Meet the Therapist: Lisa Snook
What attracted you to become a therapist?
It was a collection of different things. I’m a passionate advocate of the therapeutic benefits of art making. I realised early on that art can both support emotional wellbeing and reveal hidden parts of ourselves. With the latter, I became interested in a ‘bottom-up’ approach to therapy, which is a way of working that integrates body awareness and focuses on a more sensory and felt expression within the therapy.
I also love story telling and fairy tales. I was interested in people’s stories and in particular, how they chose to tell them. Telling your story through a linear narrative or moment by moment account isn’t always right for everyone. Fairy tales, like metaphor, like the arts, can carry what it is you need to say, or let go off or bring more of into your life. The arts are a powerful vehicle to carry your voice into the world.
I also had a growing fascination around the time I began my training, of the link between our physiological and psychological health and how the body holds our emotions through tension, sensation, movement and breath and how this research was linking with neuroscience.
Where did you train?
I trained at The Institute for Arts and Therapy in Education, (IATE). My training included an MA in Integrative Art Psychotherapy, Counselling Skills and a Post Graduate Certificate in the Therapeutic Arts.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I practise as an integrative art therapist. The art part can sometimes be a little confusing or daunting for many people. I’m often asked if you need to be able to draw, which you don’t. Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy, it’s about exploring what’s going on for you in your life at the moment. The arts are there to assist this process. The power of creativity lies in its ability to bypass the thinking left brain and access the more emotional parts of the brain, which helps bring things out of our awareness and into the here-and-now. Once an image has taken shape, together we can be curious about it. The image is never analysed, instead, we explore what it might be saying to us in relation to your story. I have witnessed the extraordinary power of images to hold meaning and emotion, tenderness and anger, fear and frustration and as such, I treat them with the upmost care and respect.
I mentioned earlier about working with the body and I do this through sensorimotor awareness. This means that I might ask you to notice any sensations that arise in your body, or notice if your breath has changed. This way of working brings us into the present moment and into our bodies and is particularly helpful for people with trauma. Our bodies carry us through life, they are both our boundary and point of contact and house all our experiences.
How does art therapy help with recovery from adverse childhood experiences?
I think art therapy’s ability to bring things into awareness through creative channels, means that it works effectively with the effects of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) or developmental deficits.
Without effective mirroring or parental attunement in the early years of life, being able to verbally articulate your feelings is extremely hard. After all, how can a person express their emotions if their emotions have been repeatedly denied or rejected in some way?
I sometimes think of this idea in terms of a bat radar, human beings continually send out signals, consciously and otherwise, to re-affirm who we are and our place in the world. If the information we receive comes back blank, how do we know what or how we feel, or where we fit in? Using the creative arts gives us the tools to go looking. The arts in this sense, act like a bridge between our inner and our outer worlds and we need to be able to connect them, we need the bridge. We need to be able to retreat into ourselves, be ok with being alone, whether that’s snuggled up on the sofa with a good book, or simply be happy in our thoughts and daydreams. We also need to be able to make and sustain healthy relationships, to love and find joy in our lives.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with a diverse range of people on an individual basis. Some of the areas I’ve worked with include trauma, bereavement and panic attacks and at the moment I’m seeing people with a lot of anxiety, self-harm and addictions.
I welcome adults and young people from the age of 15 and upwards. I still have a special place in my heart for a 96 year old client I worked with!
What do you like about being a therapist?
There is something very unique about being a therapist, I’m constantly reminded of what connects us, in terms of a shared humanity and what can also isolate us, in terms of loss or depression. The oscillation between connection and disconnection is in constant flux, and learning to be with both requires agility and acceptance and its not always easy but I wouldn’t want to do any other profession.
What is less pleasant?
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
What I like about the site is the personal touch, the genuine drive to help people find the right therapist for them. This can be a challenge, so it’s helpful to have few Q&A’s that can direct someone in the right direction, as well as finding out a bit more about the therapist before you make any decisions.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I do sometimes suggests books if I think they would be helpful to my clients.
What you do for your own mental health?
I practise yoga, walk my dog and spend as much time in my studio playing with clay as I can.
You are a therapist in Twickenham and Teddington, as well as offering online therapy. What can you share with us about seeing clients in that area?
At the moment I have a private practise in Twickenham and Teddington. It’s a much less busy part of town. Often finding the right therapist is also about making it fit into your schedule. People’s lives are busy and the travel aspect of therapy requires consideration as well.
What’s your consultation room like?
My consultation room is bright and warm, with a couple of comfy chairs and enough room to experiment with some art materials. It’s on the first floor of a privately run therapy centre. There are four separate rooms and a seated reception area.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I’ve noticed in recent years, that talking about mental health has become more accepted. This is something that I’d like to encourage more of. Asking for help when you need it is a very positive and brave step to make in your life and one that deserves respect.
Therapy can also be a place where we can actively seek out joy. Joy is an emotion that can help balance and bring harmony into our lives. Therapy can be hard, I think it’s important that I help my clients find ways to support their therapeutic journey.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
When something untoward or unsettling happens, I try to approach the problem by observing and noticing how I’m feeling without ego or attachments. It helps me to stay with the difficult or uncomfortable feelings and work through them as opposed to fighting with them.