I call my approach 'holistic' because I am trained in a number of therapies, not just psychotherapy, and they all influence the way I work.
A session with me may involve working in an embodied way, with imagery and ‘felt-sense’ as well as talking. Talking is important - essential - but in my experience, with things like anxiety and trauma sometimes talking alone doesn't help. However I will always be guided by what feels right to you.
In my experience, working holistically means harnessing the wisdom of the body as well as the mind, the imagination as well rationale, making contact with all different parts of the self that operate in and out of awareness, and applying the potency of compassion.
My approach has been many years in the making, shaped by my own therapeutic journey, the hundreds of clients I have worked with, ongoing training and supervision and an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work - both for me as a practitioner and for the people who seek my help.
How I work typically involves some or all of the following aspects:
Working in an embodied way
Therapeutic change, rather than being something abstract and analytic, tends to be a here-and-now, embodied and felt experience. The body is a profound, present-moment resource and is always trying to communicate. When we include the body and the mind together, as a partnership, profound shifts can occur.
We may work directly with the body, from a healing approach, which means you lying down fully clothed on a therapeutic couch, which can help you become more embodied and less analytical. Or we may work more psychotherapeutically with you in a chair, simply noticing and exploring the subtleties of impulses, or sensations. We may focus on any tension you feel or a gesture you make when you are talking, even movement. It will never involve any hands-on manipulation of the body, like massage.
Working with imagery
The imagination is a powerful therapeutic aide. Research supports its function as a bridge between conscious and unconscious states, linking different parts of the brain, aiding the processing of difficult material (imagery is a touchstone of most trauma therapies, for instance). One reason imagery is so potent is because imagining something happening can cause the nervous system to respond as if the imagined is reality. The brain does not discriminate between the real and the imagined; one reason why stress is so debilitating.
Of course the reverse applies: imagination can be consciously harnessed for transformation and change. When I worked regularly with trauma, imagery was a reliable and empowering tool which enabled clients to stabilise, then process and integrate the traumatic event(s). This helped them to return to their jobs and continue with day-to-day life without the debilitating, intrusive symptoms that are so characteristic of trauma and PTSD.
Imagery works very well as a communicator, it helps express things that are 'pre-verbal' or that we cannot quite put into words. It enables us to access everyday altered or 'flow' states which enable integration. It is also simply a form of energy that we can harness to create change. The therapeutic uses of imagery was a major part of my psychotherapy MA research project on how clients experience shamanic journeying.
Working with resources
Resourcing is a keystone of my approach developed from my experience of working regularly with clients who were experiencing acute trauma. Resources are things that have meaning for us, which we can connect to at difficult times. When we can draw on resources we have the ability to steady ourselves in the midst of overwhelm; a process known as self-regulation, or ‘grounding’. This can create agency and resilience amid the turbulence of difficult thoughts, emotions, and circumstances.
Working with parts
We are all made up of different parts or 'self-states' which operate in and out of our consciousness and energy field. Usually these parts come into conflict; for instance we may desire to do something but find another part of ourselves blocking or sabotaging this desire. Or the opposite may be true; we may 'know' that something is bad for us, but we can't help ourselves. When we find ourselves in familiar yet limiting circumstances or patterns of relationships it can be useful to work explicitly with all the different parts of us that make up our identity and life-force.
I generally call this 'self-retrieval' work because, like soul retrieval, we tend to thrive when we integrate all parts of ourselves, even the painful, wounded parts. There are many levels of exploring this; discourse between different self-states, exploring how parts express themselves through the body, or exploring the conflict through imagery. Inner child work is a particularly effective means of self-retrieval and was a cornerstone of my regression therapy training.
Working with compassion
Ultimately the greatest obstacle to healing and change is the way we relate to ourselves. Developing self-compassion is not an easy thing to do when faced with subtle and unconscious ways we can undermine and negate ourselves. In practice, developing compassion can be challenging and often requires radical changes to how we interpret our relational reality.
My psychotherapy training placed an emphasis on attachment theory and relational ways of working. Essentially this means that any wounding incurred in relationship, can be healed in relationship. How you relate to me as your therapist may also be similar to how you relate to others in your everyday life or how you were related to and treated as a child. Therefore it can be useful for me to reflect on how we are relating to one another and how I experience you in the here-and-now. In this way the therapeutic relationship itself is a doorway into unresolved issues in your past or present life.
If you are interested in working with me read more about how to arrange a session.