In this video interview, Paul Salvage demystifies psychoanalytic psychotherapy and explains what clients can expect from the process. Paul is a UKCP registered psychoanalytic psychotherapist who works with individuals from our Hove practice.
In times such as this, I question my role as a psychotherapist wishing that I had studied something that could truly and directly help the climate and environmental crisis that we face. I feel so connected to the natural world that to see it being destroyed, disregarded and exploited to this scale, to see us humans destroying what sustains us is truly horrifying and evoques in me a profound sense of helplessness.
I love my work because it entails looking at human psychology. In essence, understanding why we feel and behave they way we do. This is much easier to do with an individual sitting in front of me than to speculate what drives us to collectively cause harm or do nothing.
Biologically we are wired towards survival. Capitalism and consumerism, paired with technology has made us more and more disconnected from our bodies, our food and our environment.
In psychotherapy we try to help people tolerate their feelings, be in their bodies, understand what drives them to make certain choices in life, etc. I believe that as a profession we can help to heal the wounds and traumas of the past so that we don’t have to continue repeating painful experiences. Psychotherapists can help individuals and groups to think the unthinkable and feel our most painful feelings. This is both a delicate and yet powerful process, which happens over time in order to not overwhelm the system.
Too much information, and we either react or disconnect.
A similar process is taking place collectively. The issues we are dealing with are huge and require serious attention. But how we pay attention is key. Reactivity and disconnection are inevitable responses to such overwhelmingly big issues. Therefore we need to learn to face things and not run away from them. We need to talk about and help one another grieve not just our personal losses but also the loss of nature and life, as we know it.
I deeply admire climate activists, environmentalists and all the scientists that dedicate their lives to bringing all this information to our attention and who are desperately trying to raise awareness to protect our natural world. But this depends on all of us waking up to what is happening and to begin treating ourselves and other humans/beings/the planet with care and respect.
We can only wake up and take action from a place of consciousness. So, it’s time we stop burying our heads in the sand and take a serious look at how we live, the choices we make and how we treat the planet every single day.
As a profession, a society and a nation, we need to face our areas of contradiction, our “splits”. After all, the personal is the political.
In the words of Great Thunberg:
“If the walls of your house truly came tumbling down, surely you would set your differences aside and start cooperating.
Well, our house is falling apart. And we are rapidly running out of time. And yet basically nothing is happening.
Everyone and everything needs to change. So why waste precious time arguing about what and who needs to change first?
Everyone and everything needs to change.”
Global Climate Strike 20 and 27 September 2019
Further reading by Sam Jahara –
Sam Jahara is UKCP Registered, CTA, PTSTA and is one of the Brighton & Hove Psychotherapy Co-founders. She is an experienced Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist. Her special interests include culture, identity, belonging, sustainability and environmental issues. Sam is available at our Lewes and Brighton & Hove Practices.
You might have seen EMDR being spoken about in the media a fair bit recently. Many famous people have been speaking out about how it has helped them with psychological difficulties, most often past traumas, but what actually is it?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It was developed in 1987 by American Psychologist Francine Shapiro, initially as a treatment for trauma. Shapiro tells how she discovered the main premise, almost by accident, as she walked in the park: She noticed that as she thought about some distressing memories, her eyes moved back and forth and the distress she felt reduced. From this she went on to develop EMDR, which is now widely practiced across the world.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK currently recommends EMDR as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is also a significant and ever-growing evidence base for the use of EMDR to treat other psychological issues. EMDR can be used effectively with children and adults. Clients often notice quick changes (sometimes in even just 2 or 3 sessions) which can have long lasting effects.
There are several theories as to how EMDR actually works, although it still isn’t 100% clear. The main premise is that the two sides of the brain are alternately stimulated whilst the person holds a difficult thought or memory in mind. Traditionally the therapist would stimulate alternating sides of a person’s brain by moving their hand side to side, whilst the person tracks with their eyes (hence the name Eye Movement). However, there are other techniques, such as alternating hand buzzers, hand taps, audio or light bars. This allows things have that become ‘stuck’ to be re-processed, and therefore to be less distressing. The eye movements (or other forms of alternating stimulation) form a significant part of the therapy. There is also talking involved, but people do not necessarily have to share all the details of their traumatic story if they prefer not to.
EMDR is an advanced therapy and should only be delivered by highly skilled, trained therapists. In order to become an accredited EMDR therapist there is a significant amount of training and then supervised therapy work with clients.
The website of the EMDR Association UK and Ireland has more information on EMDR, finding a therapist and some stories of people who have benefitted from EMDR therapy – www.emdrassociation.org.uk
Dr Emma Stevens, HCPC Registered, Clinical Psychologist, is currently undergoing the training process to become an accredited EMDR therapist and is able to offer EMDR, under specialist supervision. She has an integrative approach drawing on Cognitive Behavioural, Systemic and Psychodynamic models, as well as Attachment Theory. Emma sees individuals primarily for short-term work. Emma is available at our Lewes Practice.
Further reading by Dr Emma Stevens –
Deciding that you want or need psychological help can be a difficult position to arrive at. Choosing the right practitioner to work with can feel like a daunting task with so many different fields of talk therapy, types of therapy and professional bodies overseeing the field. This blog is a guide to helping you find your way to the right psychotherapist for you.
Counselling, psychotherapy or psychology?
Counselling, psychotherapy and psychology all broadly fall under the category of ‘talking therapy’. They have much in common, yet are also very different. I have previously written a piece on the difference between counselling and psychotherapy; the former being largely for shorter-term work and the latter being appropriate for deeper and long-term work on the personality. We also have an in-depth page on psychology here so I shall not go into more detail about that here.
Depth of work
In choosing a psychotherapist, it can be helpful to have a sense of what it is you are seeking to gain from therapy. Generally, psychotherapy is longer term than counselling and rather than working with one specific issue, is instead a relationship through which the client can work through relational patterns (with themselves and others), formed in childhood that they wish to change. Depth relational psychotherapy takes time – months to years – to understand and process relational, or attachment, losses. It is a commitment to a process of therapy and to oneself with sessions being as a minimum weekly, at the same time and on the same day each week.
There are a few professional bodies who offer voluntary registration to counsellors and psychotherapists – the BACP and UKCP. Whilst the BACP includes the ‘P’ for ‘psychotherapist in its acronym, the minimum training requirements of the BACP for someone to call themselves a psychotherapist are quite low. The UKCP, on the other hand requires all registered psychotherapists to undertake a minimum of four years of post-graduate training at an accredited training institution alongside a mental health placement and four years of personal therapy, before permitting applicants to join. At Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy, all of our psychotherapists have trained at least to this standard and many far beyond.
Psychotherapy training is long, challenging and requires the candidate to be in their own personal therapy throughout the training period. Most training institutions are located in London, or further afield, and so a great deal of commitment is required to reach the necessary training standards. One of the main aspects that sets UKCP registered psychotherapists apart from counsellors is that they have been trained to ‘formulate’, which is another work for diagnose, or understand, more complex trauma and mental health issues.
If you have never previously been in therapy, then the prospect of the first appointment can be daunting. It is the job of your psychotherapist to set clear boundaries and create an environment that ‘feels safe, but not too safe’. What does this mean? Psychotherapy is about learning to tolerate difficult feelings and your psychotherapist is there to facilitate this process through their relationship with you. They are not there to be liked, or to be your friend, as this would not be beneficial to you or to your process. If all goes well at the initial consultation then you and your psychotherapist may ‘contract’, or agree, to work together. This means that they have assessed what work is required to facilitate change for you and you have decided that you are going to enter into an intimate relationship unlike one you have perhaps ever had before.
Length of Contract
How long is a piece of string? Most psychotherapy can last for months or years, however little can be inferred from the duration. For example, someone attending a year of therapy is not necessarily ‘healthier’ or ‘saner’ than someone who attends weekly for many years. It is entirely dependent on the work required, how the client wishes to ‘use’ therapy and the relationship formed. Freud famously believed that therapy only begins when the client is no longer in a crisis.
Finding a good psychotherapist begins on paper but ends with a feeling, or a set of feelings. As it is in the relationship that the unravelling of the past takes place, it is critical that as a client, you feel you can build a therapeutic relationship with your psychotherapist. The capacity to do this will hinge on their degree of training, clinical experience and therapeutic boundaries, as well as on it being a relationship that feels ‘safe enough’ – not too safe to not be challenging – within which the therapeutic process can unfold.
Mark Vahrmeyer, UKCP Registered, BHP Co-founder is an integrative psychotherapist with a wide range of clinical experience from both the public and private sectors. He currently sees both individuals and couples, primarily for ongoing psychotherapy. Mark is available at the Lewes and Brighton & Hove Practices.