HOW I WORK
It can sometimes be difficult when choosing a therapist to find a clear and concrete explanation of the theories and ideas that shape their practice. As psychologists and therapists we all too often hide behind jargon and labels which don’t really tell you that much about how each practitioner understands mental processes or how their treatment might lead to a greater sense of well-being.
For this reason, I’ve sketched out below FOUR FACTORS which I have explored, researched and worked on with hundreds of clients and patients from all walks of life over many thousands of hours.
This will give you an overview of how we would start to process and help you with whatever issue you might bring to our sessions. I believe these four factors to be the key ingredients to any effective course of therapy, although as in any good recipe, the amount of each ingredient used and how it is applied is also crucial.
FACTOR ONE: UNDERSTANDING OURSELVES AND OUR PERSONALITIES
When starting on your therapy journey, it can be really useful to have in the back of our minds a baseline reading of your general temperament or personality.
Often, our notion of what is not working in our lives is based on an idea of who our “Best Self” or “Ideal Self” might be. Perhaps we feel that we are failing to live up that standard when in fact all we are failing to do is take account of what makes the heart and soul of us, our “Core Self” tick.
Another good reason for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of our personality type is that certain therapeutic modalities work better for certain types. This can also help to explain why some forms of therapy might not have worked well for you in the past. They just may not have been particularly well-matched to your needs and temperament.
FACTOR TWO: THE IMPACT OF DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA
Sometime we can be struggling with issues that have their roots in traumatic or difficult situations we’ve experienced in our lives, particularly when growing up.
As human beings we fortunately belong to an extremely resilient species. Since time immemorial we have rebounded from relentless wars, countless disasters (both natural and man-made), as well as violence and betrayal in our own lives. But our resilience varies and is also dependent on other factors including personality (Factor One), as well as the age in which we were exposed to these distressing events.
FACTOR THREE: OUR CURRENT COPING STRATEGIES & LIFE SKILLS
Often we can be critical towards ourselves for not coping with the challenges of our lives, but even when our current coping strategies aren’t serving us, they are usually providing some kind of benefit.
These coping strategies might include anxious or compulsive ways of thinking, depressive symptoms, self-control issues (addictions), even self-harming behaviour or problems with anger.
Coping strategies are often learnt or cobbled together in our times of greatest need but no longer work that effectively for us in our adult lives. Or maybe they continue to work relatively well for us at times but just require a little bit of tweaking to get the best out of them.
FACTOR FOUR: NEW COPING STRATEGIES & LIFE SKILLS:
For many of us the motivation to enter therapy is to explore and work on those areas of our lives where we might feel a sense of lack or limit, some kind of suffering. Talking things through can bring release and relief, new insights and perspectives on our suffering.
But this might not have much of an impact on our habitual ways of being and functioning in the world (see Factor Three). We are all creatures of habit and this is as much the case in the way we function emotionally as anything else.
With this in mind, we might want to dedicate some time in therapy to building or developing our “life skill” muscles. As with any fitness programme, the muscles we need to target will depend a great deal on the coping strategies we already have in place as well as the vulnerabilities we are seeking to safeguard.
These four factors might seem a little bit overwhelming to begin with, especially when we just want to get some clarity on our lives and start feeling better. For this reason, it’s important to make sure we use these different ingredients in ways that are most useful for you, both in the short and long term.
As with any recipe, one can make a very simple and delicious dish in 50 minutes, but we can also cook up something together that is sustaining and beneficial for you beyond whatever number of sessions you choose to have.