What to expect

St. Johns WartPerson-centred herbal medicine may be something new for you, so here I give a full explanation of what you can expect if you decide to work with me. If you have had treatment from a herbalist before, you will hopefully get an understanding of my particular approach to therapy, one that works on many levels and is collaborative, occasionally challenging, but ultimately very rewarding.

The first consultation

One of the aspects of my practice that sets me apart from other therapists is the emphasis I place on our initial meeting, the first consultation. It is a 3-hour process, and its collaborative and exploratory nature sets the tone for all of the treatment that will follow.

The first 2 hours are our time together. After our introductions, we will begin with an in-depth exploration of each of your symptoms, discussing when they began, what was happening in your life at that time, the progression of your symptoms since then, what makes them better or worse, and any previous or ongoing treatment. If you have been prescribed medication or are using supplements, we will look closely at what you are taking and discuss whether you think it is helping, and whether you are experiencing any side-effects. I will also ask why you think you have developed the symptoms you have; this is a question that people are rarely asked, but the insight of my clients never ceases to amaze me when they are given the freedom to express their feelings, safe in the knowledge that their opinion will be highly valued. This is testament to our innate intuition and understanding of our own selves, and I will encourage you to pay close attention to your intuition as treatment progresses.

At this point I may already be starting to make some connections between your symptoms and be getting a sense of a potential strategy for treatment, but there is still a lot of important ground to cover. Next we will talk about any previous illnesses you’ve had, or periods of particularly good health, and how your health was when you were a child; for example, whether you were born by caesarean section, whether you were vaccinated, had allergies, or were given antibiotics. We then start a tour of all of the systems of your body, from your digestion to your skin, identifying any areas where you are particularly weak or strong, and picking up on symptoms that you may have forgotten or didn’t think worth mentioning. Everything is potentially relevant here. I will encourage you to talk honestly and frankly about your emotional health, your ability to deal with stress and cope with the peaks and troughs of life, and how this affects your energy and resilience.

We will then talk in detail about your diet, your food preferences and cravings, which foods you find easy to digest and which you find difficult. Diet is an important aspect of my work and, like your emotional health, is likely to be something that we continually revisit in our subsequent meetings. Next, we touch on the medical history of other members of your immediate family, to see to what extent your symptoms might be genetic traits and which are particular to you. We will spend some time discussing your occupation, how you choose to relax and how easy you find doing so, and your family relationships. Finally, there will be a chance for you to ask me any questions that you have.

By now I should have a good sense of the root causes behind your symptoms, will be ready to decide on the starting point for treatment and will make up your first bespoke herbal prescription, usually including some Bach flower remedies that you will choose yourself. We will make arrangements for our second meeting to take place in 2 weeks’ time. Then you will get to go home, possibly feeling a little drained from such a thorough discussion, but hopefully feeling optimistic and nourished from having been listened to so carefully, and having had someone’s complete attention for two hours, focusing on nothing but you. Perhaps it will be the first time that has happened to you, and that in itself can be healing.

The third hour of the initial consultation is my time to study what we have discussed and do some deep thinking about your case. I will research any drugs you are taking, check to see if any of your symptoms might be the side-effects of your medication or interactions between drugs, and consider which of those drugs could potentially be reduced in the future. I will make a long-term plan for your treatment, outlining which herbs I may wish to use at different points, and which areas of your body and mind are likely to need most attention, and in what order. I will consider the specific dietary recommendations that are most suitable for you, what you should be eating and what is best avoided for now. I will consider what forms of exercise are most appropriate for you, whether you might benefit from meditation, and whether you are getting (or allowing yourself) enough time for rest, relaxation and play. I may even think about the environmental toxins you are exposed to in your home and elsewhere, and how these might be affecting you. Then I will send you a comprehensive email detailing all of my thoughts, plans and recommendations for you to start thinking about and working through, and for us to refer back to in our subsequent meetings together. This is not a prescriptive plan that you must stick to – decisions on what to investigate and what doesn’t appeal are yours to make, as you know yourself much better than I do, particularly at this early stage. I will encourage you to research and develop your own strategies and ideas, and I won’t nag you to do certain things. However, if I sense that your resistance to something is significant then that resistance itself might become a topic for discussion at some point in the future. Our work together will be collaborative, and part of that may involve me challenging your opinions and perceptions about certain things, and of course you challenging my opinions and perceptions too.

That concludes the 3-hour initial consultation. As you can see, it is a very detailed and comprehensive process, and one which lays strong foundations for lasting improvements to the health of your body, mind and spirit.

The second consultation

The second consultation, like all of our subsequent meetings, lasts for 1 hour. This is a time to establish what changes or improvements the herbs have made so far, to discuss in depth the recommendations in my email plan and any thoughts, questions and ideas that you have at this stage. You may be starting to make changes to your diet or lifestyle, so we can talk about how easy you are finding this, and whether any alternatives to my initial recommendations might work better for you.

It is here that the real collaboration begins. By now you will hopefully be starting to gain some confidence in the process of treatment, and to feel energised, optimistic and inspired. While the initial consultation mostly involved me asking you questions, now you will probably have a lot of questions for me, and be keen to discuss your ideas and feelings. It is an exciting time!

Ongoing support

In the early stages of treatment, you are likely to be going through many changes. The herbs will be acting as catalysts for the improved function of your body and mind, while the various adjustments to your diet and lifestyle may be having a significant impact on your health.

You might be starting to become more aware of your true self, how your mind really works and how it interacts with your body, and the helpful and unhelpful patterns and habits that you have developed through your life. This can be an uplifting but also challenging experience at times. No-one likes to admit the extent to which their way of living, thinking and reacting to things has contributed to their illness, but this awareness is an essential step on the road to improved health. For this reason, I will meet with you on a fortnightly basis during the early stages of treatment so that we can discuss these new feelings, and I can reassure you that what you are experiencing is a completely normal and necessary part of the therapy.

As treatment progresses and a pattern of healing is established, you will hopefully feel more settled and sure of the process and will usually only need to see me once a month. We will still examine what is happening on a deep level and continue to develop insights into your condition, but my role in your health should gradually decrease in significance as you become less reliant on my input and support, and achieve greater independence, self-reliance and confidence in your new-found health and vitality. This is a sign that sustained, meaningful healing and growth is taking place.

Between consultations

I will welcome and encourage contact and discussion with you between consultations. You can contact me via email, and this can be an important way to bounce around ideas, feelings and thoughts, especially if changes are occurring rapidly and you are trying to make sense of a range of new experiences. If you are particularly engaged with the emotional aspects of treatment, email contact between consultations might be a fundamental part of your therapy. It is included in the cost of your face-to-face consultations, so there is no extra charge.