Art has been used since the prehistoric eras when our long-ago predecessors would express themselves and their relationship to the world in cave drawings and seek meaning to their existence through imagery. It was Jung and Freud who both emphasised the significance of symbolism whilst the use of art in modern day therapeutic practice began in the 1940’s with the pioneering work of Margaret Naumberg. It is well documented that the art expression of those suffering with significant mental illness is often incredibly profound, offering a unique insight in to their world when words cannot.
Arts-based psychotherapeutic counselling uses art materials in the creative process to explore emotions, reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem, and resolve other psychological conflicts. Using the arts in therapy brings a different feel to the work, particularly powerful when words are difficult to find or articulate. Through art we are able to express the inner workings of our psyche, known as ‘psychic expression.’ One of the joys of using art in therapy is that our efforts are not marked by teachers or critiqued by experts and so we are free to express whatever naturally occurs without having to plan a masterpiece! Whatever occurs is not judged but rather accepted with wonder and interest. You may want to talk about it or you may not. Sometimes creating something witnessed by another in a safe and calm environment is enough. At other times we may notice what feelings arise and think about what the expression, coming from you in your creation, is telling us.
Because my practice is not solely based on art-therapy, you might choose to use art materials, sand or clay in some sessions and not in others. We will just work at your pace and whatever feels ok in the moment. Sometimes if something feels stuck I may offer up the idea of using creative methods but it’s entirely your choice. Even the most sceptical of clients have found that using the arts has helped them, often finding the experience quite insightful, relaxing and freeing.
‘Develop a unique therapy for each unique client’ – Carl Jung
If you are sensing something needs to change in your life but you’re not sure quite what or how then counselling could help. Typically shorter term, counselling is a talking therapy based on the principle of empowerment. In other words, as your counsellor I have confidence in your innate potential to understand and discover what you need. Due to stress or emotional upheaval this potential may have become blocked resulting in you feeling rather stuck or lost along the way. As a boundaried, confidential relationship counselling can help people with a range of issues such as work-related issues, depression, anxiety, grief, or any issue that is causing you dissatisfaction or discomfort in your life. To give counsel typically means to give advice, however I value your autonomy so rather than give direct advice I will listen very carefully to your concerns, help you clarify your thinking, offer gentle challenge if needed and support you as you discover your own conclusions. An important part of counselling is to encourage you to identify your own resources which helps build self-esteem, resilience and confidence.
An estimated 450 types of counselling are in existence and no-one can claim to know all of them in detail! Research has shown the most important factor for good outcomes in any type of therapy is the strength of the relationship developed between the therapist and client. I firmly believe that the best kind of counselling therefore respects not only the uniqueness of the individual but also the unique relationship between the client and counsellor.
Whilst my roots are based in Adlerian counselling I offer a bespoke style of counselling which draws on and integrates differing theories and approaches. Most importantly, I will also listen to and value your own ideas resulting in, what we might call, a ‘pluralistic’ way of working collaboratively together.
When storms threaten our calmer waters we may feel lost and fearful for the future. Whilst we cannot change the power of the wind we can choose to change the direction in which we sail.
Existentially based therapy is, most importantly, a philosophical approach, a way of thinking rather than a particular therapeutic approach. It encourages people to contemplate and consider their unique position and life situation in the world whilst developing skills to think more clearly for themselves and develop the capacity for self-awareness.
Existential philosophy views human nature as flexible and expansive with people being in a constant process of changing and becoming. The past, present and future are all considered equally important in helping us find purpose and meaning in our life.
In therapy, you are invited to consider what it means to be human and explore themes which are often ignored or denied such as the nature of despair, death and non-being, grief, love, loneliness and what it means to suffer. The problems you experience as a human being are explored with an attitude of receptivity, curiosity and wonder. Existential therapy is grounded in the assumption that we are free, have free will and are, therefore, ultimately responsible for our actions and the choices we make. Therefore we learn to accept anxiety as a condition of living with the tension between this freedom and responsibility.
As a diploma level qualified supervisor and a registered and accredited member of BACP I supervise those in the ‘helping professions’ both in private practice and at the University of Cambridge Student Counselling Service. Previous experience includes supervising the face to face workers at The Kite Trust, a charity supporting Cambridgeshire’s LGBT+ young people. I supervise those working with adults, children & young people as individuals, groups, experienced, newly qualified or trainees. My supervisory practice is based on mutual respect, collaboration and a sense of a co-created safe space which facilitates not only the sharing of wisdom, knowledge and insight, but also as a place to bring the difficult and less flattering ‘stuff’. The spoken word in supervision is pretty much a given but often bringing the creative arts into the space gives us valuable fresh insight as does allowing a quiet space for reflection. Fundamental to supervision is the desire to work ethically, intelligently and always in the best interests of those we are working with. I am a big fan of good quality supervision as discussed in my article which you may like to read here: supervision article.
‘This article was first published in Private Practice, June 2020 issue, published by BACP. ©’
People of all sexual orientations and gender identities are very welcome in my practice whilst remembering not everyone in the LGBTQA+ community comes to therapy because of their identity! But I have a particular interest in and wealth of experience helping people understand and work through the struggles they may be having with their identity including both external in internalised trans/homo-phobia.
Most of us, certainly historically, have been assigned a gender at birth and typically are assumed to grow up heterosexual or ‘straight’. For some this fits well with how they intrinsically feel and view themselves in society. For others these constructs bring confusion and for many the binary narrative is simply not applicable or recognisable within themselves. The fortunate few may grow up in a family where gender expression or sexual diversity is not shunned but rather accepted as part of life and they are accepted wholeheartedly for who they are not what they are. Unfortunately there are many young people who don’t experience this and there are many adults who have lived a life in secrecy as a result.
I firmly believe that each and everyone one of us has the right to live a life that feels meaningful, authentic and fulfilling. Therapy can help LGBTQA+ folx find the confidence to accept and be proud of who they are.
In my practice I work with children from the age of 6 up to adolescents of 17. My work with children & young people always starts with a parent, foster parent or main carer consultation. During this meeting I will typically take a detailed history of the child, their familial, social and school or college environment. Depending on the particular concern we can then discuss the types of therapy which will be most suitable. For younger children emotion is naturally expressed through metaphor, imagery, story and play. Therefore sessions typical use creative methods such as play, art materials, puppets, sand tray, play dough, clay, story-telling along with lots of gentleness, warmth and encouragement. Using creative methods in therapy helps the child or young person externalise their feelings into an image. This helps them create a distance from the intensity of the feeling which in turn reduces the likelihood of shame.
Older children & young people often choose to both talk and use creative methods. They are encouraged to find the way that helps them best communicate their feelings and understand their thought processes. As each child and young person is unique, so is the way we will choose to work together.
Further details of therapy and process will be discussed at the initial consultation where you will have the opportunity to raise any particular concerns for your child or young person.
For some people the option to work online is more practical and accessible. I offer therapy online via Zoom, and FaceTime or telephone. Confidentiality is important so it is an important consideration before deciding to work this way. You will need a quiet space for the duration of the session and one where you will not be interrupted. Working online is different to face to face work but it can be very successful. We also have to make allowances for the occasional technical hitch or interruption to WIFI signals.
For children & young people working on line is possible too, and although the full range of activities won’t be available, it is still possible to engage in some creative work. Online work will be arranged with the parent or main carer although, as with face to face work, they will need to be in a space that is just for them for the duration of the session with access to basic art materials such as paper, pencils, pens, crayons or pastels.
I offer an academic writing mentoring service to counselling and psychotherapy students up to and including Master’s level. I support students with research design, essay construction, and writing.
My research interests include young people in the care system and how healing relational trauma through the creative expression of shame and anger may facilitate a brighter future for them. Related to this I am interested to explore, through using creative arts in research, the impact relational trauma in early childhood has on a person’s mental health and wellbeing in adulthood. I am currently studying for a Doctorate in Psychotherapy, my research is an arts-based study looking at the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the development of women’s sense of personal agency. I welcome anyone who has a genuine interest in my research so please get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspect of my research.
Sometimes it feels more comfortable to walk and talk side by side rather than face to face. I offer ‘walk and talk in nature’ therapy as an alternative way of working which can help us re-connect to our natural rhythm. There is also an opportunity to walk in an area bare footed which can be beneficial because the Earth provides us with an unlimited source of negatively charged free electrons. Every time we come into contact with the Earth’s surface we are able to absorb these free electrons which then spread throughout our tissues and neutralise any positively charged free radicals in the body. This effect is sufficient to maintain the body at zero volts, which is the same electrical potential as the Earth. I can provide a big umbrella should it be drizzling with rain.
The Journal of Environmental and Public Health reported in 2012 that “It is an established, though not widely appreciated fact that the Earth’s surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons. The Earth’s negative charge can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems which may be important for setting the biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms, and balancing cortisol levels.”