Individual psychotherapy is a one to one regular meeting, once or twice a week for anything from 6 months to several years; a time to focus on yourself. This is ongoing for anything from 6 months to several years. The unique relationship possible with a psychotherapist can be an important place to review and develop aspects of yourself and your life.
Counselling is similar to psychotherapy but usually shorter term than psychotherapy and focused on a particular issue or situation. For example someone may want to think about their relationship, or what is happening in their workplace. They may want to have someone to support them through a particular life event such as following the death of a loved one, separation, or change of work.
Sometimes people come to therapy as a couple; a spouse, partner, parent and child or friends. In this case the therapy is for the couple relationship rather than the separate individuals. Couples come for many reasons. They may be in crisis, going through a difficult period together, navigating the complexities of family or stepfamily life, or wanting to enhance their relationship. I work with people to slow things down and to support each to say what they need and to hear what is being said by the other. I also offer feedback and guidance in exploring new ways of relating.`
Group therapy can be particularly useful for exploring communication and relationships. Relating, contact and community are part of what a group can offer.
I run two groups in North London. For each group there is no set agenda; we are limited only by ourselves. Our explorations have included relationships, self-support and expression, awareness, communication, family situations, anxiety, excitement, bereavement, life-change and depression. Further details are listed under ' Groups and Workshops ' .
I offer supervision to psychotherapists, counsellors, students and staff teams, either individually or in groups. I work from a Gestalt perspective, bringing in consideration of other theories and approaches as appropriate. I am particularly interested in how often the process between myself and my supervisees is a reflection of the client material we are considering. I also offer academic supervision for dissertations and doctorates.
My doctorate focused on Mothers in stepfamily situations, and as a result I have become aware of the special character of stepfamilies.
Over the last sixty years families have changed so that instead of it being unusual for parents to be living separately, it is now quite normal for parents to live in different places. The change means that it is common for people to be living with children who are not their own or to be in a relationship with someone who already has children and an ex- partner with whom they share arrangements.
Contemporary stepfamilies involve adults and children living in a variety of situations. For example, in one family, a child may have different parents, and different brothers and sisters than another, one adult may be a parent and the other not, or both may be parents but have no children between them.
Many people would not describe their families as a stepfamily, however as yet a satisfactory alternative word has not been found. Whether or not you feel that your family is a stepfamily, if you or your ex-partner are in a new relationship then you are in a situation that resembles one. You may have separated from your partner and he or she is in a new relationship so that your children have a stepparent. Perhaps your situation arises in a same sex relationship.
The experience of living in a complicated family can throw up unexpected difficulties. People in these situations often have to navigate relationships with a variety of characters; partners, ex-partners, parents, stepparents, children and stepchildren.
Typically there are challenges for people in every position in such a family. For example if your family includes children who are your partners but not yours (ie stepchildren) it can't be assumed you will love them automatically or that they will be happy that you have joined their family. That can make things difficult for all of you. Stepparents can feel 'outside' of their partner and his/her children, parents can feel torn by their loyalty to their children and their new partner, ex-partners can feel jealous of new relationships; these are just some of the possibilities.
Stepfamilies at their best can be a source of comfort and nourishment; something akin to a tribe of connected adults and children. At their worst, everybody involved can feel frustrated and find it hard to get their relational needs met. If this is the case, it is possible to get to a happier and more fulfilling state of affairs, however this is not easy. It involves partners talking, and hearing things that are difficult to take on board. The potential in doing this is for people to find solutions that work better as a whole and in which everyone's place is recognised.
Gestalt is the therapy my work is based on. The word Gestalt means whole or configuration in the sense that 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts'. There is no equivalent word in English. This form of psychotherapy has among its roots Gestalt Psychology (a psychology of perception), Existential philosophy, psychoanalysis and Reichian bodywork. It was launched in 1952 via a book 'Gestalt Therapy - Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality' by Perls, Hefferline and Goodman. While Gestalt is often associated with Fritz Perls, in reality it was developed by a group of people including his wife Laura Perls and Paul Goodman.
From a Gestalt perspective, unfinished past experiences are seen to repeat themselves in patterns that are happening now. Past events influence the present, through the body's response and in thoughts and feelings. As we become aware of how this is happening we can revisit events with a different eye, thereby creating new and more satisfactory resolutions to dilemmas and difficulties. In this way we can broaden our options, free up our energy, and become more available to ourselves and others
Gestalt is a practical psychotherapy, the therapist works with the client to be aware of their responses in the here and now. As the person talks and explores their personal material, they are encouraged to notice their physical and emotional responses. Attention is paid to those times when this might prove difficult, and often slowing down and attending to detail leads to useful insights. Where appropriate exercises may be suggested, which aim to explore new ways of being and of venturing into areas that are difficult for someone to go to. In addition exploration of communication and contact are important areas in Gestalt. Ultimately, working in this way can bring an increased self-awareness and liveliness.
Gestalt therapy does not involve lying on a couch and is practised both as an individual and group therapy. It is communicative, the therapist is not a blank screen and uses their own experience in the session to inform the therapy work. While different therapists have their own styles all will be based on tracking experience in the here and now, including the relationship between client and therapist.
0044 (0)20 8361 6146
email Claire Asherson Bartram