What to expect in a shadow work session

00:00 / 07:20

A shadow work session is a deep dive into your inner experience and is typically between two and five hours in length; the session length informed by where we are in our journey of working together. Your session will start with a conversation about what you would like to explore. This could be any current or historic issue that you wish to look into to find clarity, resolution or healing. Following a relational psychotherapeutic approach, we will have the opportunity to explore your life, your relationships and how you show up in the world, your experience and your feelings. We will spend some time getting clear exactly what you want from the session. We will then talk through any previous experiences or incidents in your life that may be relevant to the work we’re going to do.


Maybe you don't know what exactly you want but have a sense that things are stuck and not in a good place. If this is the case we will have a deep and broad discussion about how you live your life: what works really well and what doesn’t, what areas of life flow and which ones are stuck, what is the focus in the foreground and what is neglected in the background? We may draw on the lens of the Archetypes as a map to explore your psyche. In this way we will uncover what is alive for you and what needs to shift.

The multiplicity of the psyche - Identification of parts

When working with the shadow, we make the use of the idea that we are all made up of sub-personalities or parts.

Parts are the energies that developed within us in response to the environments and people that have impacted us in our lives. Parts comprise a collection of inner thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs. People are using this concept in everyday life when they say things like ‘Part of me is really happy to be leaving for new horizons, but part of me is sad that I will not be here with you all.’ Parts can be thought of as holding differing points of view and most of us will be familiar with being able to hold different points of view around the same issue. Utilising the concept of parts in shadow work helps us to give form to these different energies, bringing awareness to these aspects of our personality. 

The alchemy of relational parts work - Separation and representation

When exploring the shadow, we use a central carpet in the room as a metaphor to represent your inner world - that is, a place where we can represent some or all of the main people who impacted you in your life, and where you can represent and express the parts of you which developed in response to the influences of these people in your life. These people and these parts of you will be symbolically represented on the carpet using coloured cloths, props or objects. You will be physically active and invited to ‘step in’ and take on the energies of these parts of you, speaking from that place, inhabiting and embodying them, getting to know them and experiencing the energies and emotions hidden there. Unlike traditional cognitive therapy, which relies on dialogue with a therapist, this work is experiential, meaning that it involves stepping into these parts of the self in order to fully experience them. Returning back to an ‘observer’ place away from the carpet, we can then discuss the process, what is emerging, and what to do next. 

By making the unconscious conscious in this way we will have access to the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that govern your way of being in the world. In this way we can guide your experiential movement through our session together: feeling, experiencing and expressing your emotions, gaining clarity, understanding and new perspective, and bringing about a transformation or shift in your inner and consequently outer world.

The whole process is guided by you and at every step you are completely in control of what happens or does not happen. We spend time exploring the parts that you think are most relevant, finding out as much information as we can about them.

In this way we build up a representation in front of you

of what you are carrying in your inner world.

The alchemy of relational parts work - Facilitating inner transformation

You then have the chance to step back and see things from a different perspective. With the parts of you at play represented in front of you on the carpet, along with the representation of anything else of significance that is impacting you, and with a new experience of the dynamics at play within you, we can then look at what changes you might like to make to this picture, this scene that you carry within.


These changes may include taking some action that rebalances or alters the energy of those parts into something more useful and less dysfunctional. It may involve other reparative work or the processing of emotions or stuck feelings. It may involve expressing anger or grief, working with parts that are experiencing guilt or shame, creating or working with personal boundaries. It may involve delicate and sensitive Inner Child work. The nature of the work will emerge during your session and in the space that is created in our work together you will find within you exactly what you need.

The embodied experience of these facilitated inner shifts is what distances this approach from conventional therapies.

If you change the dynamics that you carry in your inner world you will change your experience of life and what you live out in the wider world. The Limbic System is moulded by experience and by providing your nervous system with new experience through facilitated reparatory process, your emotional body and nervous system are provided with new and authentic ways of responding to old patterns and energies, and you are providing your system the opportunity of a new script to follow when you encounter similar patterns or energies next time in your life.


It is only through strengthening this new way of responding,

through experience,  that a real change can take place within you.


Our work together is an experiential and symbolic way to work with your inner life and goes beyond understanding why, and finds ways to move through, to support and to accept. The decision of what will happen and how it will happen is made by you, with my support and guidance as and when required.

Work in a session is about more than healing deep emotional wounds. It is also about finding the gold that lies in those wounds. Somewhere within our deepest wounds we will find the greatest energies and the greatest gifts we have to offer the world. Through this work you will learn that you have a core, an essence that is untouched by life's traumas. This is your Sovereign Self and it is in every one of us. King or Queen, it holds the wonderful qualities from which we can step fully and consciously into our lives, in deeper alignment with the world, our purpose, and our true selves.

"Bowing to your pain, wisdom, and resilience. Let’s walk together in ruthless joy."
Pat McCabe 

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