Meet the Therapist: Siggi Halling
What attracted you to become a therapist?
It was really my own experience of the benefits of therapy that inspired me to train to become a therapist myself. The more self-awareness I gained through therapy and the more I learnt about how my past experiences were having a debilitating impact on my present, the more I wanted to share this with others. It’s all part of a fundamental desire to help people gain a greater sense of self agency and self-worth and facilitate their journey in reaching their full potential as a human being.
Where did you train?
I started my training in person-centred therapy at Amersham College, before studying for a post graduate diploma (PGDip) in counselling and psychotherapy at Regent’s University in London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
Broadly speaking, I practice what is termed Integrative Therapy. This means that I draw on my experience and training in several different therapeutic approaches, namely: person-centred, psychodynamic, existential, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness.
I like to practice in this way as I don’t necessarily believe that a ‘one size fits all’ approach allows you to explore the multi-faceted aspects of a person’s emotional and psychological issues. It also allows for greater flexibility in dealing with different clients.
How does integrative therapy help with symptoms of complex trauma?
One of my principal areas of expertise is ‘complex trauma’ and the subsequent anxieties this creates in later life, especially OCD. Complex trauma is early developmental trauma, where there is a dysfunctional relationship between the child and the caregiver.
With an integrative approach I can draw on a psychodynamic approach to early child and parent attachment, in particular levels of attunement and misattunement, and the concept of narcissistic parenting, where the needs of the child are overshadowed by the more dominant needs of the parent.
Then there is the more existential approach which highlights how the child sacrifices ‘being-for-themself’ at the expense of ‘being-for-the other’ (the caregiver) and the subsequent difficulties this creates in developing a sense of self. Once this ‘background’ to ‘complex trauma’ has been explored, CBT therapy is very useful in both drawing a client’s attention to their current maladaptive thoughts and behaviours and how much these are a legacy of their past, rather than a part of their present.
CBT’s method of ‘exposure response prevention’ (ERP), together with mindfulness practice, further helps to ground clients in the present, rather than reacting to past triggers.
What sort of people do you usually see?
Up until now I have mainly worked with 18+ adults but I would happily work with all age groups. If there is one common issue that clients struggle with it is an impoverished sense of self. Past relationships and experiences have often created feelings that they are not good enough, leading to low self-esteem and self-worth.
What do you like about being a therapist?
‘Walking alongside’ individuals on a journey of self-awareness and self-discovery. Seeing the small epiphanies as we time travel together from past to present. Turning pain into understanding and acceptance, and the joy of seeing an individual grow emotionally and psychologically, eventually getting closer to realising their true self.
What is less pleasant?
Having to charge people for this service! Psychological and emotional health should be treated with the same seriousness and given the same resources as physical health. The NHS should be radically expanded to incorporate all therapies, not solely the NICE-approved CBT. Therapists should work for this new, improved NHS and get a salary. Clients shouldn’t have to pay! Well, maybe one day.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have only been with welldoing.org a few months. I like the friendly and contemporary look and feel of welldoing.org and their website if full of useful resources and information. If you have any concerns, they are also very helpful and supportive.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Every so often, if it’s particularly pertinent to the work we’re doing. One book I recently suggested to a client in relation to trauma and PTSD was Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger. He is a very well-respected body-based therapist, having developed his own form of therapy entitled, Somatic Experiencing. He focuses on how trauma impacts on the body and how to work with the body to heal traumatic wounds.
What you do for your own mental health?
I try and make room in my day for mindful meditation. Mindfulness is simply trying to remain ‘present’ as much as you can and focus on the ‘now’. Just allow any thoughts to be thoughts and not feel like they mean something or that you have to react to them in any way. Just let them drift through your consciousness like clouds in the sky.
In addition to this, I walk every day, often in woods, fields or parkland, as being surrounded by nature can be very calming and therapeutic.
Finally, I do my own self-reflection. I become my own therapist when I become anxious in any way and put into practice what I would often suggest to my clients.
You are a therapist in South Buckinghamshire – focusing on the towns of Amersham, Chesham, the Chalfonts and High Wycombe. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
Generally speaking, these areas aren’t as under-privileged as some parts of the country. Although that is certainly not to say that there are individuals and communities that are more disadvantaged than others.
Also, they’re not densely populated urban areas. Instead they could be classified as more rural, due to their close proximity to The Chilterns, designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. Therefore, my clients may not be subject to the stresses and anxieties faced by people living in densely populated urban areas. That said, poor mental health doesn’t discriminate on the basis of environment, income, class, age, culture or ethnicity. Anyone at anytime can feel the need to seek some form of therapy.
What’s your consultation room like?
I actually have a choice of two consultation rooms, kindly leased to us by a local hotel and conference centre. Each is a good size and, comfortably furnished, with central heating and ensuite facilities. The hotel itself has plenty of parking spaces and is set in well-maintained grounds, giving an overall feeling of calm and tranquility. I feel this is important for anyone about to embark on therapy, often for the first time.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it is not something to be anxious or fearful about. You won’t be judged, criticised or made to reveal any hidden secrets. In fact, quite the opposite. You’ll be heard and seen, possibly for the first time in your life, by someone who’s focusing all their attention on you. Someone who is not making any assumptions but instead simply wants you to talk about your experiences, in as much or as little detail as you wish. This is your time and your space.
Also, importantly, everything is strictly confidential, unless it is felt that your safety or the safety of others is affected. Finally, therapy really can change lives for the better. It’s as though a filter through which you’d been looking at yourself, others and the world around you has been removed and you can see everything more clearly. You become closer to the person you long to be. You grow into yourself. A truer, more authentic self.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I have always been a very self-reflective person but I reached a stage in my life when my reflections and attempts to find answers to the life I was living weren’t leading me anywhere. I knew deep down that I wasn’t happy and was failing to reach my potential. I had become stuck. Stuck in an ongoing and self-sabotaging cycle of thoughts and behaviours. Eventually I decided that I needed help. I needed another more experienced set of eyes and ears, to help me unravel these internal conflicts.
That’s when I started my journey into therapy. A journey which would take me deep into the past and into myself. One which would eventually begin to offer insights that would allow me to navigate my way through life on a more even keel and sail through the storms and battering waves when they emerged.
As with most people whom I’ve worked with in therapy, it was my past that was getting in the way of my present. In particular, the sudden and traumatic loss of my mother when I was 11. I had always known that this trauma was a pivotal event in my life. But it was only through therapy that I realised how fundamental a part it had played and how much it had both shaped and affected me as a person.
Although I have learnt a lot about myself through therapy I’m very much still learning. In my view we never really finish learning. The ability to reflect on ourselves and our existence is what makes us human. And gives our life meaning.