Realising my vocation as an Art Psychotherapist and Psychotherapist...
Growing up, as with many teenagers, I struggled to reveal my true self to the world. My passion for most of my childhood and teenage years lay with playing the piano. I would spend hours every day practising, making up songs and generally embracing music in every way. I had many friends but would often feel less worthy somehow. By the time I was studying my 'A' Levels, I began to burn myself out in all aspects of life; practising the piano, studying and generally trying to become the sort of person that was attractive in the world. I strove for perfection in everything I did. Most of the latter focussed on me becoming as thin as possible. It became very unhealthy and my self-esteem was rock bottom.
I turned to reading about psychology and counselling. This gave me huge comfort in guiding me to understanding my true self and embracing this. Unfortunately, due to my piano playing becoming so entwined with my emotions and self-esteem, I stopped playing for 4 years and gave up a place to read music at University. After a 'gap year' of soul searching and travelling, I began studying for my BA Hons in History of Art at Warwick University. Painting and drawing had always been a secondary hobby of mine and so I gave less weight to the pressure on my artmaking compared to the pressure I used to put on myself with music. This allowed me to enjoy the practical elements of my degree without setting myself up to fail from such high, personal expectations. I clearly still had more self-acceptance to strive for.
It was during my degree, that I stumbled across Art as Therapy and, as a result, I wrote about it as my final dissertation. I had experienced the idea of Music Therapy whilst studying my 'A' levels, having given some taster sessions to a local school for Special Needs Children. I became extremely passionate about the Arts helping people with their difficulties and set about researching how I could become an Arts Psychotherapist.
I discovered that you needed to train for a Masters for 3 years and that not many Universities in the UK offered it. At the time, I was living in Reading, so my nearest one would have been in London. Most of the prospectuses stated that you needed to have atleast 3 years experience of working with people. So, I decided to return to my original plan from my childhood of becoming a teacher and began my PGCE at Oxford. I would re-train as a psychotherapist when the time was right.
Well, that dream took slightly longer than anticipated! Life happened, some good, some bad experiences, the move to Wales and the birth of my amazing son, having my wonderfully loyal companion of my dog by my side, quite a few bumps along the road and emotional triggers along the way.
After 12 years of being a teacher, I found myself at a cross roads in more ways than one and felt, 'well, why not...I have nothing to lose!'. I found the MA Art Psychotherapy course at the University of South Wales in Newport and was lucky enough to get myself a place on it. It was a dream come true!
I had never lost sight of my passion in therapy and had experienced some CBT myself, some counselling and read many books on mindfulness, building confidence, the arts in therapy and even some neuroscience over the years. On starting the Masters, it felt like I was finding my true vocation. I had loved being teacher and had used the arts many times to encourage children to shine in their unique ways. But I wanted to be able to reach them more individually and to understand more the complexities of how we are shaped as people from birth to adults. I had experienced my own difficulties in life, some of which had returned over and over to teach me the same lessons, and I wanted to use what I had learnt and come to understand so that I could help others.
The journey of the 3 year Masters was a long and arduous one with a huge amount of self-reflection required from the course in order to understand 'what was my stuff and what belonged to the client'...transference and counter-transference. It was a requirement of the course and, indeed, of any psychotherapy or counselling training, to have weekly therapy myself. This, alongside all my studying, the placements at Mental Health Hospitals and schools, being a single Mum to my son and dog, meant that it took it's toll my body.
I began to have symptoms in line with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME. I was determined it was not going to pull me under after everything that I had gone through to reach where I had. I researched extensively the notion that our emotional upset and unresolved trauma can have a huge impact on our physical bodies. I became extremely passionate about listening to the body and being mindful of how our thoughts, feelings and experiences can affect our physical wellbeing. So much so, that it became the focus of my 20,000 word final dissertation.
I now feel that I have reached a certain peace in life where self-acceptance and self-love is vital in order to embrace the true self. Being mindful, embracing my loves of nature and creativity and allowing my imperfections to shine has contributed to a much happier life for me. I want to share what I have learnt with others by listening to their stories and enabling them to embrace their true identities in order to live a richer, healthier and happier life. We are all a 'work in progress' and sometimes need reminding to slow down or to find a goal, to take a breath or to take a chance in life. Whatever your history, your identity, your emotional triggers or your passions may be, they are unique to you.
I am now a HCPC and BAAT registered Art Psychotherapist with an MA in Art Psychotherapy.
As an Art Psychotherapist and Psychotherapist, I am self-employed and work with a wide range of clients. I work with adults, children and young people and I provide weekly 1:1 sessions and group sessions. I am based at Magnolia - Centre for Health and Wellbeing in Neath, where I rent a room for my Art Psychotherapy and Psychotherapy sessions. I have worked with people struggling with depression, anxiety, bereavement, eating disorders, personality disorders, anger issues, relationship difficulties and isolation to name just a few.
As a Psychotherapist and Art Psychotherapist, I am psychodynamically trained and combine the theories and methods of this practice with mindfulness and person-centred therapies. My aim is to help you unravel, experience and understand your true feelings in order to be at peace with them. Often, our unconscious can hold onto painful experiences causing us to develop various defences which can inhibit future relationships. For this reason, psychodynamic psychotherapy/art psychotherapy can work particularly well with people who have lost meaning to their lives, who are unsure of their identity or have difficulty forming or maintaining healthy relationships.
I am extremely passionate about Art Psychotherapy helping people with their difficulties because it allows you to explore the use of the art materials with no judgement. By just 'seeing what happens' as I often say, it enables the unconscious to come to the surface through your artwork whether or not you believe you are skilled at art. Your artwork then provides a platform to work from and through further exploration, artmaking and conversation, we can begin to discover the deep roots of your feelings and difficulties.
I also believe that we hold our emotions physically and that we can develop pain or discomfort in our bodies as a result of trauma or emotional upset. I often use mindfulness and focussing techniques to help you to become more self-aware, connecting mind, body and spirit as one whole.
Being open to self-reflection, self-exploration and having a natural curiosity for your internal world can enable you to move forward in a healthier and happier direction. Using mindfulness, focussing, artmaking or reflective conversation, I can help you to explore your unconscious.
I have found working with all of my clients a privilege and I have made it my aim to become attuned to each and every one of them in order to engage fully within the therapeutic relationship with them, enable them to feel heard and to authentically empathise with their individual stories through their art-making and verbal communication. I want to empower my clients to find a happier and healthier path and for them to strengthen their self-belief to move forward independently.
I use directive and non-directive techniques, combine mindfulness and focussing techniques with the psychodynamic theories and methods of Art Psychotherapy. Most importantly I place you, the client, at the centre, learning from and understanding your individual needs.
Recently, I have been working online, providing skype or zoom sessions due to the restrictions of lockdown and Covid-19. If you would like to know more about this then please do read my post on the changes I have made since Covid-19.
If you feel that some Psychotherapy or Art Psychotherapy sessions could help you, then please feel warmly welcome to contact me on 07840049326 or firstname.lastname@example.org