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Joanne Gilhooly - Psychotherapist & Counsellor - Dublin City

B.A. (Hons) Counselling & Psychotherapy, Dip. Gestalt, MIACP

Dublin Counselling and Psychotherapy Blog



Posted on February 9, 2014 at 6:06 AM Comments comments (883)
Existential Humanistic Counselling Dublin
Change occurs when one becomes what she is, not when she tries to become what she is not.
~ Arnold Bessier

What Does it Mean to be a Humanistic Counsellor?

Posted on October 2, 2013 at 11:29 AM Comments comments (935)
Humanistic Integrative Counselling in Dublin
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.

The Whole Person in Counselling

Posted on October 15, 2012 at 1:46 PM Comments comments (1233)
Counselling the Whole Person
What does it mean for a humanistic or existential therapist to ‘see the whole person’? When we are in the midst of our suffering, it can be difficult to see beyond the symptom, or the wish for a ‘prescription’ that will heal it. We may want to be rid of it, see it as alien to us, or outside of us. Many therapies work solely with the symptom and work to reduce its impact, which is an important part of the work, but the humanistic therapies also recognise that the meaning of the symptom differs from one person to the next.  To the humanistic therapist, the symptom (e.g. depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties) is a part of the whole, and it exists within a specific and unique context, your life context. And because everyone is different, everyone will have a different process.
To give you an idea of what this view of therapy is like,you might think about a chess game. There is a story about a chess champion being asked “what is the best chess move?”. Of course, this makes no sense, because there is only the best move in a given situation. What other pieces are on the board? Where is each one situated? What is the objective in this move? How does the position of one effect another? We need to consider all of these things before we know what the best move is.  Likewise, with the therapeutic process, we need to understand the various ‘pieces’ of our lives, and how we postion ourselves in relation to them right now, before we can understand what changes need to be made so that we might feel better. That is why the therapeutic process focuses so much on you being the expert on yourself. Humanistic therapy holds that developing self-awareness (‘self expert-ness’) is essential to knowing what is right for us, it empowers us to make the best decisions for ourselves, to determine our own path, equipped with the self-knowledge required to make the ‘best move’.
This can be a difficult idea sometimes. When our suffering is all consuming, the idea of exploring our self can seem too lengthy, not enough, and dealing with the symptom can feel all important, which of course is understandable. Therapy can work with you to manage the difficulties and also, in time, to deepen your understanding of yourself with the intention of empowering you to make the best moves for you in the future. While we work, we might keep in mind that the better we know ourselves, the stronger we can become, and the better equipped we can become, to steer our lives in the direction of a personal, unique, and individual fulfilment.