Karen is Orri’s Consultant Family Therapist and has been with the team since day one! We sat her down to learn more about her role and specialist work with our clients.
How long have you been a clinician for and what were you doing before Orri?
I have been a clinician for over 25 years. Prior to working with Orri I worked within in a CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) inpatient ward with young people and their carers/ families; on an adults eating disorders ward, and in psychiatry with adults experiencing a wide range of mental health difficulties at The Priory.
I have been fortunate to have had an interesting career in many sectors including occupational psychology, managing family centres, contact centres for children and their divorced or estranged parents; specialised work with birth parents, adopted children and adoptive families, and young children in schools.
Can you tell us about the type of discipline that you practice?
I trained in psychology, psychodynamic counselling, and in systemic family therapy and psychotherapy.
I tend to use a multi-systems approach, as the multi-systems, structural and behavioural family therapy models provide theoretical frameworks that guide me in proactive interventions to enhance the family’s communicational skillset, tailored to meet the uniqueness of each family. Although my colleagues and I approach our work from different paths, we have found that we share a common approach of hope and care when working with our eating disorder clients and their carers and families.
What is a Consultant Family Therapist?
A consultant family therapist is a senior and very experienced practitioner who will apply well established skills to assess, diagnose and treat mental illness and psychological distress within the context of the marriage and family, including blended and extended family. They are also recognised for their practice and research contributions to the family therapy field.
In therapy, we are most effective in shedding light on dynamics which often display conflicting couple or family systems, or possibly where their members are unable to resist, resolve, or prevent. We also pay attention to the dynamics of everyone else involved in the collaborative process. These include members who may not be present.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Helping families to disentangle the underlying problems from the presenting issue, such as in the eating disorder. Also to walk alongside them in their journey, in order to bring increased insight for all parties, and help develop tools of understanding to assist in reducing distress.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Many of the families we see face complex problems. As family therapists, we join families during extreme episodes in the family life cycle that often bring up very painful memories that can feel like an obstacle to moving forward. Working in partnership with carers/families, and my colleagues in the team to find a solution, is a real honour to be trusted to do so.
What do you wish people knew about family therapy?
Working with family members to examine problems – in our case eating disorders – from multiple perspectives, and propose potential solutions, can take time and is not a quick fix solution, but an opportunity to draw on untapped strength, and learn to overcome obstacles as a family or couple.
It is a process that each person can contribute to, bringing effective change across generations.
What do you feel is most unique about Orri?
We pride ourselves on tailoring the service to fit the client and family process, in what we hope to be an authentic way of being together in order to aid progress.
Outside of work, what do you do for your own mental wellbeing?
My faith, going for walks, sleeping in, and spending quality time relaxing with my family. We love playing games together, which normally ends up with lots of laughter.
Do you have a mental health hero?
The sheer courage of families coming along to sessions to unpack and process their stories is certainly the stuff of heroes. I feel very honoured to journey with them.
If you had one piece of advice for a therapy-seeker, what would it be?
Think about what you would like to achieve from your work with your family therapist, who will then look at developing a plan to explore in your work together. Not only is therapy at times a struggle to find hope, but we can also find a space for humour in our work with families as we build new memories.