Acceptance & Commitment
One of the main roles of our brain is to protect us from danger and new situations, and prepare us to respond to them. Our brains store information about situations we have been through in a organised way, so that we can access the memories and details when we need them (for example, what we had for lunch today, where we went last Saturday and the sensations we experienced when we were on that trip abroad).
However, when we experience a difficult and traumatic event or we find ourselves in an overwhelming situation, our brains may have difficulty processing and organising the memory or the emotions linked to it in our brain memory system. EMDR can help the brain to organise memories or part of memories to reduce the emotional impact they have on us.
EMDR may not always be indicated when we have strong emotions associated with difficult memories, and there are other ways to help the brain process a memory (for example, trauma focused CBT).
In order to help us decide whether EMDR is the most appropriate therapy, we conduct an assessment, which includes information about our experiences and how our brains respond to strong emotions. There are circumstances when other techniques may be more appropriate than EMDR, and sometimes, it may be necessary or helpful to do some psychological work before someone is ready to start EMDR.
I am also trained in Brainspotting (BSP), a relatively new type of therapy that derived from EMDR that appears to work really well for people who have not found EMDR therapy helpful. BSP seems to suit well a number of autistic people because it can be completely adapted to the way each person’s brain works.
Many people get stuck in patterns of behaviour because they did not get the choice to do things differently or because the behaviour helped them get through challenging situations.
Our brain loves familiarity and prefers to stick to behaviours and routines that is used to. That’s why we often find it difficult to shift a behaviour that we know is not good for us (e.g. sugary foods, unhealthy relationships, alcohol), is not helping us to be the person we want to be (e.g. anger, resentment) or is a skill or behaviour that are new to us (e.g. driving, public speaking).
CBT can help you break these old patterns by “experimenting” and doing things differently with the support of your therapist in sessions and between sessions . I will introduce you to strategies that will help you to try new ways of responding to your worries, fears or more general problems. By doing things differently to what you are used to, the thoughts, feelings and body sensations that interfere with your life and routine will change, making it easier to do the things that you would like to do (e.g. going to the shops, talking to people you don’t know, doing a presentation at work, travelling, etc.).
CBT is a structured therapy during which you will be working towards specific goals. CBT aims to achieve some changes relatively soon in therapy. However, the pace and speed of the therapy will be adapted to each person. Some people may need more times or smaller steps in therapy.
ACT is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) ‘with a twist’. ACT will help you get unstuck in your life by using skills and strategies that will allow you to do what is important to you, even in situations that are not your control .
The three main pillars of ACT are:
• Do what matters: choose our steps, based on our values and what is important to us, even in challenging situations.
• Be present: to create a sense of separation from our thoughts and emotions.
• Make room for your reactions: to help you to do what matters to you even at difficult times.
ACT is an extremely flexible type of therapy that can be adapted to each person’s style, values and goals. ACT is also an affirming therapy, in which the client’s values are what guides the therapy.
Narrative therapy is a therapeutic approach which is interested in the stories we hold about ourselves. There are different stories about our lives and experiences and other people that we can pay attention to. With time and our experiences some stories become more salient and get reinforced by us and others, and we often follow the path we are most familiar with, whilst other paths and aspects of ourselves can go unnoticed. Narrative therapy helps people to choose their preferred stories about themselves.
One of the characteristics of narrative therapy is that it does not consider problems as part of us. They see problems as attempts to get closer to things that are important to us, although they might not work out the way we would like them to.
Through the therapeutic conversation, narrative therapy explores significant relationships, values and skills that people have developed in order to respond to difficulties in their lives. Narrative therapy helps to find new paths which allow us to be the person we want to be, and live by the values that are important to us.
Narrative therapy is less structured than CBT and ACT. In therapy, I use narrative therapy principles with some influence from CBT and ACT. For example, we will work towards specific areas that you’d like to focus on and we will practice and learn new strategies that you can use when you face challenges and difficulties.