Core Process Counselling and Psychotherapy
“It’s a beautiful process; a process that is similar to a seedling pushing through the darkness and moving through or around obstacles, always being drawn by the light. I see clients making their own movements towards growth, and I’m there to support that, affirm that and from time to time guide that a little. Everyone is different and every process is different – that is why this work is so exciting. It’s as much art as it is science.”
What is psychotherapy, and how is it different from psychology and psychiatry?
There is much over-lap between the three disciplines. It is easier to talk about what uniquely defines each. Psychiatrists are medical practitioners and are qualified to prescribe psychoactive medications and typically spend less time actually counseling clients. Psychologists are trained to diagnose mental health conditions and to treat them though counseling and cognitive behavioural techniques. Psychotherapists typically focus on enhancing self-awareness and expanding people’s mental and emotional well-being.
In England, where I first started my private practice, most of my clients were high-functioning, successful individuals who nonetheless had core issues that really held them back from living life fully. Issues such as fear of intimacy, falling repeatedly into destructive relationship dynamics, fear of authority figures or of revealing one’s authentic self to others, not being able to live according to one’s deep inner values and so on. You can have one or many of these issues and be socially a very well-adapted person – however, these issues will undoubtedly affect the quality of your life hugely.
What is a psychotherapist`s training like? How does it differ from a psychologist's?
There are so many kinds of training that it’s hard to generalize. It’s easier to take my own training as an example - my psychotherapy training was a four and a half year professional training at the Karuna Institute and I did the extra work to qualify with an M.A. in psychotherapy.
There is much shared knowledge between psychology and psychotherapy – for example, we learn about stages of cognitive and emotional development in children and how to identify different personality tendencies and their pathologies, we also learn different techniques in treating clients including how to work with shock and trauma.
The one thing that distinguishes my training from that of a typical psychologist’s training in Alberta is the requirement that we’re in weekly therapy ourselves throughout the training (some psychologists choose to have therapy themselves though it is not required). I think it’s important that we go through a similar journey that we’re inviting our clients on. Basically, we’re taking our own medicine and evaluating the results! I think this is essential – for example, if I’m not personally aware of my own fear of vulnerability then when my client starts to cry, it might trigger something in me – I might want to comfort the client’s vulnerability away rather than receive it as something to be honoured and to enquiry into. That is why one of the criteria at The Karuna Institute included personal weekly therapy for the duration of the four year training and for the first two years of our professional practice. So yes, I would strongly encourage people to always ask a prospective therapist if they’ve actually done the work on themselves.
Why would a person go to a psychotherapist?
People come for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes there is a crisis in their lives or a huge change or transition that is difficult for them to manage. Other people come because they are aware of some stuck issues that seem to repeat themselves over and over. Yet others come because they sense that they want to live life more fully and vibrantly, but are somehow unable to. In England and Europe, people are also drawn to psychotherapy as a means of self-awareness, personal growth and even spiritual exploration.
Will you help me solve my problems?
I believe that my clients have the ability to solve their own problems. What I can do is help identify what is stopping you from taking the steps you already know you need to take to address the problems. Often there are underlying fears that prevent people from taking those good steps – often based in how we were conditioned when we were little – for example, being afraid to change because we don’t want to upset someone else, or believing that it’s selfish to care for our own needs, or fearing abandonment by others if we start behaving differently. When those fears are seen with deep understanding and kindness, the power they have over us loosens - we can begin to choose to act according to our wisdom rather than our conditioning.
How do you begin with a new client? Do they lie on a couch?
I begin by asking why they’ve come and what they’re hoping to achieve and tell them a little about how psychotherapy works and what they can expect from the sessions. Basically we get to know each other a little and establish an understanding.
Then I invite them to relax more, to start to connect to their breath, to their bodies and to bring themselves more fully into the space. I invite the client to come into a space that is not ‘social’ or ‘normal’ but one that is deeper, more authentic and introspective. From there, issues naturally emerge. It’s a beautiful process; a process that is similar to a seedling pushing through the darkness and moving through or around obstacles, always being drawn by the light. I see clients making their own movements towards growth, and I’m there to support that, affirm that and from time to time guide that a little. Everyone is different and every process is different – that is why this work is so exciting. It’s as much art as it is science.
Oh, about the couch – there is one, but most of the time you sit in it! Occasionally, if it feels appropriate lying down is ok too.
Do you analyze a clients dreams and childhood?
You mean “does psychotherapy look like a Woody Allen movie”?! Dreams and childhood memories can be incredibly rich territory – they can tell us about issues that affect us that are yet unconscious or semi-conscious, so yes, it can be a wonderful exploration. However, I never ask for such information unless it is totally relevant to what is going on in the person’s life or in the session itself. Again I’ve discovered that there is an inner structure in each individual that unfolds naturally and it’s richer to follow that than any agenda I might have.
What do you expect from me?
I expect that you’re coming to see me because you want to change and grow and that you’re taking responsibility for that. That you aspire to be open, honest and vulnerable. That you want to uncover your authentic self and find answers that come from inside of you rather than cookie-cutter solutions and platitudes.
What can I expect of you?
I will hold my role as your therapist in a professional manner. This means that our relationship is primarily for serving your growth. Within that role, I aim to be authentic, kind and respectful. However, I won’t hesitate to challenge you when it feels appropriate.
I aspire to drop any personal agendas so that I can provide an open, non-judgemental space for you to explore and discover who you really. I love authentic relating that is truthful and direct and open to surprises - rather than socially conditioned relating. I see each session as an opportunity for my own growth and learning.
How long do I need to come for?
I ask for at least a six week commitment if the client wishes to continue after the initial meeting. This is a reasonable length of time to focus on a particular issue, or to lay the foundation for long-term in-depth psychotherapeutic work.
The question is a little like how long do I need to practice Yoga for? It is possible to get benefits from a few weeks practice – but really, psychotherapy, like yoga, can also be a vehicle for deep exploration and mental and spiritual expansion. Some people love having the space for this on-going exploration, for committed reflection, for healing – for those reasons therapy can last from a few weeks to years depending on the depth that the person wishes to explore.