About Us and About The Program
“Hello” from all of us at The Life Change People.
We combine expertise and training in Counselling and Life Coaching with over 100 years combined experience. Between us we have worked in a huge variety of settings, helping people overcome all kinds of difficulties and make all kinds of life changes. We have put all our knowledge and experience into just three “Life Change Holidays”: Counselling Retreat, Life Coaching Holiday and Couples Therapy Retreat.
This is who we are:
Alex Gunn. B.A. (Hons), PGCert, PGDip, MSc
Alex specialises in Motivational Psychology and has written both a Degree and Diploma in Counselling and Behaviour Change for the University of Plymouth where he worked as an associate lecturer. The Diploma won a prestigious UK Government Beacon Award.
As well as teaching and working directly with people to establish behaviour change, he has spent many years training groups of professionals in Motivational Enhancement counselling and Life Change Behaviour. He is a long standing member of the International Network of Motivational Trainers. He also works as a moderator for the Open College Network UK. His main professional interest is in the continuing understanding of why and how we make changes in our lives.
He has worked as a school teacher, college counsellor, holds a pilots license and had a brief but memorable career as a circus performer.
Chrissy Richman Dip Couns, MBACP
Chrissy has helped many people make amazing changes to their lives. She has over 30 years experience and is well known within this sector.
Most recently she was the Chief Executive and Head of Therapy of a large charity in the UK, helping over 6,000 people overcome complex life difficulties. She has advised on UK Government Policy, participating in Think Tank Forums at The House of Lords on a variety of social issues, including womens welfare, drug and alcohol policy and young peoples welfare.She has a special interest in Relationship Counselling.
Chrissy has changed her life many times, living and working in London, Devon, Amsterdam and is now enjoying living in Thailand.
Luke Chester-Master AdDip Counselling Psychology, MBACP, MSc.
Luke has over 25 years experience as a practitioner, counsellor, trainer and counselling supervisor. He holds qualifications in counselling, Life Coaching, group therapy, relationship counselling and clinical counselling supervision.
He has worked with hundreds of people in settings as diverse as Harley Street and Dartmoor Prison.
Most recently he has worked as a consultant counselling supervisor to the Priory Hospital Group training and supervising health care practitioners.
He is a keen adventurer and authority on fly fishing, venturing off the beaten track through Russia, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He brings his great spirit, love of life and sense of excitement to the Life Change People.
Dr Jack C. Counselling Psychology Ph.D., Life Coach
Jack has worked with individuals, couples and groups, with a diverse client base in America. He is also an adjunct professor, teaching counselling psychology courses online.
He has worked as a trainer for non-profits and has coached organizations on issues related to cultural diversity, team building, and ethics.
Jack believes that individuals can find meaning and be inspired through service, and has led various student service projects in the US and Mexico, and along with his wife Aye, a social worker, consults with several NGOs in Thailand serving Burmese refugees.
In 2010, Jack and his family left their full-time jobs in the US for a simplified life in Thailand, and to focus on raising their daughter in Asia.
Son was born in the province of Chiang Rai moving to Chiang Mai in early childhood. He is a qualified and licensed Chiang Mai tour guide and an authority on local customs, culture and history. He has an extensive knowledge and love of his home country reflected in his abundant enthusiasm and energy.
His knowledge of local foods and food markets are second to none. Son speaks Thai and English having spent 20 years living and working in America. We are proud to have “Son” as part of the team. He is possibly the kindest man in the world!
Derek Buchanan Dip Counselling. MBACP
Born and educated in Ireland where he read Medical Science at university, Derek had a successful business career in London and Switzerland.
A mid-life crisis provoked the desire to follow his passion and turn to clinical training in his chosen field. For more than a decade he has worked with the complexities of his clients’ needs in settings as varied as private practice and a residential therapeutic community. His current work is focused on social justice and self empowerment.
Derek is a trained EMDR therapist, integrating humanistic and cognitive counselling approaches to offer a rapid and effective treatment for stress related anxiety disorders and trauma. He also supervises undergraduate counselling students.
He is a qualified Life Coach, Relationship Counsellor and Clinical Supervisor.
Tony Hazzard BA Hons, PG Dip
Tony read Latin and Philosophy at Durham University, has a Post Graduate Diploma in Humanistic Counselling Psychology, and is trained in Transpersonal Psychology. He has over 30 years experience helping people overcome a huge range of difficulties and making life changes. Tony teaches on Degree and Diploma programs specialising in Group Psychotherapy and Counselling Skills.
He has lead dual professional lives; as a successful, song writer and solo artist, with major tours of the UK, USA and Europe, and also as a manager and consultant to residential health care clinics, whilst all the time maintaining his own private practice helping people overcome problems and establish life change.
His first three solo albums have recently been re-released and he is currently recording his fifth.
Professor Robin Russell Phd
Robin has been a senior professor of psychology at London University for more years than he cares to remember. He has published widely on the subject of relationships and remains an expert in this field.
What We Actually Do and Why…the evidence base
All three of our Life Change Holidays are unique.
There are no other holidays that we know where you can enjoy a tailor made holiday in the sun, sort out all your problems and receive 12 weeks follow up support on your return home.
This section provides an explanation about the ideas and principles that underpin and inform our program.
Everything we do is “evidence based”, which means it is supported by huge amounts of strictly controlled clinical research that demonstrates clear proof that it works. We do not do anything unless we know it helps overcome problems and helps people change.
The main body of our program is underpinned by the vast body of work that has become known as Motivational Psychology, which we have been heavily involved with over it’s development during the past 27 years. Into this approach we have integrated a handful of other elements that enhance rather than detract from the positive evidence base of motivational work.
Motivational Counselling Psychology
At the beginning of the 1980s a completely new approach towards change was developed. It coincided with a time when many practitioners and researchers were recognizing the limited effects of many standard approaches; including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), Person Centred Counselling, Behavioural Therapy and Psycho-Dynamic Therapy (to name but only 4). These all operate from a handful of assumptions about change; that change is born out of introspective insight, that change is achieved by acquiring skills or that change is enhanced by the promotion of particular interpersonal and intra-personal dynamics.
A motivational approach sees these elements as important but not the crucial factors of why we change.
Most people know or know of people who have been “stuck” in counselling or therapy for months if not years without changing. The chances are they have already acquired all the skills necessary to change (we tend to know how to change if we really want to although anger management skills, depression re-framing and anxiety reduction skills still do come in very handy) and have above average personal insight but still feel no closer to their goal.
Motivational Counselling Psychotherapy bridges this important gap.
There are now some very prominent Motivational counselling approaches including; Motivational Interviewing, Motivational Enhancement Therapy and Brief Motivational Therapy. These approaches are underpinned by some very simple but profound ideas about change, these are:
We only change if we want to.
This really just recognizes reality, which is also reassuringly underpinned by much research! We make the best, longest changes in our lives not because we feel forced or scared or are full of wonderful insight into our childhoods or have received state of the art skills training, but simply because we really want to. Motivational Psychology is centred towards achieving this goal.
Change is not “Time Dependant”.
There is a common perception that change, especially important change takes a long time. This is not so, or supported by any evidence.
It does seem reasonable to assume that the longer someone receives help the bigger or better the changes should be. In fact this is a complete illusion which bears no relationship to reality. We can spend our entire lives receiving the wrong help and failing to change, and equally make huge changes in very short amounts of time.
Life Change is influenced by what we say to others and ourselves.
The “self fulfilling prophesy” notion has been around forever but only recently has it been shown to be a major determinant to change. If we say we won’t change we probably won’t, not because we can’t but because we are telling ourselves that we can’t. The aim is not simply to replace the negative sounding stuff with positive sounding stuff (while still feeling unconvinced “deep down”) but to actually identify the “deep down” meaning of what we are saying.
Life Change follows a predictable pattern common to all people and all changes.
How we change is known (it is the “why” which causes practitioners problems and me endless professional interest). Every change, big or small, profound to the mundane, from buying a hat to leaving your spouse, for everyone in the world, follows the same pattern. Understanding this pattern is often the key to understanding change and what we have to do next in order to move forward.
Change is a dictated by 2 elements – Importance and Confidence.
This model states that essentially change is dependent upon 2 elements; how important we feel it is to change coupled with how confident we feel that change will work out. There are now huge amounts of research to demonstrate that unless we feel “ten out of ten” in both elements long term change is very unlikely to take place.
The good news is that it is possible to influence these 2 elements easily and readily. Strategies to do this are an integral part of our Counselling and Life Coaching programs.
Ambivalence (feeling at least 2 different ways about something) haunts all life change and counselling:
“Shall I stay in my job or leave and follow my dreams”
“Shall I stay with my wife/husband or leave to be with the person with whom I’m having an affair”
“Shall I have children or concentrate on my career”
“Do I put energy into losing weight/ cutting down drinking/ exercising more or not”
“Do I settle for depression and unhappiness or do I risk changing my life completely”
Life is full of such conflicting thoughts and dilemmas. It’s not that we’re stupid or lack insight into our lives and problems but more often that we can’t decide which route to take (or that the ways forward seem uncertain). A motivational counselling approach recognizes these dilemmas and specialises in resolving them.
If they are not resolved completely it is unlikely that any amount of skills training, education, advice, insight oriented therapy, standard therapy or counselling will have any impact at all.
There are of course many, many other ideas, theories, skills and techniques involved in an approach that takes at least 3 years to master. Some of these I’ll list at the end of this article.
Into our main approach we have integrated some other elements making our Life Change Holidays unique. These are:
Clinical Personality Profile
In order to make a flying start to our program we use a licensed clinical personality profile that has been adapted for our specific use by our good friend and colleague Professor Robin Russel, Senior Lecturer of Psychology, London University. This questionnaire is the most accurate and sophisticated in the world. After investing in a major project in online resources we now have our personality profile online. It takes about 30 minutes to complete which is usually done before arrival so we know a lot about you, your life, personality and difficulties before we meet you. You can read more about the profile here.
We are indebted to Dr Antony Ryle for his pioneering approach in identifying behaviour traps as outlined in his Cognitive Analytic Therapy. They are the most succinct, accessible series of models which illuminates why we often get stuck.
Immediacy: Existential Psychotherapy
Our work is influenced by a sense of immediacy and is focussed on what is clinically known as “the here and now”. It is not introspective and only retrospective in order to inform the present.For this our work draws upon important ideas which describe the “givens” of life that form part of the underpinning principles of Existential Psychotherapy as developed by Nobel Prize winner Dr Irvin Yalom.
Other Important Influences
As well as the above major influences to our program there are a number of other elements that contribute towards the ongoing success.
Pattern of Sessions.
The back to back daily nature of our Life Coaching/ Counselling sessions mean that momentum and focus is not lost in long periods of intervening time. We are able to get through huge amounts of work very quickly. The entire program, including the follow up, is roughly equivalent to 4-5 months weekly Life Coaching/ Counselling.
It is important to have some time out of sessions. We use tailor made activities and excursions as a way to enhance your overall therapeutic experience. For example, if you need to increase confidence we might suggest flying lessons or vegetable carving. If you are part of our Relationship Counselling program and need to rebuild trust we might suggest certain activities or excursions that you do with your partner such as rock climbing or white water rafting. We’ll work out your own tailor made pattern of activities that suit you and your program.
Directed Preparation Time
We have particular exercises that we might ask you to do in between sessions. These are never too onerous but provide you with new ways to think about old problems. It very much depends upon you and what your program is like as to whether you will find these helpful or not. Such things are discussed upon your arrival.
12 Weeks Follow Up
There is massive universal evidence to suggest that if we are able to maintain new changes in life for 12 weeks after any given intervention our long term chances of success increase to about 80%. This is why we are very keen to support you through this crucial time.
Experience and Expertise
Often practitioners have either lots of theoretical knowledge or lots of experience. We are lucky enough to have both which enhances all the “non-specific” factors that have so often proved to be the crucial factor between success and failure.
Further Reading and Resources
If you are still interested in further information and want to know more, anything by these people or about the subjects below will prove interesting to you:
Any work by Dr Bill Miller
Any work by Dr Steve Rollnick
Brehms Reactance Theory
Self Perception Theory by Daryl Bem
The Process of Decisional Balance
Ronal Rogers Health Change Models, esp Protection Motivation Theory 97.
There is a main web site for motivational practitioners which list registered and accredited members and teachers (you should find my name there somewhere, if you don’t please let me know) as well as a full bibliography of all published written work, research studies, clinical manuals and critical evidence now amounting to about 900 volumes. This is the main web site: motivationalinterviewing.org
Contact us for any more information about the program or Life Change Holidays, including Life Coaching Holidays, Counselling Retreat and Couples Therapy Retreat.
Thanks for reading.