People come to see therapists for many differing personal reasons, but usually because they are struggling with strong emotions such as stress/anxiety, depression, anger and grief. A key aim of therapy is to give people the insight needed to take back control of their emotional distress.
Counselling can also help those who do not consider themselves in distress. It can help with personal growth, and motivation, with gaining clarity about your behaviour or when lacking direction.
Asking for help can be difficult, people often feel they should be able to cope alone or are embarrassed about their problems. Maybe you can’t imagine things can ever improve or just don’t know where to start. This is where professional counselling can help.
A good therapist should be much more than a good listener. I apply psychological understanding to problems to help you achieve your goals, whilst building a warm, supportive therapeutic relationship.
Therapy works best when you are able to be honest and open-minded to explore your situation, but it can be challenging and can sometimes seem like hard work. I appreciate that therapy is a substantial commitment, and I have nothing but respect for those that choose to seek change.
Why do people seek psychological support?
Issues I most commonly work with include:
· Workplace issues incl lack of confidence, imposter syndrome and burnout
Anxiety, stress and panic attacks
· Depression, low mood, lack of motivation
· Low self esteem & high levels of self-criticism
· Trauma/ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Difficulty dealing with difficult childhoods or past events
· Intrusive thoughts; obsessions and compulsions (OCD)
· Bereavement or loss
I work in an integrated manner, which means I use a few different approaches that work well together. I will only ever use techniques that are backed up by substantial evidence that they are effective.
I offer a bespoke therapeutic service for adults over 18, based on my training and qualifications, primarily in the approaches below. (Don't feel you have to read all the detail below! I’m happy to explain in person.)
Comfortable, informal counselling room in Anson House, Llandudno Junction
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
This draws on a century of psychological research into how (a) the way we think (‘cognitions’), (b) the way we feel and (c) the way we behave are all connected. CBT is a more structured, goal-focused approach which is seen as the gold standard intervention for many mental health issues. CBT enables us to map out how the habits we have acquired, in the form of biased thoughts and unhelpful behaviour patterns, are contributing to our unhappiness.
A key aspect is that is it not an event which causes us emotional distress but our interpretations of the event which are all important. So, two people may react very differently to the same event depending on their interpretations. And our interpretations may be unrealistic or biased.
In addition to thoughts, behaviour patterns are also discussed. When life is difficult and stress or depression feel overwhelming, we often develop coping behaviours. For example, people with anxiety and depression will tend to avoid certain situations and stop socialising. When these coping mechanisms become a long-term habit, these behaviours actually make the problem worse. It can then be difficult to know how to ever get back on track.
CBT identifies these unhelpful patterns in thoughts and behaviours. I would help you to challenge irrational, biased thoughts, identify 'vicious circles' and together we can agree concrete goals and small steps for you to try out new behaviours. This ultimately results in more positive emotions and greater self-confidence as you learn to cope independently in new healthier ways.
CBT looks not just at how mental health issues started but, importantly, explores what keeps them going. Through this work, you can learn the skills to avoid falling into the same traps in future. By learning to question your own negative thoughts and to recognise your own unhelpful behaviour patterns you can learn to be your own therapist.
This unrushed approach focuses on the substantial inner strength and ability for personal growth that is within all of us (even when we feel utterly burnt out). While I may be the expert in general psychological aspects, you are the expert on your life. Your subjective experience is the most important aspect of therapy. I will give you ample time to tell your story and will actively work to empathically understand your experience.
Within this non-judgmental relationship I will behave as an authentic person, rather than an aloof ‘expert’. I act as a safe ‘sounding board’ to help clarify your thoughts. In this way I aid you to feel confident in your own decisions rather than rushing to give you advice. Many people feel that they’ve always fallen short of ‘ideal’, and so experiencing a genuine and accepting relationship for the first time can be a powerful experience. This positive view of humanity recognises that, given the right conditions to explore, ultimately the individual will often find the right way forward for them.
Any counselling methods are only as good as
the work relationship underlying them.
Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT)
When people have low self-esteem and high levels of self-criticism, the usual therapies (including sole use of CBT) may not be as effective. Often when a therapist tries to a help a client with a difficult past or high self-criticism to see other perspectives, they may say things like ‘I can see what you're saying, I know that I’m not to blame for what happened to me, but somehow I still feel to blame’.
CFT is an approach rooted in evolutionary science and neuroscience. It teaches how the design of the modern brain, whilst giving us some amazing abilities, can itself also give rise to mental health issues. This approach involves education about brain systems (as applicable to the individual’s problems), with mindfulness and guided imagery, including home practise. The aim is to train people to be better able to engage the brain system involved in soothing, social connection, and compassion. In this way they can help themselves to turn off anxiety, destructive anger and that harsh inner critic, rather than getting stuck in vicious circles of negativity and distress, as is so common.
Self-compassion sometimes has a reputation for being weak or self-indulgent, especially if receiving compassion is quite unfamiliar for a person. However, it often actually takes much strength and courage to truly face distressing memories, thoughts and emotions and commit to finding a more helpful way to cope with them. CFT works at a pace that is suited to you to help you move past shame, trauma and destructive, negative internal dialogues. Where and when appropriate, it can then also be combined with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. In this way you can learn to be more objective about yourself, the situation, and the best way forward, and experience a more healthy and positive emotional state.
Compassion-focussed therapy is a fusion of Eastern and Western wisdoms, to bring about change in people with high levels of self-criticism and imposter syndrome
Compassion-focused therapy uses education about the brain, mindfulness and guided imagery to help you leave that destructive self-critical, inner voice behind.