I think that showing some of our most emblematic case studies would help you to understand how therapy works, the difficulties my clients faced and the successes they achieved. This is not a scientific presentation of case studies. It is just a summary of our challenges, interventions, and visible results.
Some of our clients allowed me to also share their story and reviews as testimonials of their experience of being in therapy and completing our programs.
They agreed that sharing their experience can help other people decide if coming to therapy would be a good thing. I chose a few from the different programs we have.
I am very thankful for their collaboration and proud of their achievements. They got these results because they decided it was enough, they worked hard and they deserve the happiness they found.
“I love my family, but I know best what I want and what I need “
R is a hairdresser, lovely person, with a beautiful smile. She is married to C and they have an 8 yo child. C is a big character. A man who works hard to help the family. Time, life, differences in background, stress led to resentment and distance in their relationship. C was working nights and at the weekends R was also working. Manage time was difficult, especially time together.
We start to live life more as roommates than as couples when we don’t understand each other and when our needs are not being met.
Someone else appeared in their life – and that is always a chock. What to do?
Fortunately, these two decided to get some help. Some people in their family advised separation and divorce, but they decided that getting help was the way to resolve their problems and keep the family together.
I liked them since the first session. We got along immediately, both with R and with C. They are just the most genuine and authentic people you can find.
We worked through the past conditioning in the individual sessions. We also checked how our inner critic puts us down and we challenged thoughts and beliefs that were interfering with their wellbeing. We also stablished strategies and skills to deal with anger.
In our couple’s sessions we learn about the unique needs they had, the reasons for the distance and resentment and how to communicate their needs and feelings in a way the other person is happy to help.
A certain point C said: “I am going to be rich. I am going to sell this booklet to all my friends and colleagues. Here is the secret about what women want. Every man wants to know that”.
Our sessions were full of laugh, learning, growth.
It is amazing how intelligent people, people who know what they want, can change so quickly. That’s what happened to this amazing couple. Despite some of their friends and family opinions, they overcome their problems, they rebuilt their relationship from scratch, and they achieved their goals.
They sent me other couples, put reviews on Google and they gave me this little present that I cherish with all my heart:
“Can you make me laugh?”
P. came to see me after the recommendation from his son.
He described himself as a grumpy old miser. He was not happy with his work, and his life and felt he couldn’t enjoy the “supposedly” good moments. He asked in the introductory session “can you make me laugh?”.
He had previously had therapy, but he did not enjoy it. The mentioned that therapy was just talking about the past and that his therapist suggested Paul should stop talking to his father. Paul did not feel comfortable with that. His father is now 85 years old “I will feel guilty if I stop talking to my father now, despise what he did when I was a young”.
During our program, I noticed that Paul was uncomfortable during his trips in their motorhome and very preoccupied with what other people would think in several circumstances. Only in the second session, Paul mentioned a car accident he was in when he was 17. It was obvious to me that Paul was not an unpleasant person who couldn’t enjoy his holidays and good moments. Paul was a person who experienced a terrifying event and, obviously, his brain was on alert when someone was driving him. And it would take some time to calm down after that – this is the reason he would spend the rest of the day in a bad mood. He agreed that he would be most anxious when his wife was driving. We did the simplest form of the Rewind Technique just for him to start to adapt to the process. Next session I asked how he was and if he felt he needed another go. His answer was: “No I am fine. We went out on the weekend and I enjoyed myself, I was able to appreciate the landscape when my wife was driving and I catch myself laughing and having fun”.
P. also found out that in fact, he is a hero. He is someone that broke the generational trauma. In spite of a very restricted childhood, he has two amazing grown-up children that adore him. What Paul did was change the world: Instead of continuing the traumatic behaviours he suffered, Paul raised two happy and wonderful people.
In the end, P. was even able to recognize the good character traits he learned from his parents and the good things he brought with him, despite the severity of the “regime” during childhood. We, here, promote forgiveness and empathy – not hate.
Right before the last session P. and his wife went out to a Diana Ross concert. To the amazement of everybody, he danced with his wife during the concert. She said to him “Maria would be so proud of you if she could see you right now”
Later, unfortunately, P. was diagnosed with a health problem. He said that being working with me was a blessing, otherwise, it would be very difficult to face this challenge.
This amazing man did it all himself. He is a kind, determined and focused person who will face any challenge and win.
He is coming now for the monthly sessions, so we can continue this amazing work.
His wife is right – I am really proud and I feel humbled to have met this amazing human being.
What were the most important strategies you have learned during our therapeutic work?
The guided imagery is a real positive tool for me giving me 15 mins in the morning just for me to concentrate on myself and helps set the plan for the day. Recording positive and grateful things however small makes me think about the good things from the day before. I have used anchor points a few times and this helps.
What is different for you, from when we started?
I do not dramatize the little things and have coping strategies to stop the overreaction. I have a goal to work towards of letting myself go and really enjoying the moment, this has happened a couple of times already
What would you like to be different? What do you think can be improved in my work?
Nothing that I can think off
“Most of all, I am enough”
Katie was referred to me by the Social Services in her area. She was at risk of losing custody of her children.
In our first session, I could barely hear Katie talking. She would look down and cover her mouth with her clothes. All her body was constrained and repressed, so she would not “occupy too much space”. That’s what happens to people who were in abusive relationships and suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences or Developmental Trauma. They want to disappear!
When asked why she came to therapy she said her doctor advised her to have some CBT.
Mother of 5 children, from 3 to 16 yo, Katie was remarkably busy and very depressed. She started antidepressants 8 months earlier and finished a relationship with her ex-partner 5 months before. She was feeling a bit better. But the Beck’s Depression Inventory scored in the area of moderate depression. She was struggling with feeling sad, seeing her past as a lot of failures, guilt, disappointment in herself, blame, loss of interest in people and activities and tiredness.
Obviously, these are the main symptoms someone with depression would show.
In the beginning, our sessions focused on understanding what developmental trauma does to our brains, and how to access our own resources to engage our pre-frontal cortex and calm down our emotional brain.
Then we focused on some past traumatic events Katie experienced and used Memory Reconsolidation Techniques. One of the biggest problems she was currently facing was the fear of dogs. A dog attacked katie when she was 11 yo, and, since then, she was afraid of dogs. She would avoid going out to parks or other places where dogs could be playing. She also was afraid for her children, so she would keep them inside or would call them “all the time” to check on their safety.
This was resolved in the third session with the Rewind Technique. Afterwards, Katie mentioned that she went out with her children, to the park, and did not think about dogs at all. She was surprised to know a big dog was nearby and she didn’t notice. And this “indifferent state” continued until the end of the therapy.
Other childhood traumas were addressed, as well as the trauma related to previous abusive relationships.
We also worked with the Inner Critic, supported the Inner child, debated about healthy relationships, and developed skills for assertive communication, parenting, values, etc.
Most importantly, we used guided imagery to train the brain and the body to relax and “Rehearse the Future”.
After 12 sessions, Katie was a different person. Every week I was surprised to find a new Katie…the way she speaks, writes, walks, the clothes she wears, the way she looks at you and how she deals with her children and her mother, and her new partner (not the abusive one) are motives to be proud. She has new friends; she goes out with her children “as a family” and she has the support of her mother and partner.
There are no words to express how proud I am of the growth of this lovely woman. She is fantastic, so brave and intelligent!
When we finished, she was focused on the future, believing she has the skills to cope with whatever life brings at her and she considered herself to be honest, bold and ambitious. From someone who barely could take her eyes off the ground 12 weeks earlier and described herself as a total failure … it’s a long way!
Katie sent me this lovely postcard that I keep next to my heart:
She also filled out the feedback form and gave her testimonial:
What were the most important strategies you have learned during our therapeutic work?
Challenge my inner critic, keep little bottles of pleasure daily, the different functions of the brain and how to regulate my breathing and thoughts and what I can do to keep myself calm and rational, what I need to meet my innate needs, setting healthy boundaries and assertive communication, challenge my thoughts… how to listen and acknowledge my Children’s feelings with a word, alternatives to punishment granting wishes in fantasy and to let them help solve issues, keeping positive thoughts.
What is different for you, from when we started?
When I first started, I found it hard to see much good in life and myself I covered my face and wore baggy clothes to feel safe. I struggled with my thoughts and feelings about everything, I held a lot of negativities from traumas in my life. Now I no longer feel the need to hide I now understand how far I’ve come and how strong I am already and I can face anything I will survive no matter what. I am so much happier in myself and in my life, I see everything in a much better way including a great future when before I couldn’t see. My mind feels free of negativity and I challenge any thoughts I have with my inner critic based on fact and evidence… I sleep better I feel better I now walk with my head up whereas I would look at the floor… my whole life has changed I no longer carry the fear of dogs and people… I now know my strengths and values I know how to be my best possible self in all personal, professional and social domains I can see clearly how my strengths fit into all aspects of achieving our best life… I am so grateful and can’t thank you enough for the huge positive impact your work with me has made in so many lives now and forever.
What would you like to be different? What do you think can be improved in my work?
Nothing at all everything was perfect…
Is there any other information you would like me to know?
I would like you to know I appreciate you and your work it’s life-changing… you are wonderful! we are enough!
“I know I’ll remember what you’ve thought me and use it for the rest of my life”
Lottie was in the last year of university and living with other students in a shared home. She was 21 and had some challenges when she was a teenager, namely eating disorders and a suicide attempt. Although she was feeling better, the stress from her studies and about relationships with colleagues and ex-boyfriend were taking her down again. She was feeling alone, and her self-esteem was at a low level.
Like many of us, she forgot to value herself, she forgot to pamper herself, and she forgot that the opinion or attention of certain people is unimportant and unnecessary.
Fortunately, Lottie has the unconditional support and love of her family. But they lived far away, and she needed to stand for herself in a complex situation that had happened with her housemates.
During our sessions, she was able to understand how our emotional brain keeps sending messages of unsafety when we are rejected. Understanding the pain as a physiological reaction to a perceived threat helps to make sense of her feelings. She learned that the stories she tells to herself and the meanings she attaches to the events are the root cause of her suffering. Step by step she recognized that some people are just not good company and their opinions have no value. She took responsibility for her well-being and forged a plan to achieve her goals.
We also needed to put those old memories in the “right place – the past”. Guided imagery was used to calm down the limbic system and “little bottles of pleasure” were prescribed as an antidote to rumination. Many unuseful beliefs were dethroned and new, more realistic ones were established.
Lottie was 21, finished her college degree and went back to her family as a new person. Knowing that her value is her uniqueness. She does not need to compare herself with others, because the world needs her as she is. It is now more resilient, focused and confident. She was just brilliant during the process. I am sure her family is very proud of her achievements, just like me.
Check her feedback:
“I’ve been feeling much more relaxed and focused”
Tom came to see us when he felt that having a story of being label “borderline personality disorder” was not enough to resolve his problems. He was on medication for about 18 months and he was having therapy somewhere else for the same amount of time. He told me he was not happy with the previous therapist as he “had the impression the therapist had fallen asleep during the two last sessions” and he “would come out of therapy feeling like crap”.
During the assessment, it was evident that developmental trauma would be at the heart of his problems. His mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and her behaviour was many times abusive and confusing. She took her own life when he was 20 yo.
He would feel very anxious in several circumstances and needed to “have things under control”. He had several panic attacks, at home, on the bus and at the university. He learned that outbursts of anger and tantrums would be a way of getting what he needed.
We explored ways to keep the body and mind relaxed, from breathing techniques to grounding techniques to focus on the present moment (little bottles of pleasure), to exercise and movement, etc.
Tom is a very talented young man, finishing his master’s degree in IT. His analytical mind is wired to solve problems using logic. His challenge was the fact that he knew he should react differently, think differently, and feel differently but he couldn’t control himself on many occasions.
The moment he understood how his brain was affected by those traumatic events and how he was perceiving threats around him, change happened. There was research behind our conclusions, there was Logic behind his behaviour. He felt mostly alleviated. He was not some kind of freak. He was a human being like all the other human beings and his brain was working as it should.
The Guided Imagery was precious in this case. Tom listened to audios, one about anger management and another to help him sleep during the 6 weeks we worked together.
When he started to feel better, more relaxed and engaging in pleasurable activities he had abandoned previously, we explored the attachment styles, differences between men and women and how to support his girlfriend. He learned new communication skills so he could ask for what he needed in an assertive way.
He worked hard! But now he is prepared for whatever life throws at him.
He was very kind to have put testimonials online:
“For years I thought I had BPD, having been diagnosed with it. I was very angry and co-dependent. After 6 sessions with Maria, I realized my problem came from childhood trauma. After resolving the trauma I’ve been feeling much more relaxed and focused and the way I interact in my relationships has changed completely.
I have no words to thank Maria.
“Funny thing is I’m feeling very good and very calm”
Mike is a 57 yo man who has problems managing anger and wanted to do something about it. He was also in a process of divorce. He recognized that he would spend most of his time angry and frustrated and that was interfering with his marriage, work and well-being in general.
After just the first session Mike started to question his thoughts. He would observe the situation and ask himself “it is just… This is not going to kill me, right?”. Every time a situation that previously would make him rage in anger, he would stop for a second and let his observing self-analyse the situation. Then he discovered that his real self was not an angry person – His real self was a kind and gentle and artistic person. Anger was just a habit that served him somehow in the past but is no longer necessary.
We used Guided Imagery for relaxation and anger management and CBT to challenge his thoughts.
He learned to relax and select what can and what can’t interfere with his well-being and the well-being of his loved ones. He learned to laugh with his children. He started to paint beautiful landscapes. He sent this message after finishing the therapy:
“Thank you for being there for me. The funny thing is I’m feeling very good and very calm. I am doing everything you have told me and I feel so much better and I feel ok about being on my own now”
“Maria helped me work on myself, my confidence and my relationships”
Sara is a 29 yo, single, professional and hard-working young woman. The dating panorama was taking a toll on her. Although she is an astonishing and intelligent woman, she found herself in meaningless short-term relationships, some of them even almost abusive – fortunately she was able to break up the moment she realised the negative path some of these relationships were taking.
She completed the Me to We program. First, she was able to be clear about what she wants, who she is and who she wants to be. A by-product of that was that she started to understand the patterns that lead to the challenges in her relationships. Then she learned about the differences between men and women and how to have her needs met. Communication skills were improved. She put this review online in November 2021:
“Amazing service! Maria helped me with work on myself, my confidence and my relationships. Highly recommended!”
We talked in April 2022 and she told me she is now in a lovely relationship and “she has never been so happy”.
“Thanks a million for this wonderful transformation in our relationship”
Aurora came months ago looking to become a non-smoker. She did it easily. But knowing that I specialize in relationship issues, she and her husband decided to complete the Peace & Joy program for couples.
They were brilliant. Just learning a few tricks was enough for them to see themselves, their partner and their relationship from a different perspective. The intervention focused mostly on understanding their past conditioning, communication skills, and being clear about what they really want.
Aurora shared her testemonials online:
“We didn’t know what to do, we were arguing almost every day. I was feeling very resented and my husband more distant than ever. We decided that we were too different to be together. But because of our daughter (and business), we tried to get some advice and see if something could be done. We found Maria and she seemed to have some insight into what was going on between us and what were the real causes of it. We decided to engage in the 12-step program.
It was the best decision of our lives. After the three individual sessions, we were already much calmer. We went from resentful to curious about ourselves and our relationship. And then, training ourselves to ask for what we need without nagging or anger was the cherry on top of the cake.
Now I look at my husband and I see a man with so many qualities. I appreciate my husband and I know I love him as he is. And I feel he understands me better. I don’t remember the last argument we have. I suppose we did not argue since the 3rd session or so. I couldn’t be more grateful for your help. It changed everything. I never expected it, really. So, Maria, thanks a million for this wonderful transformation in our relationship. Will never forget it.”
Aurora & Luis
“After 2 sessions I’m much better and can easily talk to a room of people without anguishing over it”
Edie is a German software developer living in Gloucestershire. He is 35 and he has done well in his professional life. He also has a lovely family and a new-born was on its way. As long as he was left to work alone, he was happy. But working with other people and talking in public was his biggest fear. He felt that he was not expressing himself in meetings and just the thought of talking in public was terrifying. He had a congress in the US next month and was planning to let his colleague do the presentation.
We talked about the Security Guard” in his brain (amygdala) and how the brain can confuse a non-threatening environment for a predator, preparing the brain for fight or flight or freeze inappropriately. We also used some guided imagery to train the brain to calm down and rehearse the future.
We also did anchor work, where he established an anchor for good and confident feelings.
He did all the work and he just forgot to be nervous when he did the presentation. He also forgot how to be anxious in meetings and started to be more assertive in his team at work. That changed his interactions at home and he found himself more relaxed when the baby was born.
Edie posted his reviews online just two sessions after we started:
“I had extreme difficulty speaking in public, even shaking sometimes if the audience was large or it was important that I did well (which inevitably meant I performed poorly).
After some convincing, I looked for help and found Maria’s website. After 2 sessions I’m much better and can easily talk to a room of people without major stress.”
Edie felt so good after the Freedom Program that he sent his father to see me. His father also completed the Freedom Program and his case study is shown above.
“Helped me a lot and opened my eyes to see things in different ways”
Shannon is a single mum of two, 23, living with her sons, one of them has attention deficit disorder. Life is difficult and Shannon has to deal with it alone. She has a boyfriend, which sometimes helps and sometimes doesn’t. Also, a very complicated childhood and teenage years. It is not surprising that Shannon has a very anxious attachment style and feels overwhelmed frequently.
Our work focused on understanding that catastrophizing and demanding constant reassurance is not working. Her vision of the world was a bit biased – we worked on keeping things real. What is true and what is just “false rubber snakes”. We also worked on her value as a person. All the struggles she was able to overcome. We explored the possibility of her being indifferent to others’ opinions and just letting go of what was not useful. She learned to relax and command her thoughts emotions and meanings.
Then we work on understanding her boyfriend’s point of view and how to feel free to let him be a man. How to get what she needed and how to ask for support in an assertive way. Communication skills and how to first aid when in crisis.
I saw this brave young woman flourish in front of my eyes. Every week she presented herself calmer and in control of herself, her thoughts and her behaviour. She could even laugh when talking about the way she would face problems with her kids, ex-partner and new boyfriend. Such a clever girl!
Shannon published her review online:
“Having Maria working with me has really helped me a lot and opened my eyes to see things in different ways. I’m so grateful for the help and support I have been given and still receiving. Such a lovely lady. Many thanks.”
Case study ER
“Maria told me that one step at a time is all I need”.
Eunice is Portuguese, 46, and a single mother of two teenagers. She is divorced (after her husband’s long affair) and felt she was not worthy of love. She had severe depression that would make her spend most of her morning in bed. She would wake up several times during the night and in the morning, she would feel tired and unmotivated to start the day. She also felt very anxious and over conscious about her looks. She avoided going out with friends and stopped walking the dog (activities she used to love). She was starting to develop a nervous tic when she came to see me.
We realised that Eunice did not know how to relax since her divorce and even before. Her breathing was absolutely superficial. For years and years, she was breathing superficially, living in a stressful, unsafe environment, and feeling isolated and overly anxious. When the doctor told her she needed surgery, she broke down and a nervous tic started to appear.
Came to see me because of the tic. Did not ever realise that living like that was not “normal”. For her, being in constant worry, constant alert, and constant fear was “normal”.
First, she learned relaxation techniques with guided imagery and somatic techniques. When she was able to calm down her amygdala and engage her parasympathetic nervous system, she was able to notice how brave she was to have broken up the marriage and come to England by herself without even speaking the language. Never occurred to her that she was in fact a brave woman, fighting against adverse circumstances. She enjoyed very much the guided imagery and her brain started to learn new, calmer and more relaxed pathways.
When we finished the program, Eunice wrote this review online:
“At first, I was very couldn’t believe someone could help me. In the first session, I was very nervous and suspicious. But Maria is very nice and put me at ease. The guided viewing is very relaxing and I felt like I wanted to stay there forever. I left the session much more relaxed and motivated to change little by little. Maria told me that one step at a time is all I need. I am going to the 4th session and my life has changed radically. I can control my anxiety and I know what happens in my body when I feel something poses a threat.
I started to go out and hang out with other people. I even managed to go on a date.
Thank you, Maria”
About six months after we finished the program, Eunice came back not feeling very well. She managed to stay calmer in her day-to-day life and at work but as she started a new relationship her anguish took over. She thought her new boyfriend was “too good to be true”. Her anxious attachment style kicked in and she felt she could use some more help.
She was also feeling apprehensive about telling her children about her relationship, afraid of bad judgements.
We went on an exploration of her style and how she can build a good relationship with this lovely man. We also worked on her accepting the “good gifts” people have to give and rejecting the ones that are not valuable. We went on a journey to realize what is true and what is just false meanings we give to every situation. We put her “thoughts on trial” so we could distinguish what was real and what was just learned beliefs.
One of the first things she did was tell the truth to her children – who, naturally ware very happy for her mother.
She started to notice how her boyfriend would respect her wishes when she asked for support and how he seemed relaxed with her. She also learned to accept compliments and love herself as she is. Finally, she just realised that she deserves to be loved for what she is.
They completed 6 months last week. “Estou feliz”, she wrote (“I am happy” in Portuguese).
Not so successful stories
My practice is not just full of success cases.
I made a statistic a while ago and realized that 86% of my clients considered the therapy useful and pleasant and that they learned something new. The ones who followed the programs until the end were remarkably successful.
However, I think I should also reveal some of the cases where I consider the therapy was not totally successful. Here they are.
James is a 52 yo man, a manager in a successful company and was suffering from depression and mostly from fear of other people’s opinions. We would look around and think that “everybody is normal except me”. A very repressive and alone childhood left him without the skills to interact with others in a relaxed or pleasant way. He was nevertheless a successful professional – only the social part of his life was in a mess and he was feeling alone. He also had a child he was not in touch with for 16 years and he wanted to contact him.
He booked the first session but 10 min before the session starting time, he sent a message saying he was not able to come. I send him a message back saying that was ok and inviting him to book another session (even asked him if he wanted to come later that day). He answered he was going to be busy in the next two weeks.
I contacted him later and he decided to come for another session. He liked it and decided to book the freedom program. He came to the session and we talked about his problems and possible solutions. As to other clients I send him guided imagery to help him relax. He said he didn’t like it. No problem, we can just work at a cognitive and somatic level. However, he didn’t like to do the breathing exercises either.
Our conversations were very pleasant.
We explored our innate needs and ways to fulfil them. He tried to go for a meeting in a school but gave up. We talked about going out for a coffee with someone, but he didn’t. Another problem in my opinion was that he would not come every week or even fortnightly – the time between sessions was too long. But he said he needed time between sessions. I gave him different guided imagery to listen to, but he wouldn’t listen to it – was not “his thing”. After our 5th session, James did not come to any more sessions. I was not able to do any trauma work, as I felt he needed some more time so we could work on that.
During the program, I felt that something else was not revealed. I felt James has some secrets he was not ready to talk about.
Anyway, later I received an email from him saying that he was feeling better and that he had welcomed into his home a Ukrainian family.
It was not all lost – he understood that finding meaning and purpose in life was the way out of depression and fear.
But I counted this as not successful because I know much more could be done. I hope he will decide to get some more help, with me or someone else (as I already suggested).
Courtney came because she was feeling very anxious all the time. She would be afraid of coming out of her house but made it to my therapy room.
In the second session, we talked about learning relaxing skills and breathing work. Courtney felt very anxious about it because she had a bad experience with recreational drugs a couple of months before. I told her that she did not need to do any breathing work or relaxation until she felt ready.
She did not come back to more session, despise my later contacts. I count this as not successful.
Alex was extremely depressed, alone and confused. He only came to one session. Did not reply to my emails. I hope he finds help somewhere. Such a lovely man!
Julie was going throw a divorce and feeling naturally stressed, anxious and sad. She seemed to like our sessions but only came to two. It is not enough. She was also within a support association for co-dependency and I suppose she is following their program. I wish she can see how precious she is, and how amazing she is, so she can overcome this phase and flourish in the future.