I first came to counselling in 1993 as a client and worked with a person-centred counsellor for 2 years. I found this process not only very helpful but also fascinating and I have been interested in counselling and therapy ever since. In 1994 I joined a Gestalt Therapy Group and remained a member for more than 2 years. That taught me a lot experientially about how what we do impacts on others, and vice-versa. After this I did a Certificate in Counselling Skills and then one in Counselling Theory at Telford College but could not at the time afford to do a full counselling training.
In 2000 I retrained as a mental health nurse and worked for 8 years in an acute ward at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. In 2007 I was given the opportunity to train with the Institute of Group Analysis in Glasgow to support me to run therapy groups on the ward where I worked. I did three years of this training, which is grounded in psychoanalytic theory, and ran and co-ran more than 200 groups during that time.
In 2010 I had to choose whether to continue on with my training to become a group analyst or to take a different path. I had found all my experiences with therapy fascinating but very diverse and I felt I needed a map to help me understand how they all related to each other. To do this I went to do a Masters in Counselling at Edinburgh University. This course looked at two different approaches to therapy – the person-centred and the psychodynamic – in some ways they are very distinct and different – but there is increasingly a sense of convergence in modern times. Both approaches are in agreement that the therapeutic relationship is of key importance in the healing process.
Where I have come to is this; the person centred approach holds the optimistic basic assumption that there is a force in each one of us that wants us to grow and reach towards our full potential, called the actualising tendency. Therapy creates an environment which facilitates this growth and it is the therapist’s job to maintain this ‘environment’.
The Psychodynamic literature has a lot to say about how our past experiences and relationships can influence and constrict how we understand ourselves and others in the present. Coming in to therapy we can begin to look at and understand how our early life is still impacting on what we think and do today.
What does this look like in practice?
As people have the opportunity to explore what has been troubling them their interest in themselves and their self-respect grows. They are often enabled to encompass and move on from their experiences in the past, and see more potential and possibilities in the present than they had hither-to. It can be helpful to come in for a few sessions to look at a particular issue, or some other people want to spend longer in therapy, looking in depth at how they have got to where they are now and how they can best move forwards. It can be a very enriching process and can impact positively on your relationships, your work and your general sense of well-being. I think that improving your relationship with yourself is the key. People often don’t realise how hard on themselves they are, and how dismissive of their own feelings, until someone else starts to point it out!
I worked as a volunteer counsellor from 2012-2015.
I have had my own private practice since January 2015, and I also work part-time as a Community Mental Health Nurse working in a Primary Care Liaison Team, “delivering psychological therapies”. As part of this work I completed the PG Certificate year in CBT this year (2017), which qualifies me to deliver CBT for mild to moderate anxiety and depression. I was (and am) very uncomfortable with the CBT model. In particular I think it feeds into a sense that people have that there is something wrong with them and they need to do something to be “fixed”. The over-emphasis on thinking also doesn’t sit well with me, as we feel for some considerable time before we start to think! Often it’s more helpful to learn to sit with and explore an emotion than to find ways to avoid feeling that way. Having said all that, CBT has some practical, rule-of-the-thumb type formulas which can be of practical use in day to day life.
I am very interested in working with dreams to get fresh perspectives on problems and am actively trying to develop my capacity to do this.