I aim to create a welcoming, non-judgemental space in my therapy room, where it feels safe enough to discuss things that may be very difficult to talk about. My first task would be to understand as fully as I can your situation from your point of view. To understand your feelings, thoughts and life story as deeply as possible. In my experience, this is the real key to therapy, as simple as it sounds. Often what becomes clear in therapy, is that there are parts of ourselves we have not listened to very deeply – and the presence, empathy and curiosity that the therapist brings enables us to hear these parts, to hear our own neglected needs, fears and wishes more clearly. When this happens, the sense of stuckness people bring to therapy starts to dissolve all by itself – and the way forward becomes visible.
As well as listening deeply, at times I may bring an understanding of how your past experiences may have influenced your present to bear on our work. I find this often really clarifies the nature of the difficulties people are facing; and also that it really softens any feelings of shame or low self-esteem that are around when it becomes clear that problems don’t just arise from nowhere, but are an understandable response to past experience. At other times I may suggest an experiment – such as sitting still for 10 minutes doing nothing, to have a chance to observe what thoughts and feelings arise (often useful for people who are always busy!), or perhaps writing a letter that does not have to be sent, if a client has difficulty expressing themselves and is finding it difficult to decide whether to talk to someone about something difficult. Sometimes trying something out, an experiment like this, can really help. But I never forget the deep listening that is the core of the work and would never ask someone to do something that feels too uncomfortable for them.
Perhaps the last thing to say about my approach is that I work collaboratively with my clients. My aim is to find a way of looking at and thinking about a problem and its solution that makes sense to both of us; to get on the same page regarding the way forward. As part of this, I often talk with clients in the last 5 minutes of the session about how the session has been; what has been useful for them, and what has been less so. There is an increasing amount of evidence from psychotherapy research that finding a common view of the issue the client is facing, and also how the therapy is going between therapist and client leads to really successful psychotherapy outcomes; and this has certainly become an important part of my practice!