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Welcome to Holding on to Hope

My name is Den and I am a male Gestalt counsellor. I offer counselling sessions in London, primarily near King’s Cross St Pancras and North Sheen.

I am passionate about talking cures and believe that therapy can be space to reflect and ultimately to grow as a person. Therapy need not just be there for times of crisis but can also be a place of personal exploration and development.

Under no circumstances should you lose hope… The Dalai Lama

 

Getting It Right

Recently a friend of mine mentioned that they were about to start therapy and this fact alone was making them anxious. This was useful for me to hear as I sometimes forget that potential clients might feel this way. It’s important to note that the friend in question wasn’t coming to me for therapy (that’s a big no-no in this profession).

I asked my friend why he was anxious about attending therapy and he replied that he was ‘terrible at it’. Terrible in this case meaning setting goals, which is something more common in CBT than Gestalt therapy. The use of the word ‘terrible’ really got me thinking about how much pressure we put on ourselves, from appearance to socialising, from fitness to career, and not forgetting our diet. Even hobbies, pastimes we are supposed to enjoy, can provide a source of anxiety if we’re putting ourselves under pressure to get them absolutely right or comparing ourselves to others.

I asked my friend what would be the worst thing that would happen if he couldn’t achieve the goals he agreed with his CBT therapist. ‘Nothing will change’ he replied. Change is at the heart of therapy for many clients. Perhaps they want to move on from an issue that is troubling them or perhaps they wish to change something about themselves. In that regard ‘nothing will change’ is a disappointing outcome.

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I mentioned to my friend that getting things wrong and making mistakes didn’t have to be catastrophic. We may learn something invaluable about ourselves if we are supported to look back on our mistakes and try and learn from them. Quite often, people are so busy shaming themselves for not getting it right that they forget to look back and see how they might have done better. In this way people may lose hope of ever being successful in a certain area of their life and may simply stop trying. Imagine a fledgling chess player who never plays another game after their first defeat.

This, for me as a counsellor, is so important. I hope to provide a safe, non-shaming space, where people can make mistakes, experiment with being different, and then be able to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. You wouldn’t expect to go to night school and speak perfect Italian straight off the bat, and counselling is no different. It’s not about getting it right, it’s about being willing to try something different and experiment with new, healthier ways of being.

Why The Buddha?

It was commented on that I use Buddhist imagery on both my blog and my business cards, and that this might put off potential clients. I confess, I’d not thought of this before but can see that some people of other faiths may find it off putting. I myself can’t claim to be Buddhist, so why the imagery?

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Back in 2010 I was going through a difficult period and was resolved to do something about it. At the time I was able to find a Zen Buddhist group that would meet to meditate on Saturday afternoons. This became a fixture of my week, a regular place and time that I was able to spend some time on myself. In a way, meditation became my counselling  – it was a place to slow down, reflect, and reconnect with myself at a deeper level.

These days I struggle to make meditation a regular part of my life but I use guided meditation in counselling sessions with my clients. Even five minutes of sitting quietly and focusing on the breath can help centre one’s self enormously. My point is that meditation has come to be seen as something that is tied to Buddhism and yet it doesn’t have to be. We live in a health conscious age where people think nothing of going to the gym two or three times a week. If we can give three hours a week to our bodies why don’t we do the same for our minds?

Now when I see a buddha it reminds me of a time when I was able to spend time by myself, for myself, and come through a dark time and become a happier more productive person. Counselling, like meditation, is open to all: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheists, agnostics, and Buddhists, of course.

What is Gestalt?

What of the questions I am most often asked is ‘What is Gestalt counselling?’ Here’s a brief introduction to some of the core parts of what I do.

Gestalt therapy operates on four pillars. The first is that it is a relational model, meaning the therapist is in relationship with the client. I will at times comment on how I am feeling or what I am thinking in context to the material the client brings to the sessions.

The second pillar of Gestalt is Phenomenology. I will track a client’s body language, their tone of voice, demeanour and ask them to check in with bodily sensations. Our bodies contain much information if we take time to attune to ourselves. Many people complain of carrying their stress in their shoulders, this is just one example of an arising phenomena and how it is carried in the body.

The third pillar of Gestalt incorporates Field Theory, meaning that nothing in one’s life is isolated, rather all parts of our life have an effect on each other. In this way Gestalt takes the whole person in to consideration. Thoughts, feelings, our histories, our families, work life and private life all form part of a person’s field.

The last pillar of Gestalt is the use of experiments. Gestalt is most famous for it’s use of the empty chair, a way of expressing ourselves to an imaginary person or difficult aspect of ourselves. I also hope to work in other creative ways such as using flip charts for drawing and other non-verbal expression.

These pillars of Gestalt are based on a foundation of the Here and Now. While events from our past and worries about the future may cloud our mind, it is important to remember that we are alive in the present moment. You may know this as mindfulness which has proven very popular in the last five years.