At Sussex Psychology, we recognise that finding a way forward is different for each individual. We are passionate about helping those who seek our services to offer the possibility of living less stressful and more meaningful lives. Our adult services offer carefully considered psychological assessments and a range of contemporary therapies to suit your individual needs and support your health and well-being.
Consultation and first steps:
We offer a one-off consultation as an initial first step to discuss your concerns and consider the most appropriate way forward. This may lead to a further assessment, but if we are unable to help we can facilitate a referral to other services.
Assessment and plan going forward:
A carefully considered and thorough assessment is fundamental to successful therapeutic intervention. We follow professional practice guidelines to ensure that our assessments are both comprehensive and informative. This helps us identify specific areas of concern and formulate an agreed therapeutic plan to move forward.
The assessment will help:
- Outline key areas of concern and therapeutic need.
- Develop a shared understanding of how particular difficulties may have evolved over time.
- Identify whether a psychiatric assessment would be helpful as an additional support to therapeutic intervention.
- Inform a psychological plan of therapeutic treatment, which we can adapt to your individual needs.
We work with individuals of all ages and can offer therapeutic support for a wide range of psychological difficulties including:
- Adjustment to diagnosis
- Anger Issues
- Attachment Difficulties
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Bereavement and loss
- Bipolar Disorder
- Body Image Problems
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Health Anxiety
- Low self esteem
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Personality Disorders
- Post-natal Depression
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Separation Anxiety
- Social Anxiety
- Substance Misuse
- Traumatic experiences
We offer innovative and creative therapies that are carefully tailored to the individual needs of all those we work with. All our therapeutic approaches are informed by contemporary research showing evidence of positive outcomes and sustainable change. These include:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses specifically on helping people develop an understanding of the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviour. In particular, it helps with understanding that the meaning we attribute to any given situation can influence how we feel and subsequently act. CBT prioritises collaboration between therapist and client. This means they work together to change habitual ways of thinking and feeling that keeps them stuck in problematic patterns of behaving.
CBT has a strong evidence base and is perhaps one of the most popular therapeutic approaches. CBT is an effective intervention for treating a wide range of psychological difficulties. Some of these include depression, anxiety, panic, sleep problems, obsessional difficulties and various phobias. It is also often particularly helpful for a range of physical symptoms without any specified medical diagnosis such as chronic pain.
CBT is an extremely pragmatic and highly structured approach that focuses on present difficulties rather than exploring the past.
What to expect from CBT:
- Working collaboratively is the key so you will be working with your therapist to break down your difficulties into distinct parts: thoughts, feelings, actions as well as corresponding body sensations.
- Homework is also a key part of the therapeutic process in CBT and you will be expected to keep a diary to help you begin to notice the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
- During sessions, you will micro analyse both the unfolding sequence of emotional and behavioural reactions to understand the habitual cognitive meanings being attributed to certain situations.
- Treatment goals will be agreed at the end of each session along with any practice experiments between sessions.
- The practice work will help to identify the pacing interventions so you are working within your own window of emotional tolerance while challenging it at the same time.
- Psycho-education is a fundamental part of CBT and helps to facilitate change through being a teacher and a coach.
Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT)
Compassionate-Focused Therapy is an integrated model of therapy that encompasses Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology as well as Evolutionary and Buddhist Psychology. It also draws upon other therapeutic models that have developed interventions for specific psychological difficulties, such as CBT. CFT was developed originally by Professor Paul Gilbert to help people who suffer from a high level of self-criticism and shame.
Most of us have the ability to feel and show compassion and kindness towards others; it is part of what makes us human. However, it is much more difficult to show or experience compassion towards ourselves due to our tendency to judge ourselves more harshly than others. CFT helps you learn to ‘how’ to feel kinder towards yourself and others and to feel safe in a world that can often feel overwhelming. CFT is an extremely gentle but profoundly powerful therapeutic approach for people who struggle to manage strong emotions, particularly for those with histories of abuse and bullying where intense feelings of anger, anxiety, shame and self-criticism may be creating significant difficulties in both their personal and professional lives.
CFT utilizes compassionate mind training techniques to help the individual develop the emotional resources that are needed to feel safe and secure. CFT is particularly helpful for anyone who struggles with intense feelings of shame and self-criticism or who may experience profound difficulties in feeling safe and secure either in their relationships or life in general. It does so by working on the three emotional brain systems: threat and protection, the drive/motivational system and safety-soothing system. During the assessment, the therapist will show how these systems may be interacting in relation to the difficulties you bring to therapy.
What to expect from CFT:
- An assessment that identifies core areas of difficulty and formulates an individually focused plan of treatment.
- Support in understanding the importance of self-compassion and how this relates to current difficulties you may be experiencing.
- Working together in sessions with developing compassionate mind training skills to help alleviate patterns of internal emotional distress.
- Developing skills related to sensitivity, kindness and self-care as well as the skills required to tolerate emotional distress.
- The ability to develop compassionate attention in ways that will enhance your capacity to make compassionate choices rather than decisions being driven by shame-based emotions or thinking patterns based on self-criticism.
Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM)
Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM) is a relatively new creative and innovative therapeutic approach that is designed to help people process traumatic life experiences or specific traumatic events. Developed originally by Lisa Schwarz, an American Psychologist who has over 30 years’ experience working with trauma and traumatic dissociation, CRM is currently gaining widespread recognition by leading specialists in the trauma field. In her recent book, co-written with Dr Frank Corrigan and Dr Alistair Hull, the authors take us on a journey through the labyrinth of brain science and set out to revolutionise intervention by providing us with a goldmine of neurobiological resources that influence cortical, limbic and brainstem systems.
CRM therapeutic interventions work to build a scaffold of internal resources through empowerment images, body-based grounding techniques, resource eye positions and rhythmic breathing sequences. This helps in promoting an embodied sense of containment that is foundational to scaffolding safety prior to processing any current or past traumatic material. The focus on the patterned and rhythmic breathing sequences supports dual consciousness and thereby offsets the possibility of emotional overwhelm when an individual is sufficiently resourced to ‘step into’ processing distress experiences. This is also supported by the use of specific CRM bi-lateral sounds.
CRM also incorporates therapeutic techniques from other approaches, notably eye position anchoring and ego-state therapy when working with dissociative parts. One of the key strengths of CRM interventions is that they can easily be combined with other therapeutic approaches without compromising the integrity of the model. Another strength of CRM is it also works with the imprints of generational trauma as well as in-utero and early infant trauma. Such early implicit memories are imprinted into the nervous system and held in the body somatically. Working with such early trauma requires delicate pacing and a virtual fortress of internal resources prior to processing traumatic material body-based memories.
What to expect from CRM:
- Understand the power of the breath especially when used rhythmically as different emotions arise.
- The ability to utilise specific breathing sequences to regulate distressing emotional states of arousal.
- Weekly homework around tracking fluctuating emotional patterns and practice with using resources.
- How to utilise resources in combination with breathing in between therapy sessions.
- The patterned repetitive nature of CRM (like EMDR) is also the key to its success, but practice between sessions is equally essential.
Couple therapy is a relationally focused therapy in which a couple work together during sessions with the therapist as a way of affecting change in their relationship. The primary aim of couple therapy is not to look for a resolution of a particular problem, but rather to explore specific relational patterns that may be driving distinct difficulties emerging in the relationship. Some couples seek therapy to help them decide whether to stay together or separate.
Some of the key relational problems couples experience often include: difficulties with communication, issues related to trust, perpetual arguments, sex and intimacy. Depending on the nature of the problem the couple is experiencing in their relationship, the therapist may combine another approach, such as schema therapy to identify and work with problematic relational patterns. Therapy can be short-term if the couple wants to work on a specific issue in their relationship. The assessment may indicate that some short-term individual work may be more helpful before commencing couple therapy.
What to expect in couple therapy:
- An individualized plan of treatment to match a joint formulation of the couple’s agreed difficulties.
- The number of sessions will depend on the specific nature of the difficulties the couple is experiencing, but this will be indicated after the initial assessment is completed.
- Couple therapy can be hugely challenging and potentially distressing, but also very helpful in understanding habitual patterns of communication that may be undermining the relationship.
- It is usual in couple therapy to have homework both individually and as a couple in between sessions.
- Effective change will depend on the couple’s commitment to therapy and level of engagement during the therapeutic process, including working on agreed relational tasks between sessions.
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is essentially a form of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy that was originally developed for the treatment of individuals with chronic suicidal thoughts and urges to self-harm. DBT is often regarded as the treatment of choice for individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) who have significant difficulties in managing emotional distress as well as coping with the everyday challenges of relationships.
DBT is a highly structured approach to therapy and tends to address difficulties in order of priority:
- Self-injurious or suicidal behaviours take priority over and above other difficulties the individual may be experiencing.
- Self-destructive patterns of behaviour that interfere with the process of therapy.
- Self-destructive behaviours that systematically undermine the quality of life.
Key components of DBT treatment:
- DBT is a support-oriented approach and focuses on identifying and building on existing individual strengths.
- DBT has a strong cognitive component and focuses on helping the individual identify patterns of negative thinking and associated beliefs that continually work to undermine them in their everyday life.
- DBT is fundamentally collaborative and seeks to help the individual work out relational difficulties within the context of the relationship with their therapist. Often this will involve specific homework tasks or role-playing new ways of interacting with others and practising self-soothing skills in the session.
The therapeutic format of DBT:
- Individual weekly psychotherapy that seeks to address self-injurious behaviours in order of priority of those that pose the most risk to the individual, which are mapped out above.
- Individual therapy also focuses specifically on early traumatic experiences that disrupt and impair an individual’s relationship to Self which is often reflected in self-injurious behaviours.
- The emphasis is on helping to develop the skills required to manage emotional distress rather than taking them out of the crisis.
- Weekly Group Therapy is led by a trained DBT therapist and usually lasts two and half hours.
- In group sessions, the emphasis is on learning particular skills in four domains: interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and mindfulness.
What to expect from DBT:
- Learning a range of skills for managing to tolerate emotional distress and deal with relationship difficulties more effectively.
- DBT will be hugely challenging partly because the aim is to help in reducing over-reliance on self-destructive behaviours as a way of managing emotional distress.
- Homework to complete diary cards between sessions and working together during sessions on what is described as behavioural chain analysis to help you identify the unfolding chain of events/thoughts/feeling/actions related to self-injurious behaviours.
- DBT is a long-term intensive therapeutic approach and you can expect to be in therapy from 1-2 years.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a distinct therapeutic intervention or technique that uses bilateral stimulation (BLS) in order to facilitate processing of distressing memories related to traumatic events. Due to the overwhelming nature of trauma, it is believed that fragments of trauma memories remain frozen in the brain. EMDR has a strong evidence base for successfully treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
EMDR primarily focuses on past or present disturbing life experiences or other disturbing memories. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation, e.g. tapping or bi-lateral sounds) are used during sessions. Once a ‘target’ memory or experience is agreed together with associated negative belief/cognition the therapist will ask the client to hold diverse facets of that event or a thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. Whilst this occurs, it is suggested that internal associations arise and the client begins to process the memory and distressing feelings.
In successful EMDR therapy, the negative meanings attributed to painful life experiences slowly change as they are integrated emotionally. EMDR is widely recognized as the treatment of choice for PTSD by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) but is also used to treat a wide range of psychological difficulties including; phobic fears, panic, obsessional anxiety, sleep problems, complicated grief reactions, chronic pain and performance anxiety.
What to expect from EMDR:
- Once you have agreed on the key targets for treatment the EMDR process commences quite swiftly.
- The process is repetitive, but it is the patterned, rhythmic and repetitive nature of EMDR that is believed to be a key to its success.
- EMDR may be combined with other complementary treatment interventions, such as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy or Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM).
Equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that uses the dynamic nature of horses to address a variety of emotional difficulties in children, young people and adults. It is a form of experiential therapy that involves various structured interactions between people and horses. The focus of equine therapy is not on riding or horsemanship but takes place purely on the ground. This often involves activities such as grooming, feeding, haltering and leading a horse that is supervised by a fully qualified Equine Psychotherapist and a Horse Specialist. Such activities naturally strengthen the capacity for assertiveness and development of problem-solving skills as well as relationship building. During interactions with the horse, the equine therapists will observe certain patterns of behaviour or enquires on thoughts and feelings that may be emerging during a session. Our proximal closeness and/or distance during these interactions shows how the body is mapping the spatial parameters of safety or threat. The spatial organisation of safety is often a reflection of our early attachment experiences.
Horses display gentleness and tenderness and their implicit sensory sensitivities together with their natural capacity for attunement and mirroring the patterns of behaviour in those with whom they are working offers tentative opportunities for forging a healing connection. While Equine Assisted Therapy is used for a wide range of emotional and physical difficulties, for children and adults with traumatised attachment histories who struggle to feel safe in connection with another, the parallel nature of these interactions seems to be naturally attuned to the developmental and emotional needs of the child or adult. Children (and adults) who have suffered physical/emotional abuse often need to engage in parallel relational interactions first due to the way their nervous system is organising in a relationship. The nurturing structure and form of parallel communication occurring during interactional activities allow for moments of emotional connection that can be felt and experienced in new and different ways.
Horses are large and powerful animals inspiring both awe and potentially fear. Taking tentative steps towards approaching a horse or making gestures to invite proximity are often foundational moments to override fear and cultivate the beginnings of relational safety. Moments of interaction where a small task/activity is accomplished provide a new template for dealing with challenging life experiences.
What to expect from Equine Therapy:
- Working on the ground with either one or two horses with two highly experienced practitioners: one a specialist in equine therapy and the other a horse specialist.
- Working at your own pace and making choices about how you wish to interact.
- Horses, unlike humans, have no expectations – entering a relational field in the absence of any expectation or demand can be profoundly liberating and provide the impetus to take bold steps with confidence.
- Learning the art of negotiation in a non-verbal territory requires attention to spatial environment and skills in attunement.
- Slowing down and staying present to moment by moment interactions.
Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
Interpersonal psychotherapy is a brief attachment-focused therapy that works on resolving interpersonal problems and symptomatic recovery. The philosophical underpinning of this model has its roots in Biopsychosocial, Cultural and Spiritual models of understanding key interpersonal issues that affect the development of healthy attachment relationships. Different forms of interpersonal distress are believed to be deeply connected with particular psychological symptoms. A personal crisis may act to trigger a distressing cycle that the person may become locked into depending upon their pre-existing vulnerabilities and current strengths. Individual temperament, attachment strategies and personality are key modulating factors in the management of either a particular crisis or pattern of emotional distress. Social issues related to the general level of social support together with current significant relationships are also irrevocably intertwined with a person’s capacity to cope effectively during times of acute crises.
One of the key goals of IPT is to restore the quality of a person’s interpersonal relationships and social functioning and thereby reduce associated levels of distress. IPT aims to develop an array of skills to help them resolve problems in four key areas:
- Interpersonal deficits, which may include social isolation and/or problematic relationships.
- Identifying and managing unresolved loss embedded in the distant or recent past.
- Adjustment to significant life transitions, such as retirement, separation or divorce.
- Interpersonal disputes that emerge from conflicting expectations between family members, close friends, partners and colleagues.
IPT was originally developed to treat major depressive disorder but is now considered to be a highly effective therapy for a range of mental health difficulties. Some of these include perinatal depression, mood disorders, bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol addiction and eating disorders. The therapeutic focus is fundamentally yoked to changing relationship patterns rather than on problems embedded in the past or the dynamics of internal conflicts. Difficulties in patterns of thinking and cognitive styles are only relevant insofar as they relate interpersonal problems rather than being the key goal of therapy.
What to expect from Interpersonal Psychotherapy:
- A time-limited approach with treatment sessions between 6-20 sessions.
- Treatment is highly structured and involves homework.
- Treatment strategies that are tailored specifically to the areas of interpersonal difficulties you both identify together.
Mentalisation-based treatment (MBT) is an integrative form of psychotherapy that combines elements of psychodynamic and systemic therapy with CBT. It was originally developed by Professor Peter Fonagy and Anthony Bateman for people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The term mentalisation essentially refers to the ability to think about thinking; in other words, understanding what is in one’s own mind and that of another in terms of emotional intention and intentional action.
The ability to mentalise develops in early attachment relationships through emotional interactions with primary caregivers. If a child grows up in an attachment environment that is chaotic and neglectful their capacity to mentalise may become impaired or severely disrupted particularly if the caregiver is emotionally unstable or suffering from significant mental health difficulties.
The primary focus of MBT is to help a person develop an understanding of their own intentions and those of others. MBT places less emphasis on past relationships or the meaning of specific events, but rather on exploring and being curious about one’s own internal emotional process. While MBT is the recommended treatment by NICE for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it has also been extended to treating emotional difficulties in adolescents, particularly in terms of understanding issues related to the maintenance of self-esteem, affect regulation and impulse control. It is also helpful in working with self-harm, trauma and working with families.
What to expect from MBT:
- The key focus on the relationship between therapist and client being a priority for understanding and developing the capacity to mentalise.
- A focus on the present rather than the past as a foundation for understanding difficulties in relational interactions and internal emotional reactions when reflecting on what may be happening in the mind of another.
- During sessions, the therapist is likely to repetitively encourage reflection on situations or relational interactions that trigger intense emotions as a strategy to enhance the capacity for mentalisation in the present moment.
- The therapist is also likely to inquire about the way you are thinking and how your thoughts relate to behavioural actions as well as explore internal emotional states in order to develop new ways of mentalising.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a mindful practice derived from the application of Buddhist Meditation, which was originally developed to prevent or reduce the number of relapses occurring with people suffering from major depression. MBCT is now considered to be an integral part of mainstream therapeutic approaches that have some common features with CBT but seeks to combine this with more Buddhist mindful meditative practices to cultivate awareness of the present moment.
MBCT utilises psycho-education to help develop awareness of present moment experience and cultivate the capacity for daily mindful meditative practice. One of the key aims is to develop what is described as ‘metacognitive’ awareness, which simply means being able to observe and experience thoughts and feelings as ‘mental events’ that arise in the mind. The intention is not to judge or change negative distressing thoughts, but rather to experience them as internal events that are separate from who you fundamentally are.
Cultivating the ability to be mindful of what arises in the mind moment by moment without judgement or expectation to change can be hugely liberating. It offers us the opportunity to achieve freedom from negative mind states and habitual patterns of thinking that are often self-condemning and self-blaming. MBCT is the recommended treatment by NICE for people who suffer from recurring episodes of depression.
What to expect from MBCT:
- A focus on present moment experience rather than the past that ceases to exist and the future that is yet to arrive.
- The ability to cultivate an internal state of awareness that helps to differentiate between past experience and present moment experience through stabilising attention.
- Guided practice in mindful body-based relaxation and specific mindful exercises to stabilise attention and increase internal awareness of negative patterns of thinking.
- To develop an appreciation of small pleasures in everyday life and interrupt the downward spiral into painful past emotions.
- The ability to ‘shift internal gears’ from the present state of mind to one that is more aware and less judgemental of human vulnerability.
Music has been used as a therapeutic tool in the service of healing for centuries. Rhythm is regulating; all cultures have some form of patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity as part of their healing and mourning rituals, which is partly why music is often regarded as one of the most powerful forms of communication. The engaging nature of music itself along with the diversity of musical forms makes music uniquely effective in helping people of all ages, whose lives have been affected by trauma, mental illness, physical injury or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs.
As an expressive and creative art therapy, music seeks to utilise tempo, rhythm and musical improvisation to enhance the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of individuals. Musical interactions also help in the exploration of deeper feelings where sound replaces words and rhythmic melody becomes the primary vehicle for communication. Music therapy is not about learning music or learning to use a specific musical instrument. It is more simply about using and exploring the different melodies of sound through musical interactions with various instruments and facilitating a musical conversation with the therapist in the service of healing.
Music involves patterned, repetitive rhythmic activation of the brainstem and can be seen as a brainstem modulating therapeutic intervention. This is particularly helpful when working with children who have suffered from early impaired bonding experiences and attachment disruptions and loss. Musical interactions encourage connection and bonding between mother and baby, which is especially helpful for women suffering from postnatal depression. Music therapy is also widely recognised as a specialist therapeutic intervention for people suffering from brain injury or other neurological disabilities to assist in rehabilitation and improve quality of life.
What to expect from Music Therapy:
- Working at a pace that is naturally attuned and responsive to your particular emotional and physical needs.
- The capacity to explore musical forms of communication that gently encourage self-expression.
- Taking part in rhythmic body-based activities to modulate and regulate states of anxiety, enhance relaxation and encouraging creative play.
- Playing with musical interactions and alterations in tempo and rhythm as a gentle way of challenging habitual patterns of communication.
The key philosophical principle guiding narrative therapy pivots on the person as the expert in their own life. It is a fundamentally respectful and non-blaming approach that differentiates problems in living separately from the person who already has the necessary skills, values, knowledge and commitment to affecting change in their own life. It is a highly collaborative approach to therapy and a way of working that prioritises the broader context of people’s lives, particularly in terms of class, race, gender, sexual orientation and ability.
The stories we hold about ourselves derived from certain life events tend to be partial, yet deeply shape our perspectives on living. Some stories assume greater dominance over others and are thereby felt as a more truthful rendition of who we are and what we are capable of. Such narratives often become ‘problem saturated’ stories, which are easily translated into ‘identity stories’ that negatively inform our perception and experience of self. Narrative therapists work to gently challenge with curiosity the problem-saturated stories or partial scripts people hold about themselves that emerge and flow into therapeutic conversations.
What to expect from Narrative Therapy:
- A consistent focus on the problem-saturated stories held about self.
- The ability to cultivate a more curious internal stance on these problematic stories that shape your perspective on life.
- More attention to the stories that counter the dominant self-narrative.
- An invitation to consistently reflect on the cultural and political discourses that deeply shape and inform the stories we hold about self.
Schema therapy was originally developed by Dr Jeffrey Young in the early 1990’s for the treatment of more complex psychological difficulties that were less responsive to traditional CBT and required more attachment focused work. The concept of ‘schema’ is often used to describe a relational template or blueprint the individual has developed about themselves and is a key component of the emotional difficulties they experience. Schema therapy places considerable emphasis on how the past deeply shaped the beliefs a person holds, their pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving. These deeply rooted patterns or ways of relating to self and others become the primary filter for processing information and relational interactions.
In schema therapy, the primary focus of therapeutic work is to identify core schemas and how they contribute to ‘maladaptive patterns’ that often undermine the possibility of sustaining meaningful relationships. Some of the core schemas that create considerable difficulties in relationships and form a key focus in therapy are; abandonment and instability, mistrust and abuse, defectiveness and shame, social isolation and alienation. The idea of ‘modes’ is a key term used in schema therapy to describe a cascade of emotional reactions or ‘coping modes’ based on early unmet needs. The therapeutic relationship is the primary vehicle for working with early unmet attachment needs through what is described as ‘limited re-parenting’, which serves as a healing antidote to toxic childhood experiences.
What to expect from Schema Therapy:
- During the assessment, you will be given a range of questionnaires to complete to help identify key schemes and schema modes.
- The development of a shared understanding of the emotional difficulties you are experiencing to build a case formulation that informs a treatment plan.
- To develop alternative ways of coping that challenge dominant schemas and schema modes.
- The therapeutic work lasts anything between six months to possibly two years depending on the need to pace therapy to match emotional difficulties and time required to cultivate the capacity for change and healing.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a body-oriented approach to working with trauma. This approach is fully grounded in contemporary neuroscience research and attachment theory, but also deeply informed by the philosophical and spiritual practices of Buddhism. It has evolved over the last three decades into a complex and elegant form of body psychotherapy that gently weaves kindness, compassion and embedded mindfulness into all its therapeutic interventions. As a ‘bottom-up’ approach, it helps us to think sequentially especially when working with early developmental trauma.
While many therapeutic interventions depend almost entirely on verbal narrative, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy utilises the wisdom of the body as a key therapeutic and self-regulatory resource. It offers a unique lens to explore the language of the body by focussing explicitly on the sensory landscape of body sensations and impulses, micro muscular patterns of tension, body movements, posture and gesture as well as facial expressions, gaze resting responses and respiratory rhythms. By prioritising the somatic narrative, it is possible to access the story the body holds by tracking and sequencing somatic states of arousal as well as working more directly with defensive patterns.
The body is in constant somatic dialogue and is often considered to be a direct window into the rhythmic patterns of the nervous system, notably heart and respiratory rhythms. A person can be easily triggered by physiological reminders of past traumas through an unfolding cascade of sensory experience; sounds, smells, touch, body sensations and impulses as well as small shifts in posture, gesture and movements. Developing the skills of directed mindfulness is the foundational bridge of all sensorimotor interventions to working with the body. This requires that we cultivate a more embodied form of awareness in order to listen with the body-mind.
What to expect from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy:
- Learning to listen to the story the body has to tell and developing a somatic vocabulary.
- Developing the skill of sensing the internal world of body sensations, impulses, muscular patterns of tension, orienting patterns, movement urges and postural patterns.
- Developing the capacity to direct attention to present-moment body-based experience; five-sense perceptions, sensory sensations, micro movement patterns etc, while being motivated by curiosity.
- Developing a more embodied rather than conceptual awareness of fluctuating patterns of physiological states.
- Developing the somatic skills to self-regulate.
Family therapy is an approach that works with families and those in close relationship to support each other in the service of fostering change. This may be parents and children together and also include grandparents or others who are considered important within the family system. Family therapy helps family members share difficult thoughts and feelings in a therapeutic family space in the hope of cultivating a shared understanding and appreciation of the differing needs and experience of others within the family system. Family therapy views relationships as deeply resourcing and seeks to help people who care for each other find ways of coping with emotional distress in more collaborative and supportive ways.
It is a particularly helpful relational approach across a broad spectrum of difficulties including; adults struggling with parenting; for children whose parents are suffering from a mental health problem, school-related difficulties, stressful and traumatic life events such as divorce and separation, premature death of a parent or partner. It is a particularly helpful approach in working with looked after and adopted children and their families as well as the complex difficulties families face when a child or young person has an eating disorder.
What to expect from Family Therapy:
- Support in understanding how the family is functionally relating.
- Identify strengths and working collaboratively to build upon them within the family.
- Developing specific strategies and skills to work positively with the relational conflict between adults or child-adult conflict.
- Understand patterns of communication within the family and developing skills that strengthen communication across the family.
- Help people move beyond blaming other(s) and exploring how everyone can work together towards a shared understanding and goal for change.
Yoga therapy utilises various body postures in combination with different breathing sequences and meditative practices as a way of restoring health and well-being to the individual. Therapeutic yoga is fundamentally a holistic approach that works to restore the mind-body connection that tends to be severely disrupted during times of emotional distress and trauma. All yoga practice works towards strengthening different systems in the body including; the heart and cardiovascular system, lungs, and musculoskeletal system. When tailored to the specific needs of the individual, yoga therapy is also particularly effective in modulating and regulating fluctuating states of arousal commonly associated with various forms of emotional distress, anxiety and depression. Considering the stressful lives most people lead; yoga therapy is perhaps considered to be one of the most natural yet powerfully gentle forms of body-based meditative practices that have a profoundly positive effect on the overall functioning of our stress-response system.
Yoga therapy is also particularly helpful when a person has suffered a traumatic experience or has a history of early developmental trauma. Trauma-sensitive yoga brings the body fully into therapy and helps a person gently reconnect with their bodies in a safe and healing way. We know that trauma not only affects the mind but deeply affects the body. We also know that the body holds and sustains the imprints of trauma which leads to disturbances in heart and respiratory rhythms as well as leaving a person stuck in cycles of hyperarousal (heightened anxiety/fear states) and dissociative numbing (feeling disconnected and cut-off emotionally). Trauma-sensitive yoga practice works sensitively and skilfully to repair the disruption that occurs between mind and body through therapeutic interventions that utilise the healing power of intention, purpose, rhythm and self-attunement along with restorative postures and self-regulatory breathing actions.
What to expect from Yoga Therapy:
- Developing the skills to increase interoceptive (internal) awareness of body-based states.
- Learning to identify and track patterns of somatic activation through physical sensations, body impulses, muscular patterns of tension and irregularities in heart and breathing rhythms.
- Use the power of focused breathing to stabilise attention and build emotional regulation skills.
- Use the body purposefully through various postural movements.
- Develop the ability to utilise purposeful attention with physical postures and focused breathing to cope with strong emotions.