CPD event in London: A date for your diary

4 March 2017 Central London 10am – 5pm

Are you a therapist, counsellor or life coach and struggling with your journey in seeking to build a thriving private practice? This one day CPD event may well be for you. It is for therapists, counsellors and coaches who want to kick-start or develop their private practice.

The workshop will equip you with the knowledge to boost your private practice.

Specifically the event will cover the following:

  • building a successful online marketing strategy (website, social media and SEO)
  • fees and self-worth
  • how to write web optimized content and articles
  • building a successful business strategy
  • developing professional networks that result in referrals
  • practical advice on finance, ethics and administration

The workshop will be experiential and will allow participants to explore personal self-limiting beliefs. The workshop will be facilitated by myself and Louise Gulley.Louise is a change enabler, group facilitator and BACP accredited counsellor based in London and Kent and built a thriving practice within 6 months of graduating.

* An early bird discount applies until 30 January. See flyer for booking details.


My interview with Paul Magrie, transpersonal psychotherapist

paul margrie CCPEMy interview with Paul Magrie, transpersonal psychotherapist and member of management committee of the CCPE in West London. In the interview Paul discusses his take on integrative psychotherapy and his involvement with CCPE from the 1990s.

CCPE recently celebrated 30 years as a transpersonal training institute and clinical services provider. In the interview Paul refers to Nigel, meaning Nigel Hamilton, director of CCPE. Paul discusses the Planes of Consciousness, the Elements Model and transpersonal transformation as part of a short interview on the meaning of integrative practice.

Listen to the interview by clicking here.



We all have endings, whether it is with people, jobs, courses, families, therapy, groups, schooling, etc. How we deal with our own individual endings is often a reflection of how we dealt with endings within our family.  Families tend to set the blue print for how we operate in groups and how we left our family could be a fruitful exercise to examine.

Endings in psychotherapy

As I approach the end of my training at CCPE I have been reflective about my own experiences on the course and how I have developed as a therapist.  The end of the course with all the associated activities of lectures, supervision, peer support et al represents the end of an external structure, with a greater reliance on an internal structure.

It is interesting to view the results of a Google search when you enter “endings” in the search box. The first result is a link to 115 quotes about endings. The opening quote in that list is “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” So said Frank Herbert. The next set of search results deal with good films ruined by bad endings. I began to wonder how my ending would be if my course had been a film script. The bad ending could take a few twists and involve some nasty characters, perhaps?

When I searched for “endings in psychotherapy” the first result was a link to a very interesting article by Dr Andrew Powell entitled “Ending is for Life”.  This interesting article explores endings in therapy from a psycho-analytical perspective and the internal object world. The paper also explores endings from a Jungian perspective; that the analyst is there to assist in the client’s alchemical transformation, not unlike enlightenment, the coincidentia oppositorum, a Latin phrase meaning coincidence of opposites. The Jungian approach is centred around spiritual transformation through individuation. Seeking to integrate mystical experiences in a wider vision of reality was what excited Jung.  Another good read is Experiencing Endings and Beginnings by Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg.

Freud, a man of science and an atheist, was profoundly sceptical about such concepts, as he was seeking to ground his theory in the empirical sciences.The whole premise that there are different levels of consciousness is perhaps profoundly unacceptable to the scientific mind, or even other psychotherapeutic approaches. The scientist contends that we are all equal and all the same. However, my own phenomenological experience informs me that there are several levels, quite apart from the extensive research of Piaget (1951), Kohlberg (1981), Loevinger (1976), Graves (1970) and Cook-Greuter (2004) which showed several levels.

A client once told me that we therapists can sometimes underestimate the resilience of our clients by making such a fuss about endings.  She may have had a point.  At times I felt that we did endings to death during the training.  But if there is one learning outcome of my 4 years of psychotherapy training it is that one should not underestimate the importance of managing endings with clients, as often therapists are modelling healthy relationship patterns. One supervisor suggested that a useful question to ask a client wishing to end their therapy (more relevant in the content of longer term therapy than fixed sessions brief therapy), “why now?”  “Why now?” can be a very useful yet succinct question, which can be a useful source of personal material.

Having finished the teaching part of the course I am now reflecting on what type of therapist I have become. Reflecting back to what the course directors said at the open evening about the need to find one’s own way and one’s own truth, I find myself wondering what is my particular way of practicing?  This can be a shifting space, and perhaps might always be, but I am very content that I chose an integrative course rather than having to adhere to a dogmatic ‘purist’ approach. If I use an analogy of carrying a counselling toolbox, I believe that I have developed a diverse range of tools and techniques to choose from in my toolbox so that I can best help my clients.

However, the course in another sense has merely opened the door to a rich range of opportunities to further explore in greater depth in continuing professional development, with like-minded people.  The closing of a chapter is perhaps necessary in order to embrace new challenges and to open up new chapters.


DSM 5: Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

It seemed appropriate that I recently attended a DSM 5 seminar entitled Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders, given that the recent World Mental Health Day centred on the theme ‘Living with Schizophrenia’.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook developed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and is used by psychiatrists and other health care professionals as a diagnostic tool for the management of people with mental disorders.  It was first devised in 1952, (and merely as an aside, it classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1974). It is currently in its 5th iteration (released in May 2013) hence the term DSM 5 guidelines. However, it is worth noting that ICD-10, which uses the WHO criteria, is used more frequently in the UK.

The psychotic disorders in DSM-5 are:

  • Schizophrenia;
  • Schizoaffective Disorder;
  • Delusional Disorder;
  • Brief Psychotic Disorder;
  • Catatonia.

Each person with psychosis will have different problems and the symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder and lack of insight. People can often believe they are going mad when they suffering from stress. However, ‘Psychosis’ is when your thoughts are so disturbed that you lose touch with reality. When this happens, this type of problem can be severe and distressing and can potentially be life limiting.


DSM 5 has removed the following schizophrenia subtypes: paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual type because of their “limited diagnostic stability, low reliability, and poor validity,” according to the APA.

What is new in DSM 5? Two Criterion A symptoms are now required for any diagnosis of schizophrenia.  The second change was the requirement for a person to now have at least one of three “positive” symptoms of schizophrenia: Hallucinations, Delusions, Disorganized speech. The APA believes that this helps increase the reliability of a schizophrenia diagnosis.

The incidence of schizophrenia  occurs in males and females but typically appears earlier in men with peak onset between the ages of 20-28 for men and 26-32 for women. The lifetime prevalence is 1%. The prevalence of schizophrenia varies around the world.

Causes – Genetics

Twin studies have shown that if one identical twin has schizophrenia, their twin has roughly a 40 to 65 % chance of developing the disorder. It is unlikely that there is one exclusive gene for schizophrenia, there are probably a number of genes for a variety of characteristics (e.g. schizotypal personality, enlarged ventricles, childhood neuroticism etc.) which increase the risk of schizophrenia.

One in ten people with schizophrenia have a parent with the illness. However, “Genome scans”, are unlikely to offer a comprehensive assessment of a person’s risk for developing a mental disorder like schizophrenia.

Psychiatric academics seem to agree that whether or not schizophrenia manifests itself depends on the result of a conglomeration of these factors, both genetic and environmental in origin (Sullivan et al., 2003).

Causes – Environment

The debate about the causes of schizophrenia have progressed since the 1960s when schizophrenogenic parents were viewed as the cause of the illness in their children.  That does not mean that early environment is not still important.  Indeed, according to scientists, the risk for schizophrenia appears to begin as early as the first trimester in pregnancy. This can emanate from  exposure to influenza associated with increased risk of later developing schizophrenia (Brown et al., 2004). There are other prenatal factors in the second and third trimesters which include respiratory infections, maternal rubella, low socioeconomic status, maternal deprivation resulting from war or famine, being born in an urban setting and obstetric complications. Also, those born in Winter/early Spring (in Northern Hemisphere) appear to have an increased risk compared to those born in the Autumn.

Children of migrants appear to have an increased risk of psychosis, however the increased risk is not shared in the population of origin.

References: (Dohrenwend et al., 1992; Lewis and Murray, 1987; Marcelis et al., 1999; Susser et al., 1996; Torrey et al., 1997).

Causes – Neurobiology

Scientists have speculated that an imbalance in chemical reactions of the brain involving the neurotransmitters dopamine, glutamate and serotonin, and possibly others, play a role in the development of schizophrenia. They are unsure why this should be the case and more research is needed to help explain how it develops.

Causes – Substance abuse

It is difficult to find research that states that substance abuse causes schizophrenia. However, people who have schizophrenia often abuse alcohol or drugs. Indeed, they may have particularly bad reactions to certain drugs.

Heavy cannabis intake at 18 years of age is associated with increased risk of later psychosis. There also appears to be a dose dependent relationship as well as a connection between the use of cannabis and relapse. It may be fair to state that substance abuse can be a trigger to the onset of the illness, as is stress, for those that are susceptible to the condition.

Psychological Treatment for Schizophrenia

Perhaps the greatest block to care is the stigma of mental health diagnosis and then the barriers to care in the system, once they are diagnosed.  It will perhaps take more than a party conference speech by Nick Clegg MP to address these issues.  NICE guidelines suggest a course of CBT for both first episode and relapse prevention.  I was wondering about the transpersonal aspects of schizophrenia: might patients be wrongly diagnosed if undergoing a spiritual emergency? Professor Grof, a transpersonal proponent, has stated in the past that some form of transpersonal experiences can seem like psychotic episodes, such as undergoing a spiritual emergency. However, he also states clearly that psychosis is still quite pathological especially when the subject of psychosis loses all objectivity and becomes truly paranoid.

I learned a lot on the course. It is estimated that GPs see 95% of mental health problems in the UK, as GPs are the gatekeepers to the secondary care services. The most frequent psychiatric disorders in general practice are depression, anxiety and somatoform disorders.    I was left wondering about the powerful impact of psychiatrists who falsely diagnose schizophrenia because of their racist beliefs or because they simply fail to account for cultural norms and values.  Perhaps we need to rethink our whole attitude to mental health care service provision and this will entail a significant political shift so that mental health care provision starts to receive greater funding in the healthcare system.


Key facts about Schizophrenia
Support for those living with Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia World
The National Spirituality and mental health Forum
Recovery Colleges



Review of the free two day life coaching course in London

At the weekend I attended a free two day course in London on life coaching which was run by the Coaching Academy.  I have always been curious about the synergy between coaching and counselling/psychotherapy and, therefore, decided to explore what coaching was all about.  

The course promised that I would  learn some coaching fundamentals over the course of two days as well as having the opportunity to practice coaching skills. The Coaching Academy website also referred to the opportunity to be coached by my peers, witness a coaching demonstration and then leave with a series of tools and techniques that would make a significant difference to my life.

there was an absence of hard sell techniques

The venue was the De Vere venues in Portland Place which was very comfortable and more than adequate. I had been skeptical about the content of the course, beforehand,  as I feared that it would be little more than a self marketing exercise for their diploma courses. I figured that as an organisation they would be compelled to push their range of fee incurring courses at every opportunity given that they were taking a massive hit on the provision of free training. They probably have a corporate deal with the venue but even still, the central London location would not be cheap. To my surprise, however, there was an absence of hard sell techniques.  Yes, they mentioned their portfolio of courses on offer throughout the weekend (and by the last session they were really pushing these) but I didn’t feel that their marketing was particularly excessive.

Coaching Academy graduates, we were told, progress to a wide range of future coaching roles.  Numerous graduates set up their own businesses as professional coaches. Pictures of past delegates were plastered around the front of the room like the Colgate kids as they were all smiling with shinny white teeth.

So what did we do in two days?

I liked the format of the course in that it was quite interactive. There was plenty of opportunities for one to one work as well as small group work. We were introduced to techniques and theory, some of which was pretty new to me. If you have personal material to work on then you will welcome the structure of the two days. The other delegates were very receptive to undertake the work and all seemed very friendly.

The facilitators were quite good (I know that sounds so bland) but I liked Ruth Morris and Mike Blissett in that their style was not the kind of high energy presentation that I tend to find annoying.

The GROW Model

A good way of thinking about the GROW Model (Goals, reality, options (or obstacles) and way forward) is to imagine how you would plan a journey. Typically, you would first decide where you are going (which is the goal), and then establish where you currently are (your current reality). To utilise the GROW Model the exercise is then to explore various routes (the options) to your destination. Finally, establishing the will, you ensure that you’re committed to making the journey, and are prepared for the obstacles that you could meet on the way.

Wheel of Life Exercise

The 8 sections in the Wheel of Life represent balance. The sections are health, career, money, friends/family, personal growth, fun, home-life and romance or similar. The wheel contains eight sections that when viewed as a totality represent one way of describing a whole life. You, as coach, or your client may have other labels or categories or may wish to divide friends and family.

The Comfort Zone exercise

Perhaps the first step to moving out of your comfort zone is realising that you are in one. Coaches will often say to do something that scares you every day. The more one can make a habit of pushing o out of our comfort zone, the easier it becomes.

The Timeline exercise

This is essentially an NLP exercise where you imagine that you have the things you aspire to in the future. You set your goals and then imagine that you have achieved them. What are your magical moments?

The aforementioned exercises are useful tools in any context whether in counselling, personal growth, business or social. We also had some tuition on the elevator speech. I digress but did you know that the majority of people sacked at Apple were those unfortunate enough to spend time in the elevator with the late Steve Jobs. Presumably, staffers were unprepared for the need to roll out the elevator speech in response to an intimate moment with their overall boss.

Did I come to a decision as to whether coaching skills may play a role in my future?

By 5pm on the second day of the course did I know what coaching was and what it isn’t? I would have to say yes.  Did I come to a decision as to whether coaching skills may play a role in my future?  I would again say yes.  Was I in a position to make an informed decision as to what the next steps might be if I had coaching in mind? Again the answer is yes. I came away with some useful tips and tools as well as gaining further insight into my own limiting beliefs.

Would I recommend the free two day course?  Yes (in a  word). The combination of networking with like minded people as well as being in an inspiring environment for two days can help with personal motivation for the progression of goals.  Ivan Turgenev once said that if we wait for the moment when everything is ready we shall never begin. Perhaps he had something with that statement.

Other resources

Brian Tracy website

Brian is a motivational speaker and author


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