What is therapy?
At some point or other most of us will feel unhappy, confused and stuck. This isn’t usually because something is “wrong” with us, or because we aren’t the right sort of person. Rather, it is because difficult things happen in our lives that knock us off course, undermine our confidence, and make it hard to know what we should do next.
Sometimes the issue is here and now – a relationship that is struggling, a working life that feels stagnant, an unexpected challenge we didn’t ask for and nevertheless have to face. Sometimes the roots of our troubles lie in the past, in the legacy of old hurts and losses and the ways that we learned to cope with them. And sometimes, the search for explanations becomes its own problem, consuming our attention and obstructing our view of possible solutions.
Whatever you are grappling with in your life, psychological therapy can offer an opportunity to pause and reflect – to make sense of what is going on, and to experiment with new and different ways of thinking and acting.
Is therapy right for me?
Therapy is very helpful for many people, and has a strong basis in clinical research. Forms of psychological therapy are recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as gold-standard treatment for a wide range of difficulties, including depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress, chronic pain and more.
Therapy differs from medical treatments (such as, say, antibiotics for an infection, or surgery for a broken bone) because it requires active participation. The process of psychological therapy may sometimes be challenging and upsetting, and might require stepping into uncomfortable territory. For therapy to be helpful it is important that you are motivated, and feel you are in the right time and place in your life to engage with this kind of work.
If I believe that psychological therapy will not be helpful for you right now, or that you are more likely to benefit from a different practitioner or approach, then I will advise you on alternatives. It is important that you feel our work together is helping you, and this is something that we will often discuss.
What will we talk about?
During our initial sessions we will work together to develop a shared understanding both of your difficulties and your hopes for how you would like life to be different. This understanding will then shape the approach taken in subsequent sessions.
Our conversations will involve thinking and talking about daily events, your thoughts, feelings, memories, relationships, hopes, regrets, and so on. I may invite you to engage in exercises and practices intended to help you with your difficulties. We may also make plans together for things that you can try out in between our meetings.
What kinds of difficulties can you help me with?
I have helped people with a wide range of difficulties: depression, anxiety, work-related stress, relationships, grief and loss, and issues related to sexual and gender identity. I have considerable experience of working with people who have been through past trauma and abuse.
Although I do not focus on diagnostic labels in my work, and do not usually give formal diagnoses, I have worked with many people who have been diagnosed with depression, forms of anxiety disorder, PTSD and Complex PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and more.
I do not specialise in problems relating to eating, substance misuse and addiction, or psychosis. If you are struggling with these kinds of difficulties I will be happy to suggest alternative sources of support.
What makes therapy effective?
Research has identified a number of factors that influence how effective therapy will be. Firstly, the relationship between you and your therapist is crucial in helping you to feel comfortable and safe sharing your thoughts and feelings. All therapists have a style, and mine is to be warm, active and engaged. I won’t sit in silence, blank-faced, giving only the occasional “hmmmm” or mysterious utterance. Rather, I approach therapy as a joint endeavour, where our shared goal is to help you connect with your innate strengths and capacities to bring about positive change.
Also important for therapy effectiveness is that the therapy makes sense to you, and helps you to make sense of yourself and the issues you are grappling with. I am not dogmatic about particular theories, and I won’t try to diagnose you or force you to think about yourself in a particular way. Instead we will try out different ideas for size, exploring together how they can give rise to new possibilities.
Finally, people come to therapy because they want something to be different in their lives, and research suggests that effective therapy involves making changes. Talking is powerful and important, but ultimately change will happen when you do something different. This means that we will always be thinking about what happens outside the therapy room – about practical steps you can take, ideas you can try-out, and skills you can put into practice.
What types of therapy do you use?
Although there are many approaches to psychological therapy, they have in common the idea that talking together with someone else can make a difference to how we think, feel, and act. As a clinical psychologist I have training and experience in a number of different kinds of therapy. I particularly value Compassion-Focused, Acceptance and Commitment, Solution-Focused and Systemic models of therapy, and have undertaken specialist training in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Narrative Exposure Therapy for complex trauma.
This breadth of experience allows me to ensure that the interventions I use are best suited to your needs. I aim to work transparently at all times, and so encourage you to ask any questions you have regarding my approach, or about particular techniques and strategies that I suggest.