Fiona Hancock is a therapist in TN34, Hastings

What attracted you to become a therapist?

I have always been intrigued by human behaviour and how we make meaning from our embodied experience on earth. As a young adult I also became increasingly aware of the impact of my own past on me and started having therapy. I also began to attend a lot of courses and moved into training as a therapist. I had a period of working in mental health as well as a complementary health practitioner. I have always retained an interest in how body and mind interact.

Where did you train? 

My main trainings have been at Southampton University for my counselling training and Re.Vision for my psychotherapy, couple counselling and supervision trainings. I also did three years Gestalt training in my 20s. More recently I have done training in somatic experiencing, wild therapy, embodied relational therapy and Shamanism.

Can you tell us a bit about the type of therapy you practise? 

After my counselling training I worked for four years and loved the work. Gradually I felt I needed more input as I was working at deeper levels with clients and with more wounded aspects of their psyches. I chose Re.Vision for my psychotherapy training as it had a very good reputation. Its training was very thorough, and I liked the ethos of ‘there is nothing ‘’wrong’’ with you’. There was a lot of emphasis on dropping down and being able to be alongside difficulty, be curious and compassionate towards it – not in too much of a rush to get away from what is painful, our woundings and where we suffer as humans. I see this is often a relief for people to not feel any pressure to improve or rush towards change even though it may be longed for. We have often spent a lot of time trying to get rid of or avoid the painful places within us, relationships or situations that to feel it is not only ok but welcomed to be curious about is I feel vital and of great benefit. Often much energy and creativity has been buried in here too.

Relationships often bring us our greatest joy and pain and I find there is a need to attend to these. Both the actual relationships as well as the internal ones between aspects of ourselves. Most of us are no stranger to the inner critic. Aspects of us may well have gone into hiding or felt shamed as they were not accepted or approved of.

I now also pay more attention to what is happening in the body than I used to. Much of what is brought to therapy involves trauma though may not be identified as such. We are in a constant state of negotiating between keeping ourselves safe, which can involve contraction and withdrawal, and reaching out for contact which involves expansion and relaxation. Including the body is a key way to attend to some of this and gives us immediate feedback about our responses to things rather than our thoughts about them.

I sometimes work outside with a client now too. Nature and the environment add a whole other dimension. Our relationship with our own wildness and natures can be reflected back in surprising and enlightening ways. This is not for everyone. I also run two-hour stand-alone sessions outdoors and co-run wild therapy weekend courses.

What sort of people do you usually see? 

I see adults for individual and couple therapy. Currently the age range I am seeing goes from late teens to 70s. From manual jobs to professionals, students and retirees. I see people for the whole range of life and experience of what being human brings. I see a great diversity of people and backgrounds. I always try to be aware of how all this impacts, on identity, and to view the individual within the context of the family, society and environment they are in. I have worked a lot with the LGBTQ community.

What do you like about being a therapist?

I find it a huge privilege to hear the personal stories and journeys of people and am increasingly humbled by this. It is amazing to be able to accompany and support someone on an exploration of their inner and outer world and to be able to play some part in shedding of shame, loosening of restriction, increasing awareness and choice - to witness people becoming more themselves and freed up.

What is less pleasant?

I currently work almost exclusively in private practice. I go out into the world less than I used to and have to make sure I find ways to link with other colleagues and network in ways which both nourish, support and stimulate me.

It is hard to not be able to see people who need to come because of money. I try and keep some lower cost places available.

How long you’ve been with and what you think of us?

Too soon to say!

What you do for your own mental health? 

Get out into nature as often as possible. Dance. Meet up with colleagues to feel connected to a wider community. Meet up with friends for connection and fun! Go to a regular meditation group.

You are a therapist in Hastings. What can you tell us about the areas you practise in?

Hastings is a vibrant, creative and very community-minded town which I love. It also has a lot of deprivation. I am fortunate to live up on the west hill, so have great views and am near enough to be able to walk into both the old and new town. Nature is always very near in a number of forms and the sea and sky, ever changing, are wonderful to live by.

What’s your consultation room like?

It’s bright, spacious, private and comfortable. I have a lot of nature items around in the form of objects and pictures.

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

That it’s often not about getting rid of certain aspects of yourself but learning about how to attend to the parts of us that we are suffering. The difficulties often have important information for us and we need to gently go to these places with kindness and compassion. They can also have buried in them some very precious parts of us that can be freed up and allowed space. 

What did you learn about yourself in therapy?

To learn to be more compassionate to myself and those aspects of myself I continue to have to tend to, the wounded places from the past, that can still get triggered by the present. I am now able to be kinder and to know how to respond when stress, tiredness or life events trigger these painful places. To value sensitivity and vulnerability. To value how I am different and unique – where I may have felt an outsider or didn’t belong, in the past and find places and people to share what’s important to me.