Helen’s formative training is in Humanistic counselling and psychotherapy with a main emphasis on using theories and methods from Gestalt psychotherapy. Gestalt practice is one of what Helen refers to as her ‘four pillars of practice’:
Gestalt psychotherapy: Gestalt is a highly practical or ‘experiential’ therapeutic approach. Like other humanistic forms of psychotherapy, Gestalt is an ‘existential-phenomenological’ approach. In other words, it focuses on what it is to be human - with all its inherent joys and suffering; and it helps people stand aside from the predominance of the thinking mind and moving into the ‘lived experience’. This regard for the totality of mind and body makes Gestalt a ‘holistic’ approach whereby an individual can investigate the unique way they experience their reality. Helen will help you develop self-awareness; to help you notice what is happening from one moment to the next, or what is known as ‘in the here and now’.
Embodiment: We can feel like heads with bodies tagging along; yet so much of our lived experience is lost if we don’t drop our awareness down into the body - to feel the sensations of our emotional world as they play out in ALL of our self. Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” - we have all tried thinking our way out of our unhappiness, trying to locate THE solution to the problem. What if your body could offer the missing piece of wisdom? Helen practices in an experiential way helping clients connect the mind-body and turn inward towards what is known as the ‘felt sense’ of a situation and all its complexity. It is an approach that combines the wisdom of the thinking mind and intuition of the feeling body; opening up a way of truly experiencing life.
Buddhism: Helen has been a student and practitioner of Buddhism for over 10 years. It is a wisdom tradition that offers so much more than meditation, with its own psychological and philosophical framework. The meditation practices can help support ‘here and now’ awareness whilst the psychological frame helps to work skilfully with reactions to the givens of life thus reducing the experience of suffering. Buddhism also offers a more spiritual approach to working, no matter your own faith or religious practice and beliefs. More and more, people are coming to therapy to explore the full arc of human experience - what could be seen as going beyond the personal and discovering a more enduring essence beyond the individualised ego or personality aspects of self. Such a “transpersonal” approach fits seamlessly with the humanistic paradigm, the approach of Helen’s original training. Helen is currently writing a book exploring how she brought together her Western training with the Eastern wisdom tradition of Buddhism.
Enneagram: Many systems of ‘typing’ exist in psychology: from ’diagnoses’ in the mental health and psychiatry world through to personality typing commonly used in the business and coaching world. As a humanistic practitioner, Helen has held a sceptical view on such labelling of the human experience - but one system that has helped Helen integrate the psychological and the spiritual aspects of what it is to be human is the enneagram. On the spiritual level, the enneagram - a nine pointed figure within a circle - describes nine facets of ultimate reality. On the psychological level, we see nine correlates describing our state when we are identified with our egos or our personality. Each of the nine types on the enneagram is therefore a collection of psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical facets that shape how we think, feel and act. Helen can help you identify what type (and sub-type) you resonate with; and how you can use this map as a way to decode some of your emotional, cognitive and behavioural tendencies. Helen has found it particularly powerful in helping clients explore relational dynamics at work, in the family, with one’s friends, and in intimate partnership.
How do these four pillars come together?
Being a humanistic practitioner, Helen recognises the unique individual you are. There are however common patterns and characteristics that underpin our initial wounding and how we heal that wound.
View of the human condition
As a modality coming from the humanistic paradigm, Gestalt views human nature positively and is optimistic about the potential for growth. Buddhism takes this further, explaining that while “there is suffering” this experience is inseparable from our inherent “brilliant sanity” or buddhanature. We are born ‘basically good’, but how we come to experience ourselves and others is shaped through relationship - with our caregivers (interpersonal) and with the world and the society in which we grow up. Our lived-experience of “who am I?” is embodied; that is the experiences that have shaped our character are held deeply in the body-mind.
View of the nature of distress
We may have heard the expression “childhood wound” - ways of being adopted in order to survive and get our needs met in less than ‘good enough’ relationships with our caregivers. Even without traumatic experiences, it would be rare that any child-parent would be in perfect attunement and hence we learn to adapt and lose sight of our basic, true nature that is inherently whole. So in our formative relationships we set up patterns that are initially quite creative and useful but ultimately become fixed and hinder our spontaneous expression. The nature of the wound is driven out of awareness and stored in the body-mind. The enneagram describes nine ways this plays out for example, while Gestalt talks of fixed gestalts.
View on healing
Helen was deeply inspired by her time on retreat with John Welwood, and his view that “we are created through relationship; we are wounded in relationship. It therefore makes sense that we can be healed in relationship”. The wounds of childhood can be repaired in the relationship with the “good enough” other. Awareness of the embodied-experience in real-time with the therapist offers a chance to live out and work through fixed patterns of relating laid down in formative years. As the Buddha explained, it is by turning toward suffering and revealing the primary wound that becomes the gateway not only to healing but to discovering inherent wisdom.
Like the sound of working in a holistic way? Contact Helen for an initial appointment