Meet the Therapist: Caroline Plumer
What attracted you to become a therapist?
In my prior career in client management, I had always found some sneaky way of making my role more enjoyable, and whilst I was supposed to crunching numbers I was often more concerned with organising social events or running the corporate social responsibility team – essentially the things I felt contributed to others’ wellness and enjoyment. When I came to a turning point in my career, something where I got to talk to and help people all day seemed like a natural choice.
Where did you train?
I have an MA & PGDip in Psychotherapy & Counselling both from Regent’s University, London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I work with adult individuals, couples and organisations.
A lot of my hypotheses when I meet people are rooted in psychodynamic theory – meaning I am very aware that we are all products of everything we have felt and experienced up to this moment. This will often mean we need to look back further than just the last few months or even years. However, I take an existential approach to exploring these ideas with the client, helping them understand what the impact of their experiences is on how they feel and respond in the here and now. Where appropriate I might also ‘borrow’ some practical techniques from approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy to help clients manage some of the symptoms of stress, anxiety and lack of confidence.
How does therapy help with symptoms of stress and anxiety?
The work I offer helps people better understand why they might be experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety, which is empowering but can also be quite scary! Simply understanding why we feel the way we do isn’t necessarily the silver bullet to make all the negative emotions go away, but it can be useful in starting to let go of the feelings and behaviours that no longer serve us. This often means starting to take real responsibility for how we respond and behave (both to ourselves and others) which can be frightening at first but really leads to finding our voice, setting healthy boundaries and generally feeling more positive.
What sort of people do you usually see?
The individuals I work with tend to be very bright, productive people who have either come up against some sort of obstacle due to a current or past event, or have got themselves in a bit of a tangle with regards to their current emotional state.
My couples have often hit a wall in terms of their communication and need someone to help them navigate through their issues.
With both individuals and couples, when they come to see me, they may have really reached crisis point, or they may be seeking some support proactively, and I am happy to support clients at either of these stages as well as everything in between!
What do you like about being a therapist?
There are the obvious (huge!) advantages of feeling really honoured when people trust you enough to share their stories with you and seeing people make really significant, healthy changes in lives and relationships. Outside of this, up until becoming a therapist, I was perpetual clock watcher at work – often bored and wishing I was elsewhere. I am now doing something I find really interesting and managing my own schedule, which really suits me.
What is less pleasant?
It can be really difficult when you feel ‘stuck’ with how to help a client, but exploring this feeling and where they might also be feeling ‘stuck’ and helpless can in itself be useful. This also highlights the need for good supervision!
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I am new to welldoing.org but am impressed so far with how supportive and responsive the team have been.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Similarly, to a lot of therapists, I lap up all things Brene Brown, but in particular The Gifts of Imperfection. Seeing such a clearly capable and smart individual struggle with their vulnerability and feelings of inadequacy really resonates with a lot of my clients.
For couples, Esther Perel has a lot of really interesting insight in her books and podcasts.
I sometimes suggest mindfulness apps such as Headspace and Calm to aid sleep or to focus people on their commutes so they don’t arrive at work having already mentally lived their work day several times!
What you do for your own mental health?
Like many of my clients, I have had to learn the art of doing nothing and not feeling guilty if I’m not being ‘productive’ all the time. I do enjoy a leisurely (not ‘wasted’ or ‘lazy’!) day of film and documentary watching!
I have lovely friends and family I can chat to, some of whom are also therapists, to help me gain perspective. I also love cuddling my cat – when he lets me!
You are a therapist in North and Central London, and online. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
London based clients are usually very career-focused and driven, which is an inspiring quality, but can also be the root of a lot of stress and anxiety, and is sometimes the reason people end up coming to see me.
What’s your consultation room like?
I have two beautiful rooms (in W1 & EN2) large enough to see individuals or couples but as is often the way with real estate, the Central London office is definitely the ‘cosier’ of the two!
I am currently working exclusively online with a view to returning to face-to-face work once I’m confident it’s safe for both my clients and my family.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I get a lot of people questioning whether they really ‘need’ therapy, and this to me speaks of an old-fashioned but lingering notion that there has to be something fundamentally ‘wrong’ with you to see a therapist. The reality is we are all relational creatures, who can benefit from an objective, outsider’s perspective from time to time.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
The biggest thing for me was learning to set good, healthy boundaries and feeling OK about doing so. If someone doesn’t like your boundaries it often says more about them than it does about you!