Rob Stuart – Utrecht-based integrative coach, counsellor and therapist
I’ve always been intrigued by what makes people tick – their deepest feelings and needs, what drives them and what holds them back. Some people meet challenges and develop with apparent ease; some frequently struggle with themselves and others. How this varies from person to person and over successive life phases never ceases to fascinate me, especially the role of formative childhood and adolescent experiences and family ‘constellations’.
“You can achieve what you want if you want it enough”
This maxim, which I got from my mother, informs all my work with troubled clients. I believe in the best version of them. I’m their biggest fan, and I’m cheering them on to the goal line! I’m convinced that they already have all the inner resources they need to heal whatever emotional wounds they may have suffered, to learn, change and grow, and to realise their true potential.
People need coaching, counselling and/or therapy not just because they are stuggling with some big problem, but because they have become demoralised in trying – but failing – to overcome it. They need the external guidance of a professional coach/counsellor/therapist to transform that demoralisation into a clear view of the opportunities that present themselves, the path ahead that leads to their goals. In the process of becoming demoralised they’ve lost sight of their core qualities, their ‘true colours’.
Integrative coaching, counselling and therapy is all about making clients aware of this loss, this inner block or blind spot, this spiritual poverty. By turning their attention inward, by shining the light of their awareness into the darkness to reveal what lies hidden or dormant, they mobilise their inner resources and self-healing potential to drive change. Integration means reconnecting and revitalising parts of the Self – that is, the personality or psyche (the Greek word for soul) – that have been suppressed, repressed or split off.
From revelation to revolution
I’ve been through my own major and minor ‘deaths and rebirths’. I didn’t find my true vocation to work as a therapist until I was 50. I originally studied engineering and was then drawn to ‘Third World development’. In my late twenties, on returning to Europe after four years travelling and working in Africa, which included painful disappointments and traumatic experiences, I suffered reverse culture shock and major depression with anxiety and sleepless nights. Thanks to group therapy I gradually recovered and started working again. Then for two decades I drifted rather aimlessly from engineering, through technical writing, public relations, translating, journalism and human-rights editing, to academic English teaching. I was paying my bills, but I lacked fascination and passion. Increasingly, I felt stuck and hopeless, as if my life had hit a dead end. Try as I might, I couldn’t see a way ahead. This had a negative impact on how I interacted with others. One day, a friend in Amsterdam told me she was going to train to become a therapist. A sudden stab of jealousy made me realise: “That’s it! That’s what I want to do. My whole life has been preparing me for this.” It was a revelation that started a personal revolution.
Deepest feelings and unmet needs
From 2008 to 2012 I trained in integrative therapy for adults at the Nederlandse Academie voor Psychotherapie. I then trained in integrative relationship therapy for a further year. Since qualifying, here in my private practice in Utrecht I’ve accumulated thousands of hours of experience guiding adult individuals and couples to get in touch with their deepest feelings and unmet needs. They can then utilise those feelings and needs to make key changes in their ‘Inner World’. This empowers them to pro-actively pursue their personal goals. For me, there’s nothing more rewarding, inspiring and moving that seeing people who have been stuck for too long revitalising themselves and swinging into action again!
Strangers in a strange land
As expats here in the Netherlands we face special challenges. Having relocated from my native England to the Netherlands in 1980, and having temporarily lived and worked in East Africa, Spain and India since then, I know how deeply ‘culture shock’ with feelings of loneliness and alienation can affect an individual, how tough it can be to find your own way and settle in an unfamiliar cultural context.
The healing power of empathy
Also, having received various kinds of therapy myself for deep-seated emotional problems and relationship issues, I intuitively relate to and empathise with clients struggling with a wide variety of personal and interpersonal problems. A clinical attitude of so-called ‘professional distance’ from my clients is not my style, nor do I see much merit in clinical diagnoses and medication for what, in the vast majority of cases, are deep emotional wounds. Such wounds tend to heal when there is abundant empathy and understanding — that’s what I have to give.