M. Antonieta Olguin Cigarroa, UKCP Accred Psychotherapist. Trauma Trained.
I am a UKCP accredited Integrative Psychotherapist and Counsellor. I also have specialist training and experience in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as experience working both in the public and private sectors with many different people wishing to receive counselling or psychotherapy for different reasons.
Being an integrative therapist means that I acknowledge and value the uniqueness of each person as no one single approach can suit every person, therefore in my work I combine different techniques and theoretical approaches according to each client’s unique needs. As part of my training in Integrative counselling and psychotherapy I completed studies in systemic and psychosexual therapy; gestalt and focusing approaches; critical psychopathology; CBT; Jungian and Transpersonal approaches; psychodynamic, existentialist and humanistic theories & therapeutic approaches. This was a comprehensive and demanding lengthy training, which also included my own personal therapy.
After my accreditation as a psychotherapist, I have also expanded and deepened my knowledge by completing specialist training in Affect Dysregulation (emotional dysregulation), Survival Defenses, and Traumatic Memory with the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute (SPI) which imparts professional training in somatic (body) psychology. These 80 hours of training have given me the tools to work with people who have suffered from trauma, neglect and attachment failure using interventions that speak directly to how their issues are driven by the body and the nervous system. I am currently continuing my training with the SPI on Emotional Processing, Meaning Making, and Attachment Repair (180 hours).
In addition to my private practice, I work on a voluntary basis for Mind in Mid Herts (mental health charity) and for MRC/Consonant (charity).
What is Psychotherapy?
It is a helping relationship where the client is encouraged to explore their issues, increase their awareness and understanding of their own processes, therefore empowering them to make the appropriate choices and decisions in life. Therapy offers a confidential, neutral space to work through hard feelings, increase insights, enable behavioural, emotional and psychological change and growth, helping us to find new perspectives to understand and manage things.
In my practice I offer you a confidential, compassionate and non-judgmental space where you can talk about and explore things that are important to you within a helping relationship.
Why have Psychotherapy or Counselling?
We may all find ourselves sometimes needing another person to talk to as we may be going through some difficulties in our relationships, life, job, etc. and we feel that it is important to share these with someone outside our circle of family and/or friends, to support us during these processes.
Sometimes people use psychotherapy when considering a change in their life or for personal development.
Others use counselling or psychotherapy as a place where they can find someone who can ‘walk’ with them through a transition time such as adjusting to living alone due to a recent separation or bereavement; or after having recently received a diagnosis such as bipolar, anxiety disorder, depression, chronic fatigue, ADHD, PTSD, BPD, etc. that may need clarification and adjustment.
On other occasions, we may feel worried and confused about our past or present circumstances, experiences, issues or relationships that can lead us to feeling overwhelmed, confused, suffering from anxiety and/or depression, lacking motivation or not really knowing what to do. Sometimes in our lives we may have also lived very difficult and/or traumatic experiences that may have left us feeling shaken, even years after the event, finding it difficult to move on. It is common to not realize that what we have gone through has been in fact a very stressful and/or traumatic experience for us because we have done our best to carry on, having adapted to our circumstances only to find ourselves still carrying the aftermath of the effects of these unresolved experiences, sometimes finding it difficult to share these experiences as there might be a common expectation that ‘we should be feeling better by now’.
It is not always easy to talk to close ones about certain things and taking that first step can be quite difficult, but therapy can certainly help during all these processes.
Length of therapy
Therapy length can vary from short term for specific issues such as planning a change, making a decision, separation or divorce, transition period, etc. to long term therapy where more deeply-rooted issues that may include past traumas, developmental issues (attachment inadequacies, relational trauma), etc. may need a longer period of work. Furthermore, as the work progresses the depth of the exploration can bring about new themes that clients were not aware of before.
The benefits of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (body work) for all clients (e.g. for anxiety, emotional dysregulation, depression)
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (part of my integrative approach) is a holistic talk therapy which is based on somatic (body) work. This approach has enriched my work at many different levels and with many different clients presenting varied issues, therefore not only with clients who have experienced trauma.
For example, many people presenting anxiety issues have benefited from this body oriented approach because anxiety is often accompanied by specific physical symptoms associated with a state of autonomic arousal such as accelerated heart rate, shaking, trembling, shortness of breath, etc. With this approach I encourage clients to find different ways (or together we find ways) to help them calm their anxiety, learn to self-soothe and also learn to regulate/deal with their emotions by working with the body.
Part of our developmental tasks in childhood and adolescence requires the ability to learn to regulate our own emotions, to learn to self-soothe, and this ability translates into physical and mental health. Children are not born with emotional regulation abilities as they are biologically undeveloped, therefore are unable to self-soothe when they are upset. Prolonged negative emotions may be intense at different levels, i.e. physically, emotionally, and behaviourally. We learn to regulate our emotions and self-soothe in our younger years with the interaction with our caregivers and as we grow we continue to learn/develop these skills from other important adults around us (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, etc.) If we did not get this experience or it was inconsistent, we might have not learnt to self-soothe, regulate our emotions and anxiety in healthy and effective ways. These dysregulations manifest as adults in different ways, experiencing anxiety, feeling disconnected, numb, being unable to modulate arousal, insomnia, restlessness, etc. Therefore as adults we are often left feeling overwhelmed when faced by challenges in life (sometimes challenges are simple tasks for other people).
Therefore, many people experiencing these types of dysregulations (e.g. high levels of anxiety, disconnections, etc.) can also benefit from this approach because unlike pure talking therapy (top-down), the bottom-up interventions and techniques also target those parts of the brain and nervous system involved in flight-fight-freeze responses. Anxiety is generally a body-based defense from more primitive areas of the brain (limbic and brain stem), which are areas that often are not affected when we just “talk” in therapy. Research has shown that there are numerous physiological disorders and symptoms connected to emotion dysregulation, such as anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, etc. When our fight-flight-freeze response becomes activated (due to a stressful situation), our bottom-up reactions are increased and our ‘thinking brain’ gets affected and ‘…as a result, it can be difficult to think clearly, distinguish cause and effect, process what happened, make plans, or realistically anticipate the future…’ (Ogden and Fisher, 2015 p.220). Although, fight-flight-freeze response are part of our normal survival mechanism, sometimes these bottom-up reactions, can often become oversensitive to different stressors. Therefore, targeting these areas with a Sensorimotor approach as well as having talking therapy is a more integrative approach.
(Please check the videos and links below for more information about some of the different aspects of my approach).
My work using the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma (PTSD, Complex PTSD, dissociation) and attachment deficiencies
Trauma is pervasive and the same traumatic event might affect each person differently, as an event is experienced as traumatic according to the person who experienced it. Trauma has been defined as ‘…an experience that overwhelms [our] capacity to cope…’ (van der Kolk, 2015). How an experience affects us will depend on many different factors such as age at the time of the traumatic incident(s), support at the moment and/or after the trauma, nature of the trauma, internal and external resources, etc. Sometimes trauma is not about what happened to us, but it is related to witnessing or hearing about others going through traumatic experiences, leaving us traumatized. Some of us might not even be aware that what we have experienced was a traumatic experience and we take it as a normal part of living or part of growing up, unaware that perhaps we have adapted to what, in actual fact, was an overwhelming experience for us at a young age or a difficult or unsafe environment or a life threatening situation and we live our lives now according to that experience (often unaware of our adaptations), having been left with some symptoms such flashbacks, emotional and physiological dysregulation, emotional overwhelm, angry outbursts, high levels of anxiety, wanting to isolate, fear and hypervigilance, feeling numb or disconnected, etc.
We all deserve to be heard and validated in our own experiences, but after traumatic events we often move on quickly to join life again, without allowing ourselves or being allowed by others or circumstances, time to process these experiences, to grieve, feel angry and/or sad about what happened to us or others, unable to talk to others because they want us to simply ‘move on’.
Personal experiences have made me become deeply interested in trauma and keep motivating me to continue developing my knowledge and engaging in further training. Being an integrative psychotherapist in my work I not only use top-down approaches (Cognitive approaches: e.g. CBT interventions, etc.), but I also use bottom-up approaches (e.g. Sensorimotor psychotherapy, body work, mindfulness directives, etc.) because a more balanced relationship between cognitive processing and other areas of processing is needed in order to process the aftereffects of traumatic experience. Undoubtedly, traditional talk therapy is an important part of resolving traumatic experiences, but “…lacks techniques that work directly with the physiological elements, despite the fact that trauma profoundly affects the body and many symptoms of traumatized individuals are somatically based...” (Ogden and Minton, 2000). Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a holistic talk therapy which is based on somatic (body) work (non-verbal communication) where traumatic memories held in the body are processed, integrated, and transformed into resources and strengths. Sensorimotor psychotherapy incorporates into its approach different theories such as the polyvagal theory and interventions drawn from psychodynamic psychotherapy, gestalt therapy, cognitive–behavioural approaches and the Hakomi method of body psychotherapy (Fisher, 2011 p.102). It also integrates current findings from neuroscience and mindfulness, encouraging the client’s collaboration to process any traumatic memory held in the body.
Furthermore, when it comes to attachment, if our primary relationships with our caregivers were not satisfactory, lacked attunement or were even traumatic, it may have also left us with unconscious patterns of relating or responses (leftovers childhood legacies) that as adults can interfere with our current relationships. Sensorimotor Therapy interventions also work on developmental trauma, e.g. attachment issues, shame, low self-esteem, boundaries issues, feelings of inadequacy, emotional dysregulation, etc.
(Please check the videos and links below for more information about some of the different aspects of my approach).
Training, qualifications & experience
I am a fully qualified/accredited counsellor and psychotherapist and member of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). I adhere to its code of ethics and practice.
I am also member of a) Regent's School of Psychotherapy and Psychology, and b) Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy College.
- Currently completing Level 2 (180 hours) on Emotional Processing, Meaning Making, and Attachment Repair of the SPI (Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute) Training Program.
- Certificate (Level 1/ 80 contact hours) in Affect Dysregulation, Survival Defenses, and Traumatic Memory of the SPI (Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute) Training Program in Affect Regulating, Attachment, and Trauma. I am also registered with SPI https://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/referral.html
- Advanced diploma in integrative psychotherapy (ADIP)(Regent's University London) Systemic and psychosexual therapy; gestalt and focusing approaches; critical psychopathology; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; Jungian and Transpersonal approaches.
- PGdip in Psychotherapy & Counselling (Masters of Arts, Level 7) (Regent's University London) Psychodynamic, existentialist and humanistic theories & therapeutic approaches.
- Foundation certificate in psychotherapy & counselling (Regent's University London)
- MEd (Cantab) (Cambridge University)
- PGCE (University of Hertfordshire)
- BA (Hons) 1st Class (University of Hertfordshire)
Other training and skills
- Mindfulness skills for anxiety and depression
- Embedded Relational Mindfulness (A sensorimotor Pyschotherapy Perspective on the Treatment of Trauma).
- Focusing Skills: workshop on 'listening to you inner wisdom'.
Accredited register membership
Areas of counselling I deal with
- Anger management
- Borderline personality disorder
- Domestic violence
- Emotional abuse
- Hearing voices
- Low self-confidence
- Low self-esteem
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Passive aggressive behaviour
- Personality disorders
- Physical abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Relationship problems
- Sexual abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
- Work-related stress
Other areas of counselling I deal with
It is not possible to mention all the possible difficulties, so it is always better to have a first consultation to explore in what way I could help you according to your needs.
My current fee is £50 for each 50 minute session. (In St Albans my fee is £55). The first session (consultation) is also £50 (£55 in St Albans) but will last for one hour. This is reviewed annually. Rates sometimes may be negotiable depending on personal circumstances (only in Welwyn Garden City).
I also work in Spanish.
1) Body work for anxiety
2) Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
2.1 Dr. Pat Ogden talks about the Sensorimotor Approach to Resolve Trauma. (Pat Ogden, PhD, is a pioneer in somatic psychology and both Founder and Education Director of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, an internationally recognized school specializing in somatic–cognitive approaches for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder and attachment disturbances)
2.2 Dr. Pat Ogden explains that Sensorimotor works with both trauma and attachment.
2.3 Short video on Polyvagal theory by Dr Stephen Porges: how trauma impacts the body. The importance of body work in treating trauma. (Dr Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University Bloomington and Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina).
2.4 Dr. Peter Levine talks about how trauma sticks to the body. (Dr Levine, Ph.D. is the originator and developer of Somatic Experiencing and the Director of The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute).
2.5 Article on Trauma and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (Download pdf): Advances in psychiatric treatment (2011), vol. 17, 171–177
Summary: '...Research has consistently demonstrated a connection between affect dysregulation and experiences of early childhood neglect, trauma and attachment
failure...Methods to increase self-regulation are crucial to the effectiveness of any treatment for these problems. Traditional therapeutic modalities that address distorted cognitions or focus on emotional expression attempt to address affect regulation but fail to modify its underlying basis in the nervous system. Sensorimotor psychotherapy, as a somatically oriented therapy, approaches affect dysregulation as a subcortical issue. Its interventions directly address the underlying causes of dysregulation in the body and nervous system...'
3.1 Why Mindfulness?
'...A changing brain: Scientists have used MRI scans to see how the brain changes when people practise mindfulness, yielding some fascinating results. Evidence suggests that particular areas of the brain may either shrink or grow in response to regular mindfulness practice. Here are a few examples...' https://www.bupa.co.uk/newsroom/ourviews/mindfulness-my-brain
- Mindfulness and stress: Research shows that after practising mindfulness, the grey matter in your brain’s amygdala – a region known for its role in stress – can become smaller.
- Mindfulness and creativity: The pre-frontal cortex is the area of your brain responsible for things like planning, problem solving, and controlling your emotions. The grey matter in this area can become thicker after practising mindfulness, showing increased activity in these areas of thought.
- Mindfulness and memory: An area of the brain known as the hippocampus helps your memory and learning. This area can also become thicker after practising mindfulness.
3.2 Youtube link to practice Mindfulness meditation (Mark Williams):
3.3 Dr. Dan Siegel- On How You Can Change Your Brain Focusing our attention can change the physical structure of our brains. Dr. Daniel Siegel explains what is possible when we actively seek to change our brains, thus improving our relationships and stopping self-limiting patterns.
3.4 Talk on Mindfulness by Dr. Ron Siegel (Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD, is Assistant Professor of Psychology, part time at Harvard Medical School, where he has taught for over 30 years. He is a long-time student of mindfulness meditation and serves on the board of directors and faculty of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy)
3.5 'Headspace': mindfulness app for your mobile (examples in Youtube)
3.6 NHS: mindfulness
4) Humanistic and integrative psychotherapy
Maps & Directions
Type of session
|Face to face counselling:||Yes|
Main practice located in Panshanger, WGC. Free parking on the road. Regular bus service No 401 from WGC Town Centre (15 min journey, 3 min walk from Leys Down bus stop). No waiting facilities, please arrive at agreed time.
Mondays to Fridays from 7 am to 9 pm. (In St Albans I only do some mornings: there are very limited spaces).
Types of client