Meet the Therapist: Stuart Dean
What attracted you to become a therapist?
Well, it was a combination of things.
I’ve been in therapy at various times throughout my life since I was 17, and every time I really felt it was incredibly beneficial. Psychotherapy has always been something I have truly believed in and felt proud to have experienced, even back in the ‘90s when it perhaps felt a little taboo to admit to.
My previous career was in the City of London where I worked for 25 years, but ultimately, I was unfulfilled, unhappy, and never felt I truly belonged. Then in 2015 I worked with a fantastic therapist, who supported me with some significant decision-making and empowered me to realise something in my unhappy life had to change…and I had to be the one to change it.
Despite lacking confidence in my abilities, I also applied to be a volunteer ChildLine counsellor around this time. Eighteen amazing months later my eyes were truly open, and I had found my people and calling. I had clarity over which direction my future was heading in and resigned from my career to retrain as a psychotherapist.
Where did you train?
Metanoia Institute in Ealing, West London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
Of course! The humanistic therapy I practise is an integrated blend of person-centred, transactional analysis (TA) and Gestalt orientations. I draw on techniques from all three modalities, allowing me to bring a broader palette of skills to each unique client presentation.
What this means is I’m not constrained by the methods or boundaries of one specific theory and can tailor my approach – even in the moment – to suit each unique client, whilst remaining true to the same core ideals and values.
I chose the humanistic path because I truly believe in the philosophy. I believe the client is expert on themselves. I believe in the healing power of a co-created therapeutic relationship. I believe in free will, human potential, and self-discovery, and I endorse with all my heart the importance of finding and accepting one’s true self, in order to lead the most fulfilling life possible.
How does humanistic therapy help with symptoms of low self-esteem?
When self-esteem is low, this often presents in tandem with a lack of agency, and feelings of unworthiness or shame. Together, we carefully focus on the client’s self-concept and self-worth, building a supportive therapeutic relationship, free of judgement and based on unconditional positive regard.
Through gently exploring the client’s values, beliefs, and authentic selves, and as they experience my acceptance, they can learn to accept themselves as the unique human they are. Humanistic therapy also promotes empowerment and agency; I support and encourage the client to take control of their life and forge their own path, making the choices they want to make, rather than those they feel they ought to.
This realisation that clients can shape their own lives is an incredibly powerful tonic for low self-esteem. And it is often the point where the client and I share an emotional goodbye.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with adults (18 and upwards) on a one-to-one basis. My work thus far has mostly been with clients who feel trapped, unable to express themselves, and have been struggling with depression, low self-esteem and/or relationship issues.
During my training I spent over a year working on placement in addiction, which was an awesome, very challenging, and transformative experience. It led me to the work of the inspirational Dr. Gabor Maté, whose mantra, ‘Don’t ask why the addiction, but why the pain’, really brought into focus for me how our difficulties can often stem from unknown or subconscious pain at a deeper level.
The final three words of this mantra – 'why the pain?' – now inform all my client work.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
Over the last 20 years I experience a much more accepting, understanding, and supportive society when it comes to speaking about and dealing with mental health. A couple of decades ago, as I mentioned earlier, it was rather taboo to say one had been in therapy.
Now, with the benefit of increased exposure and understanding, I believe it is most often regarded positively, with the sense a person is looking after themselves when seeking therapeutic support.
For me, unfortunately, there is also a negative side, where despite this wider knowledge and acceptance, big companies and the government aren’t doing anything like enough to address the true issues nor taking anywhere near enough responsibility for the parts they continue to play. It’s a subject I feel very passionately about.
But fundamentally I do see people on a human level learning, reacting positively, caring, and looking out for one another during very difficult times. It’s a positively inspirational shift in societal outlook.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Honestly, what I love about this work is the work itself. Being in the room, being in contact with a client, exploring and experiencing their world alongside them.
To see the potential in another human, to see them confront their pain, to grow, to heal, and to hear them say “You know what? I’m OK. And I think I’m going to be OK”…there is nothing else quite like that.
It is such an honour and privilege to be part of what can often be a highly significant chapter in someone’s journey, and as everyone is unique it is never the same experience twice.
What is less pleasant?
Marketing and SEO…
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I only signed up a couple of weeks ago, but the onboarding process has been a lovely experience thus far, and I found the profile set up to be easy to navigate and very intuitive.
What you do for your own mental health?
Primarily, music is my medicine. I love listening to various kinds from 80s synth pop via shoegazing to prog metal. I play drums in a band, and regularly go to gigs with friends.
Other than that, I spend time in nature either planning or getting lost on impromptu long walks. I recently completed a course in forest bathing, which was fascinating, and gave me an entirely new perspective on something I already thoroughly enjoyed.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
In my experience I think the word 'psychotherapy' can sound or feel quite heavy or even daunting to people, and perhaps puts them off.
We are basically just like counsellors, but with extra training. We provide the same safe space, the same empathy and understanding, and we are here to support our clients through whatever they might need help with.
That almost-cartoon image of the analyst sneering at a patient lying on a couch…it could not be farther from the humanistic experience.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That’s a big one to answer. I have learned so much over the years, I’ve worked with some amazing therapists…and I’m still learning.
And in truth, what I have learned in therapy is for me. So, I will thank you for asking, but graciously decline to answer.