My Humanistic Practice
As a humanistic therapist my approach to psychotherapy focuses on people’s individual nature rather than categorising groups of people with similar characteristics as having the same problems.
Humanistic therapy looks at the whole person, not only from the therapist’s point of view, but also from the viewpoint of the individual observing their own behavior. The emphasis is on a person’s positive traits and behaviors, and the ability to use their personal instincts to find wisdom, growth, healing, and fulfillment within themselves.
The beauty of Humanistic Integrative Therapy is its versatility. I have the freedom to flow seamlessly from one approach to another, as no one approach is necessarily flexible enough to be helpful to all.
I have blended the most potent ingredients from Gestalt Therapy, Person Centered Therapy, Transactional Analysis and the Egan Three Stage Model. This gives me the scope to tailor and adapt each session to your unique needs and individual circumstances. I also incorporate mindfulness, meditation and experiential approaches into my practice.
Additionally, I provide an atmosphere of support, empathy, and trust that allows the you to share your feelings without fear of judgment. I do not act as an authority figure; rather, the relationship between you and the myself is one of equals.
Person Centered Therapy
Carl Rogers the American psychologist (1902-1987) developed Person-Centred Therapy during the late 1940’s 50’s. At the heart of Person Centred Therapy are the Core conditions: Empathy, Congruence and Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR).
Congruence: is the most important attribute, according to Rogers. This implies that the therapist is real and/or genuine, open, integrated and authentic during their interactions with a client. The therapist does not have a facade, that is, the therapist's internal and external experiences are one in the same. In short, the therapist is authentic. Since therapists are also human, they cannot be expected to be fully authentic. Instead, the person-centered model assumes that, if therapists are congruent in the relationship with the client, then the process of therapy will get under way. Congruence exists on a continuum rather than on an all-or-nothing basis.
Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR): This refers to the therapist's deep and genuine care for the client. The therapist may not approve of some of the client's actions but the therapist does approve of the client. In short, the therapist needs an attitude of "I'll accept you as you are."
Empathic Understanding: This refers to the therapist's ability to understand sensitively and accurately [but not sympathetically] the client's experience and feelings in the here-and-now. Empathic understanding implies that the therapist will sense the client's feelings as if they were his or her own without becoming lost in those feelings.
Fritz Perls the German psychologist (1893 Berlin – 1970 USA) developed Gestalt therapy in the late 1940s guided by the relational theory principle that every individual is a whole (mind, body and soul), and that they are best understood in relation to their current situation as he or she experiences it.
The approach combines this relational theory with the present state - focusing strongly on self-awareness and the 'here and now' (what is happening from one moment to the next). In gestalt therapy, self-awareness is key to personal growth and developing full potential. The approach recognizes that sometimes this self-awareness can become blocked by negative thought patterns and behaviour that can leave people feeling dissatisfied and unhappy.
Founded by Eric Berne in the late 1950s, TA therapy is based on the theory that each person has three ego states: parent, adult and child. These are used along with other key transactional analysis concepts, tools and models to analyse how individuals communicate and identify what interaction is needed for a better outcome.
The ultimate goal of Transactional Analysis is to ensure clients regain absolute autonomy over their lives. Eric Berne defines this autonomy as the recovery of three vital human capacities - spontaneity, awareness and intimacy.
One of the key concepts of Transactional Analysis is the Ego-state model. Ego-states refer to the three major parts of an individual's personality, and they each reflect an entire system of thought, feeling and behaviour. These determine how individuals express themselves, interact with each other and form relationships.
These are: Parent ego-state - A set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours learnt from our parents and other important people. This part of our personality can be supportive or critical.
Adult ego-state - Relates to direct responses in the 'here and now' that are not influenced by our past. This tends to be the most rational part of our personality.
Child ego-state - A set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours learnt from our childhood. These can be free and natural or strongly adapted to parental influences.
Egan 3-Stage Model
Gerard Egan published the first edition of his book ‘The Skilled Helper’ in 1975.
The 3 Stage Skilled Helper Model provides a structured and solution-focused basis for examining, managing and implementing problems. It is a three-stage model in which each state consists of specific skills that I use to help you move forwards.
Stage one: The Current Scenario focuses on ‘what’s the present state of affairs?’.
Stage two: Preferred Scenario focuses on ‘what do I need/want instead of what I’ve got?’
Stage tree: focuses on Action Strategies ‘how do I get what I need/want?’.
This model helps you explore ‘the problem’ from your frame of reference. Allowing you to see yourself and your situation from a new perspective and focus on what you might do more effectively. While at the same time consider possible new ways to act, to look at costs and consequences. However, at the same time working on an action plan, moving forward and evaluating towards implementation.
Mindfulness and Meditation
I have incorporated meditation and mindfulness into my daily life for a very long time now, so much so that it is part of my daily routine. Health authorities are now seeing the benefits of mindfulness and encouraging regular practice. Mindfulness can be helpful for many issues including anxiety and stress. It’s about being present in the moment, paying attention on purpose to the present moment, being aware.
Mindfulness is intentional and non-judgmental. There is no right or wrong in mindfulness, it is what it is. At the start of my sessions I include a 10-minute exercise in mindfulness, concentrating on the breath and any areas of tension you may be feeling. Clients often say how calm they feel after this and it can help you put a different perspective on the issues you may have. I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this.
“Meditation is all about the pursuit of nothingness. It’s like the ultimate rest. It’s better than the best sleep you’ve ever had. It’s a quieting of the mind. It sharpens everything, especially your appreciation of your surroundings. It keeps you fresh.”
Hugh Jackman- Actor Singer Producer
The Origins of Mindfulness
Some people speculate that mindfulness dates back to our primitive hunter-gatherer forefathers changing their state of consciousness while staring at the flames of their fires. The teachings of Buddha 2,500 years ago advocated meditation. Meditation spread to many Eastern cultures and countries; while each adopting and adapting their own unique styles to the practice. Around the 1900’s Gestalt Therapy started to examine meditation as a form of therapy. Western society finally began to embrace meditation in the 1960’s and 70’s thousands of years after its conception in the east. Resistance to the practice remained strong as many people were put off by the perceived religious attachment to the practice. Mindfulness is now taught in many schools to children from eight years old without holding any religious or spiritual connection.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a specific way of paying attention to what is happening in our lives in the present moment, as it truly is. Of course, it won't eliminate life's pressures - but with practice it can help us take notice of (and hopefully stop) negative, habitual reactions to everyday stress.
The most common way this technique is practiced is through mindfulness meditation. This usually involves practitioners focusing on sights, sounds and physical sensations while trying to reduce 'brain chatter'. Some people struggle with mindfulness meditation at first, finding it hard to focus their attention, but this is to be expected and may require practice. Practicing the technique regularly can help people take a step back, acknowledge their 'brain chatter' and view it accurately and without judgement.
The Mental Health Foundation has reported that anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health issues within the UK; something that could, in part, be attributed to busy modern lives. Multitasking and juggling commitments has become commonplace, with many people feeling as if they aren't truly present in their own lives. Mindfulness can be helpful for many issues including anxiety and stress.
Other forms of mindfulness practice may involve physical movement. Exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi both involve meditative movements that can help improve physical self-awareness and quiet the mind.
“Life is available only in the present moment.” – Thích Nhát Han
Several chemicals are released during mindfulness (meditation) Gamma aminobutyric acid, Endorphins, Melatonin, DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) Serotonin, Dopamine and Oxytocin. While at the same time the stress inducing chemical Cortisol is reduced.
“Before I meditate, I’m like a broken glass. As soon as I meditate it’s whole again. All the pieces come back in, and I can see clearly, think clearly, and be grounded and energized.” Cameron Dias actress, producer, author
Benefits of mindfulness
Since the concept of mindfulness arrived in the west in the 1970s the claimed benefits have been substantiated by several clinical studies. The aim of mindfulness is to help individuals do the following:
- recognise, slow down or even stop negative, habitual reactions
- see situations with more clarity
- respond more effectively to situations
- enhance creativity
- feel more balanced at work and at home
According to the Mental Health Foundation, studies looking at the effectiveness of MBSR have reported the following benefits:
- 70% reduction in anxiety
- fewer visits to the doctors
- increase in disease-fighting antibodies
- better quality of sleep
- fewer negative feelings, including tension, anger and depression
- improvements in physical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and psoriasis
The evidence has been so strong in fact that nearly three-quarters of GPs have said they feel all patients would benefit by learning mindfulness meditation. Further studies into the role of mindfulness in the workplace are showing that it could improve productivity, decrease sickness absence and generally improve workplace well-being.
What else can mindfulness help with?
We have already discussed how mindfulness can be used to help people cope with issues such as stress, anxiety and depression, but what other issues could mindfulness help with?
Mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia looks to integrate behaviour therapy and sleep science with the meditation practices of mindfulness. The goal is to help increase awareness so individuals recognise and react accordingly to the mental and physical states that occur with chronic insomnia.
The idea of paying more attention to your physical sensations when you suffer from chronic pain may seem counter-intuitive, it is thought that mindfulness can help. The idea here is that instead of focusing on the negative thought patterns that emerge upon feeling the physical sensation of pain, sufferers should view their pain with curiosity. This is so the pain is experienced accurately as sometimes our minds can over exaggerate pain. Mindfulness for chronic pain is also thought to help teach individuals to let go of any expectations or future worries and instead focus on the present, dealing with physical/emotional reactions in a calm manner.
Treating negative behaviours such as addiction can be complemented with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as this looks to make the individual more aware of their emotions and how to deal with them, while simultaneously breaking harmful thought patterns.
Mindful eating is a useful practice that involves individuals taking time to experience their food and all the sensations surrounding eating. This can help those with disordered eating see food in a different light, as well as helping them to recognise when they are physically hungry/full without any associative emotions.