What attracted you to become a therapist?
I suppose the short answer to this question is that my experience with personal suffering and adversity eventually led me to become a therapist. I struggled a lot in the early parts of my life, and I started therapy in my adolescent years, experiencing different therapeutic approaches while living in Europe and North America.
After my university studies I worked 16 years in competitive corporate environments in Switzerland, Canada, Italy, the US and the UK. As I reached my forties, a mixture of circumstances enabled me to realise that thanks to my personal sensitivities coupled with my previous experiences of therapy, I could help individuals improve their quality of life by entering the field of counselling and psychotherapy.
Where did you train?
I started my foray into the field of mental health by volunteering with the Samaritans for two years. I then joined Regent’s University School of Psychotherapy and Psychology, completing my MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy as an integrative psychotherapist. In addition to my private practice, I also work for the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust as a counsellor treating adults suffering from anxiety and depression.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My approach to therapy is integrative, or in other words, multi-disciplinary. This means I adapt or customise my approach with the client in an interactive and relational process. I suppose I chose this path partly due to my personal experiences with different therapies in my earlier years. However, a lot has changed in the field of psychotherapy in recent decades and research in the neurosciences has led to a convergence in traditionally ‘competing’ psychotherapeutic modalities.
I believe nowadays there is recognition that, despite wide differences in terminology, there are many overlaps among different approaches which can be assimilated for the benefit of the client.
How does integrative therapy help with symptoms of anxiety or depression?
The art in psychotherapy lies in exploring an individual’s experience of themselves in relation to others. These experiences are often tainted by rigid belief structures which can manifest as anxiety or depression. New relational experiences within an empathic therapeutic setting can help modulate the rigidity of maladaptive modes of coping with the world. I also integrate cognitive exercises to help my clients manage their day to day between sessions.
What sort of people do you usually see?
What do you like about being a therapist?
That it involves a never-ending endeavour for self-betterment.
What is less pleasant?
Despite today’s increased awareness in mental health, many institutions – partly for funding reasons – choose to ignore the effectiveness of psychotherapy, promoting instead short-term solutions amidst a culture that quantifies and objectifies mental wellbeing. Addressing mental health issues and bringing about change entails engaging in a complex and empathic interactive process that involves both therapist and client.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I joined welldoing.org in October 2018. I find the platform user-friendly and the content to be very accessible and helpful.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
When appropriate I have recommended to clients workbooks in the context of dialectical and cognitive behavioural therapies. I have also suggested apps aimed at modulating moods and other self-help audio tools for managing distress between sessions.
What you do for your own mental health?
I ride my mountain bike and I am learning to windsurf. I also read a lot of research on the topic of psychotherapy and psychology.
You are a therapist in Bromley and Orpington. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
I work from the Bromley location during daytime hours and most of the clients I see there are based in Southeast London and Kent – they are either self-employed or employed part-time. In Orpington I see clients in the evenings and they tend to be commuters who work in Central London.
What’s your consultation room like?
In Bromley the room has hardwood floors, a sofa and several armchairs. There are two large windows which let in a lot of natural daylight. In Orpington I see clients in a purpose-built wing in my house with a separate side entrance for maximum privacy. There is wooden flooring, a large bay window and a view into the garden.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I think there is scant clarity in the public domain about the differences among the multiple service providers in the field of mental health – aside from psychotherapists and counsellors, there are also clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists, psychiatrists and psychologists. I will attempt to broadly summarise the different roles below, although there are probably more variations based on the diversity of training institutions.
Psychotherapeutic training lasts five years and is aimed at treating moderate to severe mental health issues. It is an intense and personally challenging training. Contrary to public perception, the mainstay of any reputable psychotherapeutic training entails undergoing therapy, both individual and in group. This deep self-exploration with colleagues and teachers can lead to a place of great vulnerability, which facilitates the emotional self-reflexivity that fosters connection, resilience, and eventually empowers individuals to enact change in their lives.
Counsellor training is much shorter and personal therapy is not mandatory – the focus in counselling is on the short-term treatment of client issues that do not necessarily require a deep exploration.
Psychologist training focuses on research, where studies are carried out to further enhance our understanding of human behaviour. Clinical psychologists are tasked with diagnosing mental health issues including learning difficulties. Counselling psychologists, in addition to their research, will also have had training in counselling. Lastly, psychiatrists attend medical school and their job is to diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe appropriate medication.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That learning about oneself is a continuous process.