Bay Primary School, Fish Hoek, while Erica Searle is on sabatical to complete her Honours. Andrea’s mandate is to assist learners with short term counselling and to refer them to appropriate professionals if more assistance is required. She will work with the learners in regards to socialisation, anxiety, crisis management and interpersonal communication. Trauma debriefing, and working with the learning support team to find adequate solutions for the struggling learner, also forms part of my role.

Numvoyo, Andrea and Carol celebrating Andrea’s appointment in the TFCC offices

Andrea is looking forward to maintaining and growing the wonderful culture around counselling that Erica has already developed, while she is in this role. Andrea will be at the Bay Primary Senior Campus in Kalk Bay on Monday and Tuesday mornings and will be at the Junior Campus in Fish Hoek on Wednesday and Friday mornings.

Andrea will continue in her role as Director and Counsellor at The Family Counselling Centre in the afternoons and on Thursdays and Saturdays.

We wish her every success in this all important role!

You CAN change your mind – literally!

Our brains are the physical structures which support our “minds” or thoughts, and our thoughts form physical structures in our brains – called neural pathways.

Neural plasticity is the capacity of the brain to change, and this takes place through re-organisation of the neural pathways in our brains. Neural pathways are “preserved” through frequent use,
for example:
Learning a poem off by heart through repetition creates physical structure in our brain, and a simple motor sequence practiced for 10 – 20 minutes a day for 4 weeks can cause a change in the brain region supporting performance of a task

So “Practice makes perfect!” as they say, because actual physical structures are established in our
brains through repetition of an activity/thought etc.
It is therefore untrue to say “I can’t change the way I think/feel/ behave etc. because our brains have the ability to CHOOSE what we will think about, how we will deal with our feelings, or how we will react/respond. We can choose to create healthy pathways, or feed unhealthy ones until they become entrenched (i.e. a “mindset” or a particular way of behaving). We use the “executive” of our brains (frontal lobes) to analyse incoming information from all our other brain regions in order to decide/choose how we are going to respond or react. Of course it takes practice – but it can be done!

Watch Caroline Leaf on you-tube, for an informative talk about neuro-plasticity.

Click on:
Science of Thought | Caroline Leaf | TEDxOaksChristianSchool

Preparing for the High Seas of Life

A major  part of being a parent is to teach our children to navigate through life and to learn basic essential values such as honesty, empathy, integrity, purity and many more. In order to do so we take opportunities to  teach lessons,  instil rules, talk about consequences and more often then we want to, we find ourselves having to execute those consequences.  I applaud every parent who spends the time and energy  getting their kids “sea-worthy”, because it is really hard work.

I have some more thoughts though. What happens if they blatantly lie? What happens when they succumb to teenage peer pressure? What happens if because of their own doing they find themselves in a “sinking ship”? You might say well, they will need to face the consequences and there will be some sort of lesson to be learnt out of that. Absolutely,  I agree!

But, here is something I ponder about – With all the focus on getting them ready to navigate the seas of life, have we thought of emergency procedures?  Have we equipped them with a life raft, with life jackets and have we taught our children how to use them? Have we given them permission and know-how to shoot the distress flares in case of an emergency; and are we leaving the lighthouse lights on so that they can find  a safe harbour? Finally lets ask ourselves are WE, their parents and caregivers, a safe harbour to them. A place they can enter in times of distress to assess the situation and make the necessary repairs? I am not sure if we give emergency procedures enough thought, are they not also essential tools in navigating the high seas of life?

Click here for an example of real life  “distress flare” and how it can be used.

X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan)

Our New Look

Welcome to our New Look!

We are happy to welcome you to our newly designed website. Feel free to have a look around. We hope you enjoy our new sleek and modern look. We just did some window dressing and added some fun things like this posts page. Feel free to comment and let us know what you think.

We are also proud to announce that we have a new member in our Team: Michele Berger,  Educational Psychologist, has joined us to help bring professional  service to the community. We still offer all our other services and feel confident that Michele will be able to assist us to fill the need for counselling support  in “our Valley”.


Andrea Nettel


DREAM – Developing a Relationship between Emotions And Movement

Building Resiliance through Movement

Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

What is it that makes someone recover quickly? Or what is it that encourages toughness? Research has done little to effectively pinpoint what it is that makes someone more tough or able to cope with life’s challenges better than others. But what we do know is that when the brain believes that the body is safe it has more “elasticity” to form new concepts and is more accepting of change. I find this interesting because this means that we need to make sure that we feel safe first before we even attempt to do anything new. The irony here is that anything new will initially make us feel unsafe. So how can we overcome this conundrum?

Our body is the link! When the brain believes that the body is safe… then higher functioning like mastering change or challenges will be less stressful and we can anticipate higher resilience or quicker bounce back!!

The most efficient way to convey to the brain that the body is safe is through movement! Not mental training or academic understanding but movement.

Movement engages all our senses including the internal senses namely proprioception and the vestibular system which many of us are unaware of. Without going into too much detail movement is a way for the brain to assess how things are going with us! AND movement is also the way we adjust to sensations – positive or negative.

The first interaction a newborn has with its environment is through reflexes which are movements. There is no logical understanding or thought patters at that stage. The brain simply assesses the information it receives through ALL the senses (internal and external) and responds with a movement. As we develop we start building on those reflexes and we learn how to regulate and modify them. It seems that therefore the root of feeling safe lies in our body – through movement.

Movement is not to be confused with exercise! Physical exercise is generally associated with some sort of movement but exercise as such does not necessarily translate into building resilience. (Although many might argue that trained athletes are generally more resilient, but I am not going to delve into this right now.) The movement that the brain requires is not at all related to a cardio workout, strength training, a long run or any other formal sport. It really “only” requires child’s play. Moving on all planes front/back, top/bottom, left/right, up/down and crossing the mid-line. In other words rolling, crawling, walking, marching, etc. Literally: Child’s play!

“Early developmental movement patterns” is the more scientific name for child’s play. It is universally accepted to be the foundation of healthy development. Interesting fact is that highly trained athletes might struggle with many of the most basic movements that children need to master in order to be considered school-ready! How much more likely is it then that we, the general populous, might struggle with the most basic ways to move.

As we struggle to move we become inhibited, because the brain no longer senses safety. As we are inhibited to move – our resilience drops. As our resilience drops so our self esteem drops and symptoms of anxiety, depression, aggression etc. start developing.

In short we can assist the brain to sense safety by starting to move like a baby!! As we feel safe we start moving more which builds resilience. And as we build resilience we start to feel more in control.

Reigniting the early developmental movement patters and combining them with facilitated group work assists with managing anger and aggression; coping with stress; dealing with anxiety and depression; assists with the recovery process from injury, illness or addiction – it is a tool that can be used when going through any life’s challenges to encourage a sense of safety which in turn allows resilience to grow.

For more information on our programme please call Andrea on 0723756089 or email me on