I’m Helen, an experienced and compassionate therapist working with children, adolescents, families and individuals in Bristol.
I offer open-hearted acceptance and curiosity and a safe space to explore what you need for yourself. In addition to my independent practice, I work for a fostering agency, supporting carers to therapeutically re-parent children who have experienced developmental trauma and attachment issues. Previous roles include: running a school counselling service, as a children and young persons’ therapist with Relate, and with charities the Place2Be and Family Counselling Trust.
Young or old, people have an innate wisdom that leads us to find a path to healing. Children I see in therapy often know exactly what they need to do – and set to work in the sandtray, or with clay, paint and storytelling that takes them quickly to the source of their pain, and a gentle route to healing, making sense of their world and their place in it.
This can be true for teenagers and adults too – although generally the older we get, the less comfortable we initially feel with play and creativity…so please be reassured there is no forced play here!
If exploring your world through talking is what works best for you, then that’s what we do. I work collaboratively with you to find a way of working that feels emotionally safe and supportive.
I hold compassion and hope for you, until you are ready to take them back for yourself.
“Oh no, I sound just like my father – and I swore I would never be that parent!” “It’s hard to love my child when they behave like this…they are pushing all my buttons.” Despondent parents and carers often come to see me with variations on these phrases. Somehow, it can still be the hardest thing to admit that parenting can be really tough – and sometimes not at all how we imagined.
My own experience as a parent, further training and work with foster, adoptive and birth families informs my approach.
I offer space and compassion to parents and carers who wish to reflect on their experience. This may involve exploring how your own experience of being parented influences your relationships today.
This can be a beneficial way of working on family relationships, opening up understanding and compassion – for yourself and your child – without bringing a child to therapy.
Sometimes, in consultation with parents/carers, we might decide that the best way to address family issues is through working with parent/carers and child together.
In these sessions, we focus on nurturing relationships through enhanced understanding and acceptance of each other’s experiences and feelings.
You can read more about this approach in the section on DDP below.
At the core of this relational and non-directive approach to therapy is the concept that people have a natural tendency towards growth and healing. My role is to create an emotionally safe space by offering genuine acceptance – where all your experiences and emotions are welcome and valued. This approach underpins all of my client work and holds true in my therapy room whether you are 5, 55 or 105.
To quote Carl Rogers, considered the father of person-centred therapy:
“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying: “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.”
Sandplay is a largely non-verbal therapy for all ages which some clients find can ‘reach the parts talking therapies cannot reach’.
During sandplay, clients use a selection of figures and miniatures to create landscapes and pictures in the sandtray.
This can be a gentle, and surprisingly powerful medium of self exploration and self expression, as well as a safe and contained way to work through difficult past experiences, including trauma.
“Often the hands know how to solve a riddle with which the intellect has wrestled in vain,” — CJ Jung.
DDP is an approach developed to support children to feel emotionally safe, accepted and understood by their parents/carers. In time, this can help children who have had a hard start in life to develop a greater understanding and acceptance of themselves. Created to meet the needs of children who have experienced developmental trauma, DDP is widely used to nurture attachments within foster and adoptive families.
DDP can be helpful for any family or relationship experiencing difficulties, as it opens up communication, and encourages people to respond to the emotional meaning behind behaviours that can feel challenging and confusing. You can find out more about DDP here: DDP Network – The home of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
People come to therapy for all kinds of reasons. These are some of the reasons people seek my support:
Making sense of behaviour
Fostering and adoption
Grief and loss
My therapy room is in Orchard Street, a quiet street tucked away in the heart of Bristol. It is easily accessed by public transport. There is on street metered parking, and there are several public car parks a short walk away.
Therapy sessions for individuals last 50 to 60 minutes, usually taking place at a regular time each week.
I usually recommend 90 minutes a week for DDP sessions.
My session rate is £60 per hour.
I also provide a limited number of concessionary spaces; contact me to enquire about availability.
Note that if you want to cancel an appointment I require 48 hours’ notice; otherwise you may still need to pay for any sessions missed. I accept payment by bank transfer.
Painting by Helen Crane
©2022 Helen Downing Therapy
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