Australia Counselling member Marg Ryan is a Certified Somatic Psychotherapist, Trauma Specialist and Couples’ Counsellor.
Marg has close to a decade of experience of providing vibrant, progressive, personalised psychotherapy. She help singles and couples move out of pain towards resilient mental and physical health.
Marg uses safe, effective and gentle therapeutic approaches that offer choice and empowerment and help you move towards greater wellbeing and health.
Tell us a bit about your practice – where it is, who you work with and the services you offer.
I’m a Certified Somatic Psychotherapist, Trauma Specialist and Couples’ Counselor.
I’ve got a Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Education, a Masters of Organisational Psychology, a Clinical Diploma in Somatic Psychotherapy, and did my specialist course in couple’s therapy at Relationships Australia.
At the moment I’m running two practices, one in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne in Caulfield, and the other down on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula.
A lot of my work centers around individuals and couples who feel emotions very intensely, to a degree most other people may not understand.
They’ve probably faced some deeply negative experiences in their past, and they live high-stress, sometimes grueling lives in their present. More often than not, they’re also struggling from physical pain (headaches, stomach aches, etc.) and possibly addiction (to food, drugs, or alcohol) as well.
A lot of their personal struggles began in their childhoods – either they felt unsafe, unwanted, or some combination of the two. So there are years of challenges to work through. But I really, genuinely love helping people learn to handle these heavy stories and experiences in a proper and healthy way, so they can feel and deal with their emotions.
It’s all about helping them get unstuck, and enhance their sense of self. They learn how to manage anger. They learn how to trust again. And as a result, they grow and develop in ways that may not have been possible before.
Guiding my clients and their significant others work through all of that so they can be happier, more fulfilled people – to become better partners, parents, and human beings – is an incredible experience.
Why do you specialise in these particular areas?
In my earlier days, I had a few personal negative experiences with more traditional healing modalities. So, I started to explore other disciplines… and came across somatic psychotherapy.
What makes this approach so cool can be found in the word itself – soma is a Greek word meaning “the living body”. So this form of therapy recognises and explores thought, emotion and bodily experience.
It just made sense to me. The more I learned, the more I felt like I’d “come home”.
I had a challenging childhood. My parents weren’t able to provide the sense of safety and security I needed as a kid – so my internal, physical fear “alarm system” would go haywire any time I felt threatened. I had trouble letting go, and releasing people and things that no longer worked for me.
Somatic psychotherapy really turned things around for me. I think because it sees and taps into that physiological response, and can teach us to recognise the hold those sensations have over our actions. From there, we can start to unravel, and ‘un-learn’ those tendencies. It’s really effective stuff.
And then there’s my second specialty, trauma.
I became interested in trauma mostly because of the numerous misadventures I had working through my own personal history. In a way, I’m thankful for the rough patches in my life, because they give me fantastic insight, and really help me bring more compassion, empathy, and understanding to the people I work with.
And, as for couples? Let’s see..
To put it plainly, I kicked off those studies because I’m absolutely fascinated by relationships.
Helping two people who are so closely intertwined re-learn how to listen, and hear each other again, so they can work on their problems and be stronger for it, really is awesome.
And the work I do translates into my 1-1 work as well. I’m a strong couple’s therapist because I love my individual work – and my solo sessions improve because of my couple’s work as well.
How did you become interested in counselling and working as a psychotherapist?
I basically grew up in a pub – that meant I was exposed to people from all walks of life. It makes you pretty grounded, you know?
Seeing the colour and movement and not necessarily the best side of people from a young age. However, It fed my passionate fascination with what makes people tick.
How do you believe people change? And what supports long-lasting change?
I hate that old saying “people don’t change.” I think absolutely people can change. Is it always easy? No! But with a combination of professional support, judgement-free encouragement, and a strong working alliance, it’s always possible to create pathways for permanent positive shifts.
We’re a quick fix culture, aren’t we? We’re made to feel that if we’re not independent and totally self-reliant, we’re failing in some way. And I find this stops people from getting the help they need.
As therapists, if we can give people space to slow down, and clarify what they’re thinking and feeling, what they need to shift becomes so clear. Humans are relational beings! We need each other, no matter what age we are. Sometimes, we need support. A brain to “borrow” because we’re scared or worried.
If we can, as a culture, release this idea that we’re less-than-capable, immature, or weak when we reach out for help – imagine the healing that could happen on a global scale?
Tell us about your approach and why you believe the way you work is effective in helping people change.
I’m fascinated by people. Over the years, I’ve learned to really, actively listen, and take on each client and case as a completely unique challenge.
I’ve got the street cred, too. I’ve done hundreds of hours of personal psychotherapy, supervision, and professional development.
I’ve developed a knack for pinpointing what’s going on for a client from the first conversation. It lets me really clarify the reality of what’s happening (even if it’s non – verbal), so my clients can understand their situation fully, and we can design a process that will put them on the road to recovery.
And what could be sweeter than that?
Tell us what a client can expect to experience in an initial counselling session with you.
I go to great lengths to create a totally relaxed, comfortable environment where clients are free to say or do what THEY need to do to explain why they’ve come in to see me at this point in their lives.
The relationship you have with your therapist is as much a part of the healing as the work they do with you. It’s critical that they know, and truly feel, that I’m in their corner, doing everything I can do understand what’s going on for them.
On a personal note, tell us something that you’re passionate about or love to do in your spare time.
As you probably know, Melbourne is famous for it’s coffee culture and its cool cafes.
So I love picking my twenty something daughters brains about the latest great foodie venues to explore together. As a mum the tables have turned and now I have to seek them out rather than when they were younger and they really needed lots of time and attention from me. They have become clever, independent and fun young women and so, nowadays they give me the pleasure of their time and company and then they hit me up for the café bill!
I really enjoy being with people younger than me so I see a LOT of Gen X’s and Y’s in my practice, and I thrive on the challenge of getting on with people who’ve had different cultural and life experiences. I can learn so much from them!
And for holidays I also love a combination of good food, good wine and stunning scenery. So my partner and I are actually heading to Canada in a few months for a crazy Heli-Hiking adventure. We’ll be helicoptered in to a gorgeous remote part of the Rocky Mountains, to this eco lodge in the pristine Canadian wilderness.
But we won’t be roughing it too much thank goodness. It’s going to be a mix of outdoor activities by day, and wine and gourmet food by night. I can’t wait!