Approaches to Therapy
The six approaches to therapy discussed on this page are intended to assist in clarifying the types of psychological therapy and counselling I offer. They are not exclusive nor are they intended as a menu from which you must choose. They are simply provided to explain the different approaches I use in my practice. At all times, the approach used is determined by you and reflective of your own sense of self and your attempts to explore issues causing concern or psychological distress.
This approach to therapy focuses on your own inner wisdom in finding and responding to various aspects of psychological distress and concern. It begins with the understanding that you are the best person to determine what is right for you and I as the therapist am a companion along the journey to discovering your own sense of self. It does not seek to diagnose or anticipate what the issues may be, what the sources of distress are, or how best to address these. Rather, it provides a space in which you can explore and discover these for yourself.
This approach is based on three core conditions of therapy: congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard. In this therapeutic approach, you can be sure that open and honest discussions can take place based on non-judgemental acceptance, care and genuine appreciation for who you are and the concerns you are struggling with. I have received extensive advanced training in this method of therapy and I have experience working with people struggling with senses of identity, relationship issues, feelings of loss, bereavement, addiction, feelings of guilt and/or shame, anxiety, depression, and trauma, just to name some areas of distress.
Existential and Phenomenological Therapy
This approach to therapy recognises the uniqueness of the human experience and understands that each person sees and experiences the world in their own way. It begins with the understanding that no one can see and experience the world in the same exact way as you do. We may have similarities of experiences and share understandings of their significance, but the feelings, emotions, memories and senses of self they generate combine to create a unique experience that can only be fully identified by the person experiencing them. We each try to understand and identify meaning in our lives and to find our own sense of purpose. This approach is based on the idea that we are ‘thrown into existence’ and from birth to death we are on a journey not necessarily of our own choosing. Yet, what can be chosen is how much we are willing to take responsibility for our own lives and live by values we accept and claim as our own. I have spent many years learning, researching and teaching philosophy, with special interest in existentialism and phenomenology, and through my ongoing advanced studies as a psychological therapist in this approach I aim to provide a space in which you can discern truth in your life and discern values that you can claim as your own. Existential and Phenomenological Therapy is particularly useful in addressing questions of identity and senses of self, LGBT+ issues, terminal illness and bereavement, generalised anxiety, and feelings of meaninglessness and angst.
This approach to therapy recognises that our first experiences of the world are through our emotions, which are early indicators of our perceptions of meaning and importance of our experiences. Our emotions indicate what are important to us and reflect our natural feelings of need, safety and connection to others and the world around us. Our emotions integrate our experiences to provide us with meaning, values and directions in life. They are deeply embedded in our brain and have neurological primacy, often outside of our conscious awareness, and precede our language-based thoughts and sense of knowing. Our emotions are shaped by the way our experiences are culturally interpreted and adapted. However, sometimes our emotions may become over-regulated to the point that we lose contact to what we are actually experiencing and become separated from the real need our emotions are designed to indicate. This can lead us to ignore important aspects of our emotions, allow our emotions to get out of balance, cover up helpful emotions, and leave us stuck in emotions left over from previous bad experiences. Emotion-focused therapy is particularly helpful in processing feelings of being stuck in negative experiences of the past leading to anger, regret, shame, loss and isolation. It can be useful in coming to terms with current feelings of social anxiety, depression, uncontrolled anger, abuse and feelings of isolation or abandonment. It is also a powerful way to explore, process and move beyond historical experiences of trauma and abuse.
This approach to therapy provides a space in which to explore various aspects of psychological distress within your own sense of spirituality and/or faith. Although I am fully registered as a Christian counsellor, I have studied and taught several different religious traditions for many years and I am experienced with a wide variety of belief systems and senses of spirituality. This type of therapy is not spiritual direction and it does not seek to promote religious belief, but - at the client's direction - it provides an opportunity for an additional layer of discussion and exploration that aims to make sense of spirituality and/or religious belief in the context of issues with which you are currently being confronted. This approach recognises that spirituality and/or religious belief for many people can often be central aspects of their lives, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, yet always shaping and contributing to their experiences of the world and their senses of self.
This approach to therapy is conducted outdoors and allows for opportunities to blend body movement with thought process to explore and address emotional and psychological issues in a holistic way. Often people find it difficult to engage sitting in one place for too long or talking with someone in a formal therapeutic setting, while walking together and discussing issues in a more causal context may feel more natural. Connecting with nature provides many mental and physical health benefits. Walking in nature has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety and depression, enhance feelings of wellbeing, and promote positive emotions. Many young people have found this more informal approach to be less daunting, and those experiencing issues with hyperactivity or maintaining attention often find the dynamic nature of being outside and walking to be more comfortable and less restrictive. The same person-centred, existential-phenomenological, and faith based approaches are used but in a more dynamic context, holistically incorporating physical activity as part of the psychotherapeutic process.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This approach to therapy understands that many of our thought processes and behavioural patterns have developed over time in response to particular conditions or experiences. These ways of thinking and behaving arise as ways of responding to challenges in life but over time have become ineffective or developed into generalised reactions and behaviours that can be quite tiring and frustrating. My use of CBT insights and techniques are from the more recent developments in the field rather than the classical CBT model, particularly Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical and Behaviour Therapy (DBT).
Quite often people experience frustration and psychological distress in trying to undo events of the past with the idea that overcoming previous events is the only way to escape regret, senses of guilt and shame, or trauma. ACT aims to identify causes of psychological distress that cannot be undone or changed, but by accepting these things as part of each person's own personal history it is possible to commit to taking responsibility for the future which has yet to be determined. ACT is particularly useful in addressing issues of historical abuse, rape, and post-traumatic stress.
DBT begins with the recognition that everyone is a complex combination of thoughts, feelings, emotions and values, which at times can conflict with one another leading to inner frustration and turmoil. By exploring the inner senses of self and deeply held values, DBT seeks to bring about a balance within yourself that can be accepted. DBT has been found to be particularly useful in addressing self-destructive behaviours, self-harm, substance abuse and addiction, eating disorders, impulsive or avoidance behaviours, anger, anxiety and depression.