Chris Cleave Therapy
I offer existential therapy, a healing process that goes deeper than off-the-shelf psychological therapies. It won't insist that you need to change the way you think or how you are. Rather, it will help you to navigate this increasingly difficult world as you are, in the full strength of your own existence.
Existential therapy unfolds in a series of conversations with a therapist who is philosophically trained to notice in a careful way. In turn, the therapist helps you to notice and reconnect with parts of you that can get shut down by life: your physical, social, psychological and spiritual possibilities. We will usually talk together for 50 minutes once a week, for as long as you find that helpful. People typically use existential therapy for between a few weeks and a year or two.
My clients usually come to therapy to overcome a current difficulty – perhaps a severe setback, a mental health collapse, a relationship breakdown, a serious illness, a bereavement, a recent or historic abuse, a betrayal, an unhappiness with their body, a dislocation of identity, or a sense of being directionless or stuck. When such difficulties damage our confidence that we know how to get through, this is an emergency in our personal existence. People sometimes call this an existential crisis.
Existential therapy addresses such difficulties by noticing who you are. It acknowledges your joys and your victories as well as the traumatic and sometimes unforgivable things that have happened to you. It understands that you have deep roots in families and cultures that hold wisdom and strength, but that sometimes carry trauma too. Therapy is about understanding how you can grow through current difficulty to live a life of your choice, within the arena of what is possible now.
Often people arrive with unbearable feelings of loneliness or depression, anger or anguish, anxiety or panic. These are natural and understandable reactions to life’s difficulties. Feeling like that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, and it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to always feel that way.
Existential therapy is about noticing the deep truths of our situation that those feelings are telling us.
I chose to train as an existential therapist after many years working as a novelist. I noticed I always wrote about recovery: the way (after a period of darkness) that we rebuild ourselves on the rubble of our dreams, and in doing so become more fully awake. I began to understand that novels – the ones I write, and the ones I read – have always been intended as therapeutic objects. I think the lived experience of literature, as well as my formal training, is the heart of how I work.
I hope this has given an idea of how I practice therapy. If it feels right, please do get in touch. If not, I wish you very well on your journey and I hope you will find the person you need. Don't give up – therapy can be an astonishing transformative process and there are lots of good therapists out there. We are all very different, and it's worth speaking with several practitioners to find the right fit. Trust your instinct: you will get a good idea of whether you could talk with a person.