The Filling In The Sandwich – Whole-Brain And Holistic Reflections Upon Therapy

by | Mar 12, 2021 | General News | 0 comments

Now we have something to bite into… what isn’t working in the client’s life and what I/we can do about it, and how?

After our first meeting, and my ‘assessment’ I’ll have made a few notes to myself on aspects that need exploring and the domino effect this will then have for my client.

I’ve found it most useful at the beginning of a session to first check-in and ask how they’ve been since our last meeting; and whether they’ve had any thoughts, feelings, dreams or other associations (which they may have written down) which have puzzled, intrigued or enlightened them. My aim is to gently expose and shift what has been getting in the way of them having a happier, calmer and more rewarding life. I want to help them to remove the ‘mud from their bucket’ one significant scoopful at a time – so that the water above it doesn’t get all muddy too. More mud can be stirred-up than we might realise, and this can take time to rise to the surface, and for the water to clear.

In all my years of training as both a counsellor and psychotherapist what was consistently lacking was the ‘How-To’ work with any specific issues/patterns/difficulties presented by the client! (Very often the ‘presenting issue’ isn’t the real deeper issue anyway – just an expression of it in a different form). Neither was there any significant information about the brain or lifestyle and their role in psychological, emotional or physical well-being! So, I’ve spent years and lots of money finding out these things for myself and filling in the gaps (so much so, that I’ve now put most of it into the 12 modules – workshops and 8-week courses – of ‘The Ripple Effect’ Process, so that it can be shared with a wider audience).

 So, how is my approach ‘whole-brain and holistic’?

Well, instead of narrowly focussing upon one or two theories and aspects of my client as most therapists do – such as the client’s thought patterns, or their childhood , or feelings – I prefer to keep my sights on the overall picture of their life, their experiences (particularly if traumatic), their interpretations and the life-decisions they’ve made. Instead of waiting for my client to come up with their own solutions – as some traditional approaches expect, and which the client hasn’t been able to do so far (hence the need for my help) – I want to share with them my own map and compass whilst ensuring that we are pointing in the direction that they want to travel, and not ‘my way’.

I offer them left-brain information gathering and sharing, explanations, structure, order, clear language, logic and a loose plan of how we can work together, and what I might also introduce (such as facts, diagrams and handouts) to help our work.

I also offer them more right-brain input such as the potential bigger picture and context for them of a life without their current difficulties; all the time I’ll be building a trusting relationship with them (as far as they will allow); we will use forms of imagery, metaphor, perhaps art and movement; work to increase their awareness of themselves and their surroundings; enhance their emotional regulation and balance; improve their self-concept and self-expression, and share the ways in which they can now build and sustain their own healthier relationships.

If people have difficulties with, for instance, their emotions, thoughts, relationships, unresolved grief or traumas, self-esteem, lack of direction or motivation, identity and sexuality, self-harm (in its many forms), distraction behaviours and dependencies – then I am curious about how the past has shaped this, as well as how they still keep this problem alive in the present day.

In the case of moods and ill-health I’m also wondering about how they look after themselves and their lifestyle – which will be a significant part of the problem. What we do and don’t digest profoundly affects our moods, physical imbalances, perceptions and mental clarity – and no amount of talking therapy can change that!

If we can find out what the vulnerable childlike part of us yearns for and fears, then we can begin to really understand ourselves and become much clearer about the underlying reasons for our behaviours; relationship patterns; emotional imbalance; avoidance of intimacy or attachment; the ongoing effects of unresolved traumas; and our inability to let go of the past, shift our attention and free up our energy to learn the skills we need to take better care of ourselves, and to make a big difference to our present and future life, and the lives of those around us – in ‘the ripple effect’.

We can finally be free of our need for ego-defences, over-thinking, worrying about the future, or of being stuck in a cinema replaying our old life-movie over and over again without being able to change the ending. We can un-block emotions like grief, loss, fear of rejection and abandonment, profound disappointment, anger/rage, terror, despair and sorrow; and instead we can learn to feel compassion for our self and our struggles along the path to who we can ultimately become – the best version of ourself!

It all begins with our awareness of the need for help, then finding the right person (who has the depth and breadth of knowledge, skills and experience; and a willingness to ‘think outside-the-box’ of traditional narrowly focused approaches), to guide and assist us towards a better life-path.

To be able to finally tell our story and be understood, believed and supported is healing in itself.

When our reactions to our life-experiences are understood and normalised we feel a lighter connection with our past, and an openness and sense of resilience as we step into our future.

When we have the right tutor/partner and the music is at the right tempo … we can confidently step up – and dance!

How long will we dance for, will the music change, will any toes be stepped upon, and how will we both leave the dance-floor? We’ll look at these next time.


By Maxine Harley (Msc Integrative Psychotherapy)




Maxine Harley

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