What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a process of therapeutic and emotional exploration, which helps clients to understand their own emotional world.
Together, therapist and client aim to discover unconscious patterns and conflicts governing behaviour. This process allows us to change and find new ways to relate to ourselves and others.
Thanks to the safety of secure boundaries, confidentiality and the therapeutic alliance between the psychotherapist and the client, psychotherapy helps us to understand of how we got to where we are now and to face some of the feelings and fears we may have hidden from ourselves.
How can psychotherapy/ counselling help me?
People come to psychotherapy for all sorts of emotional problems such as; anxiety, depression, trauma, addictions, eating disorders, relationships issues, sexual problems, divorce, self-harming, low self esteem, feelings of isolation, bereavement, identity/life crisis, Post-Traumatic Stress-Disorder, dissociations, somatic symptoms, the process of ageing, the impact of discrimination, homophobia, oppression and much more.
Whatever the reason, wanting to understand yourself and your emotions better, through the process of psychotherapy, has the potential to enable transformation, bringing more choices to how you wish to live your life in a more fulfilled way.
Psychotherapy helps you to understand the meaning of your symptoms and suffering. The initial emotional reactions that you may be struggling with, have been developed as ‘strategies’ in order to cope with past trauma or anxiety. Together, client and therapist can work to understand what your mind/body is trying to ‘communicate’ so that in time new choices can be considered.
What happens during a session?
During any session, the patient or client may talk, reflect on what is in his/her mind at that moment and through the process of emotional exploration of therapy, the patient gains a greater understanding of his/her own processes. For example, past memories, body sensations, current life events, relationships, dreams, feelings, thoughts and wishes are all helpful to consider.
The therapist in turn listens to what the patient is communicating verbally and bodily, and explores and contributes to the patient’s own understanding. Although this may sound like an easy process, it is in fact a specialized and complex way of listening.
The secure therapeutic relationship helps develop a new ‘earned’ emotional security and allows grieving difficult past experiences. We will be looking at significant relationships and their impact on your current difficulties and explore ways we can make immediate improvements to your situation.
How does psychotherapy work?
Psychotherapy works by experiencing a new way of relating within the client/therapist relationship.
As a child, we develop our psyche through all the ongoing interactions with others (good or bad), first with our first caregiver, then with our family and other relationships. These experiences shape our emotional assumptions which are then stored in our unconscious mind, as “templates” to re-use in the present, in our everyday interactions. Emotions have no chronology and a child part of us can feel the same pain, anger or delight in the present without any awareness that the child’s emotional world is active in the here and now.
For example, when we experience supportive relationships, we develop an emotional security that allows us to cope resiliently with the inevitable difficulties of life. However, when we are subject to inconsistent, traumatic or neglectful relationships in our childhood, our emotional security is undermined and we may struggle to cope with life’s stresses.
Taking into account that a large part of our mind is unconscious, it is predominately in the presence of another person, whose job it is to help us discover about ourselves and our capabilities, that we are most likely to extend our knowledge of ourselves. Such an experience allows us to feel deeply understood, as well as understand and empathise with ourselves. As we acquire a richer understanding, we are then able to engage with life in a full way.
Why and how does my early life and early relationships matter now? How are they connected to the pain and difficulties that I am trying to cope with currently?
As an Attachment-based Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, I believe that attachment to significant figures in our life lies at the heart of individual growth and emotional development.
The building blocks of the infant’s psyche are formed through ongoing interactions with others. For example, how we are being held, fed, the quality of how we are being related to, when we are feeling pain, anger, confusion, delight etc. Initially this happens in relation to the mother or our primary caregiver, and later in the context of the family and wider relationships.
Through these emotional interactions we develop ‘templates’ of patterns, feelings, assumptions and experiences that are then stored in our unconscious mind. John Bowlby called them “working models”. As we go through life, such ‘working models’ are likely to be present in most of our relationships, dictating our current choices, behaviours, and feelings about ourselves and others, without us even being aware of their magnitude. Some of the ‘templates’ that we carry might be of help, while others may create difficulties in our mind.
The therapeutic relationship becomes the vehicle for change as there is an opportunity to discover together some of the more restricting ‘working models’, with the possibility of creating newer more helpful structures.