Meet the Therapist: Lauren Haycox
What attracted you to become a therapist?
An interest in people coupled with an extremely positive experience of therapy myself. It led me to want to help other people in a similar way.
Where did you train?
At WPF (Westminster Pastoral Foundation), in London. WPF was founded as a charity over 50 years ago to provide accessible therapy for people from a range of backgrounds and incomes. It still does, and was an enjoyable place to train and work.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My type of therapy is psychodynamic, which means I work with emotions and behaviours that are rooted in past experiences and relationships but are causing difficulty for clients now.
I chose it because I have always been interested in the ‘why’ of things and I enjoy getting to know my clients over a slightly longer time frame than some other therapies.
How does psychodynamic psychotherapy help with symptoms of anxiety, depression or relationship problems?
People can find themselves feeling confused by their emotional responses, or can see that they’re falling into the same patterns in relationships but are not sure why, or how they can change. Often these are quite automatic responses that might have been helpful in the past but cause difficulties and suffering now.
These response can be rooted in feelings of shame around having needs and emotions and feeling it’s safer to numb or push them down.
Where I can help, as a psychodynamic psychotherapist, is by facilitating and supporting my client through a process of understanding themselves better. Together, we gently examine some of the beliefs and behaviours that cause difficulties and give permission to feel and express a full range of emotions.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work one-on-one with adults of all ages and backgrounds. They are often struggling with a feeling that something might have felt not quite right for a while and this can manifest in depression, anxiety, relationship and sexual issues. They might be managing difficult feelings by using food, substances or sex.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
Many people are struggling with the gap between the life they have been told they “should” be living and the life that is really fulfilling to them as an individual. We feel this from childhood, from our families, friends and wider society.
In the “ideal” life, we live a filtered existence where there is pressure to look hot, have a good job, be in a relationship and be hitting the “right” life goals at the “right” time. This pressure feels incessant and is tremendously amplified by social media.
Trying to live a life in line with all these external expectations can cause a great deal of suffering, but equally it can feel quite dangerous to go against all this and figure out what is good for you, individually.
Obviously, the pandemic is very with us right now, bringing loss for many. Others might be seeing relationship or personal difficulties that have been manageable in the past suddenly becoming problematic as the usual coping mechanisms aren’t available any more.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I feel so lucky to meet so many different people and hear about their unique experiences. Even though some people have experienced tremendous difficulty in their lives, I am always struck by their resilience and courage, and it really is a privilege to be trusted with people’s stories.
What is less pleasant?
I do spend a lot of time sitting down so have to be mindful to bring movement into my day!
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’m new to welldoing.org but appreciate the ease of the booking system and the inclusiveness of the community.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Often clients blame themselves for how they respond to situations and it can be helpful to understand a bit more about how trauma and difficult childhood experiences leave a legacy.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is good for understanding how trauma impacts the body. Similarly, Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté, is a good resource for those who have ADHD, or their families.
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés can put us in touch with our inner ‘Wild Woman’ at a time when women are socialised to be compliant, kind and put others first.
And finally, Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt is a must read for prospective parents.
What you do for your own mental health?
Yoga, exercise, long walks in nature and making time for some fun with friends and family. And a lockdown houseplant hobby that’s in danger of getting out of hand!
You are a therapist in St Albans. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
The people I see tend to be working professionals, often who have moved away from family for work, who might be at a stage in life where they are more reflective of childhood experiences. They might find themselves questioning career or relationship choices or experiences.
I see a lot of life transitions: settling into adult life and work, becoming parents, redundancy, retirement and so on.
What’s your consultation room like?
Cosy and full of plants!
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Often people feel that they don’t quite ‘deserve’ to have therapy – that things might not have been as bad for them as for others. Conversely, other people may have had a very difficult time and fear that the therapist is going to dredge up a lot of very painful experiences immediately. Or they might fear being judged or looked down on, for their sexuality or sexual preferences, family background or faith, amongst other things. People might imagine that we’re there to blame parents or loved ones.
Therapy is for everybody, though. We aren’t there to judge you. A good therapist will be respectful, compassionate and let you take your time though we might challenge you from time to time. We’re there to help you develop the self-sufficiency and tools to lead a life that’s right for you.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That my feelings and experiences are valid, as are other people’s. And a lot more self-compassion!