Meet the Therapist: Sophie Worthington
What attracted you to become a therapist?
My father was a theologian, I studied philosophy at university and so psychology felt like a natural progression in my lifelong interest in what it means to be human and how to approach both suffering and growth.
I trained to become a psychotherapist a little later in life and so my labyrinthine personal experiences of life, birth, relationships, and work inform my approach and, I hope, broaden my perspective.
Where did you train?
I obtained my postgraduate certificate in counselling from York St John University and my postgraduate diploma and MA in Integrative psychotherapy and Counselling from Regent’s University London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I am an integrative psychotherapist. That means that I am trained in more than one approach. I chose this modality as I favour an open mind and subscribe to the view that no one theory fits all presenting issues.
For me, psychotherapy is profoundly exploratory and multiple perspectives provide the most illuminating guide to the mysterious and complex workings of the human psyche.
That said, there are more than 400 types of psychotherapy on offer to clients that range from the well-established to the frankly eccentric, and so I restrict my approach to psychodynamic, existential, cognitive behavioural and humanistic schools.
My practice is grounded in psychodynamic psychotherapy, the founding father of the talking cure. This approach recognises that much of our emotional life is unconsciously driven. My aim is to encourage clients to explore ingrained beliefs and fears that may have shaped their world view resulting in destructive behaviours, feeling stuck in unhappy relationships or stunting their emotional creative and professional development.
Existential therapy is rooted in philosophical discourse and employs dialogue and description to explore unfolding anxieties. I find this approach useful in helping clients to establish who they are or want to be and to work towards a sense of meaning, purpose and self-validation. It is a theory of hope, freedom and self-creation as we reach towards a greater sense of contentment whatever that means for each of us.
Cognitive behavioural therapy holds that our emotions are controlled by erroneous thinking. It seeks to sense check and re script self-limiting thoughts, emotions and behaviours and can be an extremely useful first step for clients in affording short term relief from debilitating symptoms.
Above all, I subscribe to the humanistic view which holds that every human being has the potential and disposition to heal and grow even after the sharpest blow or developmental wound. My job is to help clients address destructive and self-limiting behaviours, thoughts, feelings and tap into their innate strength and re-generative ability.
How does integrative psychotherapy help with presenting symptoms?
In my experience the symptoms and issues that clients bring to therapy rarely occur in isolation. Trauma, relationship problems, depression, anxiety, addiction, sadness, anger, isolation and loss are all intricately interlinked. I see my role as a guide, a co-worker in helping my clients to explore, make sense of, express and discover the blocked feelings and emotions that are holding them back in life and to identify and perhaps grieve the life events that brought them to my consulting room.
For me therapy is not a checklist of symptoms and cures, it is about facilitating self-awareness and with that hopefully, eventually, acceptance, growth and new ways of living.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with individual adults aged 18 and over on an extensive range of issues. Common difficulties that I have worked with include relationship or marital problems, sadness, depression, loss, loneliness, bereavement, grief, anxiety, home or work stress, anger management, trauma, sexual problems and addiction.
During my initial session with a client, I conduct an assessment to establish what brings them to therapy, why now, for how long has this been an issue and what do they hope to get out of therapy. I ask a little about family background, context and any additional major events. Often the symptoms that my clients seek to alleviate turn out to be the debilitating, niggling tip of an underlying iceberg that it is my job to facilitate my client to discover, articulate, address, accept and hopefully, in time, change.
In short, for me, there is no usual or single issue in psychotherapy, we are all a complex tangle of emotions, experiences, pre-dispositions and behaviours.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I think there is a huge amount of uncertainly about at the moment professionally, politically, socially, financially and environmentally which fuels anxiety, unrest and depression. This can lead to addictive or defensive coping mechanisms and relationship breakdown, but increasingly I see an appetite among clients to seek active help through talking therapies as well as experimenting with mediation, yoga and breathing techniques.
What do you like about being a therapist?
One to one in-depth interaction and exploration with another human being. As a therapist I feel I am engaged with what is important in life in a deeply immersive way. Therapy is about getting in touch with your inner world and drivers. It can be painful and challenging as well as rewarding and for me, as a psychotherapist, there is no greater privilege than to be a part of that process.
What is less pleasant?
As concentration, connection and undivided attention to clients are the primary tools of the trade the work can be incredibly physically and mentally draining.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I have been with Welldoing for a few months now and have found it to be an extremely efficient and easy to use referral site.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I don’t often suggest books or apps to clients as my approach is more exploratory than advisory and I find that clients are often well versed in apps, Ted talks and self-help books. However, books I have found inspirational and that are accessible to both clients and practitioners would include Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl the Holocaust survivor and founder of Logotherapy. It is a visceral but inspirational account of his experience in Auschwitz where he observed that those who could forge meaning and purpose through preserving the smallest crumb of bread were most likely to survive. It teaches us to grasp faintest beam of light in our darkest hour and to never let go of hope.
I am also a great admirer of Bessel Van der Kolk’s well known book, The Body Keeps the Score. It is a groundbreaking account of the body’s response to trauma and how we might treat it in more ways than medication or talking therapy.
As a woman and a lover of myth and storytelling I loved Women who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian analyst who explores the female psyche through ancient archetypal fairy tales. It is a clarion call for women to re-unite with their intuition, creativity and inner life force and is absorbing and inspirational in equal measure.
What you do for your own mental health?
Psychotherapy is wonderful, privileged but demanding work. I tend to my own mental health with weekly personal therapy, regular yoga or pilates, sporadic mindfulness and being in nature when I can.
I also take care to nurture family and friendship to the best of my flawed ability, as well as creating space and clearings for reflection and resets.
You are a therapist in Notting Hill, West London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
I see clients in person at my practice in Notting Hill Gate, but I also see clients from all over the country on zoom and so there is no specific defining characteristic to my client base.
What’s your consultation room like?
I have a beautiful, cosy room with warm lighting and a huge window. It is part of a well-established practice, Notting Hill Psychotherapy, and I feel very fortunate to be part of a welcoming community in an uplifting space.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
A lot of people hold the preconceived idea that therapy is about talking to a cold blank screen but at its best, for me, therapy is dialogic, questioning, responsive and containing. Others arrive feeling unsure about what to say or do but there is no road map or right way to ‘do’ therapy. Every client and clinical interaction is completely different.
Therapy is about taking a leap of faith, of finding a space in which you are free to fully express yourself, to give air to often deeply buried feelings or experience and to grow through expression and enhanced awareness. It can be challenging, but hopefully ultimately rewarding, work.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That I will never get to the bottom of me. It is not necessary to be in therapy all the time, but it is often helpful to look inwards. Life carries on happening from the moment we are born to the moment we die. No one would advocate going to a medical doctor just once and I think the same holds for therapy. Sometimes I am going along just fine at others I will be derailed or overwhelmed. I have learnt to trust my innate ability to heal and grow but to recognise that sometimes I need a helping hand.