Alda Counselling

Therapy Does Help

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Attachment theories

Atmary-ainsworthtachment theories stem from the research carried out by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Bowlby posited that a child has an innate drive to attach to their caregivers for survival reasons. He suggested that healthy psychological development occurs when there exists a secure attachment between a child and their caregiver.

Mary Ainsworth, inspired on Bowlby’s theories, conducted research that proved Bowlby’s theories to be true. Following her research, 4 attachment styles were identified:


  • Secure attachment: A secure child has an inner image of themselves as a lovable self and responsive other, with enjoyable interactions alternating with exciting explorations in an interesting world. As adults, their description and evaluation of attachment experiences is consistent, with positive and negative aspects.
  • Insecureambivalent: An insecure-ambivalent child has an image of themselves as unlovable and an unpredictable other who has to be manipulated or coerced into caring. As adults, they are preoccupied with past attachment experiences. Their narrative tends to be long. They can appear passive, angry or fearful.
  • Insecure-avoidant: An insecure-avoidant child has an internal model of self as not being worthy of care and an other who does not care, forcing the child to repress their longing and their anger. This could result into numbness of feeling. As adults, they may talk about a “normal, excellent mother” while their description of facts does not show coherence and is plagued with contradictions. They tend to be brief in their narrative.
  • Unresolveddisorganized: An unresolved-disorganized child has a disorganized response to their caregivers’ presence. As adults, during discussions of loss or abuse, they may show lapses in their narrative. For example, speaking of a dead person as if they were alive.

Knowing your attachment style and your loved ones can help you better understand how you relate to others and how they relate to you. In counselling, attachment styles can be changed.

In his insightful book about attachment and psychotherapy, David Wallin describes how an attachment-based therapy can produce change. “The role of the therapist is to help the patient both to deconstruct the attachment patterns of the past and to construct new ones in the present.” The patterns created in our first relationships (as babies with our main caregiver) are present in how we relate to and also to our habits of feeling and thinking. An attachment-based therapist will look at your attachment style and will aim at providing an experience that will change it into a more secure attachment.

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Psychobable explained

explanationWhat is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

Counselling focuses on a specific issue that you wish to resolve. For example, you may wish to become more assertive in your professional life and stop being overwhelmed by all the work that is being thrown at you because of your inability to say ‘no’.

It is a short-term commitment to a number of sessions (depending of the specific issue) in order to explore only that issue.

Psychotherapy is a long-term, deeper process. It takes time and effort on your part, but it may allow you to start uncovering what makes you feel stuck, lost or lacking meaning. You may start recognising negative patterns of behaviour and changing them for others that help you enjoy a rich and fulfilled life.

You may be able to work out any past trauma in a safe environment and maybe for the first time in your life, you may feel as if you and your life are really something special you would like to invest time in.

What is the difference between a counsellor and a psychotherapist?

Basically, a psychotherapist has trained for longer than a counsellor. Both may work similarly depending on their training and your issues, but certain conditions are preferably treated by psychotherapists due to their extensive training. Both counsellors and psychotherapists attend continuous professional development workshops. I am both a counsellor and psychotherapist and have attended complementary workshops on different areas, including working with trauma, HIV and multicultural counselling.


What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a doctor that specializes in treating mental health conditions, such as major depression, bipolar disorder…. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication for those mental health conditions. If you live with such a condition and require medication, you will be treated by a psychiatrist, but can still benefit from psychotherapy sessions. They can both be combined to achieve better results. I have worked as a psychotherapist with people who were taking anti-depressants, mood stabilizers or other medications, prescribed by their psychiatrist.


What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. It is a new term recently coined by neuroscience. It is relevant for counselling and psychotherapy, because it proves the efficacy of counselling and psychotherapy. This means that the distressing patterns that brought you to psychotherapy can be changed.

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Psychodynamic approach to counselling

You will find different approaches t counselling in Devon. Some counsellors use the existential approach, others core-processing psychotherapy and some work with movement, such as dance movement therapists. If you are looking to get help through counselling in Devon, a good way to start finding a counsellor is becoming familiar with the different approaches and maybe experiencing one or two sessions with a counsellor and see if their approach works for you. Having worked in Ireland previously, I’ve been counselling in Devon for two years. Because I am an integrative counsellor, I use different approaches. One of them is the psychodynamic approach.


The psychodynamic approach stems from the work of Sigmund Freud. Freud created psychoanalysis, which evolved into different branches. One of them is psychodynamic counselling. “The aim of psychodynamic counselling is to help clients achieve insight and understanding around the reasons for their problems, and translate this insight into a mature capacity to cope with any future difficulties.” (McLeod, J. 2003)  It is thus about becoming more aware of one’s own difficulties and the origin of those. According to Freud, we all have that knowledge in our unconscious, where it is hidden from us. Psychodynamic counsellors aim at interpreting signals in their patients’ behaviour, body language, or words that may help them to make conscious what was hidden to them.


The psychodynamic approach believes that we hide the unconscious knowledge by creating defences in our childhood: denial (negating information and delete from awareness), repression (forgetting information and eliminate from awareness), projection (attributing to another one’s own issues), etc. The defences were created within our first intimate relationship with our mothers or caregivers to protect us from unbearable feelings. When we grow up, we may act in ways that we cannot explain and we are unsure why we do what we do, potentially creating havoc in our lives.


The psychodynamic approach uses the relationship between therapist and patient to be able to bring to light these defences that have been hidden for years. Once you have a glimpse of the defences you use, causing your difficulties, you are on the right way to replacing them for more mature ones. As adults, a lof of the defences created are no longer needed, and with the help of a counsellor, they can be left behind once and for all.


In my work, I keep the psychodynamic theories in mind in my aim to understand the person in front of me, but I try not to limit myself by literally following any specific approach, as I believe that counselling is a fluid process that may require different approaches at different times, depending on what the issue at hand is.

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3 positive qualities of anger

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading a very interesting book about anger: Anger, Rage and Relationship by Sue Parker Hall. The author has an easy way to explain complex ideas related to anger. She insists on the positive qualities of anger. Being a firm believer in the necessity of feeling and processing anger in a healthy way, her words have deeply resonated with me and inspired this post.


First, she makes a difference between anger and rage. She defines anger as a pure emotion characterized by a medium state of arousal and always related to the here-and-now. It is proportionate and expressed in a respectful way for a positive purpose. Rage is a defence mechanism that is created when the environment fails to support an individual’s physical or emotional needs. It is rage that will normally propel people to look for help with anger issues. These are the positive qualities of anger:

  1. Anger helps you to grieve – In the Kubler-Ross model that states the different stages of grief, anger is present. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Any loss in your life will make you feel angry. It is part of the process, so feel the anger and rest assured, it will not last. If it turns into rage, look for help with anger issues.
  2. Anger is an antidote to depression – Anger is a positive emotion that is letting us know that something is not right and something needs to get done about it. If it is left unprocessed, it may become rage or things are left undone, certain illnesses can ensue, including depression. Processing our anger and feeling supported to take action in our lives is one of the tasks of in-depth psychotherapy. Learning how to do this can be a life-changing experience into a more fulfilled life.
  3. Anger helps you keep your boundaries – If we are not able to identify and keep emotional boundaries, we can end up in dysfunctional, co-dependent relationships. In co-dependency, the self is abandoned on behalf of another. It is as if you have abandoned yourself and you will constantly feel abandoned or be afraid of being abandoned. If you are able to keep good emotional boundaries using your anger, you will be able to look after yourself, and you will be and feel looked after.

Anger is always a raw emotion that helps you to look after yourself. Observe this emotion and see what it is trying to tell you. Look for the action that you need to take and act consequently. If you frequently having outbursts of anger (rage), it may be necessary to see a counsellor or psychotherapist who will be able to navigate through your complex emotions and help you with anger issues.

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I will not heal you

I was watching this video and it reminded me very clearly why I am doing this type of work. I am not trying to heal you, I am trying to accompany you on your journey into healing. I endeavour to be fully present for you so that you can allow yourself to be who you really are. I endeavour to be a presence that will not heal you, but will inspire you to change and heal yourself. I have found that I am most efficient when I do less and listen more, when I am authentically who I am and let my clients be who they are.

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Person-centred approach

Different counsellors in Devon work in different ways. You will find counsellors and psychotherapists who work from a body-centred perspective, and others who follow Freud’s theories very closely. Among the different counselling approaches, some counsellors in Devon choose to use the person-centred approach. In order to select the best counsellor for you, you may wish to know a little bit about the different approaches.

Carl_RogersThe person-centred approach was founded by Carl Rogers. Carl Rogers believed that each individual has an innate capacity to grow and change. This is what is called the self-actualising theory. Each person is a self-healing system, able to reach the best of their human capacities. Rogers used the research available to him and his experience to prove that a trusting relationship with a therapist, who applies the core conditions of congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy, results in personality change. It is agreed by therapists of different theories that these conditions facilitate human growth into a more functional and independent individual.

The person-centred approach suggests that a therapist can be most helpful by letting a client find solutions to their own problems. In this approach, the counsellor helps by encouraging and reflecting on what a client brings to the sessions. It is a non-directive approach.

The three core conditions mean that a counsellor must be willing to be themselves in front of a client, accepting whatever feelings they may experience while working, including what we consider negative ones (congruence). They also mean that a counsellor must have unconditional positive regard for their clients, accepting them fully, including what they do not particularly like in them. Finally, they mean being able to walk in the clients’ shoes, experiencing life from their perspective to help them feel totally understood (empathy).


In order for a counsellor to work at ease with these core conditions, they need to have life experience and be open to continuously explore different ways of being, respecting those adopted by their clients. They need to be able to feel empathy for others as well as respect themselves as individuals constantly growing and changing.

For personality change to take place in therapy, you must trust your counsellor to fully accept who you are, especially those things that you don’t particularly like about yourself. In therapy, you will be able to express your real self, deepening your awareness of who you are and what it means to be you.

Multicultural Counselling and Psychotherapy in Exeter, Teignmouth, Skype

Alda Gomez BA PGCEd GCCI HDIPCP MA Psych (Psychotherapy) MBACP

01626 778048 – 07437 332032