I offer both individual and group psychotherapy. After two or three ‘assessment’ sessions in which I will get a clearer picture of a person’s problems and their life story, I will make a recommendation as to whether I think analytic psychotherapy generally might be helpful. If so, we will think together about the most suitable type of therapy: individual or group, or perhaps one followed by the other.

The Set-up

Individual therapy – a client and a therapist working together – may be what springs to mind when you think of psychotherapy. It has its roots in the work of Freud who instituted classical psychoanalysis at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy derives from that model. It differs from psychoanalysis chiefly in the frequency of sessions which it provides. Full-blown analysis involves four or five sessions a week whereas I usually see people once a week.

The regularity of that once-weekly individual session is important if the therapy is going to have a reasonable chance of working. The length of each session is fifty minutes and we meet each time in the same room. The setting is two comfortable chairs and a small table.

What is psychotherapy like?

Individual psychotherapy offers a safe, friendly, containing and confidential space in which to talk and explore. The therapy is non-directive so there’s no set agenda for a session and a person will be encouraged to say whatever comes into their head. Helped by me, they take the lead.

Naturally, people are often nervous when they first come for therapy. The nerves tend not to last too long. With time, a relationship of trust usually develops where people feel comfortable enough to relax and talk not only about what has been troubling them but also, among other things, about their feelings, their childhood and teenage years and the links between those times and the present. An additional focus of the work is the client’s perceptions of their relationship with me as their therapist. Perhaps surprisingly, the exploration and evolution of that therapeutic relationship are significant factors in the healing process that psychotherapy hopes to bring about.

As a person speaks in a session, I will be listening carefully not only to the more obvious content of what they’re saying but also to patterns in and behind their words – patterns of which they may not be aware. These patterns are traces of the unconscious mind at work. I will respond with observations and suggestions of possible meanings to what they’re bringing. In so doing it’s often possible to shed greater light on what might be going on in someone at a deeper level than can easily be seen in everyday life.

How do I know when I’m better?

With both individual therapy and group therapy, people sometimes ask how they will know when they’re ‘better’. In my experience, it’s usually pretty clear to them when things have shifted in a positive direction. But it also raises the question of how much they want to achieve. For example, a person may come initially to get help with anxiety but over time they may touch on, not just the roots of their anxiety, but also a wide variety of other areas of their life and personality. These too may benefit considerably from the therapeutic work so that the individual eventually senses a greater all-round strength, wholeness and peace. The upshot of all this is that a decision to leave therapy is rather like deciding at which floor to get off an escalator in a department store. You get off when you’re ready to.

Two highly experienced psychotherapists, Dennis Brown and Jonathan Pedder, sum up very well the aim of individual (and indeed group) therapy in their book ‘Introduction to Psychotherapy’. The objective, they say, is to help a person reach a point where the future feels like ‘a time of challenge and change, instead of only an extension of an imprisoning past’.