My approach uses Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), a behavioural therapy rooted in clinical research that is effective in treating a wide range of issues including anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD and many more. In a nutshell, it involves working with your difficult thoughts, feelings and sensations so that you can respond more flexibly to them, allowing you to focus on living your life the way you want to.
I blend ACT with my existing therapeutic training to tailor a creative and flexible approach for each person I work with. Here is my basic philosophy:
anxiety is normal
Anxiety is a normal and natural response to our existence. It is the way we deal with it that is the problem. When we try to avoid anxiety we can actually end up making it worse. In our sessions together I will help you to learn new ways of relating to your anxiety, so that it has less of a grip on your life. You will learn skills that will provide you with tools to take out into the world and start using straight away.
the mind thinks it is protecting you
Your mind is trying to keep you safe – it has evolved to monitor the environment constantly for threats. Back when we lived in caves, this made good sense, and it kept us alive. In the modern world it is not always so helpful. By working with our anxiety as a survival strategy that doesn’t always serve us, we can develop new ways of responding to it.
it is ok to feel
Most of us grow up with strong messages from family and society that feelings like anger and sadness are undesirable, shameful, embarrassing and destructive. We hide and suppress so-called negative emotions and criticise ourselves (and others) when they show up. We try to avoid difficult feelings, and this emotional avoidance leads us to rigid thought processes, and pain that has nowhere to go. By learning to turn gently towards these feelings we soften their impact on us, and liberate ourselves to respond more flexibly when we are triggered by them.
find the gifts in your pain
When it comes down to it, we worry because we care. And often the seeds of our anxiety contain the things that are most precious to us in life. By identifying our values and what matters most we can take practical steps that go in the direction we want to follow, and learn to walk them even when anxiety shows up.
move towards meaning
We are taught to pursue happiness, yet it is a transient state that we can never expect to inhabit permanently. By shifting our focus towards meaning and purpose we acknowledge both the joy and the suffering that make up a richer, more fulfilling experience of living.
do what works
Sometimes, avoiding our experience works. For instance, taking paracetamol to suppress a headache is a good option when we want to get on with our day. Avoiding things isn’t always a problem. We don’t have to embrace every feeling that comes our way! But when we can’t get rid of our difficult thoughts, feelings and sensations – when they keep coming back, no matter what we do – then it’s time to try something new.