Counsellor at Twickenham Counselling & Whitton
Before you begin at Twickenham Counselling, I'd like to outline my work as a counsellor.
My story began with a single encounter: a medicine man in Papua New Guinea. His name was Mokubwae. My friend once revealed to me, with a wry smile, that learning the healing arts would be my cure, or madness. Then, years later, while in The Gambia, after falling sick with Malaria, I was healed with a chloroquine and a traditional remedy (ju-ju), from the marabou. When I lived Brazil, I witnessed African spirit dancers healing the sick in a night seance. They were guided in trance by their ancestors and the rhythm of three African drums. It left a lasting impression on me and I was hooked.
I have only the souls of dead therapists breathing at my heels. They have served me well.
So I began my work as counsellor, after training at Metanoia Institute in 2004. I qualified with a Masters Degree in Psychotherapy in 2005 and volunteered as a counsellor with MIND and Portsmouth Area Rape Crisis Service. Later, I trained in a psychiatric hospital in Fareham.
In 2010 I set up my private practice at Twickenham Counselling and Whitton. I also lectured in Counselling at St. Mary's University. Now, at Twickenham Counselling, I offer individual counselling, online counselling, mindfulness and couples counselling.
Before qualifying as a counsellor
As an anthropologist, I learned how people in different cultures recover from illness and trauma. Most tribal people make no distinction between mind and body. I witnessed healing rituals performed by spirit mediums and medicine men in Papua New Guinea. They relied on spirit mediums to provide healing 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. A balletic form of spirit possession and dance, which allowed the souls of the dead to perform ritual healing on the living.
My first informal experience as a mentor 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.
Time as a mentor
I came to feel a close affinity with the young people of Moss Side. I wanted to offer my skills as a mentor in the hope it would enrich both our lives. The boys and girls I met, were already beginning to harness their talents in a constructive way, to make better choices in life.
Along with friends and volunteers, we nurtured the conditions for young people to explore their creative talents. We used informal groups 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 the deep diversity of human beings and not fear their differences. Soon, I realised: 'everything that confronts us about others, leads us to a better understanding of ourselves' (Jung: 1940). Jung also believed the meeting of two personalities is like a fusion between 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.
Although, I struggled coming to terms with my own flaws, I tried to be the best teacher I could. And I didn't always win the favour of my students. It was difficult learning to adapt in my role as a teacher. I did my best to engage with 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 soul of the child.' (1932)
Brazil and Cyprus
In Brazil, I became a senior teacher and later an inner city school in London as Head of Humanities. In 2004 I took an Introductory Course in Psychotherapy. Then, when I taught in Cyprus, I volunteered to support service users who suffered serious mental health problems.
My clients were ordinary people, who faced extraordinary difficulties. 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 confronting experiences in group therapy and counselling. After many hundred's of hours clinical work, supervision and personal therapy, I got through training.
With this invaluable experience, I threw myself into the work . I had found my calling. It was a time of great change. After 15 years of counselling, I found my lifelong partner, lost my grandfather and became father to twin boys. Becoming a father was a profound awakening for me. I realised deep down there were old wounds, not yet healed. Learning to heal, was an opportunity.
As D. H. Lawrence said 'the child is father to the man' (1929). And so I came to terms with the old wounds, before I could work with clients. Like the 'wounded healer', I connected with people who experienced pain in their lives. And came to understand it was all part of the process. Being a therapist means being touched by others and finding 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. But within her, she held a great sadness and despair. 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 who I admired greatly. We worked through the distressing impact of childhood trauma, 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.
At MIND I remember my 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.
Now I offer therapy at Twickenham 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.