MysticMag has the pleasure of chatting with Shelagh MacFarlane, a highly regarded psychologist who brings compassion, expertise, and a holistic approach to her practice. With a deep understanding of the human mind and behavior, Shelagh offers a safe and supportive space for individuals seeking personal growth and healing.
What can you tell us about your own personal journey?
I grew up in a dysfunctional family where my father’s struggles with alcoholism and depression created a challenging environment. As the only child, I often found myself suppressing my emotions, as my mother was preoccupied with managing my father’s issues. These circumstances led me to develop an eating disorder and suffer from low self-worth. Fortunately, I sought counseling, and the support I received from my therapist was truly transformative. It sparked a deep desire within me to be there for others, to help them navigate their pain and find greater fulfillment in their lives.
Although I had a successful and fulfilling career as a professional musician , my calling shifted when I realized my true purpose lay in supporting others on their healing journeys. My personal experiences with addiction, self-worth, and overcoming obstacles propelled me in this direction, and I haven’t looked back since. I am driven to share my story and offer guidance to others, letting them know that there is a way forward, and that I am here to support them through their own struggles. Your approach as a counseling psychologist is described as integrative, incorporating various modalities and techniques. Could you explain how this integrative approach benefits your clients and contributes to their healing and growth?
ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), Gestalt techniques, inner child work, visualization, mindfulness, and somatic healing are among the modalities you utilize. How do these different approaches complement each other in providing holistic support to your clients?
I strongly believe in the power of integrating different therapeutic approaches because it allows for a more comprehensive and tailored approach to helping clients. While some psychologists strictly adhere to one specific approach, I find that having a diverse set of philosophies to draw from enhances my ability to support my clients effectively.
Each client is unique, and by utilizing various modalities, I can address their specific needs and challenges. For example, if a client is feeling stuck in their life, I might incorporate values-based exercises from acceptance and commitment therapy to help them gain clarity and move forward. On the other hand, if a client is experiencing emotional charge or struggles in their relationships, I may explore inner child work and trauma through compassionate inquiry.
By not limiting myself to a single modality or philosophy, I have a rich toolbox from which to choose and adapt to best serve my clients. These approaches, although diverse, synergize and complement each other, creating a cohesive therapeutic experience. I have found immense benefit in this integrated approach, allowing me to provide clients with a holistic and personalized form of support.
The common thread that unites all these therapeutic approaches is the emphasis on living authentically and exploring our true selves. Instead of seeking external validations or filling the void within us with material possessions, these modalities guide us towards reclaiming and integrating all the fragmented parts of ourselves. They invite us to embrace our authentic nature and live in alignment with our values and purpose.
Central to these approaches is the practice of being fully present in the moment, cultivating mindfulness and awareness. By embracing the power of presence, we can deepen our understanding of ourselves and experience a more fulfilling and connected life. Living authentically and with presence serves as the foundation that unifies these approaches and allows them to work synergistically together. It is through this integration that we can truly embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and personal growth.
Personalizing therapy to the needs of each individual client is a core aspect of your practice. Can you share an example of how tailoring your approach to an individual’s specific needs has made a significant impact on their healing journey?
One example that comes to mind is the approach I take in understanding and building a relationship with each client. It is crucial to recognize that many individuals, including myself, have learned to suppress their emotions as a coping mechanism from a young age. This often leads to a disconnection from their inner truths and emotions, primarily residing in their heads. In such cases, I initially focus on engaging with the client’s mind by sharing relevant research and knowledge related to their experiences.
This approach allows them to intellectually understand and process their situation without overwhelming or retraumatizing them. Once they have reached a point of comprehension and acceptance, we can gradually delve deeper into exploring their emotions and bodily sensations. However, it’s important to note that this approach varies depending on the client. Some clients may already be deeply connected to their emotional and somatic experiences, having already worked on their inner child and suppressed pain. In these cases, we can immediately shift our focus towards addressing their needs at a somatic level.
Ultimately, I tailor my approach based on the client’s unique circumstances, fostering a strong therapeutic relationship and adjusting the pace and direction of our work according to their comfort and progress.
Do you incorporate elements drawn from different schools of psychological theory and evidence-based therapies and if so, how do you ensure that these elements work together cohesively?
I don’t mean to sound vague or whimsical, but intuition plays a significant role in my work. I have developed a deep trust in my intuition, and I am incredibly grateful to see how well all the modalities I use synergize together. Sometimes, instead of relying on conscious thought, I simply tune in and follow the intuitive sense of which direction to take. It’s a natural and intuitive process that has evolved over my 17 years of experience.
There are moments when I find myself not entirely in my head, but connected to a deeper knowing. When clients ask me to repeat something I’ve said, I may not recall the exact words, but I know that what flowed out was genuine and guided by my intuition and the wisdom I’ve gained through my journey. It’s a humbling experience, and although there are times when I can’t remember the precise details, I trust that whatever emerges is aligned with my intuition and backed by my extensive experience.
What advice do you have for those seeking help and counseling?
It is completely okay to feel a sense of shame or embarrassment about certain aspects of our lives or experiences. In fact, it is a natural response that many of us go through. We often carry the belief that we should be able to handle everything on our own, but the truth is, we need each other. Human connection and community play a vital role in navigating life’s challenges. When we open up and share our struggles, we often discover that others have gone through similar situations. This realization can be incredibly healing and comforting, as it reminds us that we are not alone in our journeys. By reaching out and connecting with others, we find support, understanding, and the opportunity for collective healing. It is through these connections that we can truly thrive and navigate life’s ups and downs together.
If you would like to find out more about Shelagh MacFarlane, visit https://www.shelagh-psychologist.com/