What led you to choose psychotherapy or counselling as a profession?
Becoming a psychologist was a mid life career change for me. After some years working in the field of human rights, addressing global issues I decided that I wanted to work with people on an individual level. I had always been very curious about how to understand and explain people’s behaviours and responses to life experiences. So training as a psychologist was a natural conclusion. Like most psychologists there are experiences in my own life that helped shape these interests.
Which philosophical approaches have influenced your professional/personal development?
My belief is that we are the product of our experience and meaning making, more than we are the outcome of genetic expression. Furthermore, my strong sense is that mind and body are one. So approaches that fully explore the impact of human experience, the meaning we give to those experiences, and consider how experience is reflected in mind and body is my fascination. In theoretical and therapeutic terms my philosophical orientation would include humanist, psychodynamic, narrative and systems approaches.
Which particular aspects of health or the human journey are you interested in?
I am particularly interested in those times in a person’s life when they reach a point when whatever has held that person together before, is no longer sufficient. This can happen in a myriad of circumstances: a single event such as becoming depressed or a global sense of having lost one’s way. Whatever the circumstances, the moment represents a window opening for change to occur and a deepening and enlivening of individual meaning to take place.
Making meaning of life can be considered in relation to a particular event or more broadly as spirituality. By spirituality I mean the way someone finds connection with themselves, and that helps them navigate the mystery that is life. For some this may mean specifically a religious faith, although for most people it would mean one of many other less formal expressions.
In summary, this transitional journey is a great interest in my work at whatever stage in life that it comes.
What method/s do you use?
I have broadly addressed this question above in my response about philosophy. But I am interested to know the person as a whole, and the course of their life so far, and what moves them. I seek to form a sensitive and responsive alliance with the person so they feel safe to explore and resolve whatever painful or distressing issue confronts them.
Sometimes resolution is about acceptance rather than change. This point takes me back to my thoughts expressed above about making meaning of one’s experiences.
When do you think the client will start to feel that progress is being made?
Having a sense of progress can be very individual. But many people go away from the first conversation feeling that at least they have made a good start and that they have talked about the things that matter most to them.
How has therapy made you a better person?
I am not sure whether this means how has my own therapy helped me, or how has being a therapist helped me! So I will try to address the first version here and the second version in the next question.
I believe that a therapist doing their own therapy is very important for 2 reasons.
Firstly, that as a therapist knowing one’s own issues and vulnerabilities is crucial to knowing what belongs to the client and what belongs to oneself when one comes to conducting therapy.
Secondly, having sat in the therapy room as a client provides vital knowledge of what clients might go through as they sit with you. Doing therapy is not easy. My own therapeutic experience has provided me with these insights as well broadening and enriching my personal life.
What do you like most about being a therapist?
Being a therapist is a gift, and hard work. To have people entrust me with sharing their inner world is a privilege. I feel that I learn about myself every day from what clients share with me. This applies to both the joy that often comes with resolution but also the struggle that people go through in dealing with difficult situations for which there is no easy resolution.
Do you ever have ‘bad hair’ days?
Of course! I have days when things don’t go as intended in my work with clients. I talk with clients about times when I feel that I have taken the wrong path or we have cross communication. I like to regularly check in with clients to get their perspective on how the process is evolving.
What do you think is the most significant problem we face, in the world today?
This is a difficult question to answer. But here are some thoughts. Life is mysterious and complex. There are both breathtaking and devastating facets of life in both our inner and outer worlds. We have to deal with all of these.
Often life twists and turns unexpectedly. I guess I’m focussed on how we deal with these aspects of life rather than problems themselves. If pressed I would say that environmental degradation and climate change, and discrimination be it racial, gender, religious or other forms would be topics that concern me a lot.
Can you share the name of a book, film, song, event or work of art that inspires you?
Any art form that captures the universality of human experience is inspiring as it tells us about ourselves. The enigmatic beauty of the Mona Lisa, the strength and wisdom of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, the power of Freddie Mercury singing “We are the Champions”, the glorious Fauré’s Requiem, or the torment of Healthcliff in “Wuthering Heights”.
My favourite inspiring moment is singing with my choir: singing together with friends, making gorgeous harmonies, with some fun dance moves all culminating in a great warmth of shared experience that brings us together.