Here at Hertford Counselling, I work with individuals from late adolescence upwards. I work both short-term with clients (anything from four sessions upwards) to long-term (we meet on an open-ended basis and end whenever you decide you are ready). Psychotherapy is also known as a talking therapy.

Understanding the many different ways in which counsellors and therapists work can be a minefield.

I am a Gestalt counsellor who has also trained in psychodynamic counselling. Gestalt/Psychodynamic counselling are terms that explain how I have been trained and which theoretical concepts underpin my way of working with you.

Counselling encourages you to examine your ways of relating to others, as well as examining your feelings. Counselling focuses on taking responsibility and self-awareness, which can help you to see your situation more clearly and restore your ability to choose. It also helps you to think about how you get stuck, and therefore how you can help yourself to experiment with finding new solutions or ways of facing and overcoming your difficulties.

Gestalt Therapy:

The word Gestalt can be roughly translated as ‘whole’. One of the main ideas of Gestalt therapy is that we are innately motivated to achieve our fullest self, while maintaining a contactful relationship with our environment (which includes other people and all that lies ‘outside’ of ourselves). Much of our behaviour can be understood as an expression of our attempts to do this, and often lies beyond our self-awareness.

How Gestalt Therapy works:

One of the key roles of the Gestalt therapist is to help you get more in touch with what you are doing and how you are doing it. Some of your feelings, desires and ideas can stop you from living life in the moment, with your full energy. Some of this energy is tied up in 'unfinished business' - things that are unresolved and left over that cry out to be addressed. With awareness you can unblock that energy, discover you have real choice, and gain access to greater energy and potential for experiencing a fuller life. It can bring feelings of relief and increased well-being.

The Gestalt therapist works in partnership with you to empower them in this process, and help in raising awareness of areas where you may have got ‘stuck’ and release you from this stuckness. Gestalt therapy has a variety of dynamic approaches that allow you to do this, and aims to integrate all the different aspects of the person: emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual. Gestalt Therapy was founded in the 1940s by Fritz and Laura Perls amongst others. It is primarily a humanistic psychotherapy drawing on a rich foundation of philosophical and psychological influences. 

To read more about Gestalt Therapy, click here for the article 'What is Gestalt' by Malcolm Parlett.* 

Psychodynamic Therapy:

Often we can fall into automatic patterns of behaviour that over time become more harmful than helpful. Psychodynamic counselling sessions typically look at the impact of your unconscious and conscious thoughts, and behaviour, on your way of being.

The famous anaylst Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939) was the father of psychodynamic counselling, and his writings are still hugely influential today. Freud believed that mental illness was linked to unconscious drives that people need to repress because these drives (or desires) are unacceptable to society and the environment in which they live. Freud used methods such as free-association and dream analysis to bring to the surface the contents of the unconscious mind.

How Psychodynamic Therapy Works:

In psychodyamic counselling, the psychodyamic therapist focuses on the unconscious experience of the client, looking for connections to patterns of behaviour and ways of being that might be rooted in childhood. The counsellor will be interested in your childhood and adult experiences, with particular reference to relationships with early caregivers. A great deal of importance and focus is placed in modern psychodynamic counselling on transference and counter-transference.

Transference could be defined as the manifestation of past relationships within present ones; a little like viewing all your relationships through a filter that colours your way of being in the present. Counter-transference is the term used for the counsellor's feelings in response to their client. Psychodynamic counsellors have been through many years of therapy themselves. They are trained to monitor themselves in order to know whether what they are feeling belongs to their own experience or whether it is being unconsciously projected onto them by you. This information and awareness can then be used by the counsellor to raise your awareness of how you might be relating, by offering the observation of this process back to them.

Psychodynamic counselling also looks at the various defences we all employ in order to keep the most vulnerable parts of our-self safe. You may have heard of some of the defences which are often used in everyday speech - 'repression' and 'denial' being two of the common examples. Some of our defences serve us well, however some of them prevent us from leading a full and contactful life. It is the psychodynamic counsellor's job to raise the your awareness of these defences in order to consider which are necessary and which are helping to stand in your own way. Although I no longer actively work psychodynamically, my previous training in psychodynamic therapy inevitably underpins and informs my work, at times.

* Reference - (Parlett, A, 2014, British Gestalt Journal,retrieved from http://www.britishgestaltjournal.com/features/2014/8/27/what-is-gestalt).