As a young school student I had the fantasy of becoming a “psychologist” but never really imagined myself studying at a university. My struggle with, then unnamed, learning difficulties managed to convince me that academic life was not my place. I went on to pursue studies in advertising art but soon realised that, although I enjoyed the creative work, it was not necessarily my place either. After toying with many possibilities, I ended up registering at university out of desperation in the hope that I might stumble upon something that would give me direction, . My subject choices were a spur of the moment thing. Psychology and English happened to be two of the subjects that I chose. Both proved to be very enriching and I eventually chose them as my majors. I remember joking with my English Prof that English graduates would make much better therapists than psychology graduates. It is only in retrospect that I have begun to understand that statement.
As a psychologist, I have come to find it useful to view people as constantly in the process of storytelling. Most people come to therapy with problematic themes that seem to dominate their lives. These themes become thread together, leaving us with a very limiting stories about ourselves. Therapy, therefore, is about a collaborative effort (between client and therapist) to notice, honour and generate less problem saturated stories about our lives. Psychology is not seen as the expert in this process. Rather, the people I consult are experts [and authors] in their own lives. Therapy is merely the editing suite for people’s life stories and the therapist job is to ask questions that are genuinely interested in people’s lives, their stories and how their futures can be re-authored.
This blog is dedicated to my preferred way of “doing” therapy. These thoughts are not entirely my own but inspired by a small but growing community of therapists that have an interests in a refreshingly non-pathologising way of working with clients. See for example the pioneering work done by the Dulwich Centre.
In my master’s thesis, I gave a discursive analysis of “How concerns about erections are treated and constructed on a sexual health helpline?” This engendered my on-going interest in what is achieved through dialogue or what is done through conversation. The discursive theory is that conversations achieve something; they “do” things to us. This, I believe, is a beautiful point of departure for a therapist. How magical is it to believe that conversations have the ability to construct our realities?
My interest in the field of sexual health has opened many doors for me. From working with sexual health, I have been introduced to the delicate realm of couple’s counselling. And, when you work with couples, you inevitably work with families. It has also led me to working with people with spinal cord injuries and from there the whole field of injury and illness related counselling has become an interest to me. Over the years, I have learnt so much from my clients about the strength and courage we all have for enduring unimaginable suffering.
Since officially entering the profession of psychology I have found that we psychologists are not in the habit of always reflecting on what, how and why we are doing things. I would rather bake muffins for a living than allow “psychology” to become a recipe that I apply every day just so that I can make a living. So, in this spirit I decided to publish a site that is dedicated to my own “doing” of therapy in order to reflect on what it is that I do.
More recently, I decided that my two sons would be much better off growing up with the sand beneath their feet (as I did for a portion of my youth). And so, after about a 17 year stint in Johannesburg, I have made a return to Durban to start a new practice.