What attracted you to become a therapist?
I had been a designer for 30 years and then began to work mentoring people setting up new businesses, with the listening bit of this in mind I took a counselling skills for business course and enjoyed it.
I decided to take a Level 3 counselling certificate with the thought of becoming a wedding and funeral celebrant which seemed to involve my skills for ‘peopling’, listening and empathy. I was hooked after the first weeks, I still didn’t know I wanted to be a counsellor. By May I had booked myself onto the diploma course! A term into the diploma course I knew I had found a very special profession where I could use my life-learned skills alongside the new ones I was gaining to help people to live a more content life. I am still learning and hope I never stop.
Where did you train?
Shrewsbury Colleges group.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I am a person-centred counsellor, for me this means attempting to see things from the client’s frame of reference, listen with empathy, be open and non-judgmental. My clients say they feel safe to say whatever they need to say using language they feel comfortable with, to be heard and to work things through at their own pace.
I work in this way because it sits very well with the way I am in life, I am me in the room with the boundaries and ethical considerations – in my mind this is the true meaning of congruence.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see individuals from 16 upwards – my oldest client has been in their late 80s. Often the presenting issue is depression or / and anxiety; I find this is what a client has been told and when we get to the crux of things they begin to uncover long-buried concerns which are producing these symptoms.
I have enjoyed success working with late teens about to go to university; they present with feelings of fear and anxiety without having realised and acknowledged the huge changes which are about to happen. They are being told ‘you are clever; you are capable; we are excited for you…’ and overwhelm sets in and can cause feelings of fight or flight, discord in the family and 'I just can’t do this'. Picking apart the myriad feelings in this situation in an often time-limited set of sessions and helping the young person to go off to uni equipped with self-belief and usually having improved relationships at home is extremely satisfying.
Recent work with women in peri-menopause has yielded good results too – debunking myths is a great way to start.
What do you like about being a therapist?
The teaching element of counselling is wonderful, being able to pass on skills to clients, helping them to live a more fulfilling life. When I ask 'are you ok with going forward as you are or would you like to change?' the answer is nearly always change. I love working with people who become equipped to move forwards with really deep knowledge of their processes and feelings.
And then there are the golden phone calls a year after therapy to say that life is good – they are occasional but worth so much.
What is less pleasant?
Clients who feel there is no point, that they have 'tried everything and everything is rubbish'; they attend wanting to die and when these clients are stuck it can be very sad. The other side of this is seeing a client climb out of this dark pit of despair. Even if they are still sitting on the edge, the fact that they have taken small steps towards self-value is a relief and very very rewarding. Sometimes it never gets any better and clients need help from other services, knowing when to refer-on is crucial. I often wonder what happened to these clients.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have been with welldoing.org for about a year; I find the articles published on the site very useful.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I often suggest Anne Katherine’s book Where You End and I Begin – this is about boundaries, an important part of developing self-worth. Many clients benefit from the Calm App and of course I will refer clients to welldoing.org if I am unable to see them.
What you do for your own mental health?
I don’t work on a Monday, this gives me time for a Yin Yoga class and any admin I need to do. I take one week in every five off; I can fit client work around this and it benefits everyone. I love my garden which is full of flowers and fruit, the little bits of pottering and nurturing are brainspace. Oh and my little dog - no judgment, always happy to see me!
You are a therapist in Shrewsbury, what can you tell us about seeing clients in this area?
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, is a large rural county and I see a diverse range of people from all over the community.
What’s your consultation room like?
I work in a room in central Shrewsbury it provides a safe space.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it’s not set-up to be scary; counsellors are usually gentle souls whose main aim is to help people to live a less complicated, more comfortable life. I wish clients knew that counsellors have also been through therapy, they have felt the fear of walking into that room for the first time.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Talking through issues I deeply feared dissolved the fear and anxiety which these issues were responsible for – I can achieve and I will, because I am good enough.