There are two main types of humanistic psychotherapies that I draw on and they are Gestalt therapy and Person-centred psychotherapy. The main tenet of these therapies is that the counselling or psychotherapy client knows best what is right for them. My job is help you get in touch with your ‘inner expert’.
They are respectful therapies in that they take quite an egalitarian approach, believing that the best way to support the client is to be a fellow traveller, a fellow human being (as though that can be avoided!),and they are less about wearing the ‘professional hat’ than they are about‘being there’, and accompanying another person while they navigate their way through their personal journey.
It might sound a bit like something you could get from a good friend (and you may well get solid support from a friend), but there are differences. The main one that comes to mind is that the psychotherapist who is trained in a humanistic way is skilled in listening at a deep level. In practice that means that I am aware of communication on different levels in the counselling room. While I am listening to the content of what you are saying, I am also listening for patterns, for what is not said, and for any shifts or changes that seem to occur in you as you tell me about what is going on for you.
These patterns and shifts can help me to help you get in touch with what may be happening for you at a deeper level. Very often when people come for counselling or psychotherapy they are very much in contact with what is happening in the ‘head’ (their thinking) but less in contact with what is happening at a deeper ‘feeling’ level. This is so common, and is very similar to my own experience when I started psychotherapy during my training. It took quite a while for me to get the hang of listening to my body and to my feelings and it is still a work in progress, as I suspect it will remain.
Feelings can be scary to get in touch with mainly because they are unknown territory, and we may not yet know how to regulate them. That is, we have not yet had enough experience with feelings to know that they cannot harm us – quite the opposite, they can take us on a journey into ourselves and can be very instrumental in helping us to find our voice and put words on our unique experience. Just like getting to know anything new, it takes time to become accustomed to our feelings as they arise, for them to become less the scary monster and more a great source of information about ourselves. This is a natural process that occurs over time with support from an experienced listener.
Why we didn’t get this experience with our feelings may or may not become apparent, but either way, we can do the work of getting to know our feelings and learning to voice them in a way that feels ok to us. That can help us to communicate with others more clearly and more authentically about what we feel and what we want. The effect of this is that we may feel more satisfied and engaged in life as we speak out, get involved, and more confidently take our place in our lives and our relationships.