Counsellor at Enduring Mind, Twickenham, Whitton
Before you begin at Twickenham Counselling, I'd like to outline my work as a counsellor.
I began working as counsellor, after training at Metanoia Institute in 2004. Then, I qualified with a Masters Degree in Psychotherapy in 2005. I also volunteered as a counsellor with MIND and Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis Service. Later, I trained with healthcare professionals in a psychiatric hospital in Fareham.
I set up my private practice at Counselling Twickenham and Whitton in 2010. I was a lecturer in Counselling at St. Mary's University. At Twickenham Counselling, I offer individual counselling, mindfulness and couples counselling.
Before qualifying as a counsellor
As an anthropologist, I learned how people from different cultures recover from ill-health and trauma. I witnessed healing rituals performed by spirit mediums and medicine men during my fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. They relied on spirit mediums to provide spiritual remedies for people who had fallen sick.
I observed spirit possession in men's longhouses, where they conducted healing rituals for communities blighted by conflict. While I lived in Brazil, I also observed the healing practices of Candomblé spirit cults.
My first informal experience as a youth worker was in Moss Side, Manchester. I volunteered in a deprived area, working with you people who were highly talented and creative. They were also at high risk of joining gangs, or becoming victims of crime themselves. 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.
They were determined not to be defined by the stigma. Many boys and girls had creative talents like music, drama and film. I believe that the spirit may thrive, or be extinguished.
I came to feel a close affinity with those young people. I wanted to offer my skills as a mentor in the hope it would enrich both our lives. They were already beginning to harness their talents in a constructive way, so they could make better choices in life. Along with friends and volunteers, we nurtured the conditions for young people to explore their talents. We used informal groups as a forum for 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 we protested against the racist murders of two men in our community.
I spent two periods in Manchester. Once, studying as an anthropologist and later as a teacher. I lectured in anthropology and sociology at Manchester University. By my twenties, I had lived in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea, as well as travelling in India, West Africa and Europe. I learned how to adapt in difficult conditions and embrace new challenges.
I came to appreciate other human beings and not fear or judge our differences. I followed in the footsteps of C. G. Jung who said 'everything that irritates us about others leads us to a better understanding of ourselves' (1940). Jung says the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: 'if there is an interaction, both are transformed.'
Later I taught at a secondary school in Oldham. And despite my naivety as a new teacher, I found a place to belong.
I struggled, coming to terms with my own flaws and I didn't always win the favour of my students. It was difficult learning my own personal boundaries in my role as a teacher. I mentored students who experienced racism, homophobia and lives blighted by crime.
This is something which still guides my practice today. As Carl Jung reminds me: 'I look back with appreciation to brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched my human feelings. Warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and soul of the child.' (1932)
Brazil and Cyprus
I became a senior teacher in Brazil in 2000 and later an inner city school in London as Head of Humanities. In 2004 I took an Introductory Course in Psychotherapy. Then I taught in Cyprus, while I volunteered to help service users who suffered serious mental health problems.
My clients were ordinary people, who faced extraordinary difficulties, but weren't defined by it. Using creative therapies, I worked with mindfulness and meditation. One elderly gentleman I became attached to could only speak Greek, but we learned to communicate with a sense of humour.
On my return from Cyprus I began a five years training in Psychotherapy at Metanioa Institute. The training was fascinating, awe-inspiring and challenging. I learned my craft through research, group therapy and clinical counselling. After many hundred's of hours client work, supervision and personal therapy, I got through the course.
With this invaluable experience, I threw myself into the work . I had found my calling, although I suspect it had been there all along. It was a time of great change. I now have over 15 years of 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 deep down there were old wounds that had not healed. And this was an opportunity to become the man i wanted to be.
As D. H. Lawrence once said 'the child is father to the man' (1929). And so I had to come to terms with old wounds, before I could work with clients. Like the 'wounded healer' I made connections with people who experienced pain in their lives to discover empathy (C. G. Jung). I came to understand that it was part of the process - allowing myself to be moved by others and find acceptance.
I recall my first therapeutic encounter. she was an elderly woman who had spent her entire life in the film industry, longing to be discovered. She was highly articulate and we shared many challenging interactions, as a deep rapport developed between us.
While working at a Rape Crisis Service, I recall working with a client whom I admired greatly. We worked through the distressing impact of childhood trauma and healing her wounds. Through this difficult transition from victim to survivor, I learned so much about mindfulness and compassion. She was slowly able to rebuild her life and come to terms with distressing memories. As she healed the wounds, she moved towards loving relationships and self-acceptance.
I remember my initial fears about clinical work with a client who suffered from Schizophrenia. He was prone to command voices and violent outbursts. Rather than dismiss his 'inner voices' as an irrational, we learned to find a way to live with them. I helped him communicate with the voices that persecuted him, and listen to more compassionate voices that soothed him.
This inner dialogue helped him come to terms with his inner world. As he regained a sense of composure and dignity, he was able to shift the balance of light and shadow in his soul.
I also recall a long conversation with a woman in a state of psychosis, who needed to be sectioned. She couldn't trust anyone to accompany her to the psychiatric hospital. I found a way to use empathy and trust without the need of restraint. I felt a deep sense of calm, creating a safe place so she could accept help. We slowly reduced the intrusive thoughts 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 beliefs of his family, he was in inner turmoil. He was terrified to admit his lack of faith in God, fearing his family would reject him. I remember my deep affection towards him as we struggled to overcome his despair. We sat in silence, while he sobbed like a child; imagining myself holding him. Until one day he held himself and cried. He hugged himself for dear life, until he let go and smiled. He said he was ready to leave and despite his fears that he could to care for himself.
I offer counselling in the Whitton and Twickenham area. Please make enquiries for couples counselling to repair relationships and improve communication; as well as individual counselling to you develop self-awareness of your personal issues.