Stelios Christodoulou has worked as a therapist for over 25 years. In this question and answer session, he discusses his background, various approaches and experiences.
What is your story of becoming a therapist?
I began my career working in pharmaceutical research for several years. Though the work was intellectually stimulating, I yearned for a more meaningful and person-centred career. As someone who has always been interested in people and their inner lives, I knew I wanted to help others in a more direct and impactful way.
I decided to pursue a career in therapy and began my journey to become a counsellor in 1994.
What is the Gestalt approach, is it still relevant to your practice?
The Gestalt approach is a psychotherapeutic model that focuses on the whole person and their relationship to their environment, and it emphasises the importance of being present in the moment.
Using Gestalt therapy, I work with clients to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, creating awareness and understanding of their experiences. This approach encourages clients to take responsibility for their actions and break free from patterns that may keep them stuck. For me, the Gestalt approach is essential to my practice as a therapist. It shapes the way I work with my clients and allows me to provide a safe and supportive space where they can explore their inner world. So, if you want to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your relationships, the Gestalt approach may be just what you need!
Why did you choose EFT as your couple’s therapy approach?
I chose EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) as my couple’s therapy approach because it has been shown to be highly effective in repairing and rebuilding attachment bonds in relationships. When I worked for Marriage Care, they adopted the EFT model after undergoing a thorough evaluation process. All Marriage Care counsellors were trained in EFT and received ongoing supervision for their couple’s work.
EFT is based on Attachment Theory, which examines how emotional connections or attachments are formed in childhood and adulthood. By prioritizing the repair of damaged attachment bonds, EFT helps couples deepen their emotional connection and improve relationship satisfaction. I have successfully integrated EFT into my work with couples and have seen first-hand its effectiveness in practice. In short, I chose EFT as my couple’s therapy approach because it has been shown to work and has proven to be invaluable in helping couples improve their relationships.
What do you think are the advantages of Psycho-Educational sessions, groups, and workshops?
Psychoeducational sessions, groups, and workshops can be very helpful in providing individuals and couples with insight, understanding, and valuable resources. By attending these sessions, people can gain a better understanding of their challenges and needs, which can empower them to develop strategies and approaches that can help them move forward. These sessions can be particularly beneficial for those who are seeking practical tools and techniques to improve their mental health and well-being. Overall, psychoeducational sessions, groups, and workshops offer a valuable opportunity for people to learn and grow in a supportive and collaborative environment.
How do you see Covid impacting people’s mental health and relationships on a deeper level?
The Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have had a profound impact on people’s mental health and relationships. Many individuals and couples have been under greater stress due to financial and emotional challenges. The social isolation caused by the pandemic has put a strain on families and relationships, leaving people feeling disconnected and alone.
Moving social connections online has been a challenge for many, as they were unable to see loved ones when they needed to. The inability to connect in person has caused deep emotional wounds and heightened feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
Those who would have had support from mental health services have found themselves socially isolated and may have experienced more difficulties with their mental health as a result. The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health and relationships is profound and far-reaching and will continue to be felt long after the pandemic is over. As a therapist, it’s important to recognize these challenges and provide support and guidance to those in need.
How has the therapeutic landscape changed since you started?
The therapeutic landscape has changed a great deal since I started. The training courses and course requirements for Counsellors have changed over the years.
Many more counsellors are now working in the field than when I started in the early 1990s. More counsellors have moved to work online as an adaptation to the lockdown. That helped services and Therapists in private practice to continue offering support to their clients during those difficult times.
Hybrid working (in person and online) has now become more possible and commonplace.
What is your experience working with addiction? How does working with an individual experiencing addiction differ from working with a couple where one person is addicted?
I have 18 years of experience working in addiction, starting with volunteering at several addiction charities as a trainee counsellor in 1994. I have since worked in several different charities and the NHS to develop my knowledge and expertise.
When working with an individual experiencing addiction, the focus is on what they want to do about their addiction, whether that be working towards abstinence or controlled drinking or drug use. The impact of their addiction on their personal and work relationships and their own well-being is also considered. A key focus is supporting the client to prevent relapse and maintain the changes they have made. Psycho-educational work can be helpful, as well as exploring and accessing specialist addiction services such as 12-Step Fellowships like AA and NA or SMART Recovery. The building or rebuilding of their support networks is also essential.
When working with a couple where one person is addicted, the focus is on supporting the addict to get additional help to fully address their addiction through individual therapy or other sources. The therapist’s role is limited when working on the addiction itself. The focus is on the impact of the addict’s behaviours on their partner and their relationship. The therapist provides a safe space where the couple can engage in difficult dialogue around the addict’s behaviours, and negotiate and establish clear ground rules and boundaries around the addiction. Helping the couple to establish a plan for addressing the addiction and repairing the relationship is also an important part of the process.
What qualities are important in a supervisor and what is your supervisory style?
The most essential qualities for a supervisor are being supportive, collaborative, and helping the supervisee to grow and develop. It’s important to strike a balance between challenge and support when supervising.
My supervisory style is non-judgmental and open, with a focus on observing the processes between the supervisee and their clients, their working relationship with me, and the organizational dimension. Encouraging the supervisee to talk openly about any challenges they have with their clients is central to my approach. I also strive to help them develop greater awareness and insight into their countertransference and how it can be used to help their clients.
Identifying any learning and development needs that the supervisee may have and considering relevant Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities is another aspect of my approach. In short, my supervisory style is focused on facilitating the supervisee’s growth and development while providing support and guidance along the way.
Is the therapeutic world relying too much on old paradigms? Should therapy be re-visioned or demystified?
Over the years, new approaches have emerged in the therapeutic world, and some therapists have championed and promoted them. While the old paradigms have provided the foundations for many therapeutic approaches, innovative therapists have developed and expanded upon them, bringing new richness to the field.
However, it’s important for therapists to remain open to demystifying therapy so that it can be more accessible and beneficial for their clients. I believe that re-visioning and evolving therapy is necessary to keep it contemporary and effective.
At the heart of therapy lies the relationship between the therapist and their clients. This relationship is the key to facilitating change and growth, regardless of the therapeutic approach used. Ultimately, it’s the human connection between therapist and client that creates a safe and supportive space for healing and transformation.
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