What attracted you to become a therapist?
I wanted to support people on a deeper level. It felt a natural progression from a career in youth and community development. Also I’d had my own experiences of therapy and had found it incredibly helpful overall.
Where did you train?
I trained at Leeds Metropolitan University, now known as Leeds Beckett.
What sort of people do you usually see?
As a therapist in Leeds, I tend to see a broad mix of people. A common theme is people looking for support around anxiety, depression and the after affects of abuse.
Due to specialist experience in the area I’m often approached by people struggling with identity issues such as questioning their gender and/or sexuality. In addition, many clients get in touch looking for a counsellor welcoming of gender, sexual and relationship diversity.
As I see a lot of clients who are questioning their gender or sexuality, I’d like to share that in my experience when people arrive at therapy they already know the answer. That the person is unable to express openly who they are without fear of potential consequences (e.g.: rejection by a loved one, social exclusion) is often the barrier. Supporting a client to accept themselves, heal from oppression, explore their options and identify support can be really beneficial.
In addition to adult clients, I also see young people. Indeed, my background prior to counselling was in youth work and it’s a privilege to be able to continue to support young people in need.
What do you like about being a therapist?
The feeling of connecting with others and supporting them to get to a place where they feel happier or simply feel heard. Being able to be a part of another person’s journey is always a huge privilege, however long that experience lasts. I also really like meeting new people, hearing their stories and getting to know who they are and what matters to them. I regularly feel very inspired by my clients and thus often find my work life affirming.
What is less pleasant?
Unexpected endings can feel challenging, such as when a client discontinues from therapy without notice. However, I recognise that many people find endings very difficult and I trust that this feels the right route for the person at the time.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been with welldoing.org now for around a year and feel it’s a very friendly and helpful service. It’s great to read the articles written by other therapists, not only are they informative but reading others words makes you feel part of a community.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I’m not tech savvy enough to suggest an app! However, if I feel a client may benefit from hearing about a particular book or writer I will suggest it. I’m conscious to remind clients that a suggestion means that I think the client may find it useful, not that I agree with all that’s inside! I’ve been suggesting the works of Dr Meg-John Barker a lot recently to support clients around relationship and identity issues. I find their work very accessible, inclusive and comforting and feel a lot of people can benefit from reading it - I know I have!
What you do for your own mental health?
I’m conscious that although love is an unlimited resource - time and energy is finite! I’ve learnt to invest carefully. Much of this goes into creating and nurturing deeper relationships with selected others, valuing quality over quantity. And while some people find social media beneficial for their wellbeing, I’ve found my own mental health improve through limiting my use of it.
Embracing lightness as well as depth is also essential to my wellbeing. As such, I seek out fun and playful expression wherever I can. Laughter really is a great medicine.
You are a therapist in Leeds and online. What can you share with us about seeing clients in that/those area(s)?
I see clients both online and from an office in the centre of Leeds. It’s great to be able to offer clients a space that’s conveniently located and a bit of tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle.
What’s your consultation room like?
I wanted to create a space where people would feel comfortable and safe, a space that’s grounding, gentle and restorative. Feedback tells me clients tend to experience it this way.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
The same thing I wish I knew when I was first a client! A counsellor doesn’t just say things as it’s ‘their job’, we tend to genuinely care for our clients. We grow to know our clients, see who they are and what matters to them. We go on a journey together and we recognise the great privilege it is to be invited along on that journey - as such, we tread carefully.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I learnt that I carried around a lot of shame about who I was and how I felt - this stopped me from connecting with others and filled me with a deep loneliness. Much of this was due to my experiences growing up gender nonconforming and with a non heterosexual sexuality. Much due to the internalised shame those of us who are abuse survivors carry in the absence of justice and accountability. Through therapy I was reminded of the healing power of connection, of someone bearing witness to our pain, accepting all of who we are and welcoming all that we can be.
Debbie Clements is on Twitter @DebbieClements_