How Do I Work?
"Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not”
Arnold Beisser, MD
My work is primarily underpinned by Gestalt Therapy and this approach takes into account the uniqueness of each individual and their experience of the world. I will provide a warm, non-judgemental and authentic therapeutic relationship from which we can explore what might be getting in the way of you living your life as you would like.
An essential component of Gestalt Therapy is the 'Paradoxical Theory of Change' (Beisser, 1970). The paradox is that when we strive and struggle to change ourselves we remain stuck. Only when we accept ourselves as we are right now does the process of change begin to occur. As such, I will not be looking to change you if you choose to work with me. We will be exploring just how it is to be you right now – how you feel; what is going on inside your body; how it feels to be telling me how you are; what you are feeling as you tell me what happened to you last Saturday; what I am noticing about your voice, words or actions while you are telling me; whether you have felt like this before.
As an existential therapy, the Gestalt approach assumes that each person already has the resources needed to come into contact with others in the world and to have fulfilling relationships and experiences. However, each of us grows up in an environment unique to us and in order to survive, will adapt accordingly. These adaptations are miraculous tools of survival, but if we are not aware of them, they will shape how we are in our relationships and the world in unhelpful ways. The Gestalt Therapist aims to help people become aware of these repetitive patterns so that they can then choose whether to let them go.
The term ‘gestalt’ is German and roughly translated means ‘whole’. When we have unfinished business in an area of our lives the gestalt is incomplete and as long as it remains so, we will repeat the same unfulfilling patterns. Thus, you may have a problem at work that is a recurring theme in your life. You may have been behaving/responding in ways with which you are familiar but feel unable to stop. After a few weeks of counselling, you may have discovered and accepted why this issue is affecting the whole of you so intensely. As you begin to understand and accept what is going on for you, you will begin to become aware of more choices in dealing with the issue. You may at this point choose to finish your counselling.
However, even though that particular cycle has been completed, it may have become apparent that there are other pieces of unfinished business bothering you. We can then discuss whether you would like to continue your counselling to work on these other issues. If it is clear in the initial session that the issue you are bringing will require longer-term work, I will let you know then.
Gestalt Therapy is approached from the ‘here and now’ and as such, what is going on in the therapy room is really important. It will provide vital clues as to what might be affecting you in your everyday life. It is also a relational approach to counselling so that I will bring myself fully to the work and from the safety of our working relationship, we can explore any difficulties that may come up between us that you are experiencing in your relationships outside of the counselling room. The relationship between client and counsellor is rich ground for healing old wounds.
Gestalt Therapy is also experiential and so during the work we do together we will be looking at trying out other ways of being. This is not pre-planned or prepared, but ideas will emerge within the sessions and between us; an organic process. There is always choice and you don’t need to try any experiments that you would rather not. We will also be looking at dreams, which can further shed light on parts of ourselves with which we may be out of touch.
From the safety of our therapeutic relationship, I can help you become more aware of what it is like to be you as you describe what you are experiencing through your words and demonstrate it through your actions. I see my role as being rather like an Archaeologist so that although you know much more about yourself than I ever can, you may have buried many parts of yourself behind walls over the years. Your walls will have been built for important reasons and will have protected you from difficult situations and relationships in the past, but may now be getting in the way of you living your life as you would really like to. They may be preventing you from having intimate relationships or friendships; causing you to have lost your drive or stopping you from applying for a new job. Getting to know why these barriers have developed and how we are relating in the world can help us accept why we are doing what we are doing. Accepting why something has come about makes it less frightening and less likely for us to slip into that way of being. It gives us the chance to think of other ways of dealing with an issue. As such, we don’t change, but we just have more freedom to become ourselves more fully.