Psychotherapy is different from speaking to a family member or friend as a psychotherapist is professionally trained to listen and not to try and ‘fix’ things for you. The space is yours to think about your life experiences and how they have impacted upon your present day life. I will not judge or tell you what I think is best for you. If you have been wounded in relationships in the past you almost certainly would not have received the caring or empathic responses you needed at the time. It is therefore very important that I as your psychotherapist provide this care and empathy which really is an integral part of the therapeutic process.
Along with actively listening I will also think carefully about what you are telling me and offer my own associations and perspectives from time to time. Indeed, perhaps the most curative aspect and the very foundation of psychotherapy is when you actually experience a felt sense that you have been heard and seen as you wish to be, not as someone else wants you to.
working with relational patterns and the unconscious
My original psychotherapy training is integrative, which is a combination of psychodynamic and humanistic approaches and to some extent I continue working this way. However, working with unconscious processes is an important part effecting change in psychotherapy and moving beyond ‘stuck’ painful relational patterns where the past recurs in the present which Freud called the ‘repetition compulsion’. I have in this regard found object relations thinkers such as Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Wilfred Bion and Ronald Fairbairn very helpful. Dedicating time and space to think about relational and unconscious patterns in psychotherapy and naming them means that we can take responsibility for our own lives and see that although new perspectives can be scary, they can also be very liberating.
working with dreams to access spiritual and creative parts of the self
I am also very very sympathetic to the Jungian approach of working beyond the material world through dream work, symbology and metaphor and their relationship to personal and collective myths and folklore. I think that making contact with symbolic associations which resonate with us means that we can deepen our relationship to ourselves and the world around us. This can be a suitable approach too if you feel that you would like to explore the spiritual and transpersonal parts of who you are in psychotherapy.
What happens in a therapy session?
Some sessions will be as you may imagine in a traditional psychotherapy or counselling session where it is two people talking to one another, working through a particular issue. And this works perfectly well! However, if you feel it can work for you we can also turn to more ‘open’ ways of thinking such as the imagination. This may include the use of dream content, metaphor or an image you relate to. You may also wish to use art materials or a visualisation as a way of deepening your contact with your imagination and unconscious. We will then spend time thinking together about whatever has emerged from this and reflect upon how it might relate to you. This is an important process, as once experiences and their associated emotions can be named and thought about they are much less likely to bother us.
what are the benefits of Therapy?
Using your imaginative resources can create a new narrative for your emotional life that may have felt fragmented and lost for many years. You can then discover and develop a relationship to parts of yourself that due to painful experiences you never knew existed. Emotions are no longer to be feared or overwhelmed by; they now become things only to be experienced and important indicators of what you feel. It then becomes easier to recognise them and what they mean.
This new way of relating to your emotional self can improve your relationship between your instincts and cognitive mind (reasoning/ reflective capacity), increase your sense of self and resilience to problems, enrich your experience of living a fuller life and become an important source of creativity. Psychotherapy takes time and is an investment but its effects can be profound and long lasting.
I am a trained art therapist/psychotherapist but it is not a pre-requisite that you use art materials in therapy. You may feel what works best for you is the more traditional route of psychotherapy/ counselling. If you wish however, you might like to work with expressive arts such as drawing/ painting or working with clay. Drawing/ artistic skills are not needed at all! These non-verbal methods of expression are sometimes very helpful in terms of accessing the unconscious mind and the deeper layers of the self. It can also help you to calm feelings of anxiety, or safely express your anger and make greater sense of it. Read more about art therapy.