The Great Pause and the Big Picture

The Great Pause. Certainly many of us have felt that parts of our lives have been on pause. Our social lives. Travelling abroad. Perhaps our jobs? The list goes on. Face-to-face therapy was also on pause for many of us during this time. Even the idea of seeing someone may have felt impossible or overwhelming with so much else happening in the world.

As a therapist, the biggest change was seeing clients almost exclusively over Zoom, with all the challenges and flexibility that came with it. I’ve decided that I’m ready to see vaccinated clients face-to-face again. I now have consulting rooms in both Chelmsford, Essex and Shoreditch, London. I have availability at both locations and am interested in seeing new clients.

One of the advantages of Gestalt in the current situation is that it draws on Field Theory. Quite simply, Field Theory acknowledges that there is a big picture and we are in it. Like any big picture there can be any number of big themes, small details and central figures. Unlike a painting this big picture is subject to change, and what was merely in the background is sometimes now the central figure.

San Sebastiano – note the many characters in the background, and those who are more central, or figural.

You could think of an example of this thusly: COVID is part of the your background whether you like it or not. However, it may not be the central figure that’s holding your attention. The central figure could be anything from childcare commitments, to struggling in a relationship, to anxiety about work. COVID would suddenly move from the background to the foreground if someone in your family suddenly displays symptoms. In this way the field, or background, and the central figure are always in a state of flux, shifting subtly or dramatically.

I’ve found that keeping an awareness of the big picture during the last two years has enabled me to understand just how much myself and others are up against, socially, politically, and virally.

Perhaps you’ve decided it’s time to make sense of your big picture, the various themes in your life, and even reexamine the small details?

You can find me on Counselling Directory HERE.

Happy New Year?

This time last year I had not even heard the word coronavirus before. 2020 has been a strange year, at times frustrating, scary, and boring. It has also been a year where the end to the current situation does not appear to be in sight. Even now, with a vaccine being rolled out, it can feel like we are still very much in the tunnel and yet to experience the light at the end of it.

Some simple things have helped me during the last year, they may not seem like much at first glance, but I invite you to try them all the same when you are having a difficult day.

Breathing: One of the first things to suffer when we are anxious or under stress is our breathing. How many times have you heard the expression ‘Take a deep breath and count to ten’? Breathing allows our body to take in some much needed oxygen, which in turn helps us think more clearly. There is a reason so many mindfulness meditations ‘follow the breath’. Try it for yourself and notice the difference.

To Do List: The office, or a place of work, provides a focus where we can apply our attention without distraction. The same is not always true for those of use who are fortunate enough to work from home. Human beings have become masters of distraction. We have countless books, television shows, films and video games to entertain us. And then there are more necessary distractions such as housework, cooking, and attending to family members and dependents. Most people are naturally goal driven and I am no different. Simply making a list of achievable goals and ticking that box once it’s done helps focus the mind and gives a sense of achievement afterwards.

Unplug: While staying connected and keeping abreast of current events is necessary during a time of crisis, so is the need to unplug. Many people are venting their fear, anger and frustration online through social media. You can choose how much of that you wish to consume. Staying in contact with friends via small groups (such as Whatsapp and Telegram) can be preferable to navigating the seething waves of Twitter and Facebook.

Gratitude: It may sound strange to list gratitude during a time of crisis, but I believe that keeping sight of the things we are grateful for keeps us grounded. Why not make a list of five things you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep? These can be as simple as, ‘I have a roof over my head’ or ‘Dinner was particularly good tonight’. You might notice you are grateful for a telephone conversation or video call, a much needed shopping delivery, or that you are in good health and still alive. Focusing on what we have can provide a light in the oppressive gloom of an ongoing crisis.

Connection: Are you the person who always checks in on your friends? Then you already know the value of connection. I often tell my clients that ‘human beings are social beings’. Some people tell themselves that they don’t want to bother anyone else or take up their time. This leads to isolation, and it’s well documented just how unhealthy isolation is for people. Why not send five text messages to friends to let them know you are thinking of them? Even if only one of them replies you will be more connected than before. 

Why not drop me a line if you’re having a difficult time and need support.

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?


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.


Welcome to Holding on to Hope

My name is Den and I am a male Gestalt counsellor. I offer counselling sessions over Zoom and in person in Chelmsofrd, Essex and Shoreditch, London.

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