Meet the Therapist: Paul Garden
What attracted you to become a therapist?
Before beginning to train as a psychologist, I was a yoga and meditation teacher while living in Asia for several years, mainly in Northern India, Nepal and Tibet. I developed an interest in understanding how Western science understood the human condition, so I came to London and studied neuroscience and psychology at undergraduate level as a way to explore that interest. I simultaneously worked as an assistant psychologist and was struck by the effectiveness of therapeutic approaches to people’s wellbeing, and also how my background in Eastern practices seemed to align with much of it. This led to a decade-long academic odyssey that has culminated in a Master’s and Doctoral level training.
Where did you train?
All of my academic training has been in London: Westminster, King’s London, and City, University of London. My clinical training was mainly in the NHS in various secondary care clinics across London (South London and Maudsley, East London Foundation Trust, North-West London NHS Trust. Working with, for example, personality issues, addictions, psychosis, trauma, conflictual relationships, anxiety and depression) and earlier within the charitable sector as an assistant psychologist working mainly with young people.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I’m what’s known as an integrative practitioner, which means that I am trained to Doctoral level in several psychological models that I can draw from and integrate to suit the person in front of me, and adapt this in line with their changing needs. Each client is unique in who they are and the relationship they have towards the issues they bring to therapy. As such, I tailor each treatment to suit each individual with whom I work closely in a trusting therapeutic relationship, which is the foundation of the therapeutic process.
How does integrative therapy help?
This usually involves a combination of psychodynamic, CBT, person-centred and mindfulness-based approaches. Through integrating these models, I support people to make sense of the experiences that they are struggling with, helping them to make important links that increase their understanding of why they feel the way they do, which then widens their perspective and reduces the sense of, for example, anxiety and confusion.
People I work with then generally find that they feel more empowered to engage with the issues they bring to therapy in a different way, to better regulate and cope with their emotional experiences, and ultimately to have improved relationships, including with themselves. The therapeutic journey – albeit challenging - is essentially one of personal discovery and meaning-making, which my clients invariably find to be engaging and liberating.
What sort of people do you usually see?
In my private practice I tend to work with adult individuals, right across the age spectrum, as well as older teenagers.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I value going on the journey together with my clients. Although people come during a difficult time in their lives, and I empathise with their struggle, we get to meet each other on a truly authentic level that’s open, sincere and non-judgemental. I’m sensitive to the subtle nuances when people talk, and enjoy helping to put the pieces together.
As well as its primary aim of being beneficial for my clients, it also feeds my curiosity about what it means to be a human, highlighting the universality of us all. I always learn something when I’m working with someone, and find it wonderfully gratifying to see people taking back control of their lives, and to witness them as they start to feel empowered
What is less pleasant?
The admin! There's so much paperwork, particularly in the NHS roles where it can feel quite relentless.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’m delighted with welldoing.org. I signed up with you after a colleague enthusiastically recommended the site, I've been with you for two years and have had lots of interest, which has kept my practice busy, so it's clearly popular and well-marketed. I also think the site is very well-organised, and helpful when my IT skills let me down (thank you Alice!). The Welldoing.org Facebook therapist community is also really helpful as it is a window into the world of other therapists who share very interesting ideas and experiences.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes, although I’m cautious about doing it, and, like my work in general, it’s done on a very individual basis; I like to get to know people first. There is a book called Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, which I often suggest to people looking for a sense of direction. It’s a wonderful fable whose main character is able to learn from every circumstance that life throws his way. As well as it being a personal favourite, I've always have great feedback from that book.
Also, I’ve had lots of positive feedback about the app Headspace - it’s quite convenient if someone is interested in mindfulness. It's secular, there's nothing Buddhist about it, and can allow people to develop very useful tools for their mind, emotional regulation, and self-awareness.
What you do for your own mental health?
I meditate and practice yoga, and I swim almost every day. I love nature and so try and have a green moment daily. I cycle around the city, and I will walk the bike through a park when there’s chance. It helps to keep perspective which is easy to lose in London. I also have a good network of people around me.
You are a therapist in W1G, Central London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
My consulting room is in Central London W1, in what’s called the ‘Harley Street District’. Given its centrality and easy accessibility, I work with clients who live and work all over London.
What’s your consultation room like?
It’s quite spacious and light and airy. People often comment that it has a calm feel to it. There’s a two-seater sofa for my clients to sit on, and I’m in an armchair. There is a wooden floor, big windows, and light walls. One half of the room has bookshelves and my desk/computer, while the client and I sit in the other half.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
As mentioned above, therapy is a journey of developing understanding and making meaning that allows people to have better relationships with themselves and others. It allows people to have a clearer understanding of why they are the way they are, and why they feel and act the way they do in particular situations. These insights enable people to experience themselves in a more integrated and holistic way. This can be both freeing and sometimes challenging, but fundamentally important and often fascinating.
Additionally, the stigmatised notion of therapy has reduced significantly. I think more and more people are understanding therapy as valuable process of self-discovery; a method of focused attention on themselves that allows them to develop much needed understanding, to widen their perspective, increase awareness, and to shed light in dark places. With this understanding comes empowerment. From that position people can cope with their lives – their emotional worlds and their relationships - better, and are therefore more prepared for whatever comes next.