We’re not always in touch with all of the capability, wisdom and resourcefulness we have inside. While we are all multi-faceted, it's easy to get disconnected from our own sense of perspective, humour and groundedness. When this happens, you might not feel at your best, you might get stuck in repeating patterns that you know don’t do you any good, you might even feel like you go round and round in circles. When simple grounding isn’t quite doing it, another way of getting ba
Sometimes it is easy to lose trust in what you are experiencing. It may be that someone else somehow undermines you, convincing you that you can't trust your own sense of things, or that you have had an illness or mental health issue that has left you doubting what your intuition is telling you. Perhaps rumination has become dominant and you can't feel yourself for all the thoughts that are obscuring the here and now. At times like these, dropping down into your body, and con
There are two key questions that many clients want to address when they come for an initial session of psychotherapy, and they are questions that they sometimes hesitate to say out loud, perhaps for fear of sounding silly, or for fear of what my answer may be. First, am I mad? It is a very common experience to have symptoms that are distressing, and that leave us questioning whether we are normal, or sane, or functioning. The more we think about our symptoms, the worse they
When we think of being in danger, the fight/flight response is perhaps the response that most readily comes to mind. Our sympathetic nervous system is activated and we spring into action, neutralising the threat and restoring safety. You may also have heard of the freeze, or immobilisation response, a more ancient reaction in evolutionary terms. This dorsal-vagal response causes us to shut down and feel frozen, it’s a response to perceptions of extreme danger. What is less s
Often, what brings clients into therapy is a reticence to experience their feelings. This can show up in all sorts of ways, in low mood and depression, in anxiety, in disordered eating, addictions, obsessions and compulsions…there are many mental health conditions that have an aspect of emotional avoidance embedded within them. Andrew Seubert has a simple initialism that provides a process for emotional containment. It succinctly describes the skills that clients may learn,
“Like a tree, our growth depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed defenses we no longer need.” Daily OM This quote popped into my inbox from Daily OM a few weeks ago, and it resonated so strongly. The post went on as follows “ Trees grow up through their branches and down through their roots into the earth. They also grow wider with each passing year. As they do, they shed the bark that served to protect them but now is no longer big enough to contain them. In t
I often blog about self-help techniques and approaches those interested can use to support their well-being and emotional health. I like people to have as many tools as they need in their hands, to give choice, and to recognise that one size does not fit all, each situation and person is different after all. Techniques and approaches are important, in the therapy room just as in self-help blogging. Therapists need to know how to help a client make sense of their experience,
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
Sometimes clients come into therapy wanting to be absolved of guilt when they have done something they regret. Guilt is painful, and this is a natural instinct. The first step is working out whether the guilt is realistic, or dysfunctional in nature. It is perfectly normal, healthy, and appropriate to feel guilty when you have done something you would judge someone else for, guilt is a helpful emotion to help us reflect and grow so that we don’t continually repeat the same m
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