Meet The Therapist: Donna Mitchell
Donna Mitchell is an integrative psychologist in London
What attracted you to become a therapist?
Good question - it’s a bit of an odd story really. Back in university, one of our philosophy professors asked us to do a thought experiment. We had to imagine that we had lived a whole long, meaningful life and that we were now dead.
She then asked us to write our own obituary, explaining who we were and what we did with our lives. While this may sound a bit kooky, it was pivotal for me because it put significant values into perspective.
Imagining the person I most wanted to be and what I wanted to have achieved in my life, the word psychologist practically jumped right off the page.
Since that day, I have followed this career in which I can continuously learn about resilience, love, drives, acceptance, meaning and happiness. A career in where I can be a pillar of support for others in times of loss and turmoil and there for victories and self-growth moments – what a great job!
Where did you train?
I hold a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology (Cum Laude) from Rhodes University.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practice?
I use an Integrative approach, based largely on psychodynamic, cognitive behavioural and narrative therapy. Such a big part of my job is getting on the same page as my clients and really understanding them as well as their therapeutic goals. From there I go with the tools that I feel will work best with each individual client.
What sort of people do you usually see?
It’s a mixed-bag really, from high-functioning professionals, to couples (as well as couples in long distance relationships as I also work online), to people dealing with stress, trauma, loss or existential questions.
What do you like about being a therapist?
When I am sitting with a client or with a couple who have been going through a really rough time, and I get to witness their breakthrough or their victories….and, well that’s a pretty spectacular thing.
It’s just brilliant to have a career in which my natural interest in personal and relationship development can be applied. I’m constantly learning and gaining new insights (and hope to continue to learn all my life).
What is less pleasant?
I don’t like seeing someone who has had to walk around their whole life carrying deep emotional pain.
I think it’s well summed up by Maya Angelou who said “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’m a newbie to welldoing.org and I’m part of the Facebook community and am using the booking system. I love the sense of community amongst other therapists; as I work in private practice, this is huge for me.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
It really depends on the client, some people I work with are completely invested in learning everything they can to better their lives, whereas others might be trying to keep their heads above water and can barely fit in a 50 minute session as it is. I may also try and suggest things that are easy to read or even watch such as a helpful YouTube channel.
What you do for your own mental health?
Having dinners with a small group of good friends is my number one. Absolutely anything outdoors is hugely restorative for me.
You’ll often find cooking a huge meal with a good glass of red wine and some female vocalist blaring in the background as I unashamedly attempt to sing along. I also do yoga, boxing and guided meditations (using apps or good old YouTube).
You see are a therapist in South West London and online. What can you share with us about seeing clients in that/those area(s)?
I love being an online therapist as it makes therapy possible for so many people who wouldn’t be able to have therapy otherwise. Many of my clients have commented on how easy it is to fit in a weekly 50 minute session with me from the comfort of their own couch.
I also love seeing clients at my home office in this area of London, I have found that I fit well with clients here.
What’s your consultation room like?
I don’t feel comfortable working with someone from an impersonal or sterile room so my offices are warm and nurturing.
I see my online clients from my small, sunny, plant-filled office. I see my face-to-face clients from my large home office on a big l-shaped couch with comfy cushions.
Also, because my home office is across the road from Bishop’s Park, I’m always open to moving the therapy outdoors for a stroll or to sit on a bench.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I’ve met so many people who see the value in therapy but still view it as a luxury that isn’t for them. When I ask them more about this, I often hear that they feel like they have to ‘be strong for others’ and that they are too busy taking care of others to take care of themselves.
I really believe that our relationships and our world would be better if more people were able to prioritise their own emotional health.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Wow, where do I even being?
I think I have experienced first-hand the power of having someone see me, really see me and acknowledge me and accept me. Someone who I was able to trust to guide me towards growth and healing.
I don’t think you can take a client further than you have been yourself. That’s why I have been in my own personal therapy for years. Learning, healing and experiencing the difficulty of being vulnerable in front of someone else.
This has given me a huge respect for all of my clients and helps me to be gentle and more supportive with them.
Read Donna's articles:
Learned helplessness: how past trauma affects our present