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22 Dec 2021

Working with the Whole Person

By Brian O’Donovan, Counsellor at The Eaves

Working with people, not labels. There seems to be an acronym for almost every aspect of our mental lives. The latest DSM V (psychiatric diagnostic manual) adds new conditions to every updated version. Some critiques say there is a tendency to medicalise patterns of behaviour and mood.  They say that the expansion of diagnostic criteria may increase the use of diagnostic labelling which, in many instances, minimises our own individual story and meanings.

There are instances in which labels may be necessary and important.  However, it is also vital that no matter the symptoms or category people are placed into, we remain unique. All of us are first and foremost individuals, with a history and a story. The psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, thought our distress came from being unable to tell our story.

A person-centred and humanistic approach puts your story at the heart of the therapeutic process, exploring the circumstances of your life and the meanings you developed through your experiences. It asks not what’s wrong with you, but what happened to you.

Putting people at the heart of my practice means trying to understand them in the context of their unique lives. It includes trying to understand the social, cultural and psychological circumstances that underpin their emotional stories.

This is why the language we use is important. If we use terms such as illness, disorder, pathology and dysfunction, they do not merely describe the suffering they depict, but also shape how it is understood, managed and perceived. A humanistic and person-centred approach attempts to understand our distress in the context of our lives, and see it as a natural and rational reaction to hurt, trauma and impairment.

Labels can be useful.  They can help us understand our confusion and distress, but they can stigmatise and reduce our unique experiences to a generalised category of words that often have little meaning for us. I work with the whole person on their journey to a better life.  I support facilitating that journey as ultimately it is the client who really understands.  As Carl Rogers, the humanistic psychologist, wrote some years ago:

“It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried.”


At The Eaves, we have practitioners that work in a way that suits you. Our professionals see individuals of all ages, families, couples and young people 12 hours a day Monday to Saturday 9am to 9pm. Please call 01483 917000 to speak to a member of the referrals team. You can also send us an enquiry via our website.