How I work
Because we all carry with us our own life experiences and unique ways of responding to them, I have chosen to work integratively. This means that I can draw on a range of theories and approaches based on your individual needs. I am trained in both psychodynamic and person-centred ways of working, and also draw on concepts from CBT.
Above all else, I think that the quality of our relationship is central to your healing or progress. Building a good rapport where you can feel valued and accepted for who you are, will make it is easier to share difficult emotions and experiences. To this end I commit to the therapeutic principles of empathy, genuineness and acceptance. Our first contact (phone or face-to-face) is an opportunity for you to ask questions and see how you feel about working with me.
I believe that you have the insight to know what changes will be right for you. This may just take some uncovering, which we can do together. As we work in partnership towards your therapeutic goals, I can help you to identify old patterns, find new perspectives, develop inner resources, confidence and self-acceptance.
Therapy is an opportunity to freely explore your present, and if you so wish, your past. It takes place in a confidential
and non-judgemental setting. It cannot remove every difficulty but it can help you to cope with painful feelings and to live more in line with your beliefs, values and abilities.
Psychodynamic therapy tries to help the client bring to the surface their true feelings, so that they can experience them and understand them. It assumes that everyone has an unconscious mind, and that the feelings held there are too painful to be faced.
People can, understandably, be ambivalent about exploring lesser known parts of themselves, sometimes with the fear they will not be able to cope with what arises. I believe that therapy can offer a safe space where these fears can be articulated and faced. It can be tiring to live defensively, while on the other hand, acknowledging emotional pain can lead to growth, a feeling of acceptance, and healing.
One of the reasons psychodynamic therapy often, but not always, explores the formative years is the belief that understanding how they have shaped us, gives us a better understanding of the unconscious aspects of the self.
As we anticipate the future in our imagination, we rely on similar memories from the past. If we anticipate satisfaction we can feel confident, however if we imagine failure we experience anxiety. Defence mechanisms are then developed to avoid these anxious anticipations. Examples of defence mechanisms include denial, repression and displacement (when negative feelings are unconsciously transferred onto a less threatening subject). We come up with them to avoid being aware of the painful feelings. Psychodynamic therapy assumes that these defences may be causing more harm than good, which is why you have decided to seek therapy. It also believes that unravelling these defences will result in the feelings becoming less painful and easier to face.
In psychodynamic therapy the therapeutic relationship is based on unconditional acceptance, for you are of worth no matter what your problem is. The therapist tries to develop a relationship with you, to help you to connect with certain defensive or unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour. Balance is also vital, while at times it is helpful to connect with one's difficulties, there is also a need to take breaks during the process and engage in more light-hearted reflections.
In person-centred therapy (or humanistic as it is sometimes known) there is a belief that everyone has an innate tendency to develop towards their true potential. However, this ability may become blocked by past experiences, particularly those which affect how one values themselves. One major source of anxiety can be the gap between the individual’s real self (the way you see yourself), and the ideal self (the way you would like to be). Resolving this difference is an important goal of person-centred therapy. It does this by providing an environment where clients can strengthen their own identity at the same time as separating themselves from notions of how they should be.
Other blocks to self-actualisation are believed to be low-self esteem, lack of self-reliance and being closed to new experiences. By providing the right conditions of empathy, genuineness and unconditional positive regard, the therapist will enable the client to recognise and acknowledge their own value. They will then be able to harness their innate ability to make the best of their lives.
Person-centred theory emphasises the active exploration of human experience, within a space where the client feels at ease to explore at their own pace. The therapist uses techniques to explore the client’s experiences rather than simply understanding events. It is more important to understand how a client feels after an event rather than explore the event itself. This promotes self-awareness as the client becomes better able to understand their own feelings. They can then reconnect with inner values and a sense of self-worth. The therapist accompanies the client as they find their own way to move forward.
The client is helped to clarify their own reactions in a non-directive manner. No specific advice is given. No judgments are expressed. By talking about their problems to a sympathetic listener, people are able to bring into their awareness, attitudes and experiences they didn’t even know they had.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) assumes that how we feel and behave is linked to the way we think and act. As we can think and act irrationally and rigidly (not considering alternative possibilities) this causes us to perceive the world through skewed filters. To counteract such negatively focused perceptual filters, the therapist works with the client to consider whether it is helpful to feel or believe a certain thing. They then work together to replace the unhelpful filter with a more balanced approach, which assesses thoughts and feelings in a more accurate way.
CBT is particularly helpful at resolving anxious feelings. It does this by altering perceptions that the world is unnecessarily threatening. The idea is that with practice and effort, one can learn to replace automatic negative thoughts with more helpful responses. This lessens the activation of one's fight, flight or freeze mechanisms.
Central to CBT, are the beliefs that one chooses how to respond to situations and events, and that how we feel about something does not always match the reality. I believe that its concepts are adaptable and can be used as part of a wider treatment in individual integrative therapy.