In the second installment of our interview series with members of The Oxford Development Centre team, Adrian Roberts talks to us about his motivation for working in the field of psychology, and reveals plans for his Circles of Compassion group therapy programme.
What Initially attracted you to the field of psychology?
In a nutshell, I wanted to try to work out what makes people tick. Before starting to work in the field of mental health and psychology I worked in retail. During this time I met thousands of people, I realised that many of them were suffering, I wanted to find a way of helping, if I could. It was also about learning to understand what makes me tick too!
What are your primary areas of expertise?
In short I would say it is trauma, but my definition of trauma is perhaps a bit wider than the general usage. For me trauma is anything that provokes a threat response, and sometimes it can be the things that didn’t happen, rather than the things that did! For example as infants, humans require a “good enough” environment to develop in to healthy adults, unfortunately for many people the environment was lacking in certain ways when they were young.
Humans have very complex brains, and are very tricky to manage. We can receive lots of strong emotions, which can be overwhelming if we have not had the opportunity to develop good ways of regulating them. Most manifestations of psychological problems are attempts to handle the powerful feelings that sometimes threaten to overwhelm our nervous system. Most mental ill health is a result of injury, rather than disease. I like to help people develop resources to manage these feelings better, these can include mindfulness meditation and imagery techniques.
What are the most rewarding aspects of the work you do?
My work is very rewarding; I am very lucky to work in such an interesting field.
It takes hard work and patience to learn new ways of managing this complex mind of ours, and to overcome trauma. It is very satisfying to accompany people on the journey to integration and growth. I am so delighted to witness how people can harness their natural strength, resilience and creativity. It is wonderful to see people grow in their personal development, to function in the world better, and to have healthy relationships.
The relationships between science, spirituality, evolutionary psychology, and well used tried and tested techniques is fascinating. I am very interested in how modern scientific investigations can give extra credence and validity to ancient practices such as mindfulness meditation.
What are your aspirations for the future?
To help more people to be able to feel compassion, not just for others, but for themselves as well. Most people are very good at compassion applied to others, applying it to ourselves can be much more difficult, yet this is a really important way of allowing ourselves to integrate and to enable feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and anger to fade.
I am just about to start a group therapy programme at our Witney centre that is called The Circles of Compassion Group. This programme will help people to develop skills in managing our very tricky brains, and to start a journey of self-compassion and growth. Working in a group of people who are all trying to find new ways of feeling safe and happy is very powerful.
What are some of your passions and interests outside of the field of psychology?
I am a keen photographer; I love to take pictures of birds, insects, other animals,
landscapes and many other subjects. This goes well with my interest in nature, and my love of ambling (I go too slow to call it rambling!). I love to travel and see different parts of the World (and photograph them!), I like to visit spiritual places such as churches and temples as well as experience different landscapes and cultures.