Meet the Therapist: Daniel Cochrane
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I struggled with depression in my late 20s and I found the therapeutic process not only healing but it seemed to make sense to me. It fit with my way of thinking and I also just find the human psyche fascinating!
My job at the time also inspired me. I was a music tutor in further education colleges working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in and around London. I saw how a student’s mental health issues could negatively impact their ability to learn. For some, it was a huge barrier to academic achievement and their personal growth and development. I became more interested in how to help them emotionally, using what I learnt in my own therapy, as well as other areas of personal development and wellbeing I was discovering. So it felt like a natural next step to train as a therapist, and I haven’t looked back.
Where did you train?
I trained at the Psychosynthesis Trust, London Bridge.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I trained in psychosynthesis, sometimes called a psychology with a soul. It is a transpersonal modality, which means ‘beyond the limits of personal identity’, so it aims to integrate not only the personal but also spiritual elements of the psyche. A core principle of psychosynthesis is that the soul has a purpose for our lives that is always trying to unfold. For clients this means they are not defined by their personal problems or difficulties, but rather these struggles are indicative of a deeper meaning trying to emerge in their life.
It utilises techniques that can harness the creative power of the imagination, like guided imagery and mindfulness to help clients ‘dis-identify’ from patterns or habits that may be holding them back. I think perhaps I was drawn to psychosynthesis because I came from a creative background, as a musician originally. It seemed to put into words a growing feeling I had about myself and the human experience that, until that point, was unable to fully articulate; I had a sense of something clicking into place, of coming home.
How does psychosynthesis help with symptoms of anxiety?
Psychosynthesis and its model of the human psyche encourages different aspects of our personality to find their voice. Maybe we learnt to shut these parts down, perhaps because they weren’t acceptable to our caregivers or maybe they weren’t appropriate or were even dangerous to how life used to be. As we move on with our lives these old habits are no longer useful and can make us feel stuck or unable to find our way through difficult situations, which can lead to anxiety.
Psychosynthesis encourages these repressed parts of our personality to find expression, so they can be heard, understood and validated in the present moment. This often transforms them into something useful for our lives now, and as a result we feel less anxious and become more fully aware of who we are and who we want to become.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with individuals in both private practice and as part of the student support department as student counsellor at Ravensbourne University in Greenwich. So I see a lot of young adults, but in private practice, I work with a range of age groups. The most common difficulties are depression and anxiety, but also addiction, sexuality and gender issues, relationship difficulties, grief and eating disorders.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I like helping people understand themselves and their emotional life better. An analogy I heard on my training has stuck with me; a therapist is like a guide holding a torch or lantern, who joins a client on their path or journey for a short time each week. We use the light to encourage the client to see what they may have missed, rushed past, or had to ignore. This helps to empower the client to find answers and strategies to overcome certain difficulties, relieve pain and distress. I love being the guide and helping people find a deeper meaning to their lives, facilitating more of their inherent potential to emerge.
What is less pleasant?
It can be very isolating and intense work at times, especially in private practice. Because you are not part of a team there’s not always someone to turn to if you’re having a bad day, or want to bounce ideas around or simply go for a coffee break with someone. So I think it’s really important to find a balance and I’m grateful for some monthly peer supervision with colleagues I trained with, where we are able to share experiences and support each other.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been with welldoing.org for a year now and I think it is a brilliant resource for therapists. I particularly like how it matches clients with therapists as this helps to find clients of a good fit for my style and strengths. But more importantly, it makes the task of finding a therapist easier for the client, which I know for some can seem daunting, as they often don’t know where to start in choosing someone.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes absolutely, recently Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, The Drama of Being a Child by Alice Miller, What We May Be by Piero Ferrucci and The Primal Wound by Firman and Gila. All have helped to deepen the work and I think psycho-education is an important part of the therapeutic process. Apps like Calm and Headspace are great for clients wanting to use mindfulness in their self-care practices, and my favourite guided meditation website is www.tarabrach.com.
What you do for your own mental health?
Keeping active is a key aspect, in particular yoga, swimming, running and walking – anything to get outside in nature. I have a meditation practice and keep a personal journal, as well as continued supervision and my own therapy. I think balance is so important and so I still play music, performing with a band; this is a great way to socialise and utilise a different energy and set of skills to engage with people and myself.
You are a therapist in Central London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
I see clients who are living and working in a big city and I’m finding they can be depressed or anxious as there is such a lot of pressure and stress, and sometimes they are full of expectations on themselves also. This usually stems from careers or the pursuit of one, and how the modern world seems to demand that these endeavours are a success. Not to mention having rich and fulfilling personal lives at the same time!
All this pressure can lead people to cut off from themselves emotionally, as they put their feelings aside to try and ensure they aren’t distracted from their goals, but also the necessary practicalities and demands of living and the paying bills or supporting a family. Therapy can be a great way to find some balance. Having time with the support of a therapist, can help to realign what is important, whilst expressing emotions in a non-judgemental space, as well as finding ways to relax and ease the stress and learning how to incorporate this more into daily life.
What’s your consultation room like?
I use a variety of rooms but the theme for them all is a space that is calming and relaxed.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That emotional needs are as important as physical needs. Whilst it may not be as immediately detrimental to our survival to repress our emotions compared to repressing hunger or thirst, for example, the long-term affects can be devastating for our lives. There is growing evidence in fact for links between the two – how repressed emotions can lead to a range of physical ailments and conditions. So to engage in a therapeutic process and value your emotional life as much as your physical life is so important for good health, longevity, vitality, wellbeing, happiness and fulfilment. Maybe having therapy is much the same as food and water, perhaps we need emotional nourishment to thrive?
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I think one of the most important things was that I am the conductor of my life. For me this means not listening to the critical voice in my head so much and paying more attention to other aspects of who I am. Once I understood and listened to my emotions more I began to value myself more, no longer so susceptible to negative patterns and feelings from the past.
I became more able to steer and direct my life, as I formed a deeper relationship between my mind, body, feelings and soul; a synthesis of these definitive elements of my humanity. I believe it is possible for anyone to do the same.