A wide variety of issues might bring people to therapy, including depression, anxiety, stuckness, feeling 'too much' or 'too little', wanting to work more deeply with recurring embodied sensations, thoughts or feelings, difficulty with relationships, or other life themes and existential issues.
To give you an idea of how I work, here are some of the core themes we might explore in our work together, and ways we might explore them.
In some ways therapy is about becoming aware, or more conscious, in our lives. In a session it this can mean bringing a gentle attention to what is happening, and how we are feeling - now, in the session, and in also in life. It's sometimes also useful to bring awareness to the quality of that attention: as you bring attention to the moment, to thoughts, emotions, sensations, do you feel critical, fearful, supportive? We might pay attention to how the body feels in space, proprioceptive awareness, and how it feels inside, interoceptive awareness.
Our past experiences, particulary during key moments of our early life, can influence us in the present. This may be more or less conscious, and may take time to come to the surface. This can be in the form of memories but also of feelings and sensations that underly but still influence our everyday consciousness.
Starting with the body can be a way into these early developmental patterns and experiences, which can be times before we had language to express ourselves. I have found in my work that material around birth and being in the womb (pre and peri-natal psychology) can also sometimes emerge. This time can have a profound impact on our sense of being welcome or comfortable in the world.
Coming to therapy means making space for something else. It is a unique space - which can feel both playful and as real as it gets. It can also mean creating space for parts of yourself that don’t currently have much room to breath in your current life. It can mean allowing space for memories, for dreams, for the ‘other’ to emerge into present awareness. It can mean making space for different states of consciousness, for new thoughts and ideas, for compassion and self-acceptance.
We do not exist separately from the societies in which we are situated. Aspects of gender, sexuality, race, class, religion and politics may have impacted and continue to impact our lives in many ways. Similarly therapy can take into account the wider context of our lives, and the lives of our parents or significant others.
We are living through a pandemic. This backdrop means that often anxiety is heightened, relationships are more under pressure, and our sense of who we are in the world is more uncertain. There may be moments of peace and moments of pressure, and most of all a deep undercurrent of uncertainty. It can be good to recognise and remember these changed circumstances. This backdrop can be an opportunity or catalyst for deep change, but also for finding ways to feel 'good enough' for now.
It can be helpful to trust that whatever needs to happen in a session, is happening. It may need a little help to emerge. But paying attention to ‘process’ - what is happening in the now, over different sessions, what feels alive and what feels more difficult or hidden - is a key part of the work. I don't work with any one 'technique' or have a system you must fit into. Models and tools are useful, but also of importance is us being together in the moment and allowing something unique to emerge and unfold.
What does it feel like to be with others? What does it feel like to be with yourself? What needs get met, what go unnoticed or are held back? As well as embodied awareness, exploring relationship is a key part of this work. This includes our relationship to different aspects of ourselves, and how they relate to each other, as well as our relationships with other people and the wider world around us. Often the therapeutic relationship itself can become a place to 'catch' some of these attitudes and patterns as they play out in the container of the therapy process.
Of course I as therapist also play a part in this – I am not a 'blank slate' but instead aim to 'show up' to the relationship in a way that ultimately serves the therapeutic process.
Popular books like Peter Levine's Waking the Tiger and Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score have shown how mindful, body-centred therapeutic approaches can be key to the processing and resolution of traumatic experiences. Trauma can be characterised as be one-off incidents, 'developmental trauma' - difficult experiences when growing up - or periods of repeated difficult experience in later life causing a numbing and separating in the body-mind.
A lot of the work in this area has been backed-up by the findings of contemporary neuroscience, which reinforces some of the basic tenets of body-oriented therapeutic approaches.
We may have different feelings about being in a body. Some of us might yearn to 'ascend' to the light, or be comfortable in the world of thought and find feelings uncomfortable or disruptive. Others may find their bodies too present, too demanding, or something that needs to overly be honed or corrected. A lot of my work is about giving expression to our unique embodiment - not teaching a 'correct' way to breath or to be but rather finding ways to hear, express and perhaps reconcile the different parts of ourselves contained within our body-mind that emerge in our relationship with ourselves and with others.
It can be all too hard to be really listened to in this world. Therapy offers a space to be really listened to, and to be truly heard.
"And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening"
- Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel