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John Hanna

Chartered Clinical Psychologist


John has practiced as a clinical psychologist since qualifying in 1998, primarily in the NHS working with adults, children and young people, both as community clients and as inpatients in acute crisis. Much of his clinical work has involved treating substance and behavioural addiction, often dually diagnosed alongside other mental health difficulties. For many years he worked as an inpatient consultant/service lead and during that time he served in elected positions as Chair of the Psychosis and Complex Mental Health Faculty and as Policy Director (England) for the Division of Clinical Psychology, British Psychological Society.


My philosophy of care is primarily derived from two sources: positive psychology, locating optimism and appreciating opportunities for states of flow, of joy in the midst of adversity, and existential humanism, engaging with our freedoms, responsibilities and choices as agents of change living our own lives. Both philosophical traditions hold in common a central exponent which is my guiding principle: creativity as a means of personal transformation.

As human beings, we alter our states of consciousness and/or seek out opportunities to lose ourselves in revery perhaps in a bid to find fulfilment, but often this results in becoming lost or at risk. In therapy, we can imagine and try out more positive ways to live well.

My Approach

I tend to provide an emphasis on cognitive behavioural therapy as
useful particularly in progressive phases of work. My integrated approach to CBT often involves iteration with more exploratory approaches to facilitate ongoing assessment and formulation. Creativity plays a central role in collaboratively choosing modalities, obtaining focus and guiding direction of travel.

When working with people presenting with addictions, whether involving substances or persistent/compulsive behaviours, I think it is vital to establish whether abstinence is crucial to avoid harm to self or others, or whether harm minimisation can prospectively work to mitigate against risks. I consider motivation, emotional honesty and commitment to change as essential to recovery and I work hard to elicit and maintain this with clients.

When I work with someone, the first few sessions are usually handed over to the process of developing trust and rapport, establishing consent, talking through challenges. Next comes making sense of addictive behaviour and agreeing what ideally needs to change. We then begin to set some initial goals toward progress, using thought experiments to try these out imaginatively, before making adjustments and practicing in reality, as behavioural experiments.

This is coupled with a positive psychology approach to ensure we look at opportunities for general wellbeing, from getting active, scheduling tasks and building in rewards to being mindful in nature, creative practices and all forms of positive lived experience. Finding something healthy and constructive to choose instead of addictive repetition helps to cement in lasting change.

In therapy, we will continuously review progress, reaffirm consent for our direction of travel, re-set objectives where needed, reflect on what is working well, what needs a bit of course correction and how best to renew and replenish our shared commitment to improve quality of life.

My Motivation

As a person very much driven to live a creative life, I feel fortunate while pursuing my studies to have discovered that the application of psychology to support living well is a gratifyingly creative, collaborative process. I am motivated toward obtaining positive outcomes with my clients as a shared accomplishment, cheered on, intrinsically, by those satisfying moments of insight we discover as we progress on the journey.

Throughout my decades of experience working in mental health services, mainly with people in abject crisis, I have become convinced that creativity is something just about always accessible, even in the worst situations, if the client is willing and the psychologist never gives up. It is something that exists in the potential space of each session. From my vantage point, there is little else so rewarding as co-creating and bearing witness to emerging recovery.