Read our posts about therapy

Case Histories: The Housework Concealed a Deeper Mess

Case Histories: The Housework Concealed a Deeper Mess

People channel anxiety in a variety of ways. Worries find expression in eating, drinking and smoking, in counting and checking rituals, and in shopping and hoarding - to name just a few. I've worked with several clients who spend lots of time cleaning, vacuuming and ironing. Mostly women, the clients themselves rarely question these activities. It is more likely that they are seeking approval when they tell me that they don't go to bed at night until the whole house is vacuumed and underwear drawers are re-arranged. Whilst it isn't my job to make value...
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What Does a Therapist's Consulting Room Look Like?

What Does a Therapist's Consulting Room Look Like?

The use of promotional photographs of a therapist and/or their consulting room is a relatively recent development. Many argue that to be seen before a first meeting will affect the ‘transference’ of a client. Transference is the process by which the patient displaces on to their therapist feelings and ideas that derive from previous figures in their life; loosely speaking, it is the patient’s emotional attitude towards their therapist. Exploring the transference is central to the work and although the psychotherapist’s presentation of themselves as a ‘blank...
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What Twenty-Something Depression Feels Like

What Twenty-Something Depression Feels Like

Towards the end of July 2010 my boyfriend broke up with me. We'd been together for three months. At first it seemed like any other breakup - I felt sad, and cried, and missed him, but within the usual realms of a relationship ending. However, the signs were there that this break-up had hurt me more than I'd originally realised. I lost a lot of weight really quickly, without realising or trying. I ended up in tears one morning, after trying on outfits for university for two hours. I hated how I looked, and I was terrified of seeing him when I thought I looked ugly. The...
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Why My Relationship with My Brother Led Me to See a Therapist

Why My Relationship with My Brother Led Me to See a Therapist

Throughout my 20s and 30s I saw people going into therapy as a different species, inhabiting a different emotional terrain to mine. I might get into incomprehensible states about things, reel at what felt like rejection over the smallest things; give headspace to toxic, malign feelings about someone I thought  had treated me wrong. But if there was a problem, I should be able to sort it out myself. Shouldn’t I? The day eventually came when I knew I couldn’t sort it out myself. My brother and his wife were coming to visit with their first, new baby and I was hideously...
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Case Histories: the Anxious Mother

Case Histories: the Anxious Mother

Sophie was a single mother in her twenties. She came into counselling believing that it is normal to check and re-check windows and door locks dozens of times before retiring at night. She would leave a trail of obstacles such as roller skates and squeaky toys “in the path of intruders.” Sophie slept lightly and dreamt darkly. She left the bedroom door open so that she could keep a watchful eye on the top of the stairs. Sophie was in a relationship, but was not willing to allow her partner of three years to stay over at her place. Kieran was a gentle soul who would call...
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Case Histories: Brotherly Love

Case Histories: Brotherly Love

Clients sometimes strike a deal with themselves, and therefore with me, about coming to therapy. A young woman once approached me with a fixed budget and time-frame she wanted to spend in treatment. Aparna was an accomplished person living an enviable life. She was a human rights lawyer at a high profile international agency. She had met and married a Canadian counterpart overseas. They globe-­trotted for a while and decided to settle in the UK when their second child was born. Aparna's eyes glistened with pride and tenderness when she spoke of her family and the...
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Malcom Gladwell on his Experience of Therapy

Malcom Gladwell on his Experience of Therapy

Malcolm Gladwell is the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Blink and David and Goliath; he recently spoke with Louise Chunn about his experience of psychoanalysis. “My mother is a psychotherapist, she deals with children. As an adult I was in therapy for a few years.  How did I find it? I don’t think you can spend a lot of time in guided introspection with someone who is a trained professional and not emerge in some way wiser about yourself …. though I don’t know if I was any  happier. “I live in New York where it seems that everyone is in therapy, so I...
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Case Histories: The Perfect Girlfriend

Case Histories: The Perfect Girlfriend

From Freud's stories of Anna O and Dora, to  presentations at psychological conferences, the case  history has long been a fascinating view of what happens between client and therapist. Welldoing.org will be publishing a series of case histories written by one anonymous psychotherapist to reveal what goes on behind the closed door of a consulting room. Caroline was going places career-wise; the youngest-ever this and the first-ever that in the field of eye surgery. She was in her late-twenties when she reluctantly arrived for an exploratory therapy session. People...
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Managing Emotions: Learning to Soothe Yourself

Managing Emotions: Learning to Soothe Yourself

Some people find it easier than others to control impulses, manage their anxiety, moderate their eating and drinking and have drama-free relationships. This ability to self-manage is, like all human behaviours, on a vast spectrum from over-doing it to under-doing it and during the course of our lives we will not remain at the same point on the spectrum. Think of Bridget Jones’ Diary. Sometimes she starves herself on 500 calories a day, but in times of stress it goes up to around the 7000 calorie mark. It’s not just a matter of willpower. It might also be to do with...
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Looking into The Examined Life

Looking into The Examined Life

When Hampstead psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz sat down to write The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, he could not have predicted the success it would become. This selection of  life stories he has heard in his consulting room has sold more than 40,000 copies in the UK alone, and been translated into 20 different languages in 23 countries. When I interviewed Grosz he explained that there were a number of reasons he had wanted to write his patients’ stories.  He listed everything from leaving a legacy for his school-age children to expressing his life-long...
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