Kim Armstrong Holistic Counsellor
My background is in nursing but counselling is my passion. I know many people feel daunted when they’re confronted with the difficult emotional issues, fears and feelings of others, yet that’s where I feel completely at home. I always have.
I’ve been accredited as an AHHCA Holistic Counsellor for a little over a year, but I’ve been a practising counsellor, working most closely with patients diagnosed with cancer, for six years.
My early training was as a nurse, and I worked in the area of aged care and dementia care. I eventually became an accredited lecturer in Dementia Care. My main hope when lecturing was that the carers who attended my lectures would develop a deeper understanding of this disease, and through understanding bring to their clients empathy, compassion, and a gentle, humane, non-judgemental approach.
In any given situation whether it be nursing or counselling this is my belief, this is what I choose to do: I try to get to know the person so I can relate, even in the smallest of ways, to their past experiences and to their life at that moment in time. I try to place myself in the shoes of that person, to open my perspective to just what it is they’re experiencing.
I talk with clients and care for patients as I would my grandmother or grandfather, my mother or father, my brother or sister, the person I most love or friends whom I treasure. Why? Simply because with ‘heart’ is how I would hope a counsellor or nurse would interact with someone who is close to me.
Eleven years ago I made a choice to step out of my comfort zone and I began a career in neurosurgery and neurology. Initially I found this a confronting time as I was now caring for patients with cancer and a variety of neurological disorders, all of which can be very debilitating, and sadly, sometimes terminal. I learned that cancer can come into the life of any person at any moment, and that malignant brain tumours can often occur in young men and young women. No longer was I only caring for people in their 70s and 80s…now I was caring for people from as young as 14 all the way through to 90.
I began to work closely with neurosurgeons, neurologists, oncologists and physicians and somehow, quite naturally, it transpired that I would often be asked by the doctors to be at the bedside with a patient and their family/friends when they were given their diagnosis. Once the doctor had discussed the prognosis and possible treatments he would leave the room, and I would stay.
I consider it a privilege to care for people who due to a difficult and confronting diagnosis are experiencing emotional turbulence, to ‘walk beside’ people who are facing life threatening illnesses, and to meet and get to know their family and friends.
I enter people’s lives at a time when life becomes very ‘real’, when there is little or no desire nor time for bullshit or pretence…only truth. These are the times when we truly understand just how precious life is, and who and what we most treasure. Times where we learn the importance of being ourselves (imperfections and all), times where people can be helped to see how important it is to get up and ‘live’ each moment of each day truly. Life and love simply becomes the greatest gifts.
Death has so much fear attached to it. It’s a time of loss, it’s a time of grief yet what I know through working closely with some of my patients is that whilst sadness can never be taken away, acute trauma and despair can be.
There is in my eyes a right way to die, and a wrong way to die. The right way involves helping all involved to let go of and overcome the fears invading their minds and hearts by guiding them to a place where gratitude for what’s been becomes the overwhelming focus. It also involves tears, laughter, music, truth, children, pictures, family, friends, hugs, red wine (or the beverage of your choice), and kisses. Believe it or not the right way can lead each person to a place where within them peace, acceptance, and love are the emotions predominantly felt.
I’ve never forgotten the words of a patient’s daughter who called me within minutes of her mother dying. She said: “Kim, mums death WAS an amazing and beautiful experience for us all”. She loved her mother with all her heart, she never wanted her to die – but because the trauma and despair were let go of and because they were 100% ‘informed’, that family’s experience was nothing less than beautiful.
I am a spiritual person, I understand that spiritual bonds do exist and I believe in angels and life after death, thanks entirely to experiences I’ve had which truly ‘make no sense’. They’re real, never made up or imagined, and I always try to find a ‘logical’ solution, yet am never able to.
These moments always momentarily terrify me and leave me with goose-bumps yet I am incredibly grateful for them and see them as entirely amazing and simply magic and they lead me to hold a firm and unshakeable belief in all that I do. My family and friends are accepting of what it is that makes me at times be seen as ‘different’ and some have found themselves sharing with me experiences that cannot be defined by ‘thought’ alone. I love it when in the aftermath of one of these experiences my friends say to me: “Kim, when you go, can you please take ‘them’ with you!”. Makes me laugh a lot and I also feel happy to be someone who is responsible for opening the ‘eyes’ and ‘hearts’ of others.
Clients and patients matter to me, as people, they count and often in a very short period of time friendships that are never ‘intrusive’, but are often life-long are formed. For me there is no emotional invisible ‘line’ that should not be crossed. If people are hurting I offer to help because I believe that maybe in the smallest and simplest of ways I can. I also believe that in part, that’s what I’m here in this life to do.
To anyone considering becoming my client, all I can say in summary is that in both my career and life I interact with people in non-judgemental, non-intrusive, caring, empathetic, humorous, compassionate, truthful and very ‘real’ ways – and what that seems to build with little effort is a relationship based on trust.
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