My academic background is in social anthropology and social work. This background, and the training at the Philadelphia Association, has facilitated a critical questioning of traditional psychoanalytic approaches. It questions whether it is possible for the therapist to have a map of the patient’s mind and to know the patient’s unconscious motives and wishes.
Assuming knowledge and certainty in a universal theory of health and pathology can often be experienced by the client as disempowering, or can simply lead to false conclusions.
Suffering can often be a state of not feeling comfortable in ways of being in the world. This can be alleviated through understanding and accepting one’s experience of the world. Making sense of history and how it has contributed to difficulties can be an empowering experience.
I pay close attention to early life experiences, social context, and also to existential questions that come about through important life events in adulthood, such as loss, dislocation, becoming a parent, not becoming a parent; and what it means to move through youth, middle age and old age.
I have a particular interest in diversity, and thinking about difference, such as cultural and class difference, gender and sexual orientation.
Psychotherapy is concerned with the whole person – this means someone’s background, culture, religion, sexuality and gender, and the meaning and value people bring to their lives.
There are times when depression, anxiety and sadness are quite understandable expressions of what it means to be human. Through developing a therapeutic relationship of trust and respect, people can be honest, and explore their difficulties. Therapy is a form of attentiveness to the experience of relationship with another. In offering a quality of listening, people in therapy can give voice to what matters.
Medical approaches to ‘talking about’ and treating mental health problems as something that exists in people’s heads, can leave people feeling isolated and alienated from self and others. This can close down opportunities for relating meaningfully to others.
Whilst psychotherapy is not a magical cure for difficulties and questions that human life brings, it may be the first opportunity for someone to speak of what matters. This can facilitate a greater flourishing in life.
Psychotherapy can facilitate more fulfilling relationships with others, and a greater thoughtfulness, from which people can find the alleviation of suffering.