Kenilworth, Cape Town
I studied, lectured and started my practice at a time when the country was an erupting volcano; every border was pushed into the unknown. The eighties was a time of torture and easy death; paradoxically, it was also our moment of extraordinary courage; of hope, an obdurate faith that a world could and would change.
For a psychotherapist starting a career during turbulent times of change, it may not be possible to ever practice that career outside the existentialist frame. The search for meaning is perhaps always deeply ingrained in every facet of the enclosed process that constitutes the therapeuric space.
Therapy, for me, is always about the story of a life – each story different, though each carries the core of our shared humanity and struggle. In the infinitely delicate search for the meaning of our own story, we also, I believe, come to an understanding of our custodianship, our responsibility for the social and political structures that surround us; our responsibility to find our own moral codes.
The therapy room is still for me a mystifying place, the alchemist’s elements always old, always new, created by both therapist and client in each unique interaction: it is a tracking in an internal world; it is an intangible place where therapist and client both listen to a completely personal story that unfolds – trying, in the unfolding to find our inter- connectedness with all that breathes and grows; keeping faith that, in our intertwined worlds, we may find the sources of a personal meaning.
Perhaps the therapeutic relationship is ultimately the silent, reflective place where we dream the paths that may take us to the sources of our hope.
A time of grief is usually in the beginning experienced as time out of time, separate from time as we know it. And of course it is. Grief does set us apart – the easy rhythms of a life, often the easy understanding of a life and all that that life constitutes, is irrevocably changed. And one does not know how to find a path back to a way of being that is not completely defined by absence. I do not know if grief ends. But I do believe that it is possible to find ways to a life that carries richness again, that is defined not only by what one has lost but also by what one has built — is building. I have come to believe that in order to create another life and another time again, one has to track the personal, internal voices that belong to loss; that those voices often become audible in the therapy room, and in the listening and talking new rhythms and new rituals create themselves; that the absence becomes the invisible presence that guides us to the making of a different richness and a different faith.
There are many kinds of depression and a variety of causes. I am not against the use of anti-depressions and often suggest medication when a depression renders someone dysfunctional. However, to my mind the symptoms of depression simply convey the message of pain; the pain so often deeply buried in internal landscapes we have closed off so completely that we, ourselves, do not have entry points anymore. The endeavour in therapy is to find the entry points and uncover the pain. Instead of viewing depression as an illness, I prefer to understand it as a state of being, a time in a life when our sources of hope are not accessible to us. There is not one specific answer to depression or one specific method to follow. There are myriad paths into that closed-off landscape, and in therapy it is possible to find at least some of them; to begin to understand the immobile silence that is depression, the reasons for that silence, and ways to find voices and movement again once the buried pain is excavated.
A marriage, a relationship, remains a mysterious and many-layered way of being in the world. We bring all the stories of our past and all the injuries of our past into our relationships – so many, if not most of our injuries (and therefore our choices) are unconscious, hidden to ourselves. I see a relationship as a thing of our hope as well as a thing of our injury; it is so often in the shared talking in the therapy room that couples begin to understand not only themselves but their partners. Sometimes, oftentimes, partners only begin to learn about each other in that talking that is facilitated by a third person. They begin to understand the unconscious motivations and responses that define their relationship, and find ways to be careful with each others’ histories and injuries; they find ways to re-discover the reasons they made their commitment to each other in the first place, and ways to re-commit in a more conscious and careful way. I do not believe there is much difference between heterosexual and gay/lesbian couples, though our society certainly does make it easier for the heterosexual relationship. Ultimately, though, the intimate, exclusive relationship that needs to be repaired, is between two people, and not between a couple and society. I do not work with polyamorous relationships at all, but often work with the after-effects of an affair and/or divorce.
I worked for almost ten years exclusively with rape survivors, incest survivors and women in abusive relationships. However, I do not participate in any legal processes; should any legal assistance be required, I refer to colleagues who specialise in that aspect of the work.
Abuse leaves scars that erode each and every level of personhood. The work I do with survivors of abuse is focused on the re-discovery, the re-claiming of the self. No-one who has suffered violation of the self is able to return to an original self. Selfhood and an understanding of human nature are both irrevocably changed once human cruelty has been experienced. However, I do believe that it is possible to use the changed understanding and knowledge to re-build a life, to create a self that, though wary and careful, is also able to love and to trust again. An integral part of this process is to find the skills to recognise emotional danger and the skills to protect against emotional danger; at the same time to find the skills to recognise the trustworthy, and to be open and loving to those who can be trusted.
Although my preferred method is long-term therapy, I also understand that it is sometimes necessary to focus on a specific problem in a very focused, practical way. I therefore frequently work with clients who need to find the most efficient ways to approach a divorce, a relationship or a work-related problem. In these situations, therapy is usually brief, concentrated and geared towards problem-solving.
I use both medical aid rates and a sliding scale. If a client does not belong to a medical aid, we negotiate a fee.
Registration Number: PS 0030988
Practice Number: 8618976