Consultant Clinical Psychologist: Peter Walker

Peter WalkerDr Walker provides therapeutic interventions for adults and children with a range of mental health difficulties, including Depression, Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dr Walker became an Associate Member of the British Psychological Society in 2012 and he is registered with the Health Professions Council as a Practitioner Psychologist.

Individualised treatments

A key aspect of Clinical Psychology is the training across a range of psychological theories and their research bases. Clinical Psychologists are trained in the principles and applications of clinical approaches such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Family Systemic approaches as well as Developmental and Social Psychology and Neuropsychology. As such, Clinical Psychologists are able to assess a wide range of distressing difficulties and importantly, they are able to consider the key factors that underpin the difficulties.

Picking the right treatment

Such factors might range from the subtle effects of a brain injury to the beliefs held by a family, or from the active imagination typical of middle childhood to issues that are currently outside the client’s awareness. With this range of knowledge to draw from, Clinical Psychologists are well suited to provide treatments that address the most relevant factors for the client and that meet their needs as an individual. All interventions are delivered with clear and realistic goals, a shared formulation and regular reviews to ensure a collaborative approach to treatment.

While many people with psychological difficulties recover spontaneously with time, relying on their own coping strategies and the support of those around them, for many there is a need for professional therapeutic intervention. There is a full range of approaches and theoretical backgrounds behind psychological therapies and some of these are explained below. However, at the core of all psychological therapies, and indeed to all services I provide, are the core principles of respect, compassion, clear shared goals, and collaboration.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) involves the collaborative and systematic evaluation and modification of the unhelpful thinking styles that can underpin many distressing emotional conditions. While one’s emotional responses are often viewed as an inevitable reaction to the current set of circumstances, the appraisal of the situation (i.e. the thinking) is often the bridge between situation and emotion. Thus identification and adaptation of the thought content (e.g. a belief that one is a selfish person) and the thought processes (e.g. a tendency to dismiss evidence to suggest that one is actually a caring person) can be effective in altering the thinking that triggers low mood and other emotionally distressing states.

At the heart of CBT is the premise that therapist and client are working as a team to objectively investigate the thinking and behaviour patterns underlying distress and to arrive at a joint understanding of the types of previous experiences that led to the development of these patterns. From these efforts, a working formulation is achieved from which treatment goals are negotiated. CBT comprises several techniques to address unhelpful beliefs such as recording of thoughts, evaluating the evidence for and against the beliefs and imagery exercises. In addition, there is a strong emphasis upon the client and therapist team setting behavioural experiments in order to test the accuracy of previously held beliefs and expectations.

Eye Movement Desensitisation (EMDR) is an evidence-based psychological intervention for trauma and other psychological conditions, including anxieties and complex grief. The intervention works on the premise that traumatic incidents are thought to be stored in the brain in isolated networks. Through the process of intrusive activations of these disturbing memories and then the subsequent avoidance of them, the traumatic memory networks are believed to remain isolated. In this way, people are typically left with a sense that the traumatic event is ever present and not in the past and that the traumatic event has usually left an altered and negative belief that they hold about themselves (e.g. “I am vulnerable”).

EMDR helps the individual to process the traumatic memories within a safe context. Eye movements are typically created by asking the client to follow the therapist’s hand, which moves from one side of their visual field to the other. Alternatively, bilateral movements (i.e. left to right to left etc.) are employed through hand tapping or other forms of stimulation that the client prefers. These movements are believed to work by keeping the client’s attention with both the traumatic memories and the safety of the present. In addition, the bilateral stimulation is believed to speed up the effective processing of traumatic memories.

Through this process, the client engages in a natural healing process in which the isolated memory becomes integrated with healthy aspects of the client. New perspectives and meanings often occur such as the spontaneous recollection of positive memories of the trauma (e.g. when help arrived or recalling a brave action) and shifts in the negative beliefs that have developed (e.g. from ‘I am vulnerable’ to ‘I am strong’). Often, EMDR helps people to fully feel that the trauma was something that, while very unpleasant, is in the past and is no longer part of their life.

Contact:

Peter Walker

www.compass-psychological.co.uk

pwalker@com-psy.co.uk

Tel. 0117 344 5101