Meet the Therapist: Catherine Telford
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I have always been very interested in people’s life stories. In my earlier career I produced documentaries; this really suited my creative curiosity for the different ways people live, past and present. It was also where I realised what a skill it is to listen to people’s personal testimony of painful, difficult and often traumatic experiences, and then, despite what happened, how they found their way and lived on. Their experiences moved me a lot.
I was also seeing a therapist at the time for my own self-exploration. Therapy helped me enormously and the therapist also inspired me. I realised I wanted to train in how I could help people therapeutically as they talked about their struggles and difficulties.
Where did you train?
I trained at Metanoia Institute, in West London. ‘Metanoia’ comes from ancient Greek, meaning the changing of one’s mind, and refers to the healing capacity that we have after difficulty or breakdown.
The training was focused on the relational aspect between therapist and client, which is the fundamental part of the therapy I now practise.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
The central concept of humanistic therapy is that each person is the expert on themselves, that they know intrinsically what they need, but often this has been covered up for various reasons. Therapy can help them recover this untapped capacity. This often involves processing stuck emotions; finally acknowledging and expressing these emotions can offer a lot of relief, and mean you no longer have to carry so much psychosomatically, in body and mind.
I have an integrative goal so that body and mind and the relational aspect are all parts of a holistic treatment and the outcome for the client.
What does humanistic therapy help with?
The approach is very much growth and development orientated. Most people come to therapy with their issues which invariably have grief, past trauma and relationship difficulty as part of what needs to witnessed and heard.
In therapy, grief can be expressed, trauma can be healed and outside relationships can be helped as relationship with the self is developed with the support of the empathy, congruence and non-judgement that the humanistic therapist offers.
Do you ever recommend books or apps to clients?
I would say that How to Do the Work by Nicole LePera is a really good book to work with, if people are inclined to read up about the being-ness of humans!
Have you noticed any changes in wider society?
There is much more discussion and consideration about stress, anxiety and depression than ever before and I have noticed that people nowadays are much more informed of different aspects of mental health and emotional wellbeing due to the increased media exposure and so people are more stimulated to open up and to vocalise their feelings and experiences. This is a good thing.
However, what comes next after gathering this self knowledge? This is then where therapy can help people use what they’ve got to know and recognise about themselves to good effect, especially when it comes to living their lives well and relating to others in healthy ways.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Working with people in a therapeutic way is fascinating, very varied and also humbling.
What is less pleasant?
There can be times when it is very difficult to sit with a client who is having or has had a very difficult life. We therapists are also human beings and so it can be physically and psychically draining. Of course this is our responsibility to be in touch with this and have our support structures in place.
What’s your consultation room like?
It changes with the seasons so warm and cosy in the autumn and winter, and light and airy for the spring and summer months.
What do you do for your own mental health?
I am an artist, a group dancer and nature bound enthusiast, all of which are excellent channels to express myself and feel held with what I am with my human-ness.
You are a therapist in Eastbourne, London and online. Can you tell us anything about your client base in this area?
Human problems and issues are universal. It’s mainly difference that matters, and so delivering therapy that is culturally sensitive, inclusive and judgment-free in any location is part of the ethical code I follow.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it can relieve you of long-held burdens, out of date beliefs and of the emotions keeping you stuck. These can all be brought to therapy and really heard, often for the first time, which can make a huge difference to someone's life.
In these times we live in, it is really important to learn more about oneself and how to live, as there is a lot of change happening and internal development will help with this.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
How adaptive I had become to the needs of others, and therefore away from who I really am, what I wanted and needed, as well as how ingrained my patterns of relating had become. Once I could recognise them they could then be gradually updated for healthier ones.
Above all I learned that it is healing to share your story with a trusted, empathic other person who really listens to you, doesn’t judge but can support you. Over time, you realise that there is another way to live your life, your way.