the free psychotherapy network

free psychotherapy for people on low incomes and benefits

Paolo Plotegher

I trained as an art psychotherapist and I am a member of HCPC and BAAT. My way of working as a therapist is empathic, non-judgmental and exploratory: I believe that developing trust and empathy within the therapeutic relationship is fundamental in reaching the therapeutic goal of exploring life, emotions, relationships. Whether within art therapy or talking therapy, I consider central the potential of collective creativity and non-verbal communication to repair damage, process traumas and nurture healing, whether this is done by reading images together or by welcoming dreams and free associations into the process.

I believe that psychotherapy should be empowering and emancipatory rather than normative and normalising: it should help society and its institution to shape themselves around people, and not the other way around.

My background: before training as a psychotherapist, I taught art, philosophy and critical studies in academia, experimenting with the radical pedagogy of Paulo Freire. Through a PhD I researched schizoanalysis and the work of Deleuze and Guattari, and that led me to develop a practice of community self-organising. Central to that practice there has been a collective exploration of forms of healing that bring together a care for the body, socio-political contexts and natural environments. I also have had a long-term interest in queer and queering practices, understood not as marking specific identities and sexual orientations, but as challenging what is dominant and oppressive in culture, behaviours, society.

As an art therapist I have worked with a psychodynamic approach in therapeutic community settings and with homeless people with substance misuse, and I have gained experience with a range of conditions from depression and anxiety, to psychosis and complex post-traumatic disorders. I have worked with users of diverse class, race and ethnic backgrounds, LGBT+, cis and transgender, and others with chronic pain and disability.

I understand the task of psychotherapy as enabling individuals to re-connect with themselves, with people around them, with the different contexts they inhabit. Neoliberalism isolates people as individuals, sets them in competition against each other, and blames them for their suffering. Austerity measures and social cleansing have damaged lives by destroying communities and deepening segregation. Corporate greed has caused environmental disasters on a global scale. I see in psychotherapy the potential to counter isolation, self-obsession, competition, hatred for yourself and others, disconnection from other forms of life on the planet, both human and other than human. It can do that by bringing emotions back into our collective life, starting from the interpersonal relationship developed within the sessions.