I would describe my approach as integrative in the sense that I do not believe that a single theoretical approach or school of therapy can capture the complexity of human experience. What works for one person might leave another person quite unmoved. Whilst theory and technique are important, a large body of research suggests that what matters most is the quality of relationship between therapist and client. In my view, this is affected by the capacity of the therapist to stay present and connected to the client’s present moment experience.
That said, I have learned from a range of therapeutic approaches. My training was predominantly in cognitive behaviour therapy, an approach that is based on the theory that our thoughts, perceptions, habitual patterns and beliefs are shaped by earlier experiences. I have subsequently been deeply influenced by both humanistic and social constructionist approaches.
In my work over the years, I have become fascinated by the ways in which we construct the world, our identities and our history through language. Narrative therapy explores the stories that we create about our lives and how these in turn are shaped by wider narratives dominant within society. It is a creative way of working that encourages us to re-examine our histories or assumptions, question the dominant norms that are around us and revise our relationship with these. Influenced by community psychology approaches, I believe that it is also important to acknowledge the mental and emotional distress created by high levels of inequality, poverty and oppressive conditions many people experience in their workplace, local or family environment.
I am deeply interested in how people navigate through life transitions such as those that commonly occur in adolescence, middle life and at retirement. I believe that these transitions, whilst often experienced as traumatic and perhaps even shaking the very foundations of our life, can afford us the opportunity for positive growth and renewal. Similarly, I am interested in how our very earliest experiences of attachment in childhood affect our later relationships, both with ourselves and others.
Over the past 16 years, I have been exploring the ways in which mindfulness, a quality of present moment awareness rooted in the meditative traditions of Asia, can bring benefits to the therapy relationship and also directly to the client. Mindfulness has had a transformative effect on my own life and I have gone on to teach it in group settings over the past 15 years. During the past 9 years, I have been incorporating elements of mindfulness based therapy into client work.
Training, qualifications and experience:
M.A. Hons. Psychology, University of Glasgow (1989)
Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (D.Clin.Psychol.), University of Glasgow (1995)
Diploma in Eriksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis (NSHAP, London, 2002)
Diploma in Narrative Therapy (Centre for Narrative Practice, Manchester), 2005.
Diploma in Relational Mindfulness, Karuna Institute, 2016
I began post-graduate training as a Clinical Psychologist within the NHS in 1992. I was inspired to apply for training because of my previous experiences working with older people as a Research Assistant in a dementia project and also as an Assistant Psychologist in a deprived area of Glasgow. Both of these I found challenging but very rewarding. I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1995 and have since gone on to work in a variety of settings within the NHS including community mental health teams, GP practices, a diabetes team and a university medical practice. The variety of this work has allowed me to develop skills in working with a wide range of life difficulties, mental health challenges and the emotional impact of various physical health conditions.
Since completing training as a Clinical Psychologist, I have also undergone further training in narrative therapy, solution oriented therapy, mindfulness based approaches (Compassion Focussed Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and Eriksonian hypnosis. I now combine part-time work in the NHS with private practice as part of a social enterprise called Encompass Edinburgh.