Australia Counselling spoke with John Harradine about his journey as a counsellor and therapist.
John brings extensive corporate experience to his work with individuals and has an interest in relationship dynamics across a broad range of contexts.
Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about who you work with and the services you offer.
I am located at Cremorne on the lower north shore of Sydney. My focus is on individuals, relationships, groups and I also work with the LGBTI community.
My clients are varied but given my corporate background I tend to attract clients from that area. Even when working with individuals I find that relationship dynamics are a key component for most of my work, be it with a primary partner, children, boss, colleagues or staff and friends. I find that individuals often bring their partners along from the work that I do with them.
How did you become interested in counselling and working as a psychotherapist?
From the time I was 15 I knew I would end up in this field. Family disruption was the trigger and I knew there had to be a better way.
I have spent many years in corporate life with over 20 years in change and transformation work Australia-wide and internationally.
The inability of organisations to sustain desirable change that valued both business outcomes and individual authenticity led me to extend my business studies into counselling and psychotherapy and ultimately a Masters Degree in Social Ecology which composites psychology, sociology and quantum complexity theory with a view to understanding the deeper value systems that drive human behaviour and outcomes.
How do you believe people change and what supports long-lasting change?
People change when they are ready and they choose to. Often the paradigms they operate off keep them stuck in habits and beliefs that are no longer effective.
Unpacking and understanding belief systems, particularly the unconscious out of sight ones, is central to my work with clients.
Whilst the approach is initially cognitive, sustainable change occurs when new expanding belief systems are fully embraced and integrated by the client at a heartfelt and physiological level. The client then has new choices to hold for in challenging circumstances, rather than retreat to old ways.
Neuroscience has shown that 5% of our personal life strategies live in our conscious mind and 95% in our unconscious (Lipton, 2008). When there is a battle between the two the unconscious will always win. This is why behavioural change programs in organisations have failed (85% of them) as they focus on the conscious presenting behaviours. We don’t go up alone so having a tour guide on life’s journey who can help point out the scenery that the traveller doesn’t notice facilitates better life choices.
Tell us about your approach and why you believe the way you work is effective in helping people change
I take a client centred and led approach i.e. the client explores their own challenges and opportunities. My role is to bring awareness to the experience they are having as they dialogue about presenting issues and possibilities. I aim to assist them see for themselves what is working and what is not working for them.
A secondary role is to add some educative perspectives and frameworks on ways in which they might think about what they are presenting.
A third step is to deepen and anchor new awarenesses and strategies they wish to adopt. It is important to work holistically i.e. on physical, emotional, mental and for those who are open to it spiritual (not necessarily religious) levels. I take an eclectic approach using psychological modalities that seem to best fit the client. Developing a trusting and supportive therapeutic relationship with the client is central to assisting desired change they are seeking.
Tell us what a client can expect to experience in an initial counselling session with you
At the beginning of any session I aim to clarify what has brought them here and what they would like out of the session and our work together. I might ask them how they came to be here and if they know anything about what I do and what they might expect. I share some ground rules around confidentially and ask them if they have experienced counselling, coaching or therapy before.
Then I ask what has worked or not for them before in their previous experience. The underlying intention is to establish rapport and a safe environment for them to explore their needs and desires. The next part of the session is to have them talk about their situation and simply listen, making mental notes of things that might be sitting underneath their story with a view to pursuing some questions with them.
When they appear to have finished speaking, I’ll typically ask them how it has been right now to talk about this and bring any awarenesses forward they are noticing about their feelings and what that means for them. We then might work through an approach to move forward and check in with the clients experience of the first session. This sequence varies depending on how the client is responding. It’s an in the moment emerging process.
On a personal note, tell us something that you’re passionate about or love to do in your spare time
I own a boat and have an incredible sense of peace when on the water. I’m also a keen competition tennis player. A movie buff, the theatre and eating out are great pastimes. I am passionate about making a difference where I can, especially to family life and relationships.
I am passionate about my primary relationship, my children and living with joy spontaneity and enthusiasm. That means I am passionate about releasing anything that holds me back from that. To do that I hold for loving it all, the issues, the challenges, the opportunities and possibilities and most of all the present. What is that poem again? “The past is history, the future is a mystery; now is the present, which is why they call it a gift.”