Psychotherapy and mindfulness

People usually seek therapy when in a crisis. They may be near giving up because of a persistent relationship problem, having lost a loved one, facing difficult life decisions, or experiencing distressing symptoms such as depressed mood or anxiety. Others, having become aware that a problem is brewing, want to address it before it escalates. And others still simply want an opportunity for reflecting on their experience so that they can direct their lives with clarity in the best possible way and nurture the relationships they value.

Whatever brings you, I offer a safe and welcoming space where you can speak your truth in confidentiality. My approach is grounded in mindfulness: listening attentively, on purpose and non-judgementally. This allows a working relationship of trust and discovery to develop.

This discovery process involves bringing into consciousness that which has been unconscious, so that we can understand ourselves better.

Those unwanted parts of ourselves that we repress or deny, which Carl Jung called the shadow, may cause us to stumble if we do not see them in the light of consciousness. And yet once we welcome these neglected parts into the totality of who we are, we often find they can be of value.

To support this process of becoming aware, I teach simple mindfulness practices. I also draw on psychodynamic approaches, such as self psychology, to help clarify how our past experiences and relationships affect what is happening in our lives right now.

With this improved understanding and insight, clients are empowered to develop compassion and kindness in their most important relationship – the one with themselves. Often, once the original problem has been attended to, people choose to continue with therapy because they see that more growth is possible. While some problems can be “solved”, the reality is that we all have habitual patterns of the mind that cause us distress. We can learn to see these more clearly so that we can manage them better – rather than them managing us!

Psychotherapy can therefore be seen not as striving to achieve perfection and the absence of difficult emotions, but as a path to wholeness.

in five short chapters

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

– Portia Nelson

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

– Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by
Coleman Barks

What is mindfulness?

Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, the scientist, writer and meditation teacher who pioneered bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally”. Through mindfulness practices (various forms of meditation) we can learn to wake up to the present moment.

It is a common misconception that mindfulness meditation has the goal of reaching a state of bliss, calm or relaxation. Although this may also happen, the real goal is to wake up to seeing things clearly, as they are – not as we want them to be. With mindfulness, we become increasingly able to simply observe our thoughts, emotions and sensations, rather than reacting to them on auto-pilot. This offers us the opportunity of developing skilful means to respond to complex challenges with kindness and compassion.

Mindfulness has its origins in Buddhism in the East but today is applied in a non-religious way the world over because it has been shown to counteract stress and help people live happier, healthier lives with reduced psychological and physical symptoms. This is borne out by current neuroscientific research – studies show that regular meditation practice can produce structural and functional changes in the brain in as little as 8 weeks. To read more about the evidence base, see Mindfulness learning resources.