Dr Kirsty Pakes, Parenting Consultant and Clinical Psychologist

I became very interested in emotional well-being, mental health and relationships while I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University. I studied psychology and did an undergraduate dissertation on family therapy. I then trained to be a clinical psychologist and specialised in child and adolescent mental health.

Having worked in the NHS in child and adolescent mental health services for many years, I became passionate about the prevention of mental health difficulties and fascinated by what builds true emotional well-being and resilience. As such, my parenting work and therapeutic work is guided by the latest psychological and neuroscience evidence about the key ingredients of emotional health.

Through my training and experience, I have seen deeply how the quality of our relationships with our main care-givers and other adults around us is crucial to the development of our emotional well-being, and has long-lasting effects into adulthood.

I was therefore delighted to find Hand in Hand Parenting which is a practical and emotionally intelligent approach that puts the quality of the relationship and emotional connection between the parent and child at the heart of parenting.

I have personally greatly benefitted from the different approaches I have trained in. Training to be a Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor allowed me to embed the approach within my own family and I have been deeply heartened by how it helps me to be more attuned and connected to my children, more playful, more able to deal with difficult behaviour in a wise, compassionate and emotionally intelligent way. Parenting has become much more enjoyable and I feel that I am responding to my children in a way that really respects them as children. I can join them in their worlds more and I can see how it is building a firm base of emotional well-being and resilience in them.

I have also trained to be a Focusing Practitioner and a Focusing-Oriented Therapist. Focusing is a mindfulness-related approach that helps people to relate to their emotions and to their bodily felt-sense in a way that fosters compassion, strength and emotional resilience. I teach this approach to people and also use it in therapy. I have used focusing multiple times a week in my own life for the past 13 years with transformative effects.

I also enjoy working therapeutically with adults and offer an integrative, focusing-oriented approach. I am particularly passionate about working therapeutically with parents to enable them to move past personal obstacles and difficult past experiences that are preventing them from parenting in the way they wish to.

Qualifications and Experience

  • Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology. University of East London (2003)

  • BA Hons and MA in Social and Political Science (Psychology). Cambridge University (1998)

I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council.

I have 20 years experience working as a clinical psychologist in various forms including 12 years working in the National Health Service mainly in child and adolescent mental health services. I have also carried out training to other psychologists and mental health professionals and have a small private practice for therapeutic work with adults, particularly parents. I also work as a parenting consultant.

Some of my more recent training has included:

  • Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor training (2017-2020)

  • Emotion Focused Therapy Training with Professor Robert Elliot (2018)

  • Focusing-Oriented Therapy training with The London Focusing Institute (2012-2014)

  • Children Focusing training with the International Institute of Focusing (2012)

  • Focusing practitioner training to teach Focusing (British Focusing Association) 2010

  • Mindfulness teacher training (2010). I have run mindfulness groups for young people.

  • I have trainings in various therapeutic approaches ranging from psychodynamic, systemic, family therapy, CBT and the Child Attachment Interview.

I work integratively in an experiential way and am greatly influenced by the work on self-compassion, trauma, body-oriented approaches, interpersonal neurobiology, attachment work and working with implicit emotional memory.

My overall approach to therapy is attachment-based, trauma-informed, experiential and compassion-focused.