• Jane Olliff-Cooper's experience of therapy after a marriage breakup helped her so immensely she went on to train as a counsellor

  • We have therapists available to support you here

At a very dark time in my life, and in desperation, I turned to a counsellor. I had never experienced therapy before and didn’t know what to expect, but at that time, I felt I had nowhere else to turn.

My marriage had broken down irretrievably, and my life-long relationship, of a complex and challenging nature with my Father, was also affecting my mental wellbeing. I was desperately unhappy, struggling as a single Mum, suffering from clinical depression and could see little light at the end of this particular tunnel.

I can still recall the immense relief I felt at being able to talk freely and openly, with no judgments in place, no “If I were you …’ the stock phrase from always well-meaning friends. I could burble on, cry, sit in silence, rant, show my anger, confusion and desperation, and everything else I was feeling, unfettered by social conventions or the expectations of others. And what did I receive, in return? A sense of compassion, empathy and understanding - a space that was for me, not in a self-absorbed and narrow sense - it was something much bigger and holistic. I was validated in a way I had not experienced before. What I was dealing with was real. It mattered.

And for me this was the beginning of a long and incredibly rewarding journey. Having experienced counselling first-hand, and always having had an interest in communication and in people, I joined a 12-week course on counselling skills and I was hooked. This lead to a Diploma in Counselling, a Foundation Degree and, finally a BA in Humanistic Counselling. I worked for a charity and then set up my own private practice. I suspect none of this would have come about had I not experienced first hand, the life-changing impact of my first engagement with counselling. It has been a journey of self-discovery that has so enhanced my life it is difficult to quantify. I came to understand that my father probably suffered from a personality disorder and that the dysfunction in our relationship was not my ‘fault’, I was not lacking or getting it wrong, I was dealing with an unhappy and unwell man. I learnt to put my needs higher on my agenda, to stop trying constantly to please others and to learn to say ‘No’.

The satisfaction I have received from engaging in this work has been transformative and, to anyone toying with the idea of seeking support and help I can only say that, in my experience, you have little to lose and, possibly, so much to gain.

The long-term results of my counselling experience and work has found me very, very happily married for the second time, in a relationship that benefits daily from my new found self-knowledge and broader understanding of how we interact with others, especially with those to whom we form close bonds. 

Further reading

3 things we can do right now to improve our relationships

Why do I push away the people I love?

What is intimacy anyway?

As a couples therapist, these are the questions I ask about relationships

Your partner is struggling with their mental health – don't forget about yourself