I have worked as a child psychologist since 2008.
I have supported hundreds of children, referred for a variety of reasons -
Childhood depression or anxiety, challenging behaviour,
neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD and Autistic Spectrum disorders, etc.
I started out in my career working directly with children -
This is how traditional child psychology services in the NHS are set up.
But my most important learning throughout my career is this:
The most effective way to improve the emotional, behavioural and developmental health of a child is to work with the child's parents.
Specifically, I work with parents in three key ways:
1. I enrol parents as co-therapists.
I found that when I was meeting with the child directly, I could make an impact for the length of each session, but that due to the fact that children are cognitively and socially less developed than adults, they were inevitably limited in terms of the changes they could make for themselves outside of the sessions.
When I began to work with parents, I was working with adults who could go home between the sessions and support their child, with my advice and guidance, on a full-time basis. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Each session therefore has infinitely more impact for a child, when that session is held with the parents.
2. I support parents with their own emotions.
Parenting is wonderful. And it is hard. And there is no manual or textbook for it. And many of us came out of being parented ourselves vowing we would do things differently than our parents did ... This means that many parents today feel unsure whether they are making the right decisions in their role as parents - And this uncertainty is usually understandably heightened in the context of a child experiencing emotional or behavioural difficulties.
Uncertainty in parenting has many challenging emotions associated with it -
Worry, anxiety, sadness, panic, guilt and shame, to name a few.
And of course, people who are parents are not excluded from experiencing the full range of challenging emotional experiences related to life in general - Relationship difficulties, bereavements, career stresses, physical health concerns, etc.
Parenting inevitably becomes harder for anyone who is feeling these emotions acutely, and regularly. By providing emotional support to parents in their own right, I discovered that parents felt more confident and more secure emotionally themselves, to take on the inevitable parenting challenges, and life challenges, they encountered.
And the other important learning, from beginning to work in this way?
Children always also feel more secure emotionally themselves, when their parents feel more secure and supported emotionally. Parents began reporting to me that the challenging behaviour or emotional expression of their child had actually improved considerably, particularly when the focus in our sessions was on the parent's emotions, and parents self-care. And this does make sense from the point of view of both psychological, and neuroscience theory and research - Which we will explore together in the course of the work.
3. I explore with parents how their own experience of being parented
impacts on their instinctive parenting style.
There is no denying this truth: How we were parented affects how we parent.
Whether we believe our parents did a great job, and we try to emulate them in our own parenting, or whether we want to parent differently than our parents did ... How we were parented affects how we parent.
And this is always complicated by the fact that some our parenting decisions are driven by our conscious motivations, and some are inevitably driven by our unconscious - I'm sure you're familiar with being sure of how you will calmly handle a challenging parenting situation, only to be surprised to hear yourself yelling, or hearing your own parent's voice come out of your mouth ...? This is likely to be your unconscious driving your responses in these scenarios - Meeting with a psychologist provides you with an opportunity to explore your unconscious, and gain more control over whether you parent from a conscious place, or an unconscious place.
Parenting from a conscious place is one of the most powerful protective factors for your child - When you parent consciously, having explored and become familiar with your unconscious triggers, you are ensuring your child has a powerful level of protection against emotional, behavioural and physical health difficulties.
And as an added bonus, by working with parents, not only do I offer the most effective way to support children emotionally, but I also get to ensure that children are simply able to focus on being a child - For example, on playing with friends, or importantly on being in school.
In my years in the NHS, I began to feel increasingly concerned about the children who came in to see me - Not only for the challenges they were experiencing, but for the school work and peer engagement time that they missed in order to see me, and for how different and isolated this made them feel, and for how much their still-malleable identity and sense of self began to be defined more and more by the mental health diagnosis they had been given.
I feel passionately about more children growing up, and having their emotional needs met, without them needing to receive a label - without them feeling like their emotions are a problem - It is by working with parents that I actively contribute to this future.
I focus on the universal emotions underlying the concerns
Whether you and/or your child have a diagnosis of a mental health condition, or not, you are very welcome to access the services I offer. Whether a mental health diagnosis is currently impacting your family or not, I will target my interventions on the emotional experiences underlying your concerns -
The feelings of sadness, shame, disappointment, happiness, joy, disgust, fear, anger, etc.
This approach can take us deeper than 'symptom reduction', to the possibility of real behaviour change, for optimal and sustainable emotional health - and towards a meaningful, purposeful life of thriving and flourishing, for you and your children.
Where do we start?
My aim is first and foremost to get to know you, and your family.
What is important to you? What feels hard for you?
How you would like things in your life, for you or your family, to be different?
I provide an empathic, non-judgemental space for you to explore your answers to these questions.
While I direct my interventions towards parents, it is not my intention to 'blame' parents for their child's difficulties, or to find fault in their parenting decisions to date. I believe wholeheartedly that all parents are doing the very best they can, and that parenting is hard, and emotionally tough, and one of the most vulnerable and courageous tasks that anyone will undertake in their life. The truth is, in many cases, we never do know for sure why some children struggle more than others emotionally, or behaviourally. And the truth also is - This doesn't really matter - We don't need to be 100% sure about the cause to make positive changes in the future.
I simply aim to empower you with additional support, knowledge and skills - About yourself and about psychological principles of change - To demystify therapy, and psychological concepts - To enhance your, and your child's, innate capacity for wellness, to unlock your own inner resources and intuition for change, so that you can change your own life, and your family's life, in line with what is important to you.
Paying attention to the emotional and physical aspects of health
Scientific research is now reliably telling us that the mind, body and soul are inextricably connected, for all of us. There is now evidence that looking after our mental and emotional health has a knock-on positive impact on our physical health, and vice versa. I have extensive expertise in working with the overlap between physical and emotional health. Together we can explore how my psychological support can impact on the emotional and physical health of you and your family.
I draw on many evidence-based therapies and techniques:
Conscious Parenting, Connected Parenting & Choice Parenting
Brené Brown's The Daring Way™, a shame-resilience model.
(see the 'My Services' tab above for more information re. The Daring Way™)
Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
Systemic and Family Therapies
Compassion and Self-Compassion techniques
Cognitive & Behavioural Therapies
When I meet you, I will integrate my knowledge of all of these models and techniques, to create a unique holistic psychology service, that makes sense for you and your family.
I aim to support and empower, for long-term positive outcomes
It is important to acknowledge that effective therapy very often feels like a hard process - For example, bringing unconscious emotions from our past into our consciousness is often very difficult, uncomfortable and emotionally painful.
But that is how it's meant to feel - That is how we know the process is proving effective.
For meaningful change to happen, we all have to take some tough steps towards that change, but it will be worth it.
With my demystifying and empowering style, if you are curious and open to self-exploration and learning, and if you are committed to actively applying what you learn going forward, then I am confident that you can continue to make positive impacts in your life, and in your children's lives, long after we have completed our work together.
Click below for more info on the therapeutic services I provide: