Greg Savva - Counsellor at Enduring Mind, Twickenham, Whitton
Before you begin at Twickenham counselling, I'd like to outline my work as a counsellor in Twickenham.
The start of my formal training began at Metanoia Institute in 2004 with a Post-graduate Certificate in Psychotherapy. In 2005 I began training for my Masters Degree in Psychotherapy. Before that I completed a Counselling Certificate and worked in Cyprus. During five years training I worked as a counsellor with MIND, Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis Service, Winchester University, Metanoia and a psychiatric ward in Fareham. After this I set up my private practice at Counselling Twickenham and Whitton, EnduringMind. I was also a consultant psychotherapist & lecturer in Counselling at St. Mary's University and West Thames College. Besides my practice at EnduringMind, Twickenham I offer counselling and mindfulness to clients and couples.
I learned a great deal as an anthropologist, observing how people from different cultures recover from ill-health and trauma in healing rituals performed by spirit mediums, medicine men and shaman. I began fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, living with tribal people in the Trobriand Islands who relied on spirit mediums to heal people who had fallen sick. I spent time on the mainland observing spirit possession in men's longhouses, where they carried out healing rituals in communities blighted by conflict. I also observed Candomblé spirit cults in Brazil for three years.
My first experience in a counselling or mentoring role was as a youth worker in Moss Side, Manchester during a turbulent period in my early twenties. I was a volunteer in a deprived area of the city, working with bright young men and women who were highly talented and creative. But they were also socially excluded and at high risk of joining gangs, or becoming the victims of crime themselves. During that time, I came into contact with youngsters who were often in a state of crisis.
Looking back, I'd say many were traumatised. And yet these young people were inspired by an irresistible spirit of hope. Much like the rest of the community they were determined not to be defined by the stigma of discrimination. Many had creative talents like music, drama, photography and film as part of their personal development. In such conditions, the spirit may thrive, or be extinguished.
I came to feel a close affinity with those young people and wanted to offer my skills as a mentor in the hope it would enrich both our lives. These youngsters were already beginning to harness their talents in a constructive way, so they could make better choices in life. Along with friends and volunteers, and inspired by the Moss Side community, we nurtured the conditions for young people to explore their talents. We used informal groups as a forum for discussion, guidance and counselling. We engaged in building skills such as film-making, editing and screen-writing. It was a time of deep satisfaction and reward for me. But also a time of sadness, as the people I worked with struggled against social injustice and protested against the racist murders of two men in our community.
I spent two long periods in Manchester: studying as an anthropologist and later as a teacher. I lectured in anthropology and sociology at Manchester University. By my late twenties, I had lived in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea, as well as travelling around India, West Africa and Europe. I learned how to adapt in difficult conditions and embrace new challenges. It taught me how to appreciate other human beings and not fear or judge what is different about them. I was following in the footsteps of people like C. G. Jung who said 'everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves' (1940). He also said that in psychotherapy the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: 'if there is an interaction, both are transformed.'
At Manchester University I became a tutor of mature students. They often needed special care and attention during tutorials, because they were balancing part-time jobs, family and studies. This included building a personal rapport with students who harboured anxieties about their future careers, as well as missing out on valuable time with family and children. Later I taught at a secondary school in Oldham. And despite my naivety as a newly qualified teacher, I found a place to belong. I tried to set firm boundaries but didn't always win the favour of my students. However, I learned a lot about myself, the difficulties of setting personal boundaries and my role as a teacher. Controversially, I mentored students experiencing personal struggles with racism, sexuality and identity, as well as lives blighted by crime and substance misuse, which still guides my practice today. It is Carl Jung that reminds me that 'I look back with appreciation to brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched my human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.' (1932)
Soon after, I became a senior teacher in Brazil where my counselling skills were used as a private tutor. I also worked in an inner city school in London as Head of Humanities. During those years I took an Introductory Course in Psychotherapy. Later, as a teacher in Cyprus I was in a support group for service users. I learned about the lives of people who suffered serious mental health problems. I viewed my clients as ordinary people, who faced extraordinary difficulty, but weren't defined by it. I worked with creative therapies, mindfulness and meditation. One elderly gentleman I became attached to could only speak Greek, but we learned to communicate with non-verbal gestures and a sense of humour.
On my return from Cyprus I began a five years of rigorous training in Psychotherapy and counselling at Metanioa Institute. The training was fascinating, awe-inspiring and challenging. I learned my craft through a mixture of academic research, group therapy, self-development and clinical counselling. As well as that I gained 1000s of hours of client work, 250 hours of supervision and around 250 hours of personal therapy as required by the course. I found this experience invaluable, throwing myself into the work as much as I could. I had found my calling, although I suspect it had been lying in wait all along. It was a time of great change. I now have well over 12 years counselling experience. During my studies I found my lifelong partner, lost my grandfather and became a father to twin boys. Becoming a father was a profound awakening for me. I realised that deep down there were old wounds that had not been healed, but that this was an opportunity for me to live up to the image of the man I wanted to become. As D. H. Lawrence once said 'the child is father to the man' (1929). And so I needed to work through old wounds before I could work with clients. But like the archetype of the 'wounded healer' this enabled me to make connections with others, who experienced pain in their lives and feel empathy (C. G. Jung). During my clinical interactions I came to understand that it was all part of the process - allowing myself to be moved by others, while maintaining objectivity.
I recall my first therapeutic encounter - an elderly woman who had spent her entire life in the film industry, longing to be discovered as a performer and producer. She was highly articulate and intelligent, and we shared many interesting and challenging interactions as we learned to establish a rapport. While working at a Rape Crisis Service, I fondly recall working with a client whom I admired greatly. Over a period of years we worked through the distressing impact of childhood trauma and healing the wounds through the difficult transition from victim to survivor. I learned so much from her about the need to generate a state of mindfulness and compassion. Enabling her to slowly rebuild her life and come to terms with her inner demons. To heal the wounds of betrayal and shame, as she moved towards loving relationships and self-acceptance.
I also remember my initial fears about clinical work with a client who suffered from Schizophrenia and was prone to violent outbursts. Rather than dismiss his delusions or 'inner voices' as an irrational, we learned to work with his voices and find a way to live with them. I learned to help him communicate with the voices that persecuted him, and to use other more compassionate voices that soothed him. It helped provide him with an inner dialogue when he came in contact with the outside world. And meant that he regained a sense of composure and dignity. He was able to shift the balance of light and shadow in his soul. There was a time, I had a long conversation with a woman in a state of psychosis, who needed to be sectioned, but couldn't trust anyone to accompany her to the psychiatric hospital. I gained her trust with empathy and kindness; attuning myself to her emotions, without the need to coerce her. In that moment I felt a deep sense of calm descend on me by creating a safe place so she could entrust herself to me. As well as allow me to help with the intrusive thoughts and delusions that threatened to engulf her.
Finally, I recall a brief clinical relationship with a male student at University, struggling with his faith, despite the conservative religious beliefs of his family. He experienced inner turmoil at his lack of belief in God and was terrified to admit this to his family, fearing they would reject him. I remember how I felt fatherly affection towards him as we struggled to overcome his existential despair. I sat in silence, while he sobbed like a child; imagining myself hugging him, but never conveying this in actions. Until one day he held himself as he cried; hugging for dear life until he let go and smiled. He said he was ready to leave and felt confident despite his fears that he could to care for himself.
Nowadays, I offer counselling in the Whitton and Twickenham area. Please feel free to make enquiries for both couples counselling where I offer support to couples who want to repair relationships and improve communication; as well as individual counselling to help clients develop self-awareness of their personal issues.