Nicola Stephenson

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(BA Hons, PG Dip, MSc)
Available for new clients
Available for new clients

This professional is available for new clients.

Hove, East Sussex, BN3 3PY
Available for new clients
Available for new clients

This professional is available for new clients.

About me

Therapy is a process designed to lessen suffering and restore hope for a better life. It does this by harnessing the energy generated by the very experiences and environments that hurt you. In doing so, it offers you the chance to grow, expand and feel alive. As your therapist I offer transparency and openness, whilst playing an active role in gently guiding you through each session. At heart, it is an ethical endeavour that honours your authenticity and right to self-determination. Your struggle might relate to an affair, a miscarriage, a troubling dilemma, or a tragic accident. You might be anxious or depressed. You might be worried about your addictive or compulsive behaviour. You might be struggling with a lack of motivation and energy. You might be feeling angry or irritable. You might be unhappy with your sex life. You might be curious about your history and how it has shaped your life. There are endless reasons to seek help from a therapist.

At your own pace, and in your own words, I will help you find your voice and tell your story. The simple act of sharing your concerns within the safety and confidentiality of the therapeutic relationship often brings immediate relief. It is an exploratory process which fosters curiosity about anything and everything that troubles you. Painful emotions are a vital source of information that can help you make better decisions and choices. Learning how to lean into, rather than away from, them will help you access a more authentic version of yourself. Armed with greater self awareness and self acceptance, you will begin to feel calmer, stronger and more confident.

Most suffering, but not all, is rooted in unhealthy family relationships. It can often be traced to childhood abuse. It can also be traced to less obvious, but equally damaging, experiences of being ignored, or overly controlled and protected, by parents. In order to preserve the attachment relationship to their primary caregivers children quickly learn how to hide painful feelings. This separation from a child's inner-world can become a mechanism for getting stuck in a relentless cycle of emotional triggers and responses, and a life-long struggle to form healthy relationships. 

It is important that parents seeking professional support for adolescent children know that therapy is not about finding someone to blame, least of all parents. Most parents do their absolute best for their children. And inevitably, as Philip Larkin wrote, they fuck them up. On the one hand this is tragic. On the other, with the right support, it affords your child the invaluable opportunity to develop confidence, resilience and integrity. If blame for the suffering of adolescents lies anywhere it is with society's flawed, individualistic ideology and harmful narratives around competition and success, which leave many young adults in a deep pit of self-loathing, and most parents too stressed and exhausted to help. The pernicious world of social media, cruelly masquerading as a community of real friends and true connections, offers little refuge. On the contrary, it has become a conduit for further emotional harm. 

My approach is rooted in a biopsychosocial model which argues that our health is determined by a complex interplay of biological, psychological and social factors. I blend skills and ideas from many different disciplines including philosophy, attachment theory, neuroscience, and trauma and body psychotherapy. I have been deeply influenced by the pioneering work of a vibrant community of world-renowned scientists including Stephen Porges, Peter Levine and Bessel Van der Kolk. Their ground-breaking research demonstrates that human beings are born with an innate expectation to be loved, to be cared for, and to matter. In short, we are designed for co-regulation rather than self-regulation. I hold this in my awareness as I invite clients to share time and space with me. I also hold in mind the remarkable research findings of professor, Brene Brown, which identify vulnerability as the birth place of joy, hope, belonging, change and creativity.  

I began my training as a therapist in 2010. My growing interest in this area was born out of a long-standing curiosity about my own general sense of unease in the world, and a deeply personal search for autonomy and meaning. My immersion in the world of psychotherapy represented an immeasurably helpful turning point in my own journey. Having qualified as a Humanistic Psychotherapeutic Counsellor (PG Dip) in 2016, and a Master of Science in Psychotherapy (MSc) in 2018, I have spent the last few years as a psychotherapist in private practice. Along the way I have also had the privilege of volunteering for a number of local charities.   

A key advantage of being a mature therapist (I am 54 years old) is the humility and wisdom I have gained through an examination of my own life. I first had to make sense of painful life experiences and, in doing so, learn how to honour my own truth. I leant heavily on existential notions of freedom of choice and personal responsibility to help me.  Slowly, I began to understand the importance of balancing the need to steer my own ship with the need to accept that there is much in life I cannot control. With greater self awareness and a growing sense of confidence, I turned to spiritual teachings to help me connect more deeply to the people and natural world around me. I finally emerged as a more grounded and integrated individual with a renewed sense of aliveness. An important aspect of my learning has been to acknowledge my own lunacy. In the words of philosopher, Alain de Botton, we are all a bit mad! We are not the reasonable, rational beings we like to think we are. The unconscious dimension of our existence, and our innate emotionality, dispose us to all kinds of unhelpful, if not disastrous, and sometimes hilarious, acting out.  

Training, qualifications & experience

During my cross modality training I learnt how to blend skills and ideas from a broad range of subjects including philosophy, attachment theory and neuroscience. I also draw on spiritual teachings and practices such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation which help teach us how to feel more present with, and connected to, our bodies. These ancient traditions overlap in a very helpful and functional way with the more modern traditions of neuroscience and trauma psychotherapy. A key premise of my work is that healing requires you to journey back to your embodied self. Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Toller, says this can only take place in the the present moment since this is the only place you can truly find yourself. In this sense my approach is an experiential rather than intellectual exercise.

The process of learning and honing my craft has been facilitated by the pioneering work of a growing and very active community of world-renowned health experts including retired physician, Dr Gabor Mate, who believes that healing requires a reconnection to the client's internal world. Since healing also requires the presence of a caring other, the process by which this occurs is necessarily a relational one. Other key influences include neuroscientist, Stephen Porges, and trauma therapists, Peter Levine and Bessel Van der Kolk. Their ground breaking research into the autonomic nervous system has taught us that human beings are born with an innate expectation for reciprocity in terms of physiological, psychological and emotional regulation. In short, we are designed for co-regulation rather than self-regulation. The essence of my approach is thus to help you feel safe enough in your body to make the sometimes perilous but, in my experience, always healing, journey back to your natural, authentic self.

In terms of my own journey, as a young adult I had a thirst for travel and adventure.  After graduating, in 1990, in European Business (BA Hons), I then spent an exciting year working and travelling around the world. By 1993, following two years working for a commercial bank in London, I got itchy feet again. So I set out to do one, fun season as a holiday rep in the French Alps for a global travel business. A succession of rapid promotions, and an ever-present lead me to spend a further six years living and working abroad. During that time I managed various overseas operations including a large Alpine chalet programme. In 1999 I returned to the UK to help integrate a newly acquired luxury ski tour operator into the larger business. In 2005 I took on the role of Managing Director of that same niche business, a position I held for two years before finally leaving corporate life in 2007 to focus on my personal life.

I first embarked upon my second career in psychotherapy in 2010. My growing interest in this area was born out of a long-standing curiosity about my own general sense of unease in the world, and a deeply personal search for autonomy and meaning. My training and immersion in the world of personal growth and development represented a significant and immeasurably helpful turning point in my own journey. Having qualified as a Humanistic Psychotherapeutic Counsellor (PG Dip) in 2016, and a Master of Science in Psychotherapy (MSc) in 2018, I have spent the last few years working as a psychotherapist in private practice. Along the way I have worked for a variety of local charities and counselling agencies including Breakeven, based in Brighton, where for several years I assisted clients struggling with gambling addiction.

Member organisations

BACP
British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP)

BACP is one of the UK’s leading professional bodies for counselling and psychotherapy with around 60,000 members. The Association has several different categories of membership, including Student Member, Individual Member, Registered Member MBACP, Registered Accredited Member MBACP (Accred) and Senior Registered Accredited Member MBACP (Snr Acccred).

Registered and accredited members are listed on the BACP Register, which shows that they have demonstrated BACP’s recommended standards for training, proficiency and ethical practice. The BACP Register was the first register of psychological therapists to be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).

Accredited and senior accredited membership are voluntary categories for members who choose to undertake a rigorous application and assessment process to demonstrate additional standards around practice, training and supervision.

Individual members will have completed an appropriate counselling or psychotherapy course and started to practise, but they won’t appear on the BACP Register until they've demonstrated that they meet the standards for registration. Student members are still in the process of completing their training.

All members are bound by the BACP Ethical Framework and a Professional Conduct Procedure.

Fees

£80.00 - £90.00

Health Insurance/EAP

  • Axa Health

Additional information

I charge £90 for face to face sessions. I charge £80 for online sessions. All sessions last 50 minutes. 

When I work

I work week days only.

Further information

The World Health Organisation has described the general decline in our mental health as a global crisis. Modern living with its punishing demands is a large part of the problem. Covid has laid bare a fragmented and broken society, and a much more troubling pandemic of deep societal malaise. Our diseased sociocultural landscape is built on a complex network of interdependent systems that collectively dishonour and undermine human nature. This has become a breeding ground for insecurity, shame and loneliness. In effect, we are trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of collective fear.

Experts conclude that the underlying cause of our deteriorating mental health is too much stress. The body responds by employing its fight or flight response, typically manifesting as anxiety and anger. When unable to fight or flee, the body resorts to its freeze response, typically manifesting as depression and isolation. Knowledge of the unconscious, neurophysiological mechanisms at play when our bodies detect threat provides us with the opportunity, both individually and collectively, to develop the tools and awareness with which to turn the tide on this tragic endemic.

Viewed through an evolutionary and ecological lens, so-called mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, addiction, OCD and ADHD are normal adaptations to an abnormal existence. In an otherwise healthy environment human beings draw on them as temporary solutions to life's inevitable adversity. But our hostile and disconnected world keeps us unconsciously locked in defensive modes much longer than nature ever intended. Overtime, as our bodies struggle and weaken under the unbearable strain, we develop serious illnesses. Health issues associated with the fight or flight response include heart disease, insomnia, poor memory, headaches and high blood pressure. Health issues associated with the freeze response include low blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, CFS, IBS and fibromyalgia.

The Wilbury Clinic, 64 Wilbury Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 3PY

Type of session

In person
Online
Phone

Types of client

Young people
Adults
Older adults
Couples

Additional languages

French

Online platforms

Skype
Zoom

Social

Nicola Stephenson
Nicola Stephenson