Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver

The Affinity Centre
29a Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AR

Manchester
Greater Manchester
M44

07887414322

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The Affinity Centre
29a Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AR

Manchester
Greater Manchester
M44

07887414322

About me

When reading through these profiles I imagine it is easy to be overwhelmed, difficult to know how to proceed. It occurs to me that in our relationships what we most value are compassion and warmth, sensitivity, the feeling of being understood. These are the hallmarks of the therapeutic alliance.

In times of gloom and despair our spirit can fail us. It may be that you view therapy with a feeling of dread, that you’re afraid you’d get it wrong, that you’ll not know what to say, not know where to start. The possible circumstances which may have brought you here are infinite in their variety. It is certainly the case, for example, that when faced with a personal crisis life can on occasion threaten to get the better of us. Everything we once took for granted now seems in doubt. We can be discouraged by poor self-esteem, crippled by panic attacks, overcome by a sense of hopelessness and sorrow, confusion and fear. At such times, when love and understanding seem scarce, when loneliness and isolation might engulf us, when shame or fury, terror or desolation, is our constant companion, it can be a comfort to talk to someone, someone perhaps who radiates light in a world of darkness. To some, such a picture might seem overstated, absurdly dramatic, unduly cheerless; to you it might be reality.

Perhaps you no longer find pleasure in things. It may be that something strange, something frightening, is happening but it’s hard to identify, to describe. You may have relationship concerns, feelings of self-disgust, fears you can’t explain, of going mad, of being out of control. You may feel worthless, lost, adrift, unsure of who you are, like you don’t fit in, like no one cares or understands, afraid that nothing makes sense, that your life should have been different, that it lacks purpose.

It might be that your concerns are more vague, less distinct, or that you feel they are not legitimate or that they are too great or too embarrassing, that you cannot be helped. You might have the idea that you wish merely to bring about change, to change your thoughts, your emotions, your conduct. It may be that you have resigned yourself to your place in life but wish for kindness and support, or perhaps you seek only to understand why your life has turned out as it has, to consider the significance of your past, to explore the attachments that may have shaped you. I am firmly of the opinion that our lives, our choices, our fates, far from being unfathomable, can be explained, can be made sense of, that apparent mysteries can be illuminated.

At this point maybe I should say something about myself. It seems to me that any therapist who sets about his work with care, who is intent upon excellence, will inevitably have established, over time, a personal philosophy, a creed by which he conducts his business. Perhaps I might be permitted here to say a word or two about mine.

It is my conviction that the surest index of a therapist’s effectiveness is to be found not merely in his knowledge and his experience, but in his character and his commitment. A psychotherapist is, as I see it, whatever his flaws and limitations, equal parts teacher, exemplar, psychologist and philosopher, one whose life’s work it has been to consider the human condition. I am reminded in this regard of Trevor Howard, in Brief Encounter, speaking of ‘a sense of vocation’, of ‘a deep-rooted, unsentimental desire to do good.’

Prominent amongst my beliefs is that the two fundamental goals in life are happiness and goodness. It might be said indeed that it is goodness, or at least the belief in one’s goodness, that is the very foundation of happiness, the central component of a healthy self regard. And it is a fortunate principle that when we learn to control our thoughts (for instance, with cognitive therapy), when we turn our focus from the self, when we travel the path away from self-preoccupation, then we allow for the prospect of both happiness and goodness. And speaking of thoughts, when we recognize, when we understand, that we have a choice, that we are responsible for our thoughts, that we are not at their mercy, that our happiness is in our power, then recovery is often assured. As CBT theory suggests, when we control what we think, we control how we feel. I believe, in addition, in the purity of a therapist’s relationship with his clients, that it should be viewed not so much in a business context, or even in medical terms, but principally in terms of its human aspect. And I tend to agree, furthermore, with the notion that that which does not kill us makes us stronger. I see no reason why suffering should not, in retrospect, be seen in a different light, even as a blessing. It makes us better people, kinder, more attractive, gives us an understanding of the lives of others. For all its torment, for all its wretchedness, it renders our lives more complete, our perspective wiser, our experience richer.    

But a therapist, even the most independently-minded, must borrow from those who have gone before, must resolve to combine his own philosophy with those of an assortment of thinkers whose works he has scoured for enlightenment. I have been influenced, for example, by Socrates and his idea that the unexamined life is not worth living, and by Aristotle’s observation that self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom. I am struck by William James’s command that we talk to ourselves rather than listen, and by Dale Carnegie’s reflection that almost the only problem we have to deal with is choosing the right thoughts. I am drawn to Nathaniel Branden’s judgement that self-image determines destiny, and to Seneca’s fancy that the Stoic sage was in such control of his thoughts as to be invulnerable to emotional disturbance. I have been motivated by Carl Rogers and his theory that, in therapy, the relationship itself is the cure; by Freud’s view that the essential quality in a therapist is inherent insight into the human soul; and I have found inspiration in Peter Lomas’s  conviction that amongst the principal characteristics of a therapist should be strength, patience, integrity and a capacity to love.

It is possible, of course, that on this matter I am not entirely objective but psychotherapy, I am convinced, can be a gift, a turning point, a transformative experience. It can be fascinating, amusing, enlightening. It can be life-changing, a haven, a sanctuary, where life slows down and we can escape the chaos. It can encourage self-awareness, self-understanding, self-acceptance. It can allow us to conquer fear, guide us towards insight and perspective and clarity. It might induce us to examine our assumptions, to assess our philosophy, to consider life’s purpose, and promote perhaps a greater sense of fulfilment, happiness and peace.

Training, qualifications & experience

Level 5 Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CPCAB)

Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling (ABC)

Member organisations

BACP

Fees

My fee is £60 per hour

Maps & Directions

Wilmslow, SK9 5AR
Manchester, M44

Type of session

Online counselling: No
Telephone counselling: No
Face to face counselling: Yes

Practical details

Sign language: Unspecified
Other languages: None

Types of client

Adults
Older adults