HOW WE WORK TOGETHER
It is important when starting a process of change together, whether it is healing or flourishing, to understand what you can do to maximise the experience and also what to expect. Below, I have tried to give an overview of my approach to psychotherapy (healing) and philosophical coaching (flourishing).
FIRST SESSION: The first session is an opportunity for both of us to get to know each other and for you to tell me a bit more about the issue or issues that you want help with/to address. It is very important for you to feel comfortable with me, as psychotherapy is a very personal process and research has demonstrated that client-therapist fit is one of the key ingredients in successful therapy. Please be assured that I will always endeavour to create the conditions for a warm, safe, accepting, authentic and trusting relationship. If you decide at the end of the first session that you do not wish to work with me, that is absolutely fine, and there is no obligation for you to continue. On our first session, I will also give you a copy of our contract that has detailed information about significant aspects of out work.
ASSESSMENT: During the first few sessions, we will make an assessment of the nature and the origins of your difficulties, while also looking at factors and circumstances that make your difficulties persist. Additionally, we will use psychological tests, both generic and specific to the issues that you struggle with, so we can get a more thorough understanding of your situation. The assessment process can take anywhere between one and four sessions (depending on the nature of the difficulty); however, assessment is an ongoing process that often continues informally throughout the course of therapy. It is important for you to know that during assessment I will not pathologise or medicalise your difficulties; that is, I will not label you with a "disorder", as labels have a way of intimidating and disempowering people, especially when those labels are attached to one’s mental health.
DURATION: During the assessment stage, we will also come to an understanding about the length of our work together. Psychotherapy is not a straightforward process, and people often find that, once they start therapy, other issues may come to the surface. This makes it difficult to predict exactly how many sessions you will need. The length of the work is also related to the nature of the issue or issues that you need help with. As a general rule, I encourage you to give it a try for at least six sessions and then revisit.
PSYCHOTHERAPY PLAN: Following the assessment, we will create a psychotherapy plan, tailored to your needs, that will help you overcome your issues and difficulties. In doing so, we will make every effort to adjust your healing plan to your circumstances and work around job, family and any commitments you may have. However, It is important for you to know that the most important factor in the success of your therapy is your commitment and determination to heal and get better.
THE THERAPY PROCESS: One of the first things that we will do is to try to manage or alleviate your symptoms as quickly as possible, as this will create the stability and space necessary to allow you to process painful experiences. Following this, I will support you to explore, at your own pace, any aspects of emotional, cognitive and spiritual experiences that might be relevant to your difficulties. In this process, it is important that you understand that, although I will use my knowledge and personal experiences to assist you and help you through this process and I will make suggestions, eventually, it is you who is the expert of your life. In this light, I will never try to direct you or take you down a path where you are not comfortable. It is better to think of my role as a facilitator of healing and change.
Another common experience while in therapy is that, before you start feeling better, you might go through a period that you feel somewhat worse. This is something that not everyone experiences but it is not unusual, particularly when you are processing and working with painful emotions and experiences that have been deeply buried. I often use the metaphor of a “psychological wound”, that is, a wound that has always been there but has been hidden and now we will have to lift the bandage and try to "tend to it" and "clean it", so that the natural healing process can take over and start working. Please be assured, that we will tend to your “wound” in a gentle and safe way, so we can heal it and allow you to live your life to the full, without psychological and emotional suffering.
REVIEWS: Every six sessions, we will be taking time to review our work together and discuss what has been helpful and what has not. These reviews are a great opportunity for both of us to offer feedback and, if needed, to adjust your therapy plan.
CONFIDENTIALITY: Our sessions are confidential. However, there are some minor exceptions (e.g., child abuse, harming yourself or others), where I am legally and ethically required to talk to someone else. Our contract details the situations where confidentiality legally has to be broken. But please be assured that our sessions will be a trusting, safe and non-judgmental space, that will allow you to talk and process your innermost emotions and thoughts, whatever these may be.
DISPELLING THE MOST UNHELPFUL MYTH: Going for therapy is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength and an act of courage that requires commitment and a great deal of determination. It is a statement to yourself and to those that you love and care about that you want to live a life free from suffering and to heal and flourish. What is more, it is not necessary that for you to be “troubled” to engage in therapy. You may also come to “unfold” and to get to know who you are so that you can have a better relationship with yourself and others. Psychotherapy, therefore, provides an opportunity for you to find more freedom to be yourself and to be more fully alive.
PHILOSOPHICAL COACHING IN ACTION
RIGHT ATTITUDE: Philosophical coaching is predominately a form of mentoring that is based in a supportive, authentic, accepting and caring relationship. A relationship that can also be seen as a kind of spiritual friendship that is grounded in the pursuit of transforming your life. In this respect, my role resembles a “midwife” that helps you to give birth to a more mature, evolved, resilient, capable and wise you. I am a catalyst and a facilitator of change, helping you develop virtuous character strengths that assist you to achieve personal growth and practical success in all aspects of your life. Although the whole process is directed solely by your aspirations and your goals/needs, at times it will be necessary for you to be willing to follow recommendations and to remain open to thought provoking and challenging questions that aim to propel your self‑reflection and help you to question unhelpful beliefs and behaviours that impair your growth. The virtues of openness, curiosity, patience and courage are important in this process of clarifying values and exploring new ways to achieve your aspirations and goals. In the process of creating a more wholesome and fulfilled life, you will need to embrace uncertainty and sit with patience, determination and persistence until the new you emerges. There are no gimmicks nor shortcuts to success. The "recipe" is simple: hard work, dedication, courage, and open-mindedness, along with good guidance.
DEEP INSIGHT: The first stage of philosophical coaching is to help you to develop Deep Insight. Fundamentally, insight is a practice of deep inquiry by which you increase your self‑awareness and gain an understanding of your character strengths/virtues, as well as areas for improvement. Deep insight brings clarity, but most importantly it will give you a blueprint for your success and happiness. Insight is a 360 degrees process, where information and knowledge come from body and mind, as well as from external sources. Thoughts and emotions, body sensations, gut feelings, as well as feedback from others close to you are all equally processed and taken into account. In order to gain deep insight, we will use philosophical inquiring methods, such as Socratic Questioning, in tandem with contemplative methods such as Mindfulness Meditation. The inquiry will often focus on general questions such as: What is a good life? What is success? What is virtue? Which activities and attitudes lead to fulfilment and happiness? During this stage, apart from gaining insight into yourself, you will also develop your ability as a deep and thorough thinker. This is often a by-product of philosophical coaching that will equip you for the rest of your life with the strength of clarity in the way you think, see and communicate.
We will follow this with more specific questions focused on gaining insight into your life. The most important question at this point will be to understand: What is it that you wish to change and achieve? In essence, we will conduct a thorough inquiry in order to uncover your goals and aspirations. We will look at your values and beliefs, and we will make sure that you have the right goals; goals that do not conflict with your values, goals that are achievable, ethical and sustainable. We will also come to understand how your goals fit within the wider context of your life, including the influence of others and the environment that you live in, and the impact that your flourishing might have on others and the wider eco-socio-political environment/context. While exploring and setting your specific goals, we will make sure that you do not to lose sight of the overall goal of becoming a more resilient, capable and fulfilled person. This approach is not simply based on positive thinking. Instead, it comes from the perspective that we need to see the world as it is, with all its uncertainty, instability and adversity, and accept it as it is.
DEEP ACTION: During the second and most important stage of your journey to transformation and flourishing, I will use philosophical coaching techniques to teach you how to act upon the insights that you have acquired, and implement them in very real and tangible ways in your everyday life. Together, we will develop a tailor-made plan of Deep Action that is aligned with your aspirations, while at the same time creating a set of specific practices that will help you develop your character strengths and achieve practical success. These practices will often include methods such as Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice, to identify and strengthen your character strengths and develop new ones; Journaling, to become aware and challenge unhelpful habitual actions; Active Reading of seminal philosophical, spiritual and personal development texts, to provide you with inspiration; Memorisation and daily repetition of maxims to fuel your motivation; Guided Visualisation to help create positive habits and pre-empt obstacles; and, most importantly, Behavioural Activation, where you “try out” and test new strengths and skills, and new ways of doing and being so they become habitual actions. All the above practices can be characterised as Deep Action, as they not only change your behaviour but, most importantly, they help to rewire and restructure your brain, effecting deep and sustainable change in both your body and mind. This is the unique offering of my philosophical coaching approach, where I integrate Practical Philosophy methods with cutting edge Positive Neuroplasticity techniques in a coherent and efficient way. These techniques will help you achieve your specific goals and transform yourself into a more excellent and capable person that can flourish and live a happier life.