Monica Max West
Counselling And Psychotherapy, Central London EC1 (Clerkenwell)
B.A. (Hons), M.A. (Dist) Psychotherapy, M.A. (Dist) Music Comp, Cert (Dist) Supervision
MBACP Senior Accredited
Counsellor and Psychotherapist / MBACP Senior Accredited Supervisor
Central London
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therapy and specialist services
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Therapy And Specialist Services


Why Counselling And Psychotherapy

Many people feel the need for additional support at some point in their lives. Talking through concerns with a trained professional can help people to understand themselves better and thereby find their own solutions to their difficulties. Issues that may bring people to seek counselling and psychotherapy include but are not limited to:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress
  • anger
  • bereavement and loss
  • relationship/family issues
  • identity
  • career
  • self-esteem and co-dependency
  • addictive or compulsive behaviour
  • a lack of direction in life
  • issues relating to childhood abuse/neglect
  • sexuality
  • ageing or illness
What Is The Difference Between Counselling And Psychotherapy?

Many people wonder what distinguishes counselling from psychotherapy. There is no universally accepted answer to this question and some practitioners do not distinguish between the two. However, one definition suggests that counselling is generally of shorter duration (3-6 months) and tends to focus on one issue or difficulty, whereas psychotherapy is generally of longer duration and may involve exploring a number of different issues which have existed for a length of time and/or are complex and inter-related. In psychotherapy, the development of trust in the therapeutic relationship over time enables a deeper exploration of the origins, meaning and consequences of life issues: people may use psychotherapy to address and modify longstanding symptoms or behaviour, and to understand how they have come to be the people they are; in addition, some people find psychotherapy to be a useful process in promoting their personal growth and development.

Both counselling and psychotherapy provide a place for people to talk through and explore their concerns. The process of counselling or psychotherapy leads people to a deeper understanding of themselves (feelings, thoughts and behaviour) and how they relate to others. Self-awareness and self-acceptance foster improved and expanded life choices, thereby improving emotional well-being. The role of a counsellor or psychotherapist is to help you to understand yourself and to find the life-path and choices that work best for you. Through listening without judgement and responding sensitively to you, my aim is to support you in your voyage of self-discovery and improved functioning in the world.


Choosing A Therapist

Because of the different types of therapy available, choosing a counsellor may be confusing. Research indicates that no one therapeutic approach is more effective than another; instead, the success of therapy seems to depend on the quality of the relationship you form with your counsellor. Hence, it is extremely important that you find a therapist with whom you feel sufficiently safe and comfortable, so that you can talk openly about what is on your mind and in your heart. It is also important that the therapist or counsellor possesses the skills, training and experience to help you with your current situation.

An Integrative Approach To Therapy

My own therapeutic approach is Integrative, primarily combining principles and theory from Psychodynamic and Humanistic schools (and also incorporating, where appropriate, Cognitive Behavioural and Systemic thinking). This means I adopt a flexible approach to my work, and respond to clients as individuals.

A Psychodynamic approach places importance on the link between the past and present (origins of issues), on looking at patterns in relationships and feelings (including within the therapy encounter itself) and in working symbolically and with the less conscious parts of self. A Humanistic approach emphasises the importance of the expression of feelings, and focusses on helping you to find your true or 'authentic' self, which may be hidden under longstanding life scripts or beliefs about what you 'should' do or be. A Cognitive Behavioural approach focusses on addressing counter-productive ways of thinking and behaving that may be inhibiting you from having the life you want. A Systemic approach recognises that we are each part of many groups - family, work, community - and that our own struggles and ways of being may be bound up with those around us.

My way of being as a therapist is also informed by my commitment to anti-oppressive practice, openness to individuals' right to define themselves and their lives, delight in the power and process of creativity, and awareness of the interconnectedness in all life.


What Happens In Therapy?

Therapy can be extremely effective in supporting people so that they may grow and change, become more self-aware and be more true to themselves. Through therapy, many people experience a new sense of freedom, peace, and well-being.

In therapy, you may:

  • Tell your story; access and define your truth (break silence, end secrets)
  • Get in touch with feelings (emotional release witnessed/accepted/encouraged by the therapist)
  • Gain insight; understand yourself better (your history and how this influences you now; your patterns of feeling, thought and behaviour; the significance and impact of your current situation)
  • Allow unconscious thoughts, feelings and memories to surface and be worked through, so that you are more aware and have more choices
  • Integrate these new realisations, feelings, and options
  • Make changes; address and shift unhelpful patterns (in thinking and behaviour)
  • Experience a nurturing relationship with the therapist (wherein you are encouraged to be yourself, and in which your whole self is welcome)
All of these elements may be facilitated and experienced through the protected time, space and relationship of therapy.
What You Can Expect From Me

Change in therapy may happen through the content (what is said), process (movement in feeling, thought and behaviour) and relationship (trust, safety, acceptance) of therapy.

What you can expect from me is:

  • Listening in an accepting, curious and compassionate way to your words; also attending to your unspoken communications
  • Encouraging you to speak, to tell your truth, to access your feelings; validating you
  • Wondering aloud with you; asking clarifying questions
  • Offering observations and making connections between different elements of what you have said
  • Inviting you to allow your hidden parts of self to be known, including any heretofore 'forbidden' thoughts, feelings, and secrets
  • Helping you to think through new ways of being and, where appropriate, challenging you to consider alternatives
  • Working together with you to clarify and identify goals
  • Teaching you about mindfulness (where appropriate)
Hypnotherapy (optional)

Hypnotism has been described as a state of physical relaxation (while awake) accompanied and induced by mental concentration. In hypnotherapy (under hypnosis), clients are able to focus intensely on a specific thought or memory, while blocking out all possible sources of distraction. Clients in hypnotic trance show an increased response to suggestions. As such, hypnotherapy can be used to target behaviours and beliefs that are unhelpful: hypnotherapy is a kind of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy insofar as it utilises and strengthens active imagination, expectation, appropriate attitudes, and motivation.

‘A hypnotic trance is not therapeutic in and of itself, but specific suggestions and images fed to clients in a trance can profoundly alter their behavior. As they rehearse the new ways they want to think and feel, they lay the groundwork for changes in their future actions’ (Deirdre Barrett, 'Psychology Today', Jan 2001).

I am trained to Certificate Level in Hypnotherapy and can offer hypnosis to my ongoing clients as an aid to eliminating unhelpful thoughts/behaviours and/or instilling/strengthening more functional thoughts and behaviours. For example, clients may wish to use hypnotherapy to prepare for specific events about which they are anxious, work on phobias, or address unhelpful behaviours (such as over-eating).

After a thorough assessment regarding the targetted issue, a hypnotherapy session involves a process of inducing and deepening a trance state in clients, during which I speak to them about their presenting issue, working with their unconscious mind to decrease distress and increase a sense of health, safety, pleasure, choice, aliveness and alertness. In hypnotherapy, clients remain awake and in control, but in a highly suggestible state: metaphorically, the therapist operates as a ‘back-seat driver’ while clients continue to ‘drive the car’.

Although I do not offer this as a 'stand-alone' service, where appropriate and agreed, hypnotherapy can be integrated into ongoing weekly therapy, and is conducted over two (50-minute) sessions: an assessment session and a hypnotherapy session. I also use hypnotherapy to teach clients self-hypnosis, which they can use at home at any time.

Specialist Service: Sexuality Counselling

For many of us, sexuality is a very important part of our humanity: our sense of our sexuality can ground us in our bodies, in our spirits, and can also be a very pleasurable way to connect to ourselves and others. If we grow into our sexuality in an emotionally and physically healthy environment, our relationship to our sexuality can be a joyful experience, full of ease and delight. However, if our experience of our sexuality is disrupted or damaged – through sexual abuse, homophobia (or other social prescriptions about what kind of sex is acceptable), sexism, cultural/media messages about what constitutes a 'beautiful' body, religious dogma or other negative experiences – we may develop more problematic relationships with our sexuality. Shame, secrecy, sexual shut-down, or compulsive behaviour may be just some of the results.

I have many years experience of working with clients whose sense of their sexuality has been damaged or disrupted through childhood or adult sexual abuse, through negative body image and negative messages about sex or sexuality, and through compulsivity. Counselling can help you to work through these experiences and build a healthier sense of your sexuality and new ways of relating sexually to others.

Specialist Service: Climate Crisis Support

In this time of Climate Emergency, you may have feelings of deep distress: anxiety, anger, hopelessness, despair, panic, guilt and other feelings. In addition, involvement with movements such as Extinction Rebellion may itself bring challenges, including participating in Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA). I can offer a safe and supportive space in which to explore and work with all of these feelings and experiences, including those related to any arrest, incarceration and court proceedings.

Specialist Service: Addictions And Compulsive Behaviour Counselling

Habitual, addictive, or compulsive behaviour can manifest in many ways: in relation to substances like alcohol, drugs and food; in relation to behaviours such as sex, gambling, shopping or exercise; and in relationships. When people’s relationship with these substances or behaviours – or their ways of relating to others – becomes addictive or compulsive, a painful cycle often ensues: an initial sense of feeling overwhelmed by powerful emotions; followed by engaging with the familiar substance, behaviour or relationship; and an aftermath of feeling self-disgust, anxiety or shame.

People who experience themselves as caught in an addictive cycle may feel powerless to stop: they may have difficulty being with intense emotions, and struggle with a sense of their own self-worth.

I have many years experience working with people with addictions, some of whom are engaged in 12-step fellowships and some of whom are not. I can support people to make lasting changes in their behaviour, find new ways of coping, and understand the origins of their addictive behaviours.

Specialist Service: Trauma Therapy (Lifespan Integration)

Adults who were traumatised as children while their neural systems were developing become ‘hard wired’ to interpret events through the pathways of these traumas, and therefore in a negative way. Defensive systems which are created in response to a hostile early environment continue to operate in the present, mostly out of consciousness, even when they are no longer needed. Adults who have been traumatised as children may continue behaving and feeling in distressing old patterns which are not helpful to the current situation and are sometimes harmful. Continuing in these repetitive and self-destructive patterns contributes to the person feeling worse and more hopeless. Adults who were abused or neglected in childhood also often have poor self-images and an ongoing internal dialogue of self-criticism or negative self-talk, along with chronic anxiety and/or depression.

Lifespan Integration (LI) is a new technique* which promotes rapid healing in adults who experienced abuse and/or neglect during childhood. It is a very gentle method which works on a deep neural (mind-body) level to prove to your body-mind system that it is no longer in danger. By connecting the implicit memory (body sensations) to the original traumatic event in neural integration, LI therapy can help to change patterned responses and outmoded defensive strategies and forge new neural pathways. New and more adaptive neural firing patterns replace old ones which were originally designed to defend against the trauma.

When working with LI, the therapist guides the client to imaginally re-visit a past memory, bringing into the past whatever is needed to resolve the memory. As part of this, the therapist repeatedly leads the client through time, from the past to the present, using a Time Line of scenes from the client's life. Because the brain does not distinguish between actual and imagined experience, the process of Lifespan Integration enables the client's neural system to bypass outmoded defensive neurological networks and spontaneously reorganise, creating new networks which are more useful and adaptive.

While I do not offer this technique as a 'stand-alone' service, it can be integrated into ongoing weekly therapy work. Because LI appointments benefit from slightly longer time frames, where possible, 50-minute sessions may be extended..

* Please note that while the efficacy of Lifespan Integration is well supported by anecdotal evidence, it is a new therapy and has not yet been fully or formally researched.

Specialist Service: Counselling For Musicians, Artists And Other Professionals In The Creative Industries

The acts of artistic creation and performance – in music, poetry, theatre, dance – are incredibly exciting, life-enhancing and fulfilling. In fact, expressing ourselves through creativity and performance may be one of the most fundamental human drives and may feel, for some artists, to be a vital part of their purpose and fulfilment in life. However, modern professional musicians and artists may also experience intense pressure to create and perform at consistently high levels under stressful conditions. Hence, the lives of performing musicians and other artists are sometimes beset with difficulties such as substance misuse (addictions), anxiety (including performance anxiety and worries about the competitive market), depression, stress, ‘writer’s block’, stage fright, burn-out, and conflict in working relationships.

With my combined expertise as a trained composer, performer and psychotherapist, I am in a unique position to understand and support performing musicians, artists and other creatives to overcome their difficulties and improve their creative output and ability to excel in performance. In working with performing musicians and other artists, I combine numerous techniques and skills, such as: directly addressing substance use/misuse (cognitive behavioural work); emotional exploration; work with imagery and past-present link-up.

Specialist Service For Psychotherapists And Counsellors: Clinical Supervision

Supervision offers a supportive and challenging space for counsellors and psychotherapists to reflect on their clinical practice, in order to maintain ethical and professional standards and enhance creativity, competency and efficacy in their work with clients. I have supervised counsellors and psychotherapists within the voluntary sector, NHS, adult education, training institutions and in private practice; I work with individuals at different stages of their professional development and across different theoretical orientations. My supervisory practice is based upon my regard for individuals’ own training and philosophy.


therapy and specialist services
my training and experience
practicalities and contact info