I’m introducing another simple reflection tool today, one I met many moons ago when I trained as a life coach. It’s called a Life Wheel, and it’s a good way of taking stock of how life is feeling for you at the moment and why. First, you need to list out the areas of your life that are important to you. The list won’t be the same for everyone, but often includes dimensions like family, friendships, work, learning, physical health, mental health, leisure, finances and home.
Psychotherapy is intended to be an authentic encounter. An intimate, enabling space in which we as clients can be utterly who we are without condition. A place where we are acknowledged, honoured, and met in our wholeness. This is what gives psychotherapy its healing capacity, and without it, I’m not sure what is achieved. Why is it then that there are commonly held views about taboo subjects that should not be mentioned in the therapy room? Be it politics, religion, sex,
It’s hard to beat the feeling of really being with someone. That feeling of parent and child spontaneously connecting in an experience. The intimacy of two people who love each other sharing a moment in which they are utterly focused on each other. There is a beauty to attunement, a feeling of being safe, of being at home, of being free to be. This is an experience we are all wired for. We are social animals. In generations past, as for mammals generally, babies must cau
I frequently hear people talk about mindfulness as a way to inner peace. I hear it so often I feel compelled to write a little about my sense of it as a long-term meditator and frequent teacher of mindfulness in a therapeutic context. As a sound bite, it’s easy to perceive mindfulness = inner peace to be a one way ticket to bliss and harmony. While this might seem appealing, it is unfortunately not generally what is experienced with regular meditation and mindfulness practi
Sometimes, we can get caught in a trap of feeling continually ‘on.’ It may feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, needing to be in constant motion, always finding the next thing to do and the next problem to solve. It may be that you can’t easily rest, not even sitting down to relax regularly. These are symptoms of your system being stuck in sympathetic arousal, with the accelerator pedal continually pressed down. Essentially, our fight/flight mechanism is firing to keep us
Before you make a change, it is important to be clear about what the current situation gives you. Remember that odd old phrase ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bath water?!’ However awful your mental health symptoms may be, they were once an ideal solution to a problem that was arising for you. For example, your anxiety might help you avoid things you do not want to look at, or perhaps give you a reason to stay away from things you fear. At some point in the past your cur
On a training course a while ago, I heard a metaphor for therapy that I liked. The trainer described the role of a therapist ole as that of a sat-nav. The client is behind the wheel and has to do the driving, while the therapist can support by providing navigational aid. Without the client having a clear destination, there is no navigation. The client decides on their end goal or goals, saying where they want to take themselves. The client then has choices, do they follow
We come to know ourselves through our interactions with other people. It’s a bit like others hold up a mirror to us, we see ourselves reflected in them, sometimes noticing the things that are the same, and sometimes noticing things that are different. Those differences may be benign, just differences. Sometimes though, we may be hurt or wounded by what people do or say. Their actions and our reaction or response lets us know something about our personal values. When we fe
I’ve been pondering Erik Erikson’s theory of psycho-social development of late, which sets out eight stages of development along our way to maturity. Written in the middle of the 20th century, it still speaks pertinently to the issues that present in the therapy room, and so seems worth highlighting. The first stage Erikson talks about is that of the period of infancy, running up to around 18 months. In this period, we learn our orientation to people and the world in a key
I was recently asked some excellent questions: Where do I live as a therapist? What lenses do I use to see through the clinical landscape of the client?
I think its critical to regularly reflect on who and what we are as therapists. We begin with our core training, and all being well we continually develop, educated not only by our continuing professional development, but more importantly by our clients, our self reflections and our ongoing clinical supervision.
It would b
I was thrilled to receive a new fuchsia last week - a tall dark leaved variety with a profusion of flowers called ‘Bella.’ I’ve planted it right outside my therapy room window and each time I look out of my window it makes me smile. What a joy it is to see life so colourfully being lived, I love the reminder that nothing is stagnant, all is changing, and that there is beauty aplenty if I look in the right places! #garden #therapy #therapist #mentalhealth
Time is a funny thing, while sometimes minutes can feel like hours, it’s also true that there are a limited number of hours in the week. A common theme for psychotherapy clients is that much of their available time is spent focusing on others. They may be caring for relatives, raising families, focusing on work commitments or serving communities, but often times there is one person who is left out of their focus. Without looking after our own well-being, our resources for ot
In my twenties, I recall going on a Dale Carnegie training course, and being told ‘seek first to understand, and then to be understood.’ As an incessant talker at the time, I found it a weird concept, but it was one that resonated with me and I took to heart. Funny perhaps that decades later I find myself working as a psychotherapist, deeply invested in hearing and seeing the other, and leaving my own personal story at the door! “Every person in our life is a unique, unfold
“There are so many ways to dance in the dark with our dragons. Therapy is an art.” These words were the conclusion of a training I attended recently with Ana Gomez. They for me encapsulate so much of what is true about psychotherapy. It is indeed an art, at its best it brings into the same space cognition and intuition, it integrates our logical selves with our artistic, sensory, metaphorical selves. It is not only about thought, it offers us the opportunity to know deepl
I’m sat in my new office, writing my blog. It’s taken four long months to transform this patch of earth from deadened concreted to a new therapy room and a living, breathing garden beyond. 20+ tonnes of concrete out, 5 tonnes of topsoil in, and tradespeople aplenty contributed to this beautiful new space. I’ve been delighting in watching the birds explore the new planting, and already seeing foliage grow and flowers bloom. I might have muscles aching from painting and diggi
When reading about the Internal Family Systems approach to psychotherapy recently, I was reminded of the idea that we each have a ‘self’ that has eight key characteristics. Here’s the list: Calm Curious Confident Courageous Clear Creative Connected Compassionate I don’t believe our inner experience is the same as that of other people, I believe we are each unique expressions of life. That said, we share far more than we don’t, and archetypes are useful because they do refl
Do you ever hear yourself say something, and think you sounded just like someone else? It may be a parent, partner, friend, child, anyone close really, even a character from television! We are an amalgam of all of our life experiences, including all the people we have spent time with, in reality and even through media and the arts. We cannot not be influenced by others, we are relational beings. When we are in tune with another, mirror neurons are firing, we are able to empa
In my work, I work with energy. People come to see a psychotherapist because they want to move towards, or away from experiences. They may seek to be relieved of symptoms, or to create new possibilities and ways of being. What they don’t want is for things to stay as they are. I read this quote recently and found it powerful: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it
I’ve been reflecting this week on the power of the stories we believe about ourselves and about the things that happen to us. It seems to me they can be very powerful at times. When you’re having a challenging time, whether it’s difficulties at work, tensions with family or friends, or even home improvement projects not going smoothly, it can be easy to feel knocked. You might experience anger, frustration, fear, sadness; a whole range of emotions will naturally come up. I