Reza Ahmad Counsellor & Psychotherapist Online and in Bristol (UK)

How therapy can help

Therapy (counselling and psychotherapy) provides a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space for you to explore any areas of difficulty in your life. We explore whatever you choose to at a pace that is determined by you. This process is unique in each person's case and different kinds of support may be needed at different times. You may need support:

  • to navigate your way through difficult feelings, sensations, thoughts and behaviours
  • to understand their origins and access compassion for yourself
  • to explore and understand how your past experiences influence you in the present
  • to process and release painful sensations, feelings and out-of-date beliefs
  • to help extreme behaviours and impulses come back into balance
  • to discover and integrate new ways of seeing, being, behaving and relating

    Therapy can also support you to get in touch with your unique gifts and talents, to work through any inner blocks to offering and expressing those, so that you can live a richer, more meaningful and satisfying life.

    I have experience of working with a wide range of themes such as:
  • anger
  • bereavement and loss
  • family
  • illness
  • abuse (emotional, physical, sexual)
  • life transitions
  • work-related issues
  • loneliness
  • finding direction and purpose
  • identity
  • spirituality

    I specialise in the following areas:
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • trauma
  • low self-esteem
  • relationships including working with couples

    The difference between counselling and psychotherapy is related to the nature of the training for the practitioner. Psychotherapy training is more extensive, so generally it provides the practitioner the skills to work at more depth. Such work is usually longer-term. I have trained in both counselling and psychotherapy. I work for as long as is needed for you to experience the healing and change you are happy with.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Self and Parts

I originally trained as a Gestalt Psychotherapist and have since trained as an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapist which is now my main therapeutic approach. IFS works with the understanding that every person's psyche ('mind') consists of multiple parts or sub-personalities. For example, when we say something like “on the one hand I really want to do it, on the other, I'm afraid” we may be referring to two parts and the experience of in one moment inhabiting the perspective of one part, with its particular feelings, thoughts, beliefs, etc, and in another moment occupying the perspective of another part, with its (contrary) feelings, thoughts, beliefs, etc. It is natural and healthy to have many parts which form an internal system. A multiplicity of parts enables us to respond creatively to a wide range of complex circumstances. At the same time, who we each are at our core - our essential Self - is not a part: our essential nature is the experiential fact of our being, the pure experience of 'I am', the core subjectivity which is present in every experience. Our essential nature can never be hurt, harmed, diminished or lost: it is the indestructible essence of pure, open, ever-present, awareness. When our parts are integrated and in harmony with each other we are able to experience and express qualities that are a manifestation of our essential Self. These qualities include compassion, curiosity, clarity, confidence, calm, creativity, connectedness, courage and love, and are collectively referred to as Self-energy. However, whilst our essential nature cannot be harmed, in adverse circumstances parts of us can be hurt and overwhelmed resulting in trauma. The flow of Self-energy in our body-mind then becomes constrained due to the pain these parts carry and other parts that take over our inner life in an attempt to keep us safe. This constraint of Self-energy is like clouds filling the sky.

One-to-one. Clouds over the sun

Trauma and the protective internal system

Trauma can occur when we encounter adverse circumstances in which we are under either real or perceived threat. If we are unable to safely resolve the threatening situation part of us will feel overwhelmed. Consider a child who is repetitively shamed by a parent for crying; or an adult who is being assaulted. In circumstances like these it may be extremely unsafe to express particular feelings or needs (such as sadness, fear or anger), as this may elicit further negative reactions from the other person. However, other parts in our internal system can protect us by adopting various creative strategies to make sure the part of us that feels overwhelmed does not express itself. These protective parts, or protectors, try to keep us safe from harm by supressing and, in effect, separating the overwhelmed part from the rest of our system. This exiled part, or exile, feels abandoned and isolated, and gets loaded or burdened with unprocessed extreme feelings, sensations, emotions and beliefs (such as 'I am unlovable', 'I am bad', 'I am broken', 'I am stupid', 'I am unworthy' and 'I am not good enough'.)

Protectors are sub-divided into two categories, according to the types of strategies they use. Managers are proactive: they manage our lives in different ways in an attempt to prevent situations from arising that would trigger the unprocessed feelings of exiles. Firefighters are reactive: they do their best to shutdown, numb, distract and dissociate the feelings of exiles if they are triggered despite the efforts of managers. For example: a manager may seek validation from others by constantly looking out for the needs of others, in an attempt to counteract the pain of an exile that feels unworthy because of persistent criticism from a parent in early life; a firefighter may use alcohol because the feelings of intoxication cover up the intense unprocessed feelings of an exile that experienced a car accident.

The positive intention of protectors is not always obvious, especially when their activity is extreme and has substantial unintended negative consequences. Unfortunately there can be a variety of costs for this kind of adaptive protection. Protectors get stuck in their protective roles and feel the need to stay in control of the system long after the adverse circumstances have passed. Exiles long for connection and if they get the opportunity they sometimes flood us with their feelings, hoping to get attention from others. Generally, as a result of trauma, protectors (and sometimes exiles) become dominant in our internal system which limits our experience of Self-energy. It can be helpful to understand that trauma is ubiquitous - we all experience trauma of some kind or another in our lives, most commonly in childhood when we are most vulnerable. We can also inherit trauma that originated in our ancestral lineage (via epigenetic processes) or collective groups that we belong to (related to ethnicity, culture, sex, gender orientation, sexual orientation, social class, religious or spiritual beliefs as well as other factors).

Healing, Integration and Growth

The journey of therapy is one in which I support you to actually befriend those parts of you that you are struggling with by meeting them with curiosity, openness and compassion - qualities of an open heart and an open mind that emerge from your essential Self. The discovery that it is possible to access these qualities, even if you have experienced severe trauma, can in itself be profoundly impactful. When you meet your protectors in this way you can discover how they are trying to protect you as well as come to appreciate the heroic efforts they have made to keep you safe, even if they have been extreme in their strategies. If - and only if - your protectors come to trust that the Self-energy in your system can safely be present with exiles, it is possible to help exiles process and release everything they have been carrying, and bring them back into loving internal connection. Then protectors can let go of their fixed roles and be free to do what they naturally feel called to. The result is healing, integration and growth. Parts return to their unconstrained, unburdened state and their unique qualities and capacities are made available to you. Ultimately you become more Self-led as your parts gain trust in the flow of your Self-energy and no longer feel the need to dominate your inner life. This means that you are more able to think, speak and act in the world in ways that express your essential nature instead of expressing extreme or burdened parts.

One-to-one. Tree in the sun

It is not necessary for you to understand the theory of IFS in order to work with me. Nor do I ask you to accept everything I have expressed here as being true. If you have skeptical parts, you are very welcome to voice them and we can explore their concerns. In fact, in this approach all parts are welcome. I present some of the theory of IFS for the sake of those parts that may feel it is helpful to have some conceptual understanding of the approach. However, my role as a therapist is to help you befriend and relate with the incredible richness of your inner world, and discover for yourself what's true from your own direct experience.

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