Meet the Therapist: Dani O'Connor
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I was a beauty therapist and was starting to struggle with repetitive strain injury; I was facing the end of being able to do that career but still wanted to be in a profession where I could be of help to people and help them feel better within themselves. It was a client who suggested I should be a counsellor as I was halfway there already.
Where did you train?
Chrysalis courses and currently studying with the Open University for a degree in Psychology and Counselling
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I use a pluralistic method of practise. I like this as I can tailor the session for my client as one modality (type of therapy) may work for some people but not for others so I like the fact that I have lots of tools in my box that I can pick from to make it more suitable for the client in front of me.
I use psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on a client's history and what lies beneath the surface in our subconscious that needs to come to the surface and be explored.
A person-centred-model is very much being in the present, listening to the client and being empathetic, giving the client that space to just talk.
CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, looks at challenging the intrusive, constant thoughts we have and creating new, more beneficial thoughts. There are many other methods and models that I draw from also.
How does pluralistic therapy help with symptoms of anxiety?
So, I find this works particularly well with both self-esteem and anxiety. Firstly just having that space to open up and discuss what it is that is troubling you without being placated or having your thoughts brushed aside; having someone willing to listen and take on board your concerns.
Then looking back at where this belief came from, how long it has been there, who gave it to you, what is that thought doing for you today?
Then we can challenge that thought through CBT or REBT (rational emotional behavioural therapy) and create a healthier mindset.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see people in a wide range of ages, male, female and non-binary. I work with individuals and couples and am getting into group therapy work.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I have noticed a lot of talk surrounding personality and spectrum ‘disorders’ particularly borderline personality disorder and ADHD. Mental health seems to have become ‘trendy’ with a lot of documentaries being brought out by different celebrities of what struggles they have, which is good for bringing it to the spotlight.
What do you like about being a therapist?
It is an honour to be able to provide the client that safe space to open up. I feel honoured to be entrusted with the biggest secrets a person has and have a clients trust me enough to be vulnerable with me. When a client says that ‘I’ve never told anyone that before’ I take it as a privilege – it's not something I take lightly.
What is less pleasant?
Less pleasant can be the attitude some people have towards counselling and also the times when you aren’t the right therapist for the client, or you realise that you can’t give the client what they need from you. Some people expect a quick fix in one session, which more often than not really isn’t possible. I say it’s like going to the gym and expect to be a weightlifting champion after one session.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I’ve only been with Welldoing for about two weeks so far, but I like the ethos and the continued support for both clients and therapists is great
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes I recommend the Attachment Theory Workbook for people who want to understand more about their attachment style and the Balance app for meditation, especially for people who are getting into it for the first time.
Also The Chimp Paradox which talks about that part of your brain (the chimp) that takes over from our logical part of the brain which in part explains why we do things without knowing why.
What you do for your own mental health?
I attend personal counselling if I find things crop up in sessions that are close to me.
I take time for self-care, having a massage, going for reflexology, going for a long walk with a podcast, usually about psychology or counselling or The Diary of a CEO or The Referral. I also love a good sea swim when it’s warm enough.
You are a therapist in Barry, South Wales. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
Barry is a bustling town but the entrance to our practice is very discreet, we have a buzzer entry that allows clients to come in undetected. We are also looking at providing walking therapy as we have a nice promenade nearby, although not the best on the typical Welsh weather days.
We have a diverse clientele with an equally diverse counselling team.
What’s your consultation room like?
Our consultation rooms are cosy, safe spaces where we try to make the client feel as comfortable as possible. We each have our own favourite room that we try to battle over as there are five rooms to nine counsellors so between sessions, you may hear some friendly banter between us regarding that.
We aren’t accessible for physical disabilities so offer online or home visits in these circumstances.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
How it is not some hippy-dippy voodoo that is about lying on a couch talking about your childhood but it is an extremely powerful and beneficial tool. It can be painful and you won’t always feel amazing afterwards but it’s like, back to the gym analogy, having those post-workout aches to get the results you need. Yes we will ask about your childhood – the same if you buy a second hand car, you need to know the history of the car to know how it runs and what upcoming issues it may encounter.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That the faults I thought I had within myself were actually beliefs that had been learned through experience and other people's opinions that weren’t always correct. I also learned that there is a lot more going on in our minds than we actually realise.