Dr Louise Styles is a psychologist in Devon and online

What attracted you to become a therapist?

I am fascinated by the reasons behind people’s thoughts, feelings, words and actions. We are the sum of our experiences and genetics of course, but our path is not set, and we all have the power to change what doesn’t serve us.

I have spent over 20 years learning as much as I can about psychology and therapeutic techniques, and I love helping people feel more comfortable in their own minds and bodies, their unique path through life and their relationships with others.


Where did you train? 

I gained both my Doctorate in Psychology, which focused primarily upon cognitive biases and how to challenge them, and my MSc in Animal Behaviour, which gave me an excellent grounding in the evolutionary causes of behaviour, from The University of Exeter, finishing in 2014.

I also have a BSc in Applied Psychology, which gave me a broad understanding of how psychological knowledge can be used to understand and treat mental illness and distress.

I have also completed a Diploma in Counselling and numerous other CPD courses before and since, which have greatly enriched my counselling skills.

I am chartered with the British Psychological Society and am therefore permitted to use the title of CPsychol, a legally recognised title.

I have worked in NHS inpatient mental health facilities for over eight years, so have a great deal of experience with patients suffering from eating disorders, self-harm, depression, anxiety, mood disorders and psychosis; as well as for Liaison Psychiatry, the bridge between arriving at A&E and finding a safe place for those in severe crisis at their most vulnerable moment. This has taught me so much about the struggles people go through, and I have been so glad to help them.

Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?

I practice integrative therapy, which means I am trained and experienced in a range of therapeutic techniques with differing theoretical underpinnings.

I use these to create a bespoke counselling programme for each client, with a defined path and specific goals that we work together to achieve.

My highest priority is developing a trusting, effective, non-judgemental client-counsellor relationship and supporting clients through their unique journey.

For some clients with complex past history, trauma and difficult relationships, I will use a psychodynamic approach, delving into how a person’s current thoughts and behaviours are related to those previous experiences and relationships, working through the resulting emotions in a safe environment, then helping them to develop new, healthier interpersonal skills and coping mechanisms.  

Other clients prefer to focus primarily upon their problems in the present and so I help them to find ways to change problematic thoughts and behaviours through solution-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), with homework and tasks for them to complete. Following this process of examining their thoughts and beliefs and finding helpful alternatives, my clients can make progress in their journey towards change in a relatively short time.

I also use skills that I learned during my MSc in Animal Behaviour in my work as a counsellor. Behaviours tend to have adaptive reasons driving them, and in finding those reasons, we can then find ways to work with those biological drives. For example, anxiety as a response to potential danger in our environment is actually a useful adaptation, making us vigilant and respond quickly to threats. It is when the thought of that potential threat becomes out of proportion with reality that it becomes unhelpful, and I seek to help clients find that balance in their lives.

Some clients benefit from walk-and-talk or nature therapy, which is more of an environmental adaptation than a model of therapy in itself, but can be really helpful for neurodiverse clients, and for those with anxiety or depression.

For clients who seek help with relationships, I practice systemic therapy, which endeavours to improve a relationship between two or more people, whether that is a couple, a family, a work relationship, a friendship or alternative unit, seeking ways to recognise unhelpful patterns and dynamics, before learning how to manage those difficulties in a healthy way.

As a branch of this, I offer sex therapy to individuals or couples/alternative units, and can help with issues such as tension within relationships due to mismatched libido or sexual interests, infidelity and trust issues, erectile dysfunction, communication issues, shame, past trauma, fetishes and porn addiction.

I also offer coaching and training sessions for interpersonal communication, pattern-recognition and recalibration in relationships and sexual difficulties.

How does integrative therapy help your clients reach their goals?

My type of therapy works best for people who have complex issues, such as interpersonal problems with family, relationships or work dynamics; sexual difficulties; trauma; eating disorders; self-harm; and neurodivergent people such as those with ADHD and autism. Together, we unpick the issues holding the person back, delve into them and work out a plan of action to move forward, leaving unhelpful coping techniques behind and finding a new way of living.

I am unshockable, sex positive, supportive of alternative lifestyles and LGBTQ+ friendly, which means I provide a totally non-judgemental and open-minded safe space for people to open up and be themselves.

What sort of people do you usually see?

I have worked with many clients aged 16+ seeking help with their self-esteem and life enjoyment, particularly focusing upon interpersonal and LGBTQ+ issues, eating disorders, self-harm and self-sabotage. Individuals, couples/alternative groupings and families are all welcome.

Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?

Since the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, I have noticed a huge surge in people using social media as a space to connect and learn from each other, especially among those groups who feel marginalised in society such as neurodivergent people, those suffering from complex physical conditions such as Ehlers Danlos Syndrome that impact mental health, members of the LGBTQ+ community and those experiencing mental health conditions such as eating disorders and self-harm, mood disorders, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression.

Although this has led to concerns about over self-diagnosis, it has also demonstrated that neurodivergence, particularly in women, is shockingly underdiagnosed, which means many go through life unsupported, develop self-esteem issues and underachieve as a result.

What do you like about being a therapist?

My absolute favourite thing to do in life is to talk to people, really talk, rather than sticking with small-talk and pleasantries. I want to get stuck in, dig down to the bottom of things and create a truly safe space for people to let their guard down and shed their layers of shame, mistrust and cycling patterns of low self-esteem and resultant lack of motivation to change.

What is less pleasant?

However complex a client’s situation is, I always enjoy working with them to find a path to a more satisfying life. I certainly find it challenging when a client attends sessions in body but not in mind, as they have not yet reached a point where the hard work of change is less scary than the thought of remaining stuck. However, that ‘aha!’ moment, when they shine a light on their own fear of fear itself and it begins to shrink, that is where the magic happens.

How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?

I have been a member of Welldoing for about two months now, and I have found their friendly, welcoming customer service to be absolutely brilliant. I feel so supported and respected as a counsellor, and I am proud to be a part of the team.

The fact that group supervision is held twice a month is a real bonus for me – that community spirit and hearing the viewpoints of many highly qualified and experienced therapists is so helpful. The platform works really well too, and I felt very supported when I had technical issues.

What you do for your own mental health? 

I have regular therapy and supervision myself, and work hard to keep a good work/life balance. I do a lot of yoga, meditation, roller skating and climbing, as well as spending time with nature with my family and dog. If I feel like I am struggling with a thought or feeling, I take a close look at it and try to work out the root causes, sometimes alone and sometimes with help. 

I think mental health needs to be nurtured in the same way as physical health, as being in a good place mentally is essential before helping others.

Where do you see clients?

I primarily see clients in my cosy therapy room in Crediton, and I also travel to Exeter for walk-and-talk therapy along the scenic canal. Exeter has a large student population, while Crediton has a high proportion of farming folk and retired people, which means my client base is quite varied, with varying needs. 

As an LGBTQ+ affirmative therapist, I also see a lot of LGBTQ+ clients. I love variety! I also offer a range of digital therapy formats, including online messaging, email, video call and phone call.

What’s your consultation room like?

I have eclectic tastes in decor but I know some people can find that distracting, so I try to keep my room neutral and comfortable. There are comfortable chairs, plants, paper, pens, a few fidget toys and blankets. I have no expectations of sitting still, so anything goes. Clients are welcome to stand, sit, lay on the floor, fidget, pace or anything else that feels helpful. 

I also offer walk-and-talk therapy, and nature therapy, where we go out and walk, or sit somewhere in nature such as next to a lake, while we talk.

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

That therapy isn’t a last resort, and it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, defective or failing if you seek help. With the right support, it is truly possible to let go of unhelpful old habits and cycles of thought. That issue that has been eating away at you for years, that thing you thought you could never move on from? One day, it can be a distant memory, part of your growth as a person, as a partner, as a parent, that you can smile about.

What did you learn about yourself in therapy?

I have learned that reframing can work wonders on how I feel about experiences and situations. Things I previously thought of as facts, such as ‘I am a disorganised person’, are actually beliefs, often cemented in place by my interactions with others giving their opinions through life, based on their own experiences and values.

I have also learned that while hurtful interactions usually have a cause, it might not be what it appears. It is important to always look beyond the proximal reason given in that moment, to take into account what might have led to that moment, and finding shades of grey in the shadows of the black and white.

Contact Louise here

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