Meet the Therapist: Stefan King
What attracted you to become a therapist?
When my own therapist asked me if I had ever thought of training to be a counsellor my immediate response was “What me? Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no way I’m good enough to do that!” Thankfully, hidden among the shrill voices of my self-deprecators was a quieter voice which reminded me that friends and acquaintances often had a different experience of me. As I went through my training this shy little background voice grew in confidence and even since qualifying and setting up in private practice, it is the daily enquiry into this initially timid reminder that attracts me to the idea of constantly becoming a therapist. Day by day, session by session…
Where did you train?
I trained at the Psychosynthesis Trust near Tower Bridge.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
The therapy I practice is psychosynthesis, a modality founded by Roberto Assagioli, a contemporary of Freud and Jung. It’s a modality I like because it aims at relating to people and their problems, not only as a set of pathologies to be ironed out or gotten over, but by working directly in the therapeutic relationship and exploring what is trying to emerge in a person whatever the symptoms presented.
As a transpersonal modality it embraces the idea that being human is essentially a spiritual experience, whether we consciously hold a particular set of religious beliefs or not. It recognises the impact that the outer environment, at the societal and even global level, has on the individual and actively incorporates this into the therapeutic space, allowing this to inform the core aspect of the work which is each individual’s personal journey towards Selfhood.
How does psychosynthesis help with symptoms of anxiety?
I really like this quote from Assagioli:
“There is no certainty; there is only adventure.”
It may appear glib at first reading, but deep within it is the essence of the psychosynthesis approach. It suggests that the certainties and identities which we may have developed early in life – often as a reasonable and essential response to our immediate environment, a survival strategy if you will – are in fact changeable, and that we can change or ‘adventure’ into those anxious places where we feel stuck, or overly identified and rigid. In doing so we often discover or reveal the existence of a more bearable, less anxious place, one in which we can even embrace the uncertainties and anxieties of the world in which we live and the lives that we embody.
In psychosynthesis the adventure is to be experienced first-hand in the therapy room, between the two people doing the work. The very act of sitting face-to-face with another person can invoke the anxieties we seek to overcome. As a guide on this adventure we may choose to utilise the spoken word, the use of art therapy, body work, scientific rationality and individual spiritual beliefs in order to shine the light of our shared experience into the areas that generate the anxiety in us. In doing so we develop a deeper, more versatile relationship to self, an inner resilience born of awareness and will, to bear the anxieties that once overwhelmed us. The symptoms may still be there, but their strength and control over us are greatly reduced.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work exclusively with adults, of all ages and backgrounds. I enjoy working with a broad and inspiring cross section of society. Despite background, race, gender or age, common difficulties include, the general pace and complexity of life in the city, interactions with technology in the form of social media platforms, recurring relationship issues and general underlying anxiety and depression.
What do you like about being a therapist?
The opportunity to be of service. I don’t believe in pure altruism, being a therapist is a professional career like any other, but nonetheless, it is a wonderful opportunity to give back to society and the world and to be of help to others in times of need. What I like is that there is a mutual relationship formed in the counselling space, one where I strive to be of help to my clients as they attempt to figure out where they are stuck and where I myself can grow and develop in relation to them.
What is less pleasant?
The uncertainty of not knowing what might be helpful in any given session. The fear and anxiety that comes from being present and in the moment with a client’s pain, suffering and confusion. Witnessing suffering impacts me a great deal, it is by no means pleasant, but there is undoubtedly a great deal to learn from the experience of addressing it honestly and directly.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been a member of welldoing.org since September 2019. I value the range of information shared via e-mails and the accessibility of useful apps, links and resources on the website.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes, I find this a great way of extending the exploration of themes beyond the allocated time of a session. If appropriate I will also suggest movies, TV series or podcasts and the like and find they are excellent, often safe ways to explore what are often confusing and troubling themes in our relationships. Apps, and other media can be helpful tools, but I often find there is work to be done in the therapy room, engaging and encouraging the use of personal will first, before the effects can really be seen.
What you do for your own mental health?
I see my friends and family as much as I can. I keep active, blending social interactions, with physical and mental exercise. I like to read and take lots of walks. When I have time, rather than going straight from A to B, I explore and take scenic routes through the busy city. I like to make time to appreciate the architecture around me, the green spaces, fresh air and moments of calm to be found even in the heart of a busy city. I find this improves the quality of my day and the state of my own mental health no end.
You are a therapist in Spitalfields. What can you share with us about seeing clients in that area?
The street where I have my practice feels like it’s on a border between different worlds and communities, sitting between the modern skyscrapers of The City and the older structures and neighbourhoods of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. One of the pleasures of working on this edge is to see the way that people relate across the perceived divide, and how this very much mirrors the common theme in the work itself, often sitting on the border, observing the interactions between the conscious and unconscious.
What’s your consultation room like?
Beautiful! I love it! Together with a colleague we decorated it ourselves and have created a safe, welcoming and thoughtful design, at once homely, warm and professional. There are lots of plants and books (and I daily learn from both), lots of natural light and a good amount of space to move around in freely.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it is the greatest gift and the greatest investment you can make in yourself.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I learnt where I had been hurt most and how much of my anxiety and outward behaviour was a resistance and a defence against being hurt further. Gradually I am learning how to bear the uncertainty inherent in my very existence, and how to thrive despite the suffering and the wounding of everyday life. Every day I continue to learn that I’m good enough for this world.