What is counselling?

An invitation to explore how relationship can help on the journey towards psychological healing, self-/Self-discovery and dynamic wholeness. I am increasingly learning how this is rooted in somatic experience. 

Who has inspired you on your counselling journey? 

An early influence, at the end of the 1980s, was the spirituality of Harry Williams and his integration of personal experience and psychological insights into a pastorally-flavoured theology, summed up in his autobiography Some Day I’ll Find You. Then there was Emmanuel Lartey, course leader when I took the master’s degree in pastoral care and counselling at Birmingham University in the late 1990s, especially his use of Levinas’ philosophy in his articulation of an intercultural approach. Subsequently, Gestalt therapist Juliet Denham, and members of her Birmingham therapy group, of which I was a member for five years from 2007-2012. When I discovered Gestalt, I found it compatible with my approach to spiritual care as a healthcare chaplain. And recently, it has been Martin Wells and his book Sitting in the Stillness.2 I credit my therapist and supervisor, who have helped me immensely through a disturbing two years. The latter had already been my supervisor for a while when I was a healthcare chaplain, and has helped me discover that therapy is a hospitable arena for spirituality and for the giving and receiving of ‘spiritual care’.

What does spirituality mean to you? 

My article in Thresholds January 20221 was a position statement on this, but even as that was being published I was already plummeting into a personal crisis which has changed my perspective. A key turning point was my therapist’s recommendation of Martin Wells’ book Sitting in the Stillness,2 my first introduction to non-duality. Since then, spirituality for me, has come to be best articulated as ‘non-duality’, especially through Rupert Spira, Elias Amidon, Judith Blackstone and John Prendergast. I find no difficulty in seeing this as compatible with the Christian tradition through which I have grown for more than 50 years. As I believe both Peter Fenner and Rupert Spira say somewhere: you have to go on a path to discover there is no path. 

Most useful piece of advice for a student or newly qualified therapist? 

When contemplating any client, ask yourself, would I be prepared to continue accompanying this person, even if there was seemingly nothing that could be done to make things better? What are the implications of your answer? (OK, maybe not suitable straight away for every new student or therapist, but crucial philosophical issues which need attending to at some point!) 

Do you have a favourite quote? 

Many; I’m a bit of a quote junkie! 

‘We only deliberately waste time with those we love — it is the purest sign that we love someone if we choose to spend time idly in their presence when we could be doing something more constructive.’ Sheila Cassidy 

‘Time is about depth, not length.’ Cicely Saunders 

‘Our role is to be things not to do things.’ Janina Fisher 

‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.’ S. Suzuki

‘Don’t try to do your best work today.’ My Clinical Supervisor when I was at a particularly low ebb 

‘When the preoccupation with identification falls away, what is seen is that life is not a search for wholeness; rather it is the expression of wholeness.’ Wu Hsin 

‘No-one has ever defeated what is.’ Peter Fenner 

‘Sport is important only because it is not.’ Michael Atherton 

‘Love is to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves.’ Jean Vanier 

‘Flexible structures do better in surviving earthquakes.’ Gregory Bateson 

‘When does vocation become an addiction?’ Anon 

‘Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.’ Carl Jung 

‘In the midst of Winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible Summer.’ Albert Camus

‘In your service of others you will feel, you will care, you will be hurt, you will have your heart broken. And it is doubtful if any of us can do anything at all until we have been very much hurt and until our hearts have been very much broken.’ Michael Ramsey

Favourite piece of music?

Relational Psychotherapy: A Primer by Patricia A DeYoung; and The Deep Heart by John Prendergast. 

Favourite podcast or website? 


Favourite piece of music? 

At the moment:  

Anthem by Leonard Cohen
The Humming by Enya
Thou art all things by Margaret Rizza
Taizé’s Be Still  

They all help me lean into non-duality. 

Top tip for a successful supervision session 

1. Imagine, together with your supervisor, how you would be in your practice if you were subject to no surveillance (e.g. by inner critics; organisational pressures; etc). 

2. Don’t aim for a successful session! 

What is the most important issue facing the counselling world today? 

For the counselling world in general - how to be both realistic and generous in getting the balance between: 

1. Professional and regulatory strictures and structures 

2. The freedom necessary for creativity, innovation and the mystery that many of us reading this would identify and embrace as ‘spirituality’. 

For my counselling world (the NHS): I am uncomfortable with the way that the notion of ‘resilience’ is used in a lot of discourse around NHS staff wellbeing; and question whether it is leading (intentionally or not) to subtle victim-blaming and the bypassing or underplaying of contextual factors. Whenever I hear the word ‘resilience’ it reminds me of those ‘unbreakable’ rulers people had in my era at school. Students would keep flexing them to see how much pressure it would take to break them! The temptation! 


1 Duckett K. Spirituality in reflective practice. Thresholds 2022; January: 16–19.
2 Wells M. Sitting in the stillness. London: Mantra Books; 2020.