Tessa Gunn UKCP Registered Gestalt Psychotherapist and Supervisor
Welwyn Garden City
Feeling stuck and frustrated? Anxious or depressed? Repeating familiar patterns which lead to dissatisfaction or hurt? In the midst of a great black void with no sense of the way out nor any energy to do so? Aware of behaving in a way which sets you up for failure or self-sabotage? Or maybe you're generally content but something is niggling at you which you want to explore?
Whatever your situation, as a Gestalt therapist, I will work holistically and compassionately with you (and with your partner if you are coming for couples counselling) to explore any difficult or painful issues you may be facing. I will also work with you to raise your awareness of yourself and your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations so that you can make sense of what is going on for you and begin to acknowledge how you might be (possibly unconsciously), contributing to your situation. As your self-awareness grows, I will work with you to support you implementing new, healthier, habits of living and let go (often the hardest part) of unhelpful beliefs, habits and possibly, relationships which are no longer serving you.
How I work ...
Gestalt therapy is an existential/humanistic/embodied therapy which uses the relationship between me (the therapist) and you (the client) as it is unfolding 'right here, right now' to guide the direction of the work. This means, unlike some other kinds of counselling which 'talk about' things without looking at 'how' these patterns keep happening in the present, I will take time gently exploring with you how you act right now, and how your past reveals itself through these actions. If your history involves some type of trauma, I might, if necessary, precede this awareness raising work with a period of time where we develop your capacity to stay present (i.e. not dissociate or get triggered by an old memory).
Through these explorations, and through experimenting with me to see how you experience yourself and life when you change one small thing, and then another, and then another etc., I can help you to develop some options for moving forwards and to create a more satisfying life for yourself. This present based, experimental and embodied way of working is excellent for unearthing stuck patterns, many of which will have been learned and practiced over many years and have become habitual.
There are endless ways of conducting explorations and I work creatively with you in a way that suits your own individual requirements and preferences. Possibilities could include role playing a situation or conflict facing you; exploring your physical posture to see what this might be saying about your reality and/or what movement pattern might want to emerge; exploring your emotions; exploring your dreams; doing artwork or sand tray work together; producing mind maps on paper; working to develop your breathing as a resource; etc. etc. all as a route to deepening your understanding of what is going on in your current life and how you are stopping yourself do what you need to, to be happy and content. These methods are often very effective and powerful ways of accessing and harnessing half formed thoughts, ideas, feelings etc. and can make something clear that previously was hidden. Also, if you have suffered some form of trauma or developmental and emotional neglect, this also might mean supporting you to practice new behaviours until they have become habitual and second nature. An example would be practising centring yourself, or holding your boundary, or saying 'No!', or practising focused awareness or mindfulness etc. etc.
I generally, though not always, work on a long term basis and ensure that whatever the length of our contract, we undertake regular reviews. This helps keep the work focused and allows for any concerns to be raised. Equally, when the time comes for our work together to end, I will ensure sufficient time is allowed to review our work and achievements and to look at alternate forms of support going forwards, if appropriate.
Counselling sessions last for 50 minutes and are normally held once per week (excluding holiday periods). On rare occasions, I will see people twice a week or for longer sessions if this is necessary to keep you stable. Couples counselling sessions need longer to be most effective and I normally offer 90 minutes sessions for these. Throughout our work together, everything that is said will be treated with the greatest respect and confidence and you will be able to share your thoughts, concerns and feelings safely, without fear of retribution.
I abide by the code of ethics of UKCP, Metanoia Institute and BACP.
Area of Expertise and Interest ...
My areas of expertise and interest include:
- raising personal awareness (including awareness of how you use your thoughts, feelings and body to help or hinder you getting what you need) and awareness of the choices you are making which contribute to the life you are living;
- raising self-esteem and confidence - restoring and developing your self acceptance;
- relationships - how to recognise what you want from a relationship - how you go about getting this, what you may do which is less useful to you, whether this is the right relationship for you etc.;
- working with depression; anxiety; bereavement, loss and letting go;
- working with issues of diversity and/or of being in a minority;
- working with issues of parenthood, including post-natal depression, setting boundaries, self/other balance, one-parent families;
- working with relationship conflicts - e.g. stuck patterns, extra-marital affairs, betrayal, divorce or family breakdown;
- working with trauma - learning how to live with and reduce or overcome the residues of single event trauma or multiple event trauma, including accidents and/or sexual, emotional, physical and/or ritual abuse and/or child neglect/cruelty, as well as developing new skills and coping strategies;
- personal development and growth, including the development of new strategies for new/old problems;
- working with trainee and qualified therapists - either as their therapist or supervisor.
In addition, I have had a life-long interest in well being, nutrition, fitness, physical and mental health, (and on the flipside, shame and trauma), the latest research and thinking from which I integrate into my work as appropriate. This might mean we explore wider aspects of your current health, lifestyle and support network to see if there are other areas which are undermining your wellbeing and satisfaction in life.
Training, qualifications & experience
I hold a Masters degree in Gestalt Psychotherapy from Metanoia Institute - one of the leading psychotherapy training institutes in Europe; the Level 1 certificate in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and a Certificate in Supervision from the Relational Academy in Cambridge. I am also fully accredited with UKCP - the UK Council for Psychotherapy - and am a member of the European Association for Gestalt Practitioners (EAGP). I also hold an M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration) from Cranfield School of Management (Cranfield University, 1992), a Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a BA (Hons.) in Politics and Industrial Relations (Lancaster University, 1984). I am currently a primary tutor and supervisor on the Masters programme at Metanoia, teaching Gestalt psychotherapy to post grad students. At Metanoia, I am also an examiner and Academic Consultant. In addition I am one of three supervisors at Mosaic Counselling in St Albans and I supervise qualified and student therapists and supervisors in my private practice at home.
I have undertaken many courses and workshops as part of my ongoing professional development. The courses are too numerous to mention but include: addictions; art therapy; attachment theory; brief therapy; bodywork; body and shame; creative and non-verbal approaches to psychotherapy; creative Gestalt experimentation; dissociative disorders, dreamwork; eating disorders; ego, attachment and anger; existential psychotherapy; infant/child developmental movements and their relationship to adult relating patterns; play therapy; polyvagal theory; post-traumatic stress disorder; the therapist as relational artist; trauma and attachment issues; working with clients who hear voices; working with survivors of sexual and domestic abuse etc. I am also trained in Sensorimotor psychotherapy, which aligns seamlessly with Gestalt approaches to working with trauma.
The Masters course I have undertaken also included in-depth explorations of many additional issues such as: working with anxiety and depression; sex, sexuality and gender; personality disorders; ethics; diagnosis; findings from neuroscience; comparisons with other models of therapy - e.g. CBT, self-psychology; couples counselling etc. Naturally, it also focused in depth on all the Gestalt and existential therapeutic models and theories, such as awareness and contact, bodywork, dialogue, creativity and experimentation, phenomenology and the phenomenological method, spirituality and transpersonal issues.
Being a primary tutor and supervisor myself means I keep abreast of the latest research and thinking in the therapy field and the most effective means of translating this into good therapeutic outcomes.
Overall my work experience since graduating from the University of Lancaster in 1984 has been in general management (4 years) management consultancy (12 years), counselling and therapy (15 years to date) and training therapists (currently in my third year of teaching). In particular, I worked as a counsellor at a women's centre for several years and since 2005, have run my own private practice for men and women from the age of 16 upwards. (I have also worked part-time for a period with service-users in an acute psychiatric ward where I worked with individuals suffering from acute and manic depression, as well as from schizophrenia and borderline/emotionally unstable personality disorder.) I have also spent a considerable time travelling and have experience of African, Asian and South American communities and cultures, including those of ethnic or religious minorities. I am also a mother and experience at first hand the daily challenges parenting can bring.
The common theme running throughout my career and life choices has been personal development and change: what helps support change; what hinders change; how can individuals (as well as teams and organisations) maximise their potential; how do people block themselves or allow themselves to stagnate; how does the environment, or culture, contribute to the individual's situation and what steps can be taken to ensure the environment around is is as nourishing as possible; what might the journey to a brighter, more content, future look like, where is that journey starting from and how best can that journey be realised.
It was my deep interest in what make individual change successful that led to my decision in 2001 to focus on therapeutic work with individuals and groups rather than exclusively on organisation strategy and transformation. Nevertheless, my work in management and consultancy has given me invaluable expertise in understanding complex systems and cultures, observing and mapping processes, transferring skills, knowledge and knowhow to others, knowing where to start from to effect change and how to respond as change unfolds, as well as the mentoring and coaching of teams and individuals. This experience is in my back pocket, so to speak, and I can draw from it as appropriate.
Areas of counselling I deal with
- Affairs and betrayals
- Anger management
- Attachment disorder
- Avoidant personality disorder
- Binge-eating disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Bulimia nervosa
- Carer support
- Child related issues
- Chronic fatigue syndrome/ME
- Dependent personality disorder
- Domestic violence
- Eating disorders
- Emotional abuse
- Family issues
- Feeling sad
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Histrionic personality disorder
- Low self-confidence
- Low self-esteem
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
- Passive aggressive behaviour
- Physical abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Postnatal depression
- Pregnancy and birth
- Relationship issues
- Schizoid personality disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Separation and divorce
- Sexual abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
- Work-related stress
Other areas of counselling I deal with
Career choices and management
Coaching and mentoring
Parenting and/or Carer issues
My current fees are £60 per session for therapy or supervision. (Lower fees can sometimes be negotiated for students or individuals on low incomes.) Fees for couples are £100 for an hour and a half's sesson. Fees for group counselling, group process, or organisational consulting work, will be by arrangement following an initial assessment of needs and desired outcomes. Unless arranged otherwise, fees are always payable by cash, cheque or bank transfer prior to, or at, the beginning of the session.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Equally, if you are unsure whether to proceed, how about trying a one-off session with me and seeing how you feel? This gives you the opportunity to try me and Gestalt therapy out without any further obligation.
About Gestalt ...
Gestalt is a German word and has no exact translation to English - but is most commonly associated with the idea of wholeness and how one configures and makes meaning of the world (what one perceives/doesn't perceive) and how one moves through a cycle from inaction to action and satisfaction and back to inaction again. Gestalt therapy is also connected with the idea of cycles of creation and destruction and the idea that if something feels unfinished, humans will seek closure by searching out experiences that conjure up similar feelings to the ones experienced as unfinished and will try to ensure a better outcome than the one originally experienced. (You may have heard of the phrase 'unfinished business'.) The observation is that people will repeat actions and behaviour over and over trying to find a way to resolve unfinished situations - the tragedy is that this often involves repeating the non-useful behaviours and getting the same old unsatisfactory results. This is one of the reasons why many people make bad relationship choices over and over again in their life as they continue to choose partners whose relationship style feels familiar yet contributes to the individual getting fixed in a particular style of relating (e.g. 'victim'; 'martyr'; 'parent'; 'child' etc.) or why individuals perceive themselves as unworthy or not good enough even when others around them see them as capable, resourceful, good people.
Gestalt therapy was initially conceived in the 1940s and 50s and has, at its roots, elements of Gestalt psychology; field theory; body structure and process, the dialogic method based on Buber's philosophy of humans being relational creatures who require to be fully seen and met by another human being; experimentation using all manner of creative methods from drama to dreamwork to dance to movement to art to role play to sand tray work etc; existentialism; phenomenology; Tao/ Buddhism/Eastern religions, including mindful and meditative practice; American pragmatism and action learning. At its inception, Gestalt therapy was a revolutionary departure from pysychoanalysis - reflecting a desire to support a more balanced relationship between therapist and client (so the therapist is not the silent expert/blank screen in the room) and to encourage the client to be active (not passive) and to take responsibility for his or her actions (or inaction) and to face the part we play in our own experience of life, rather than to be a victim and let the world happen to us. And while this core thread to live authentically still exists, Gestalt has evolved to also emphasise the healing qualities of the client:therapist relationship itself alongside its quest for meaningful and choiceful living. Overall, Gestalt therapy is very much a creative, interactive, here and now, process where the therapist, rather than being a blank screen, will respond authentically to the client with the aim of giving useful, compassionate and supportive feedback and perspectives and of creating safe 'experiments' where new behaviour can be played with. In recent years, the findings from neuroscience, infant development, awareness, compassion, mindfulness, stress and trauma research are backing up the theory and methods which gestalt therapists have used for years.
If you have any questions about Gestalt or existential/humanistic therapy, or how I work, please feel free to contact me by e-mail, or phone, as above.
Maps & Directions
Type of session
|Face to face counselling:||Yes|
Types of client
|Employee Assistance Programme|
Supervision & training
I work as a relational Gestalt supervisor, interested in supporting therapists who are also working relationally to support clients change and lead a more satisfying life.