How therapy can help
Therapy (counselling and psychotherapy) provides a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space for you to explore any areas of difficulty in your life. We explore whatever you choose to at a pace that is determined by you. This process is unique in each person's case and different kinds of support may be needed at different times. You may need support:
Therapy can also support you to get in touch with your unique gifts and talents, to work through any inner blocks to offering and expressing those, so that you can live a richer, more meaningful and satisfying life.
I have experience of working with a wide range of themes such as:
I specialise in the following areas:
The difference between counselling and psychotherapy is related to the nature of the training for the practitioner. Psychotherapy training is more extensive, so generally it provides the practitioner the skills to work at more depth. Such work is usually longer-term. I have trained in both counselling and psychotherapy. I work for as long as is needed for you to experience the healing and change you are happy with.
Internal Family Systems (IFS)
Self and Parts
I originally trained as a Gestalt Psychotherapist and have since trained as an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapist which is now my main therapeutic approach. IFS works with the understanding that every person's psyche ('mind') consists of multiple parts, aspects or sub-personalities. For example, when we say something like “on the one hand I really want to do it, on the other, I'm afraid” we may be referring to two parts and the experience of in one moment inhabiting the perspective of one part, with its particular feelings, thoughts, beliefs, etc, and in another moment occupying the perspective of another part, with its (contrary) feelings, thoughts, beliefs, etc. It is normal and healthy to have many parts which form an internal system. A multiplicity of parts enables us to respond creatively to a wide range of complex circumstances. At the same time, who we each are at our core - our essential Self - is not a part: our core or essential nature is the experiential fact of our 'being' or 'awareness' itself, independent of what we are aware of (i.e. the content of awareness). Of profound consequence is the insight that our essential nature can never be hurt, harmed, diminished or lost: it is the indestructible essence of pure, open, unlimited awareness. When our parts are integrated and in harmony with each other we are able to experience and express qualities that are a manifestation of our essential Self. These qualities include compassion, curiosity, clarity, confidence, calm, creativity, connectedness, courage and love, and are collectively referred to as Self-energy. However, whilst our essential nature cannot be harmed, in adverse circumstances parts of us can be hurt and overwhelmed. This can lead to trauma and the flow of Self-energy in our body-mind being disrupted due to parts of us taking over or dominating our inner world - like clouds passing in front of the sun.
Trauma and the protective internal system
Trauma can occur when we encounter adverse circumstances in which we are under either real or perceived threat. If we are unable to safely resolve the threatening situation part of us will feel overwhelmed. Consider a child who is repetitively shamed by a parent for crying; or an adult who is being assaulted. In circumstances like these it may be extremely unsafe to express particular feelings or needs (such as sadness or fear), or feel overwhelmed. However, other parts in our internal system can protect us by instinctively adopting various creative strategies to make sure the part of us that feels overwhelmed does not express itself. These protective parts, or protectors, keep us safe from serious harm by supressing and, in effect, separating the overwhelmed part from the rest of our system - which then becomes an exile. The exile feels abandoned and isolated, and gets stuck or burdened with unprocessed extreme feelings, sensations, emotions and beliefs (such as 'I am unlovable', 'I am bad', 'I am broken', 'I am stupid', 'I am unworthy' and 'I am not good enough'.) Protectors are sub-divided into two categories, according to the types of strategies they use. Managers are proactive: they try to prevent situations from arising that would trigger the unprocessed feelings of exiles. Firefighters are reactive: they do their best to shutdown, numb, distract and dissociate the feelings of exiles if they are triggered despite the efforts of managers. For example: a manager may seek validation from others by constantly looking out for the needs of others, to compensate for the pain of an exile that feels unworthy because of persistent criticism from a parent in early life; or a firefighter that is addicted to alcohol because the feelings of intoxication cover up the overwhelming feelings of an exile that experienced a car accident. The positive intention of protectors is not always obvious, especially when their activity is extreme and has substantial unintended negative consequences. Unfortunately there can be a variety of costs for this kind of adaptive protection. Protectors get stuck in their protective roles and feel the need to stay in control of the system long after the adverse circumstances have passed. Exiles long for connection and if they get the opportunity they sometimes flood us with their feelings, hoping to get attention from others. Generally, as a result of trauma, protectors (and sometimes exiles) become dominant in our internal system which limits our experience of Self-energy. It can be helpful to understand that trauma is ubiquitous - we all experience trauma of some kind or another in our lives, most commonly in childhood when we are most vulnerable. We can also inherit trauma that originated in our ancestral lineage (via epigenetic processes) or collective groups that we belong to (related to ethnicity, culture, sex, gender orientation, sexual orientation, social class, religious or spiritual beliefs as well as other factors).
Healing, Integration and Growth
The journey of therapy is one in which I support you to befriend your parts by meeting them with curiosity, openness and compassion - qualities emerging from your essential Self. When you meet your protectors in this way you will discover how they are trying to protect you as well as come to appreciate the heroic efforts they have made to keep you safe, even if they have been extreme in their strategies. When your protectors feel safe enough and you are able to meet exiles with Self-energy you can help them process and release everything they have been carrying. This means that protective parts are released from their fixed roles and freed to do what they naturally feel called to. The result is healing, integration and growth. Parts return to their natural state and their unique qualities and capacities are made available to you. Ultimately you become more Self-led as your parts gain trust in the flow of your Self-energy and no longer feel the need to dominate your inner life. This means that you are more able to think, speak and act in the world in ways that are aligned with your essential nature instead of ways that express extreme or burdened parts.
It is not necessary for you to understand the theory of IFS in order to work with me. Nor do I ask you to believe everything I have expressed here. And if you have skeptical parts, they are very welcome to be listened to and included in the process. in fact, in this approach "all parts are welcome". The theory of IFS provides a rough map of the psyche but the map is not itself the territory. My role as a therapist is to help you befriend and relate with the richness of your inner world, so that you understand it intimately from your own direct experience.