Outcomes in counselling and psychological therapy are dependent on many variables. The process is complex and not as simple as what first seems in just the provision of a professional, safe, and confidential space to talk. This is the very minimum that should be expected alongside in-depth knowledge and experience of delivering evidence-based therapies.
My Chartership in Counselling Psychology provided training in three evidence-based models of counselling theory namely Humanistic, Psychodynamic and Cognitive Behavioural, as well as relevant psychological theories of human cognitive, emotional, behavioural, social & physiological development and functioning, both across the life span in terms of adaptation, and in relation to adverse circumstances, traumatic experiences, and life events.
How I work is based on integration from this knowledge base and from much experience of seeing that wellness is composed of both universal and idiosyncratic variables. In other words, no two people are alike, and my approach is tailored to reflect this. I can hear your experience on various levels and become aware of aspects of your being that need attending to, following an assessment at the initial appointment where we formulate together how you are impacted, and what change may look like for you. The synthesis of this integration also means that I work to bring about symptom relief as well as dynamic change, not only to limit symptoms now but also to make space for more fulfilling experiences in life in going forward.
My approach is collaborative and relational. This means that therapy isn’t something that happens to you, but a process that you are involved and have an active part in. The therapeutic relationship is a vital part of the change process and used to create a safe container to receive you and your experiences, and to inform me of relational patterns in your world. I also impart psychoeducation tailored to your own process, as distinct from generic ‘self-help’. In short, I understand this as the psychological equivalent of teaching a person how to fish in waters that can be sometimes choppy, so that they can feed themselves.
The number of sessions and length of time over which therapy occurs varies widely depending on the nature of what has brought you, and what you want change to look like. Some issues are very situational in nature in which case a short-term process may occur. Where there exists more deep-seated recurring states and patterns, an intervention over a longer time frame is more likely. All this will be discussed with you at the initial session.
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear” ~ Rosa Parks
In its simplest terms, the Humanistic school of thought incorporates fostering conscious growth and self-actualisation in alignment with your values, so life can have meaning that you recognise and that feels authentic to you.
A Psychodynamic approach aims to bring into focus relational patterns that may be out of awareness and so may be contributing to clinical symptoms and self-defeating behaviour that feels repetitive and demoralising.
Cognitive-behavioural approaches give attention to thoughts, and to understanding themes within them, which can influence feelings and behaviours, and hence can create cycles of difficulty that don’t serve a sense of wellness.
Within these three main schools of counselling theory, and psychological research which I draw on as a main, there are some therapies and theories I particularly use.
Schema Therapy is based on the exploration of schemas: a clinical term used to describe information taken in about oneself from dysfunctional and neglectful aspects of childhood environments. Awareness is brought to what schemas may be influencing maladaptive thinking patterns. These patterns cause behaviour in relationships and life choices that at best may be preventing getting needs met and reaching one’s full potential, and at worst can unconsciously recreate dysfunctional patterns and environments.
Emotion-Focused Therapy views emotion as the key organising principle in individual experiences and relational interactions based on the science of attachment. A key factor in this approach is the importance of recognising, naming, and experiencing the feeling or affect to process the emotion associated with the particular experience. Emotion-Focused Therapy is an evidence-based approach to treating depression, relational trauma and adversity, and post-traumatic stress.
Polyvagal Theory is built from the premise that the automatic nervous system provides adaptive behavioural strategies when faced with threat. Many forms of traumatic experiences can leave a heightened sense of vigilance which result in behaviours that can further isolate a person relationally. Polyvagal theory provides accessible and practical clinical applications which aim to take charge of calming the nervous system and make social engagement and reparative relational experiences more possible as a result.
Object Relations is a theory which helps understand how a sense of Self develops and informs relationship patterns and consequently transference in the therapeutic relationship. Transference is a term used to describe when a client may unconsciously project a feeling towards a therapist, which exists from their relationship with the primary caregiver I.e., a parent. Awareness of this can shed light on existing relationship dynamics, unresolved feelings towards significant others and patterns which may be detrimental and unfulfilling, and out of reach of present awareness, and hence repetitive.
Person-Centred Therapy holds the belief that people are inherently motivated towards achieving their optimal potential and is characterised by the therapist embodying three core traits of empathy in understanding the client’s subjective experience, congruence in being a person of genuineness and transparency, and unconditional positive regard in providing a non-judgemental approach.
Queer Theory means ‘to question that which has not been questioned’ and can be a powerful intervention in relation to family and societal norms, and in relation to gender and sexuality. Its aim is to discover what may have taken as a ‘given’; a role undertaken in relationships, in work, or something previously unquestioned with respect to a gender role or expression. With regards to sexuality, the theory highlights how heterosexuality has been framed as a normative organising principle in many environments by mere repetition, resulting in negatively embodying desire that doesn’t fall within this.
Transpersonal Psychology is focused namely on development beyond convention, elevated levels of spiritual growth and consciousness, and finding the self beyond the ego. Incorporating Mindfulness practice with these concepts can bring deeper awareness to one’s ‘thoughts’ as distinct from merging with them, and hence being at the mercy of ‘inner critics’, ruminations, obsessive thinking, and societal expectations.