Psychotherapy (Integrative Transpersonal & Sensorimotor)
I aim to provide a safe space where issues can be explored in a completely confidential setting and where each person's uniqueness is respected. I have more than 15 years experience working with many issues including anxiety, depression, the impact of shock and developmental trauma, relationship difficulties, bereavement, lack of meaning and a sense of disconnection from your true self.
I draw from many psychotherapy approaches to suit the uniqueness of each client and circumstance. I work in a collaborative and respectful way, where I value your input and feedback. There are often many ways of looking at a particular issue or challenge and we can work together to find which are most helpful and which you feel most comfortable using.
The key psychotherapy approaches that inform my way of working are Integrative Transpersonal & Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. The range of approaches that I use are described below, along with what to expect from a session and some recommended reading. Details of my qualifications and experience are shown on the My Experience page.
Transpersonal Psychotherapy is a holistic approach which includes the spiritual dimension (but has no affiliation to any particular dogma or religion). It focuses on aligning with the body's natural healing ability and building upon your strengths or qualities, including finding meaning and purpose in your life. Life crises are seen as opportunities for us to grow and develop. The approach includes focusing on your body and using imagery to get in touch with, and to release, feelings that the body is holding from the past.
This includes using dreamwork, creative imagination and guided visualisation to understand and explore current issues in your life and seeing the way forward by tuning into your inner wisdom. Working with creative, or active, imagination (originally developed by Carl Jung) can be seen as a bridge to the unconscious; engaging with its rich and symbolic language can bring healing and insights into consciousness in a powerful way. I also work with creative media, including drawing and sand tray therapy.
I have also integrated energy psychology and healing approaches into the way I work, including Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) & Matrix Reimprinting and Meta-Health Analysis and coaching (a holistic framework which looks at the deeper meanings behind health issues and symptoms).
The integrative approach involves the study and use of the key theories and approaches in psychotherapy. This includes the following approaches:
- psychodynamic: examining how patterns in the present can have their origin in our childhood or past. By identifying, understanding and working with these patterns we can rewrite old scripts and develop new ways of being that are more helpful in the present.
- humanistic: helping to build a stronger sense of self in an atmosphere of acceptance and non-judgmentalism. Drawing on Gestalt techniques, such as chair work, when it feels appropriate.
- existential: the psychotherapist Irvin Yalom identified four universal existential anxieties that face all humans at some time during their lives. These are death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness. These challenging issues can be explored as they arise. I also use the 'here and now' to look at what is going on in the relationship between us and what relevance this may have on life outside the therapy relationship.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (Trauma & Emotional Dysregulation)
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy combines psychotherapy with body-based (somatic) therapy and is a comprehensive method for healing the disconnection between body and mind, so often experienced as a result of trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Starting back in the 1980's, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies demonstrate a link between adverse experiences in childhood and chronic physical &/or mental illness and other life challenges in later life. These adverse experiences include abuse (emotional, physical &/or sexual), neglect (emotional &/or physical) and household or parental adversity (including mental illness, divorce & separation, domestic violence, substance/alcohol abuse & imprisonment). The risk tends to increase the more ACE's a child has experienced, however there are also other factors that help to reduce the risk. For example, a child who has an attuned relationship with a caregiver who can help them to process experiences of trauma and adversity at the time they occur, is likely to be more protected and resilient.
In the face of such childhood experiences that overwhelmed our coping mechanisms, our nervous system can be programmed for danger, with resulting impacts on our health and well-being. By improving emotional regulation and processing traumatic memory in the body, the nervous system can be encouraged to 'reset' and new nervous system defaults can be created over time, which lead to greater resilience and a more flexible response to life's stresses.
One possible consequence of traumatic childhood experiences, is that the brain and nervous system may utilise the survival strategy of dissociation in order to keep overwhelming experiences out of consciousness and thereby enable the child to survive and carry on with normal life. This can result in a sense of disconnection from the person's true and complete self and requires energy to keep these experiences out of consciousness. In addition, triggers that subconsciously remind the person of the original situations and traumas can bring back feelings, body sensations and survival strategies in present-day experiences, without the story that goes with them, which can be confusing and destabilising. Similar to the shamanic technique of soul retrieval, reclaiming these hidden child parts, clearing the traumatic reactions and building an inner world of understanding, acceptance and compassion can be an important goal for healing and growth.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy was developed in the 1980s by Pat Ogden, who recognised that many psychological treatment methods used at that time actually triggered traumatic reminders for her clients, rendering them at the mercy of reliving their past. Working with sensorimotor psychotherapy combines psychoeducation, mindful awareness, interpersonal neurobiology and use of both body-based and cognitive resources to process traumatic memory and improve emotional (affect) regulation. It includes an understanding of the Polyvagal theory to build and understand nervous system and emotional regulation. My approach also incorporates the many excellent trainings I have attended by the renowned trauma expert, Janina Fisher.
Mindfulness & Compassion Techniques
Being ‘mindful’ involves noticing when our minds are in ‘autopilot’ mode and choosing to return our attention to the present moment instead. It involves "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, to things as they are" (Jon Kabat-Zinn). In 'autopilot' our thoughts can gain a life of their own and tend to be either preoccupied with the past (perhaps replaying an upsetting incident) or anticipating the future (perhaps worrying about a future event). With mindful awareness, we become more present in our lives and are more likely to make conscious, rather than automatic, choices. Mindfulness can help to build resilience, calm emotions and enable more conscious choices to be made. I also use techniques and visualisations from the approach of Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), to align with the quality of compassion. This stimulates the self-soothing part of the brain, which can help with intrusive feelings of shame and self-criticism and reduce the sense of fear or threat which is often triggered by such feelings and thoughts.
Mindful Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT and MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) is an active and collaborative way of working, to address symptoms of anxiety and depression. It involves looking at how your thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviour interact to create maintenance cycles which keep the problems going. Usually 'homework' is carried out between sessions to help to build up a deeper understanding of the issues, including experimenting with new behaviours to gently break the cycle. 'Graded exposure' may be used to gradually overcome a specific fear by approaching the fearful situations or triggers in very small steps, after first learning and practising coping techniques. I prefer to use mindfulness in association with CBT, to help build the emotional regulation and coping skills necessary.
Lifespan Integration therapy uses a psychological technique called an 'affect bridge' to find a memory which is connected to a current problem, imaginally re-visit this past memory to bring in whatever is needed to resolve it and move forward through time to the present using a time line of visual images of scenes from the client’s life. This time line of memories and images proves to the client’s body-mind system that time has passed and that life is different now and the past event is over. There are some similarities with the energy therapy Matrix Reimprinting, which also involves revisiting past memories to resolve and re-imprint new meaning to past experiences.
What to Expect from a Session
Psychotherapy sessions last for 50-minutes at a cost of £60 per session, usually on a weekly basis at the same time each week. I work with individuals who are 18 years and over; I do not currently work with couples or children and adolescents.
The advantage of weekly sessions is that it is usually easier to develop a therapy relationship that feels emotionally safe and trusting enough to allow healing and rewiring of your nervous system to take place. Your strengths and qualities, as well as the patterns, defaults and beliefs that are no longer serving you, can emerge to be safely explored in the therapy relationship before being incorporated into your daily life. The nervous system needs repetition in order to rewire old defaults and ways of being, particularly where childhood trauma and early attachment experiences are concerned, which is supported by the regularity and reliability of the weekly meeting. However, I also have a small number of fortnightly spaces for clients who feel that a longer gap between sessions is more helpful to their healing and circumstances. I usually work with clients on a long-term basis but I also offer short-term sessions.
Before our first session, I will telephone you for a free 10-minute conversation to answer any initial questions and then to arrange the initial session, if you'd like to do so. I work face-to-face from my practice room in St Albans and also offer remote working (via Facetime, Skype, Zoom and telephone) as a backup option when necessary e.g. during illness or when working away from home.
The initial session is an opportunity to see how it feels to work together. It is the therapy relationship and connection that fosters healing, so it's really important that it feels right. Topics I may explore with you include your hopes and goals for therapy, any previous experience of therapy, your current support network, resources and coping strategies and your background, to help me to understand what you are looking for from therapy at this time and to learn a bit about you. It is completely up to you what you would like to share and please do ask any questions of your own to help you to work out if it feels right to work with me. I charge my usual rate for the initial session.
Background Information and Resources
The following are some of the books that I recommend to clients:
Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors ~ Janina Fisher
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Survive & Thrive when the World Overwhelms You ~ Elaine N. Aron
The Body Keeps the Score ~ Bessel van der Kolk
In An Unspoken Voice ~ Peter Levine
Healing Trauma ~ Peter Levine
Trauma and the Soul ~ Donald Kalsched
Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation ~ Boon, Steele & van der Hart
Mindsight: Transform your brain with the new science of kindness ~ Daniel Siegel
The Mindful Way Through Depression ~ Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn
Care of the Soul ~ Thomas Moore
Owning Your Shadow ~ Robert A. Johnson
On Grief and Grieving ~ Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
Good Grief Rituals ~ Elaine Childs-Gowell
The Drama of Being a Child ~ Alice Miller
The Artist's Way ~ Julia Cameron
Loves Executioner ~ Irvin Yalom
Attached ~ Amir Levine & Rachel Heller
Keeping the Love You Find ~ Harville Hendrix
I also recommend the Irene Lyon You Tube channel for some excellent videos about neurobiological understanding and healing of trauma.