Experience and Qualifications
I have a postgraduate Diploma in Gestalt Therapy and a further Diploma in Gestalt Psychotherapy. I am also a qualified Level 1 Internal Family Systems Therapist. I am a Registered Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. This means that I work in accordance with the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. I receive regular professional supervision and I am dedicated to ongoing professional development.
I have worked in a wide range of settings across the private, public and voluntary sectors including a charity for Disabled People in Torquay, the NHS in Exeter and as a counsellor in a G.P. surgery. I have experience with a diverse range of clients amongst the general public including the elderly, people with disabilities (physical and learning difficulties), carers, and people of ethnic minorities. I started my private practice in 2011.
From mind to body
Since early childhood I have had a deep desire to understand the nature of things. I was initially attracted to the realm of science. I qualified with an honours degree in Physics, writing my thesis on 'The Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Mechanics'. Although I was a high achiever I struggled with life and I felt that deep down there was something somehow wrong with me, which I longed to remedy. Whilst travelling on my year out before university, I had met a martial arts teacher in Malaysia who had profoundly impressed me with his way of being. I trained with him and as a result I realised that scientific understanding would neither satisfy me nor really help me. I became interested in an embodied, rather than purely intellectual, approach to exploring life and resolving my predicament.
On the road to spirituality
After completing my degree I set out on what turned out to be a five year trip travelling through Asia, with the intention to return to my teacher. On the way I encountered a number of spiritual teachers and teachings with which I resonated strongly (particularly the 'Non-dual' traditions). I spent two years deep in meditation practice, mostly in silent retreats. And I was guided to recognise that fundamentally my essential nature, and everyone's, is not flawed but pristine, clear and awake. Yet the nature of who we really are can become obscured to us, like clouds covering the sun.
I moved to Devon to live and work at Gaia House Retreat Centre, one of the largest meditation centres in the UK. Whilst there, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), a degenerative auto-immune inflammatory condition. I suffered from recurring and prolonged periods of severe pain, sometimes being unable to walk. I decided not to take the medications I was prescribed as I did not trust their long-term effects. Instead, I began to investigate the nature of my illness relying on awareness to explore my thought processes, feelings, sensations, emotions, perceptions, behaviour and beliefs.
Finding my vocation
After leaving Gaia House I asked myself what kind of work would most deeply satisfy me and best make use of my skills and interests. I discovered that awareness is at the heart of Gestalt Therapy and I was struck by the immediacy, aliveness and authenticity of this style of therapy. My interest in exploring the nature of my experience had expanded to the interpersonal. I saw Gestalt Therapy as a beautiful way of relying on awareness to facilitate a very real and personal meeting, supporting another to meet his or her unique life challenges. I went on to train as a Gestalt Therapist with the Centre for Humanistic Counselling and Psychology in Devon and began to see clients in 2007. With a background in mindfulness practice, I integrated that approach with my therapeutic work. Much later I discovered and trained in Internal Family Systems (IFS), a powerful cutting-edge therapeutic approach that was influenced by Gestalt Therapy. There is more and more research showing the effectiveness of IFS in reducing suffering, even among people suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis – showing us even more clearly how mind and body are inseparable and deeply interconnected.
I'd had an interest in 'bodywork' for a number of years prior to my illness, having trained in Shiatsu and Seiki. I also received plenty of bodywork during the period of my ill health, of which I found Feldenkrais to be the most profound. Dance has been my strongest passion for many years, especially Tango Argentino, which I have been teaching since 2011. My involvement with dance and Tango was incredibly challenging for many years due to my illness, demanding a great deal of body awareness in order to minimise excessive stress and pain. This has been a blessing in disguise. All of this inspired and influenced me in an exploration of my own body process and embodiment.
A healing journey
Over several years I discovered how my unconscious reactions to my illness had been exacerbating the condition and increased my pain levels and suffering. By becoming a detective on my own case, relying on the torchlight of awareness, I was able to explore my reactions and let go of excessive tension, release some deep fears and self-limiting beliefs, not just in relation to the illness but also in relation to the rest of life. In terms of my health, there has been a radical shift; its rare for me to experience any pain due to my AS and when I do it is not so significant that it disturbs me emotionally or interferes with my daily activity. I no longer think of myself as 'unwell'. My love of dance and commitment to a natural wholefood diet have also contributed to the return of my health. Having said this, I realise that in this life nothing is permanent, including health. Experiencing illness and the death of loved ones reminds me of the preciousness of Life and all that occurs in it.