At the heart of all psychotherapy lies human suffering and how this may best be helped. Yet the plethora of different schools of psychotherapy and counselling can be confusing and so choosing a therapist becomes in itself something of a minefield. But take heart! Research consistently shows that it is the person of the therapist that is of utmost importance with good therapists coming from many different theoretical backgrounds being equally effective.
Most importantly the therapeutic relationship provides a safe and confidential environment for you to address whatever is bothering you.
Do not feel that you should know how to address your issues straight away or that you need to get things right. Together we can explore different ways of thinking and behaving and you will have the time and space to reformulate and re-evaluate your ideas and experiences.
An interest in communication and how we construct meaning in our lives has formed a strong link through my initial training as a speech and language therapist to my accreditation as a transpersonal psychotherapist.
The following comprise the areas I have completed training in, all of which have contributed to my current practice and understanding.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)
- Transpersonal Psychotherapy
- Group Therapy
- Meditation and Mindfulness
Above all, therapy is a collaborative process and although it can sometimes be painful and feel like hard work my experience shows me that it can be a source of liberation, not only from troublesome symptoms, but also into personal transformation and healing.
Joining a group after a course of individual work can be an effective way of practicing new skills and of great benefit in the process of experiencing life in a more rewarding and fulfilling way.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Most commonly referred to as CBT, this therapy focuses on the way people think and act in order to help them overcome problems. CBT has been most extensively researched giving evidence for it’s effectiveness, particularly for it being more effective for anxiety and depression than medication alone.
A central concept in CBT is that you feel the way you think. Therefore, CBT works on the principle that you can live more happily and productively if you’re thinking in healthy ways. CBT involves identifying thoughts, beliefs, and meanings that are activated when you’re feeling anxious, panicky or depressed. Once identified, these thoughts can be questioned and understood and alternatives generated.
Cognitive Analytic Therapy
This time the acronym is CAT. CAT first concentrates on discovering why our emotional or psychological problems have happened – including going back to childhood. Then it looks at the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the mechanisms which we have developed in order to cope with these problems. Finally, the therapist helps the client to see how he or she can improve their ways of coping.
As in cognitive behaviour therapy, the emphasis is on the individual developing the tools to deal with his or her own psychological problems in the future by recognising and identifying patterns and then exploring more effective ways of being with ourselves and with others. The structure of CAT provides an extremely useful format for helping us do this
Again CAT has been widely researched and is a well proven, evidence based treatment.
This might be better seen as a perspective on life through which one might view the world; a lens through which we might see ourselves and others, and is therefore compatible with many different therapeutic approaches. Thus transpersonal psychology draws upon and uses what is really good and solid from a variety of philosophical approaches. At it’s core, however, is the understanding that human beings are capable of making a living and meaningful relationship with suffering, a process James Hillman calls soul making, and also have the capacity to step into states of ‘spiritual’ awareness that move beyond the ordinary everyday consciousness of personality. Because these states have been explored so fully and are usually the domain of religion, this may lead some to spiritual practices of meditation or prayer or contemplation outside and beyond therapy. For some people this alone brings about a state of healing, whether the outside circumstances are changed or not, because their fundamental attitude has shifted from unconscious victim to their own fears and desires into having an open and accepting relationship with all of life. Thus we become more than the sum of our problems. Furthermore, this can and does occur whether or not the idea “transpersonal” is named, because the possibility for this sphere of experience is already within the psyche, ready to be recognised.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation can teach us how to be, without doing anything, without holding on to anything, without trying to think good thoughts, get rid of bad thoughts, or achieve anything. Normally we do everything we can to avoid just being. When left alone with ourselves, without a project to occupy us we become nervous. We start judging ourselves or thinking about what we should be doing or feeling. In meditation practice, you work directly with your confused mind states, letting what ever arises arise, without fixation on it, and coming back to simple presence. Through this we can learn to befriend the whole range of our experiences.
Mindfulness does not have to be constrained to a formal meditation session. Mindfulness is an activity that can be done at any time; it does not require sitting, or even focusing on the breath, but rather is done by bringing the mind to focus on what is happening in the present moment, while simply noticing the mind's usual "commentary".
As an alternative to the more traditional, conventional clinical setting of the therapy room, I am offering to certain clients the opportunity to take their therapy out into the open air.
There is now a wealth of scientific evidence pointing to the advantages of exercise in promoting a sense of wellbeing. Equally recent research points to the therapeutic effect of being in nature and in green spaces. Walk and talk therapy draws upon the advantages inherent in the environment and couples this with the opportunity to walk side by side with the therapist, rather than sitting opposite in a consulting room.
This inevitably has an effect on the relationship formed and while not for everyone for some people it seems that this way of being is more helpfully therapeutic in terms of not only addressing the issues but also for getting “unstuck” and finding new and more useful ways of being.
Human beings are born in groups, live in groups and die in groups. Without the support and co-operation of others, individual efforts can count for little or are unsustainable. Attitudes and social behaviour are learnt from interaction and are expressed in interaction. And it is in interaction that many of the sources of emotional satisfaction and growth are to be found.
Thus it is not surprising that group therapy has a long, proven record as a highly effective and useful form of psychotherapy. It is as helpful as, and in some cases more helpful than, individual therapy and the vast majority of individuals who participate in group therapy benefit from it substantially.
Group therapy offers an opportunity to:
- Receive and offer support and feedback
- Improve interpersonal relationships and communication
- Experiment with new behaviours
- Talk honestly and directly about feelings
- Gain insight and understanding into one’s own thoughts, feelings and behaviours by looking at relationship patterns both inside and outside the group
- Gain understanding of other peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours
- Improve self-confidence, self-image and self esteem
- Undergo personal change inside the group with the expectation of carrying that learning over into one’s outside life