Areas of Expertise
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD symptoms can cause a great deal of distress and pain as they are often so overwhelming.
When treating OCD, I understand the importance of providing my patients with an open, non-judgemental and empathetic environment to discuss their symptoms. Many people with OCD may feel embarrassed or ashamed about their intrusive thoughts and compulsions, and some people may even feel traumatised by them. My approach to treating OCD is to help my patients understand that these symptoms aren’t related to their identity; they’re simply a result of a dysfunctional stress response.
I have helped many people with OCD overcome intrusive thoughts by systematically breaking down the root cause and reducing the overwhelming emotional response. Often, I find a combination of Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be helpful, as these approaches aim to separate one’s mind from the distressing thoughts caused by the brain. These approaches also address the safety-seeking behaviours (compulsions) that develop as coping mechanisms for the anxiety caused by the intrusive thoughts. Breaking the cycle between intrusive thoughts, compulsions, and negative emotions subsequently leads to relief, a reduction in stress levels and the ability to overcome these symptoms with kindness and compassion for oneself.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Helping people with BPD is incredibly rewarding as they are very emotionally intelligent, loyal and loving individuals. Unfortunately, many people with BPD suffer from overwhelming and intense emotions that they find difficult to control. Through my extensive experience working with this condition, I often find that this is due to people with BPD being highly sensitive to detecting threats, especially in perceived rejection or abandonment.
When people come to me for help with their BPD symptoms, my first goal is to make sure that they feel entirely accepted as they are. People with BPD may have unintentionally developed unhelpful communication or attachment styles due to their intense emotions. Discussing these in an open, honest and non-judgemental environment is crucial for the healing process to begin.
Family or couple therapy (systemic therapy) is also extremely helpful in improving symptoms of BPD. I believe that psychoeducation (psychological education) about BDP is vital for family members or partners, improving their understanding of BPD communication styles and behaviours. Improving understanding and communication leads to better relationships and awareness of what may trigger BPD symptoms.
Once patients begin therapy for BPD, their emotions become easier to manage, and they gain confidence in exploring and experiencing situations without fear. This feeling of safety enables them to enjoy things fully and engage with the world in a more meaningful way.
After becoming sober, the first three months are a crucial period where therapeutic support can substantially reduce the risk of relapse. People suffering from addictions often experience a distorted perception of reality, where they may be in denial about the severity of their addiction or rationalise their use of addictive substances. Relapse can occur even after someone has successfully been sober for many years.
If you are concerned about a loved one suffering from an addiction, this can be extremely distressing because often people with addictions don’t want help. My extensive experience working in addiction rehabilitation centres has demonstrated that social, emotional and environmental triggers need to be considered during therapy, to reduce the risk of relapse.
When it comes to treating addiction, I take a neurobiological approach to treating the symptoms while also addressing its underlying psychological root cause. I favour psychotherapeutic approaches that are based on changing neurotransmitters in the brain, as these are the most effective techniques for overcoming cravings and urges, to promote long-term recovery.
My approach to mental health
I believe therapy enhances one’s unique strengths and builds confidence by increasing self-awareness. I fully support my patients on their journey to overcome their mental health symptoms to feel encouraged to understand their internal conflicts and strengths. I help my patients make changes or recognise unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour, without causing them distress or rejection feelings.
My approach to therapy is adaptive and flexible, I’m compassionate and understanding, but I also challenge my patients when I see they are ready for change. Helping patients to identify, experience, accept, make sense of, and manage their emotions is critical in the therapeutic process.
Another pivotal step is to help clients to become aware of the conflict between two principles in our psyche: the part of us that wants us to remain the same, to hold on to what is familiar, to maintain the status quo; and the other principle that drives us to change, to progress and evolve towards become the best version of ourselves.
When creating a treatment plan, I combine my knowledge of clinical psychology and neurobiological mechanisms to provide treatment that is tailored to the individual and their symptoms. I believe the best way to help people is to consider both biological factors about the condition and life situations, which includes personality traits, life circumstances and social support.
I have experience using various psychological approaches, so I tailor my therapeutic approach according to the needs of the patient. Some of the approaches I use most often include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
- Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Developmental or Schema Therapy
- Family or couple therapy (systemic therapy)
I believe medication can compliment therapy because it can help clients become stable and improve their symptoms to get the most out of treatment. Medication can be beneficial if there is a neurobiological impairment in the brain, such as addiction or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Sometimes medication can also be helpful if emotions are too intense to be processed, resulting from trauma or borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Training and education
I’m a registered Clinical Psychologist, with over sixteen years of clinical experience. I am registered as a psychologist with the Portuguese Society of Health Psychology and the Spanish International Union of Psychological Science.
I’m currently working as a Consultant Psychologist in two medical centres in Marbella, Spain, while also offering private online consultations. I completed my Psychology and Masters Degree in 2005 in Portugal, followed by post-graduate training in Counseling in Kent in 2006 and post-graduate training in Neurofeedback in Spain in 2011. I’m currently completing another post-graduate certification in EMDR.
In 2004, I had the privilege of working at PROMIS Clinic in the UK for over ten years, specialising in addiction rehabilitation. While working with PROMIS, I opened and managed new medical centres in Marbella, Madrid and Portugal. In 2010, I opened the Neurofeedback NeurOptimal in Portugal, which I co-founded with NeuroBonding, a clinic dedicated to mental health with diverse approaches.
In 2014, I was headhunted to work as the head psychologist at Cortijo Care, a psychiatric hospital in Marbella. During my time here, I implemented clinical strategies, approaches, and the psychology department’s therapeutic programme.
My personal interests
I’m originally from Portugal, and I moved to Spain to become a Clinical Psychologist. Before I started studying psychology, I initially completed a philosophy degree. However, I realised I loved helping an understanding people, so I soon decided to pursue my passion for psychology as a career.
I currently live in Marbella, where you can often find me walking in the mountains with my dogs. I believe being in nature has a powerful and calming effect on my mental health, so I try to encourage my patients to find activities outdoors that they will also enjoy.
When I am not working, I enjoy going out for meals with my partner, listening to music, going to shows and concerts, or making travel plans.