Frequently asked questions

Are you the right therapist for me?

That depends.

If you are just looking for someone to give you a bottle of medicine to ‘fix’ you, and are unlikely to want to think deeply about yourself or to consider making changes to your life where necessary, then I’m probably not the right therapist for you.

However, if you are open-minded and inquisitive about the underlying causes of your symptoms, are flexible to consider change and willing to embark on a programme of treatment that will be deeply rewarding and potentially lead you in unexpected and exciting directions, then it’s highly likely that we will work well together and you will see very significant improvements to your health. The clients I see who commit wholeheartedly to working with me often describe the process of treatment as a ‘healing journey’, one which can be transformative and profound.

What makes you unique to other therapists and herbalists?

I’m unique from other therapists and herbalists in a number of ways.

Firstly, I specialise in treating a few specific illnesses. These are:

• emotional problems, such stress, depression and anxiety
• chronic fatigue – such as chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as ME
• digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
• chronic pain conditions such as migraine and arthritis.

I specialise in working with clients with these conditions, and have a detailed knowledge of what causes them and the best approaches to treatment, so if you have similar symptoms and are the kind of person with whom I work best (as described in the answer to the first question on this page), then it’s highly likely that you will get an excellent outcome from treatment with me, and that the process of working together will be rewarding and enjoyable for both of us.

A second difference is the deep groundwork that is done during the 3-hour initial consultation process. We need 2 hours together in order to come to an understanding of the patterns of your ill health, the root causes behind your symptoms, for us to begin to develop a therapeutic relationship and to lay the foundations for genuine and sustained healing. The third hour of the initial consultation is a time for me to study your case in depth and to prepare a comprehensive programme of recommendations covering such aspects as diet, medication, exercise, lifestyle, meditation, and whatever other measures are appropriate for you. During the course of the treatment you are free to investigate those recommendations which most appeal to you, and I will encourage you to do research and bring your own ideas for discussion during our subsequent consultations.

Thirdly, I place great emphasis on the emotional and mental lives of my clients, even for those whose symptoms appear to be predominantly physical in nature. These aspects of health are often neglected in both mainstream and alternative forms of medicine, despite being the root causes of illness for many people. Much of my work involves helping my clients to reconnect their minds and bodies, to become aware of how intrinsically the two are linked, and how each can influence the other both positively and negatively. This is something that most of us know intuitively, but the orthodox approach to medicine has taught us to see them as separate entities, needing separate types of treatment. I am yet to work with anyone with an emotional problem who did not also have interconnected physical symptoms, and see very few clients who come to me with physical symptoms who don’t also have some kind of interconnected emotional issues. This is entirely normal and to be expected, but to treat one while ignoring the other is unlikely to lead to profound, lasting improvement to health.

A fourth difference is that, as a person-centred herbalist, I adhere closely to the principles of person-centred counselling, and this underpins all of my work. I will be committed to working with you in a way that is genuine, deeply empathetic, and free from judgement, and I will encourage you to take charge of your health, to explore your own interests, and to regard yourself with kindness and compassion but also an inquisitive sensibility.

How long does treatment usually take?

This depends very much on the individual case. Some of your symptoms may resolve themselves in a matter of hours, days or weeks, while others may take much longer. The conditions I specialise in treating tend to be complex and therefore require an investment in time so that they can be fully explored, to introduce meaningful changes at a pace that is appropriate for the individual, to give space for the unexpected and the peaks and troughs of life that inevitably occur. We should not be in a rush to get well - our lives are already rushed enough. Sometimes we need to sit with our pain or illness for a while, to listen attentively to what our bodies and minds are telling us, so that we learn to approach things differently in the future. True healing is a process of learning – learning about our qualities and unhelpful habits, learning what nourishes us or depletes our energy, and learning what we can change and what we must accept.

Contrary to their reputation, herbs can start to work quickly, but they are only one part of my work. Instigating changes to things like diet, lifestyle, exercise, medication, and how you interact with the world can take much longer, and these are equally important aspects of my therapy.

That said, I never prolong treatment unduly. I am usually the first to suggest that treatment is no longer necessary, that it has run its course and it is time for a client to go it alone (albeit with the odd supportive and reassuring email conversation with me, from time-to-time). It’s easy for some people to get attached to the ritual of taking the herbs and meeting with me for a chat, but prolonging treatment beyond the point at which it’s genuinely therapeutic is not healthy for either of us.

How do herbs work?

One of the great advantages that some herbs have over conventional drugs is their ability to permanently improve the function of the various organs of the body, even after someone stops taking them. For example, the herb wood betony improves the function of the nervous and digestive systems, goldenrod improves kidney function, burdock improves liver function, while elecampane improves the function of the lungs. These are the kinds of herbs that I mostly use in my practice, as they act as catalysts to further spontaneous improvements to health which can occur even after treatment has finished, and mean that my clients don’t have to keep using herbs indefinitely. Other herbs have a directly healing and repairing effect, such as oak, fenugreek and comfrey, which I use to repair damage to the colon in cases of ulcerative colitis, for example.

Herbs can also be used in a drug-like manner by treating symptoms directly, and while this is not generally the best way to use them, it can be useful during periods of drug withdrawal, for instance using aspen, birch and rosehips as natural anti-inflammatories when weaning clients off their conventional arthritis medicines. Herbs are extremely versatile.

Can I take herbs alongside medicines prescribed by my doctor?

In most cases, yes. I’ve been trained to prescribe herbs in conjunction with conventional medicines, and this can usually be done without a problem. However, some herbs and conventional medicines should not be mixed together, and I’ve been trained to recognise any potential interactions.

Can I stop taking my prescribed drugs and take herbs instead?

It’s typical for clients to come to me on a cocktail of drugs, and many are understandably keen to get off them. You will probably be able to reduce your drugs and perhaps eventually stop taking them altogether, but the process of withdrawing from medication needs to be approached with caution and circumspection. I would want to see that your condition has been stabilised through a combination of drugs and herbs first, and at that point, provided we are both in agreement, a detailed plan of drug withdrawal would be drawn up, focusing on one drug at a time and usually taking place over many weeks or months, so that your symptoms can be closely monitored and you have time to adjust to reduced dosages. This is necessarily a slow process and rushing things is likely to be counterproductive and potentially harmful.
The ideal scenario is that once drugs have been completely withdrawn then you would remain on the herbs until such time that these can also be gradually removed, leaving you either entirely or predominantly drug- and herb-free and coping well.

Do herbs have side-effects?

I use high-quality herbal medicines made from the whole of the plant, rather than extracts of particular constituents, and as such side-effects are rare and tend to be very mild. If you were to experience side-effects of any kind then I would usually recommend switching to a different herb or formula rather than persevering with a herb that is causing you discomfort in some way.

Is herbal medicine safe?

Herbal medicine represents one of the safest of all therapies, especially given its effectiveness. I use herbs that have a long history of use, making most of my own medicines from native Scottish plants and taking the utmost care at every stage of their production; this results in herbal medicines of unparalleled quality. I also purchase them from UK-based organic or biodynamic suppliers with the highest professional reputations.

How often will we meet for a consultation?

Our first few consultations will be fortnightly, then we will probably meet once a month, unless for some reason we need to meet more regularly than that.

I’m still not sure if seeing you is right for me. Can I contact you to chat about what I’m going through to help me decide?

Please do. Finding the right therapist is incredibly important, so please call or email me so that we can discuss your symptoms and any diagnosis that you have, your questions and concerns, and I can outline what my approach to treatment is likely to be in your case. I look forward to hearing from you.