Meet the Therapist: Clair Ray
What attracted you to become a therapist?
Perhaps a cliché, but having therapy myself! I went through a difficult time in my life and I sought counselling. I found a very supportive therapist whom I came to trust and – surprisingly to me – I ended up enjoying the process. Although it was difficult at times, it was worth it as I began to experience positive changes in my life, especially within my personal and work relationships.
Over time I transitioned from my long-held corporate role to re-training as a Gestalt therapist, ultimately wanting to offer support to people wishing to enrich their lives.
Where did you train?
After much research I studied at the Metanoia Institute in London. It felt very different to other courses out there; it had a immersive quality, not only challenging students with rigorous theory but also encouraging them to explore and bring their own life experience. There were 40 hours a year of personal therapy and hundreds of volunteer hours to undertake. As a result you felt as prepared as you could be for the privileged position of hearing others' life stories and extending support as a therapist.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I chose to practise Gestalt therapy as I believe it encourages an approach of meeting the client and their concerns in the present moment without judgement but with curiosity and compassion. For example, you may be in a situation where you feel confused or have feelings that are uncomfortable (boredom, shame) and you may have found yourself creating behaviours that helped you to numb, tolerate, or distract (food, drink, staying busy) or to adapt yourself (staying quiet, avoiding relationships), feeling it’s a preferable, safer or maybe even your only option.
Gestalt therapy respects how you have survived thus far, creatively adapting and supporting yourself. In partnership – and at your pace – we explore your unique ways of how, where and even with whom you adjust yourself to and how this currently serves/impacts you in areas of your life.
This exploring helps to raise self-awareness which is ultimately getting to know oneself and can include anything, from being more open to noticing thoughts, feelings and sensations in your body to recognising areas where you may be on autopilot: perhaps unconsciously following family, cultural, societal or gender norms. Are you triggered or feeling stuck, have unfinished business or feel bogged down by beliefs that on some reflection are not serving you and are in need of updating?
In therapy, the aim is to use this rich information and creative ways to integrate it gently into your life, thus encouraging you to be more of who you really are and moving your life in a more relevant and enriching direction, making more helpful decisions and opening up more options and choices than once was the case.
How does Gestalt therapy help with self-esteem issues?
Gestalt therapy can help tremendously with self-esteem and relationship issues. It can be a great investment to take the time to look at how we relate and respond to ourselves and others, and in the process work out any patterns of how we relate, who and how we are in present/past relationships and what we really desire.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I have clients from 18-65 years of age with varying concerns. Having a synergy to work well together, I feel is the most common denominator. I always offer a free taster session so that we can check our mutual compatibility.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Doing work about which I feel passionate, being alongside clients for both their difficulties and triumphs and in particular, when energy shifts in a direction towards renewed hope.
What is less pleasant?
Not being able to moan about the boss! And I do miss a good work Christmas party! It just means being more mindful to stay in touch with my network of therapists.
Also knowing that some people cannot afford to access therapy and the fact that I only have so much space for concessionary spots feels difficult at times.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I joined because a fellow therapist said she found the administrative side easier than other media and she found the therapist community really friendly. I have been impressed by that, too. I also like the freshness of all the new articles on different therapies that are accessible for clients, to help choose the right therapy for them.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Sometimes meditation apps like Headspace and Calm – the latter of which has pleasant, relaxing music.
Clue is another good app that tracks mood, energy and physical symptoms over a woman’s monthly cycle.
What do you do for your own mental health?
Alone time is a must and some early nights to recharge; lighthearted entertainment (at present I am enjoying watching ‘Interior Design Masters’ and ‘Schitt's Creek on TV); getting out for walks and good food and music; making time to spend with like-minded people and maintaining regular personal therapy.
You are a therapist in Leamington Spa/Warwickshire. Can you share with us about seeing clients in that area?
In my local area I have been working with counselling departments within a large university and have previously worked in the corporate arena. Therefore, the majority of the referrals I receive are for young and mature students and young professionals.
Online I have had a greater variety of clients and even have some from overseas.
What’s your consultation room like?
I hire a lovely room locally and am in the process of building a garden office that will be calming, private and charming (I hope!). Think ‘outside-in’ vibe!
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
You don’t have to leave your sense of humour at home and (hopefully) neither does your therapist – it can be refreshing and fun.
Therapy can be preventative health care. You don’t have to wait until things are really difficult in order to seek therapy. You can simply be feeling in a bit of a pickle, have issues at work or want more out of your life. All have an important place in therapy.
You can take it at your own pace and only share what you are comfortable with at any given time.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That my mental health really affected my energy levels and physical health and that you can learn new ways of ‘being’. For me, it was about being able to learn how to be more comfortable with receiving support.