Meet the Therapist: Caeredwen Gregson-Barnes
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I had suffered from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression throughout my life without really realising it or understanding that it was something that could be addressed. I had some counselling and it was really life-changing. I decided I wanted to help other people overcome the issues I had struggled with.
Where did you train?
At the Academy for Emotional Therapeutic Counselling in Cheltenham.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
Emotional therapeutic counselling (ETC) is a person-centred Freudian modality that seeks to work with the inner child to heal the original source of mental health problems and emotional dis-ease. It aims to provide a long-term solution rather than helping the client live with their issues.
I chose it because why wouldn’t you want to be permanently better, instead of just learning to cope with being unwell?
How does therapy help with symptoms of low self-esteem?
I work a lot with people who have low self-esteem, although they don’t always realise that’s what is going on for them. They may present with depression, anxiety or OCD and it takes a while to realise that low self-esteem is actually the core issue. ETC takes them back to where they first began to feel not good enough, which is usually quite early in childhood, and helps them change that belief.
A lot of people feel that only people who have suffered childhood trauma need to do this, but actually any situation where a child’s nurturing needs aren’t fully met can lead to both emotional and physical issues in adult life.
What sort of people do you usually see?
Most of my clients are women in their 30s-50s, but I have several male clients as well. My youngest client is 15 and my oldest 82.
As I said, a lot of them have low self-esteem but I also see people in abusive relationships, survivors of sexual abuse, with eating disorders and with problems managing anger. I also offer a specialist insomnia treatment.
As I’m a physical therapist as well, I see several people whose emotional problems manifest in physical pain and treat both aspects in tandem.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I think since Covid, people are more willing to consider seeing a therapist and to talk about their mental health. It’s not seen as a failing or a weakness as much as it was. I’m not sure that there are more people suffering now than in the past, but they are more willing to get help which is a good thing.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I love watching my clients develop and grow into a version of themselves that they’re happy with. I don’t put them through a process or try to turn them into a pre-defined version of ‘normal’, so every journey is different and I find that fascinating.
What is less pleasant?
I don’t like the business side of running a business! My worst situation is when someone needs help but can’t afford to pay for sessions. I also hate it when clients ‘drop off the planet’. Obviously people stop coming to therapy for a wide range of valid reasons, but I wish they would tell me if they don’t want to come any more because I do worry about them if they just disappear.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been on welldoing.org for about a year I think. I like that clients can make contact really easily through the platform, because it’s often very difficult for people to take that first step and reach out.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
What you do for your own mental health?
I make sure I take plenty of time to relax and wind down. I’m quite good about maintaining boundaries between work and personal time.
I also have a great business coach who I can talk to about personal issues as well as business ones if I’m having a tough time – and my clinical supervisor of course.
You are a therapist in the Forest of Dean. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
The Forest of Dean is a really varied area. There are quite a few low-income families in the region but also some very wealthy people, so I might be working with someone on minimum wage and then the next client is someone at the opposite end of the spectrum financially.
It’s a rural area too, and one of the peculiarities about it is that people behave as if it’s a lot bigger than it is! But it’s beautiful and most people believe they’re very lucky to live here, so that’s a great help for their mental health right away.
What’s your consultation room like?
I have a small room in a business hub where there are about a dozen other small businesses, a lot of them no more than two or three people. It’s a very friendly place and very convenient because there’s plenty of free parking and it’s on a bus route. Everyone comments on what a lovely atmosphere it has.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it needn’t be scary and that it can help anyone. A lot of people seem to feel they’re not ‘bad’ enough to be helped, or even don’t realise they can be helped. Most of my clients don’t have serious mental illnesses or terrible traumas in their backgrounds; they just aren’t very comfortable in their own skins and have some limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits that they want to break. We usually talk about ordinary things like conversations clients have had with other people in their lives or events that have annoyed them. I don’t judge them, tell them what to do or blame anyone for the way they’re feeling, it’s about helping them to find their own path.
I’m sorry to say that there are some bad therapists out there, and some unscrupulous people who like to prey on the vulnerable. That gives therapy a bad name and I’ve come across several people who aren’t willing to give it a chance because of a bad experience in the past.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
So many things! I think the main thing was to be kind to myself instead of holding myself to some unachievable standard of perfection. So many of us worry that we’re falling short in some way, but you don’t have to be what other people want. If someone has a problem with you then it’s more likely to be about them than about you.