Holistic Centre for Body, Mind & Spirit

A Meeting of Minds


Exploding the myth of the therapist’s couch and other misconceptions…

Generally, we view therapy as something of an American phenomenon mainly because of our consumption of transatlantic films and TV programmes. Therefore our expectation of how therapy works is clouded by the images we have seen and the obvious interpretation of such scenes. In reality therapy is often much more of a relaxed affair with less use of the therapist’s couch and the ‘interview’ style approach that such fiction scenes show.

At Anam Cara in Sutton Coldfield, Sonia Manning takes a more informal approach and her sessions take place in a relaxing, living room style space with huge comfy sofas. Interesting artwork provides an initial talking point and the room has a large open aspect that looks out onto the outside. So it is quite unlike the preconceived images we may have in our minds of a client lying prone on a chaise whilst the therapist takes notes, speaking occasionally in a controlled and modulated tone!

Sonia maintains that any practitioner worth their salt will create an environment that is safe and confidential. The door should be closed, the telephone off and no other outer distractions should be experienced by the client who then fosters that feeling of security and the freedom to open up. Once the room is properly set for the session, spontaneity and creativity can be encouraged. The environment is a solid ‘holding place’ where anything spoken aloud can be contained.

Sonia herself is easy to talk to, smartly dressed but approachable and not a white coat in sight! There is little chance to feel intimidated as the environment and Sonia together create a peaceful place where you feel it is easy to just be yourself.

“Talking things over with someone who you don’t know is so much easier as that person is totally detached from the situation and you won’t know them socially so you don’t feel judged in the same way a friend or relative might make you feel, however unintentionally” explained Sonia. A therapist isn’t going to share her thoughts about you with your friends. The therapist isn’t involved in your life so can share your dialogue dispassionately and objectively. He or she is also highly trained to understand human behaviour and so will not jump to assumptions, judgements or mindsets about you or your story/situation. You can bring things out into the open and say things you wouldn’t normally dream of saying aloud for all sorts of reasons. It’s the start of a very powerful journey.

The best chance for therapy to begin successfully is when the person seeking help has a respect and integrity for the work and takes it seriously. They must be solid in their commitment for undertaking therapy with a genuine intention to resolve whatever they are seeking help for. Even if they have no real sense of what the actual problem or issue actually is they just know they are not happy or settled in their lives. Above all, the client must be well enough to undertake therapy, work through it and feel the benefit.

Sonia’s training path has followed a mix of Eastern and Western cultures that means she has a traditional training but also draws on other techniques that may be beneficial. Sonia instinctively knows when to introduce other techniques to make the most of each session. A whole raft of skills can be drawn upon – body language, physical or emotional pain management, dream work, psycho-drama, inner child exploration, role play and so on. “I am led by the client, they always know best” she commented. This approach may seem quite unorthodox and Sonia is keen to communicate the holistic nature of her work and explain why her methods work well.

The word ‘holistic’ is used a lot in daily speech but what does it really mean? For Sonia, in the world of the body, mind and spirit, it means that there are no boundaries or cut off points. It brings everything together and treats a person as a whole being, from the inside out, from top to toe and also in relation to others around them. It is also about thinking and observing how our bodies and emotions react to certain things – why we physically and emotionally feel the way we do? We usually don’t tune in to our bodies, listening for signs and symptoms or understand our emotions on a more intimate level, it’s not something we are usually taught to do but it can be very valuable as we progress through therapy.

During the exploration of issues and problems, Sonia knows it is vital to be 100% with the client. She doesn’t make many notes as she feels this detracts from the connection she is establishing with them. By creating a strong connection, she firmly believes that the counsellor/client relationship benefits. “My clients have to know I won’t abandon them and that I’m there for as long as it takes” she continued. “It’s all part of creating a safe haven for confidences.”

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The Anam Cara Holistic Centre has been established to provide support to people who feel they need help in a whole host of areas. The centre is constantly investing in training, research methods and development to make sure all the practitioners are open-minded and up to date in their procedures and skills and can adopt a wider view to tackling client issues.

“There are all sorts of therapists across the counselling and psychotherapy spectrum” explained Sonia. “What’s important is to find out what the therapist’s professional approach is and see if you are comfortable with it. Some people like a more formal approach, others a more relaxed experience – I believe wholeheartedly that different things work for different people.”

“People come to see us for counselling and psychotherapy at Anam Cara for so many reasons and at different stages in their lives. They can be desperate, confused, raging or even suicidal. Some may simply be at a crossroads or stuck in some way and want to talk things over with someone professional and impartial” commented Sonia. “There’s always a specific point at which people decide enough is enough and then they turn to us, it’s a highly privileged position to be in and one we take very seriously. We often tend to react to our lives and the events in it until we reach a time when we want to take more conscious control of it. That’s where we come in” she finished.

So if you were understandably misled by TV images of therapy and all that it portrays, be prepared to open your mind and expect something just a little different.