Saturday, 22 December 2012

Merry Christmas from all at 96 Harley Psychotherapy

Christmas is upon us and, amidst all the welcome chaos of Christmas decorating and last-minute appointments, we're trying to make the time - sometimes successfully, sometimes not - to take inventory of the year that has been, in order to process the old and make preparation for welcoming in the new.

We've seen lots of new and exciting developments here at number 96 during 2012, with new therapists Sheron Green, Claire White, Roisin Golding and Renee Thurston expanding and enriching our therapeutic offering with their skills in trauma, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, NLP and child psychotherapy. Along with our many long-standing therapists, it's fair to say there isn't a psychological ailment we can't address on these premises, with sensitivity, experience and a vast amount of specialist knowledge.

As many of our clients will know, 96 Harley Street, as well as being a world class psychotherapeutic hub, is home to a a broad range of other medical specialities, among them dermatology, gastroenterology, gynaecology, physiotherapy and psychiatry. During 2012, we have also welcomed Rheumatologist Professor Hasan Tahir and Men's Health Physicians Malcolm Carruthers and Kam Mann, all distinguished experts in their fields.

This growth is consistent with our vision to create a multidisciplinary centre of healthcare excellence, in which healthcare professionals of every discipline will benefit from the cross-fertilisation of ideas that can only come from working under the one (magnificent!) roof. Many of our clients have reported they appreciate the convenience of having all their specialists gathered together, and we hope to build on the number and range of practitioners operating from the house in 2013.

Another development this year has been our decision to apply for registration with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to provide reassurance for our clients  that our services are accredited to the highest possible standard. This is expected to benefit our therapists as well, who, having met our exacting recruitment criteria, will enjoy full accreditation with the CQC under our auspices.

We're delighted to report the continued flourishing of our website, which, with the help of our SEO and  marketing experts continues to hold its own in the search engine rankings. We have noted an increase in the number of enquiries fielded through the site, just as we had planned. The website provides a powerful canvas for all of our therapists to use in promoting their services to the public at large, and we strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of this. One of our aspirations for 2013 is to persuade more of our therapists to make use of the website for promoting their workshops and other activities.

All that remains, then, is to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. We look forward to seeing you, all shiny and renewed, in 2013.

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Friday, 30 November 2012

Focus on burnout

As 2012 draws to a close, it’s natural to start turning our minds to the events of the past year – what we’ve achieved, how things have changed, significant occurrences, how we feel about the passing of time and the imminent approach of 2013.

It’s often at moments like these we reflect on the broad categories of our lives – relationship, job, health, family – and identify what’s working well and what’s not. In the spirit of such enquiry, this post we’re focusing on burnout, a condition gaining momentum in the public mind, and one which our therapists are increasingly encountering at 96 Harley Psychotherapy.

Which begs the question – what is burnout? Well, you’ll find various definitions, but basically it’s a state of depletion and exhaustion, caused by excessive and sustained stress in a particular role. It’s important here to distinguish what stress is too, since stress comes in many forms and is highly dependent upon individual factors. So while one individual might experience stress by being in work that is inconsistent with his or her values, another might experience it as a consequence of not being appreciated in an assigned role. Burnout is often associated with continued frustration and the perception (either real or imagined) that nothing will ever change, and that the situation is somehow hopeless.

Some of the symptoms of burnout include loss of motivation, a feeling of little or no control over work (or the area in question), a sense of helplessness, disengagement, isolation and a feeling that there is no worthwhile future. If that sounds like depression, you’re right – burnout is a kind of depression, and one for which, thankfully, a cause can be traced. Unlike stress, which we think of as a reaction to real-time pressure, burnout is a gradual process that occurs in response to pressure – physical, emotional and spiritual – over an extended period of time. With each small internal experience of ‘this isn’t working for me’ (combined with failure to address it) the momentum builds. Once it reaches the critical stage, there is no turning back.

Early warning signs of burnout include:
·          Physical tiredness – feeling tired a lot of the time, but especially when undertaking the role in question
·         Loss of motivation – where once the role may have inspired, now there is a heaviness associated with it and resistance to doing it
·        A decreased sense of satisfaction – and a diminished feeling of accomplishment when undertaking the role
·        Increased negative thinking – in particular, self-criticism and creeping despair about the future
·        Loss of concentration – where once the job was relatively easy, it is no longer taken in one’s stride, but associated with procrastination and inefficiency

By intervening on these symptoms, it is possible to ‘turn the ship round’, which many people do. But sometimes, the reality is, it's too late. This ‘too lateness’ can sometimes be absolutely necessary to break the pattern of passivity, the continued unwillingness to listen to the internal voice, now grown hoarse from repetition. Sometimes we are forced to stop, because of physical, mental or emotional breakdown. We literally have to step aside.

When this happens, there are many positive actions you can take. The first is to commit to taking time out, telling yourself that you have now reached breaking point and you are going to give yourself time to recover. It will be necessary to limit the number of activities you undertake and to rest a great deal. 

The second is to get support, perhaps from a counsellor and/or, if possible, from others who have experienced burnout. The tendency with burnout, because of depleted energy reserves is to isolate. While it is necessary to cut back on the activities you have been doing which led to the burnout, some activities will be supportive, such as reaching out to others. Talking to the right people about whatever it was that made you believe you had to keep going at all costs will be vital too.

When you are in this surrendered state and beginning to process some of the feelings associated with breaking down, a time will come when you will need to address what it is that isn’t working in your life and consider taking actions that are more consistent with your aspirations and aptitudes. At this point many discover the great gift of burnout – and begin to see it as a necessary development for getting on track with our true life purpose.

Sometimes burnout will be a signal that you need to change jobs or change career altogether. Sometimes it will be the catalyst for changing the way you do what you do and having you realise that, actually, you are on track. No matter what, the forced life appraisal that comes about as a result of burnout can be a major turning point and the beginning of a remarkable new phase of growth and productivity.

If you think you may be affected by burnout and would like to speak in confidence to one of our therapists, please browse our therapists section (details here) or, if you would prefer, contact the practice manager (details here) who may be able to point you in the right direction.

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Counselling in (neoclassical) style

Patients of Dr Robin Lawrence are in for a treat. For those who are unfamiliar with the Grade II listed house at number 96 Harley Street, it is arguably a national treasure, showcasing the superb work of Robert Adam (1728- 1792), the Scottish neoclassical Architect who was foremost of his day. Adam reserved some of his finest work for the consulting room into which Robin now moves (first floor rear) and you'll see evidence of his sublime craftsmanship in the ceiling frieze, parquet flooring and dramatic window design (the photograph above is of the ceiling of the adjacent room at the front of the house).

But enough about Robert Adams. Robin Lawrence is also engaged in his own form of craftsmanship - the craft of freeing mind and hearts with the aid of his own particular skill, psychiatry and counselling/psychotherapy. Robin currently divides his time between seeing private patients at 96 Harley Psychotherapy, and giving free consultations to patients at Holy Trinity Brompton in Kensington and the homeless at St Augustine's, also in Kensington. He is currently undertaking an MA in Theology.

To read more about Dr Lawrence's work interests and specialities, please visit our website Or, if you'd simply like to visit his office to ogle one of the most beautiful, historic interiors in London, contact the Practice Manager and we'll see what can be arranged!

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Friday, 16 November 2012

Introducing The Relationship Group at number 96

Communication is vital to building healthy relationships, on that everyone can agree. The Relationship Group at 96 Harley Psychotherapy is one of the psychotherapeutic community’s best kept secrets, offering, as it does, a weekly encounter with powerful group psychotherapy for those struggling to maintain loving communication within relationships of all kinds.
Led weekly on Thursday evenings by Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist Dr Robin Lawrence or Psychotherapist Sue Sutcliffe (the pair alternate the co-ordinating role), The Relationship Group enables individuals whose budgets may not stretch to individual psychotherapy to access the skilled intervention of two of the UK’s top psychotherapists at a world-renowned London address.
The sessions work on a bidding system, whereby individuals arrive on the night and place their ‘bid’ for a topic they’d like to have addressed. ‘Even if your bid is unsuccessful, the system works for everyone, since topics generally apply to everyone and everyone gets to hear what they need to from participating in the work of others’, says Tom Jones, Practice Manager at 96 Harley Psychotherapy, who takes bookings for this increasingly popular group.
Among the topics discussed are healthy boundaries, speaking up, respect for privacy, personal responsibility, commitment, finding common ground, cultivating support systems outside the relationship, negotiating disagreements and what constitutes a healthy relationship.
The Relationship Group starts at 7pm and runs for an hour, at a cost of £35 per session. If you would like to attend, please speak to Tom Jones (details here). 96 Harley Psychotherapy also operates a low cost psychotherapy service, staffed by supervised junior therapists, making access to quality psychotherapy affordable to most, consistent with the practice vision.

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

East meets West at 96 Harley Psychotherapy

Traditional Chinese Medicine has long been known as a powerful approach to healing, and it is only in relatively recent years that the West has begun to embrace it with the enthusiasm it deserves. As verification of its efficacy increasingly satisfies the Western appetite for evidence-based outcomes, there is little disputing its relevance and value among today's spectrum of treatment options. And there are few practitioners in the United Kingdom with greater knowledge and experience of one of the best known pillars of this approach, acupuncture, than Roisin Golding, one of our new therapists at 96 Harley Psychotherapy.

Roisin has been working as an acupuncturist for over 25 years and has literally written the book on acupuncture, with a textbook for practitioners and many published articles to her name. She is also a Master Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, which she uses as an alternative to acupuncture, depending on the patient and the condition.

NLP is about learning the language of the subconscious mind and having it work for us instead of against us. Like acupuncture, it works naturally, with integration of the whole person at the heart of its ethos. By working with NLP processes, Roisin teaches patients to improve communication with their inner selves and, by extension, with family, friends and colleagues. She sees patients with a broad range of presenting difficulties, including post-traumatic stress, phobias, eating disorders and those feeling stuck in their lives. With specialist skills in the Fertile Body Method, a technique which helps individuals with issues surrounding fertility, there is little that cannot be treated by the repertoire of skills Roisin brings to the practice.

For more about Roisin's background, interests and services, visit, where you will find the North, South East and West of psychotherapeutic excellence!

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

We're opening the door to kids!

Source: National Children's Bureau

We love kids at number 96, so we're delighted to introduce one of the latest additions to our psychotherapeutic team - Renee Thurston, a highly qualified Child Psychotherapist.

Renee specialises in helping infants, children and adolescents, as well as their parents, families and carers, with a wide range of mental health difficulties, including ADHD, autism, eating disorders and challenging behaviours of all kinds.

Tavistock trained, Renee has been involved in the assessment and treatment of children with psychological difficulties for over 20 years. Alongside her clinical outpatient work she has spent a great deal of time in hospital neonatal units and school nurseries, amassing a vast amount of experience working with children at the younger end of the age spectrum.

Renee works with many different types of families, including single parents, blended families, separated families, same sex couples, IVF families and their wider social networks. Her treatment interventions may be short- or long-term, involve family, group and/or parent-child psychotherapy and deploy psychodynamic, cognitive bahavioural or other evidence-base techniques. It very much depends on the historical and developmental processes that have shaped the young person concerned, and there are few therapists more qualified than Renee to accurately assess patients'  needs.

You can find out more about Renee at, and in the meantime, we'll be stocking up on soft toys for our cosy waiting room which you can preview here!

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sensations change brain connections even in the ageing brain

ScienceDaily (May 24, 2012) — Despite a long-held scientific belief that much of the wiring of the brain is fixed by the time of adolescence, a new study shows that changes in sensory experience can cause massive rewiring of the brain, even as one ages. In addition, the study found that this rewiring involves fibers that supply the primary input to the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for sensory perception, motor control and cognition. These findings promise to open new avenues of research on brain remodeling and aging. Published in the May 24, 2012 issue of Neuron, the study was conducted by researchers at the Max Planck Florida Institute (MPFI) and at Columbia University in New York. "This study overturns decades-old beliefs that most of the brain is hard-wired before a critical period that ends when one is a young adult," said MPFI neuroscientist Marcel Oberlaender, PhD, first author on the paper. "By changing the nature of sensory experience, we were able to demonstrate that the brain can rewire, even at an advanced age. This may suggest that if one stops learning and experiencing new things as one ages, a substantial amount of connections within the brain may be lost." The researchers conducted their study by examining the brains of older rats, focusing on an area of the brain known as the thalamus, which processes and delivers information obtained from sensory organs to the cerebral cortex. Connections between the thalamus and the cortex have been thought to stop changing by early adulthood, but this was not found to be the case in the rodents studied. Being nocturnal animals, rats mainly rely on their whiskers as active sensory organs to explore and navigate their environment. For this reason, the whisker system is an ideal model for studying whether the brain can be remodeled by changing sensory experience. By simply trimming the whiskers, and preventing the rats from receiving this important and frequent form of sensory input, the scientists sought to determine whether extensive rewiring of the connections between the thalamus and cortex would occur. On examination, they found that the animals with trimmed whiskers had altered axons, nerve fibers along which information is conveyed from one neuron (nerve cell) to many others; those whose whiskers were not trimmed had no axonal changes. Their findings were particularly striking as the rats were considered relatively old -- meaning that this rewiring can still take place at an age not previously thought possible. Also notable was that the rewiring happened rapidly -- in as little as a few days. "We've shown that the structure of the rodent brain is in constant flux, and that this rewiring is shaped by sensory experience and interaction with the environment," said Dr. Oberlaender. "These changes seem to be life-long and may pertain to other sensory systems and species, including people. Our findings open the possibility of new avenues of research on development of the aging brain using quantitative anatomical studies combined with noninvasive imaging technologies suitable for humans, such as functional MRI (fMRI)." Max Planck Florida Institute (2012, May 24). Persistent sensory experience is good for aging brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2012, from­ /releases/2012/05/120524123209.htm

Friday, 25 May 2012

Can Depression be treated without medication?

Over the next few weeks I will explore the possible approaches to the treatment of depression without prescription but before we get into that I want to look at what depression is.

Clinical depression is a medical syndrome, it is the association of a cluster of symptoms which happen together too often for this to be a chance occurrence; it is common and it is serious and it is entirely treatable. The most important symptoms are biological: Loss of sleep (particularly early morning wakening) - occasionally lethargy and excessive sleep.  The mood on wakening is often changed - you make wake with a start (suddenly alert) and then the hours before breakfast are filled with negative thougts, morbid preoccupations and dread - or  you may wake with the experience of not having been rested by sleep.  Loss of appetite (especially if associated with weight loss) - or more rarely; increased appetite with weight gain.  Change of bowel habit (constipation or, in the over anxious, intestinal hurry) Loss of libido (a decease in sexual desire) - some women may have menstrual changes or even a cessation of normal cycle There may even be a symptom known as psychomotor retardation in which everything a person does or says is slowed down - in milder cases this can manifest as a subjective experience of an increased effort in order to achieve anything "getting out of bed is like climbing a mountain." The body typically is afflicted by aches and pains - musculoskeletal in origin. There is a typical headache which is described as having a tight band around the head (like wearing a hat which is too tight) The psychological symptoms include feeling helpless, hopeless and pointless - and it may get so bad that you feel worthless or even so bad that suicide becomes a constant preoccupation.

 If this describes you - go and see your doctor - this is an illness, it is a serious illness and it is completely treatable.

Dr Robin E Lawrence MRCP MRCPsych

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Healthy marriage interventions: A boom or a bust?

Healthy marriage interventions: A boom or a bust?

Training our Brains to see Ourselves in a More Attractive Light

— Researchers at the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology have designed a programme called Mírate bien (Take a good look at yourself). It is a tool designed to enable us to learn to love our bodies and faces; and to improve our physical self-concept. Initiatives of this kind are routinely applied at educational establishments and high schools, but in this case there is a difference. The students participating in the programme are not asked to do any kind of physical activity. It is the cognitive side that has to be trained here: to restructure our perceptions so that we have a more realistic awareness about our image. Inge Axpe is one of the researchers who has worked on the design of this programme, and has submitted a thesis in which she provides details about this and about the pilot programme carried out using it at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). It is entitled Diseño y evaluación de un programa para la mejora del autoconcepto físico (Design and evaluation of a programme designed to improve physical self-concept). She has also had papers published on it, for example, in the journal Revista de Psicodidáctica. First of all, 21 judges -- eleven lay judges and ten experts -- undertook to evaluate and validate the programme, which was later applied to 813 students. 495 of them were the active part of this experience and the rest were the control population. In these cases students in Primary or Secondary Education tend to be worked with, but this initiative is different in this respect, too, since it was students at the University School of Teacher Training in Leioa (Bizkaia, Basque Country) who were studied. After all, it is they who will be the teachers of the children and teenagers of the future. Axpe believes that they need to be given practical classes before anything else to help them to improve their own physical self-concept. "That way they get to know all the variables relating to this matter and become aware of how important the variables are for young people, and how, as future teachers, they will, in turn, be able to help the youngsters work on them." Getting to the root of the problem Axpe mentions eating disorders as an example to explain what the cognitive perspective consists of. For example, a young person with bulimia may be attractive and do sport, yet have a very low physical self-concept. The programmes that tend to be applied in schools encourage physical activity and a balanced diet, which is of no use whatsoever in this case: it is no use at all telling this young person that he or she has bulimia and that it is not healthy. It is an internal problem, and to get to the root of it, the inadequacy of the approach has to be focused on, not the eating disorder itself. But how does one go about this? "It is no easy task, because these thoughts are deeply ingrained, but there are activities that allow them to be presented: one needs to get over to the young people the idea that we tend to interpret information in a very specific way. For example, we are affected by the things we are told externally, but the impact depends on our interpretation. Young people need to know that we have these tendencies, and that if we do not try to change them, we won't be able to change anything else." Procedure So the programme is divided into various stages: physical activities, healthy habits, external influences, etc. The working procedure is similar in each of them. First of all, it is about trying to awaken the interest of the students through the reading of some texts, and questions are put to them to encourage them to reflect. After that, for example in the physical activity phase, they need to say whether they do sports; in other words, to determine their situation within this stage. After that, the programme displays a list of unsuitable behaviours that seek to build the awareness of the young person through simple examples. As Axpe explains, a good example of inadequate thought is the tendency to generalise the defects: "That is the case of someone who thinks that his or her nose is too big, and when generalising this in an exaggerated way, says he or she is ugly. We offer them alternatives: we tell the young person that we should try and change that, and that he or she may not be happy with his or her nose, but he or she does have some lovely eyes." In short, this programme aims to bring about a cognitive restructuring and facilitate modifications in one's self-concept. According to this pilot experience, the students participating in the programme display signs of improvement in their physical self-concept. Statistically speaking, these early results are not enough to assert this, but there are differences that are worthy of note. As Axpe points out, the programme has shown its potential as a tool for building awareness about the implications of an inadequate physical self-concept, the variants that affect it and the possibility of changing it. She thinks that including tools of this kind is an essential component in the training of these university students, who are studying to become teachers. And she believes that this programme can also be applied to children and teenagers, as long as it is adapted: "It would need adaptations for all the ages. That is in fact our aim: to shape it, adapt the materials, and evaluate them as they are implemented."

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

Are you familiar with the DSM? Basically, it's the Psychiatrist's 'bible', a list of mental health conditions for which treatment can be prescribed. The fifth edition is currently being compiled by a panel of Psychiatrists in the United States and it's controversial - because of the questions it raises about what a mental disorder is and at what 'symptom' level individuals are eligible for medication. Radio 4's Today Programme this morning hosted an interview between one of the Psychiatrists on the panel and a UK spokesman (David Kupter), who was giving voice to the ground swell of disquiet about proposed new inclusions in the fifth edition. Watch this space for more about  'Disruptive Mood Regulation Disorder' (or temper tantrums) and 'Mild Neurocognitive Disorder' (read age-related forgetfulness).

Introducing Sheron Green, Integrative Psychotherapist

Welcome to the New Year (a little belated, but better late than never!). With it has come all manner of new beginnings, not least the arrival of Sheron Green, who brings her 11 year-experience in the treatment of trauma and addiction to enrich the 96 Harley Psychotherapy community. Sheron is particularly interested in the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) for the treatment of trauma-related symptoms, but also integrates Schema Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Systemic Family Therapy and the psychodynamic, gestalt and transpersonal approaches. She has most recently worked in Nairobi, Kenya, where she set up her own private practice and lectured on the MA Counselling Psychology Programme at the United States International University. You can read more about Sheron's practice and experience in the 'For patients' section under 'Psychotherapy' - follow the link to 'Our therapists'. Discover more about Schema (life pattern) and Mindfulness- Based Cognitive Therapy, also in the Psychotherapy section - follow the link to 'Types of therapy'.

Written by Jacqui Hogan