My approach

In the video I speak for around 6 minutes about my approach in working with clients. I hope that it gives you more of a feel of what I am like.

I recorded this quite early into the 2020 Covid-19 Lockdown.
It's relaxed and informal.

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Portrait photo of Emma

The ideas behind how I work

I have what is described as an Integrative approach. My original, ‘core’ modality is humanistic-existential. I then added Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help round my offering. Through coaching I have also learned about an approach called the Three Principles - this is compatible with and sits alongside ACT.

In this, the humanistic idea is that you, the client, are the expert on yourself. After all, nobody knows what it has been like to have your own lived experiences as much as you do. We work together to help you to reach your full potential, also known as self-actualisation, in whatever form that is for you. It’s very personal and individual.

When presented with a problem we find out what the cause is and work to address it from that point. Changes to symptoms follow on from there.

The existential part is about helping you to make sense of the big questions in life and help you to live a meaningful way to you within the constraints of what you are able to do and not do. It is one of the more 'here-and-now' approaches, so not pre-occupied with rummaging through old, painful memories. The only resource we can’t replace is time, so part of this can be to do with identifying and prioritising what you value and care about and helping you to live your life in a way that is more true to these things.

The existential constraints or ‘givens’ are like continuums we bounce between:

  • Living fully versus fear of death
  • The need for belonging versus solitude and independence (aspects of this can be about a fear of not being accepted and isolation)
  • Freedom versus responsibility (which always makes me think of Spiderman because power brings certain freedoms but also responsibility in how we conduct ourselves…)
  • Meaning an purpose versus meaninglessness
  • Anxiety as being an ever present part of live - it’s heightened emotion, whether we’re really excited or terrified, it’s the same state of heightened emotion, it’s just we tend to label the heightened emotion that doesn’t feel as good as anxiety.

This approach is great for lots of things but not for behavioural change, such as breaking habits. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT for short, is a collection of approaches where we’re approaching a problem from the opposite angle - instead of working from cause to symptoms we’re working from symptoms to cause, starting with the easiest to address and then moving on to tackle the more set, ‘entrenched’ ones.

The crux of this approach is you are in a situation and through making sense of it you have one or more thoughts and each of those thoughts has a feeling that arises from it. What you choose to do tends to be based on those thoughts and feelings - be it a reaction where you didn’t realise you had a choice or a considered response.

With CBT, because the focus is on the symptoms, there will be more practical exercise and things for you to monitor between sessions. You’ll be held accountable and expected to report back on your progress at the beginning of the next session.

CBT is good but it isn’t for everyone - if you are not particularly self-reliant or you don’t have enough time to dedicate to the exercises or find reading and writing difficult or struggle with the language that CBT is delivered in (in this case English) then this may not be the right approach for you at this time.

Now, these two approaches look and sound very different on face value, so I bridge them using an approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT for short. This contains aspects of each of the approaches described above and is about increasing behavioural flexibility.

It incorporates existentialism and the more modern approaches in CBT (what we’ve covered so far) and adds evolutionary science and Eastern philosophies into the mix.

We take the values and beliefs that we look at in existential therapy, the ones that are most important to you in your life, and we collaboratively identify and work on practical steps you can take to enhance your life - this is the commitment bit.

We take the idea of how thoughts and feelings work from CBT. We also acknowledge that we don’t know what we may think in 2 minutes time let alone in 20 minutes time. Thoughts are transient - they tend to hang around for 2 minutes at most unless we latch onto them and replay them.

We acknowledge that we don’t have much in the way of control of what thoughts pop into our heads but we do have control on whether we ignore them or latch onto them, so how much energy we give them.

In that, we also grant ourselves more compassion and allow ourselves to be more compassionate towards other people.

We also start to notice things such as confirmation bias - only noticing the things we are looking out for but ignoring or dismissing all of the things that don’t align to a particular idea we may be holding onto. This can be helpful when facing and accepting uncomfortable thoughts, rather than trying to put effort into avoiding them.

The acceptance bit is about accepting the things in your life that are outside your ability to control or influence - those are those life constraints I mentioned a little earlier.

Well, that’s a quick tour of how I work.
I hope this has helped.

Best wishes,