Therapy Blog

Q & A Session With Therapist Mark Dalby

Posted on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2024 by Cristina Vrech

Mark Dalby is an accomplished therapist with over 20 years of experience.  This question-and-answer session discusses his background, approaches and experiences as a therapist.

What are the key benefits of seeking family therapy when one or more members are neurodivergent?

One of the key benefits of family therapy is that it focuses on people’s strengths, resources, and relationships. Family therapy also embraces each individual’s differences, their unique perspectives, and how they are influenced by various aspects of their lives, which may include neurodiversity.

It is a therapy that honours differences, encourages respect, and aims to strengthen understanding and connection, which can sometimes be challenging for those with neurodivergence.

This focus on understanding, respect and connection is particularly beneficial when one or more family members are neurodivergent because it fosters a supportive environment where everyone can feel valued and heard.

You’ve worked in caring or educational professions; is this something you’ve always felt drawn to?

Quite early on in my life, I volunteered in a care setting and found it very rewarding. Through this, I realised that care was something I enjoyed and felt I had a natural skill for. This aptitude is probably linked to my family of origin, where caring was highly valued.

As a result, I found myself naturally fitting into this role when I started in the caring profession. I then did some teaching and found that I was becoming more interested in what was happening amongst my students psychologically and relationally. This led me to move away from education and into mental health.

However, I still enjoy teaching in terms of people’s developmental aspects. I am also highly interested in education and helping to provide a mentally healthy environment.

What kind of therapeutic approaches are best for helping couples?

What I value about the systemic approach to therapy, particularly in couples work, is that it’s essentially a non-blaming approach that tries to understand where people are coming from. It focuses on how their life experiences and context can affect what they believe, how they believe, and how they relate to one another. This creates an environment in therapy that encourages understanding instead of blaming and criticising.

I have always been drawn to ideas around attachment, so that’s a fundamental aspect of my thinking in therapy, which I combine with systemic therapy. I consider people’s attachment styles and how this might affect their relationships.

I also believe it’s important to consider people’s cultural differences, gender, and sexuality and how these factors shape how people experience each other and the world around them.

Why is marriage and relationship counselling a good idea?

We live in a very challenging social context. There is a lot of pressure on individuals and couples to behave in certain ways, and there is very little time for most people to reflect on their relationships, how they got together, how their relationship developed, and how things may have become problematic or stuck. Therefore, I think we can all benefit from a space to focus on and think about these aspects.

Sometimes, having a third perspective on these topics is very helpful, as we often only have our own personal perspectives on a partner or ourselves. It can be beneficial to have someone who can provide another perspective and who can focus on holding a relationship in mind during these discussions in therapy.

Where did your therapist’s journey begin? Did you always know you wanted to be a therapist?

I didn’t know I wanted to be a therapist when I was younger. My path to becoming a therapist began as a journey, starting with becoming a teacher, moving into the care sector, and then becoming a social worker.

Through those working experiences and my experiences in my family of origin, I realised that I valued the opportunity to work closely with people in a therapeutic relationship, focusing on their mental health and relationships with those around them.

I realised that I wanted to be a therapist later in life. I enjoy reflecting on the parts of my life that have led me to this point and contributed to my current position.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your work?

It’s hard to choose the most fulfilling aspect of my work. To be honest, I find that the initial building of a relationship with people in therapy can be very fulfilling, particularly when they come and may be very distressed, worried, or unsure about therapy. It can be very fulfilling to reach a stage where we have worked on and established trust and connection.

It can also be fulfilling when something goes wrong in therapy—perhaps when people find things hard or challenging or find what you [the therapist] are saying uncomfortable—and you can work through that, which brings about an even stronger connection between clients and you as a therapist. This is fulfilling for the therapist, family, or clients, as you have been able to surmount a challenge in therapy together.

In the final part of therapy, when you say goodbye to people, there can be a sense of wonder and pride that someone has been able to find a place where they’re feeling much better or are now in a different and better place with their mental health. Essentially, I’m saying that every therapy stage can be fulfilling—at the beginning, middle, and end. This is what makes it so difficult for me to choose the most fulfilling aspect.

What is the most challenging part of your work?

I think the most challenging part of my work can be when there’s a lot of animosity or high emotion between clients, particularly in family therapy. Trying to ensure that everybody feels understood and heard while attending to those strong feelings can be challenging. In family therapy, you might be working with many high and differing emotions and perspectives in the same room (this can also occur with couples) – it’s about maintaining that balance to progress within therapy.

Do you have any preferred therapeutic approaches when helping families?

One of my preferred ways of working with people is to help them ‘do’ things differently in the therapy room. Processing things in the here and now, not just talking about what happened but also showing me what happened in the past and then actively trying something different in the present. This is called ‘an enactment’ in family therapy.

To explain this further, it might be that there is a particular way an argument goes in a relationship, and an enactment allows people to practice ‘doing’ this argument differently in the here and now. Enactment comes from the early days of family therapy, now brought back into therapeutic practice as a part of attachment family therapy. Although it can raise anxiety in the therapist and family around having a difficult conversation in the room as opposed to just talking about it, I believe that it can be helpful despite this, as enactment brings a certain level of intensity and realism to the therapeutic process.

There can be a variety of experiences created through this technique, depending on the therapeutic relationship you have with the clients, the preparation you’ve done leading up to this, and how a client can hold and process the enacted experience if it doesn’t go as well as they hoped. In any situation, there’s always a learning opportunity; it’s about framing these enacted experiences as something to learn from, even if a conversation doesn’t go as clients hoped, as an essential part of moving towards something different.

Another approach or technique that I find very helpful is to create a space where people feel able to say those unsaid things, those not yet spoken things that might then bring about some differences in how people are experienced or understood. I think this creation of space allows for an opportunity for change in a relationship when the couple can feel safe enough to say something important they haven’t been able to say before.

Book Now

Get Started Today
with Leone Centre

Book Now


Call Us

Call us
020 3930 1007

View therapists

View our therapists
Find your match