Meet the Therapist: Debbie Kelly
What attracted you to become a therapist?
During my time working as a nurse I realised that I had the practical medical skills to assist my patients but was in need of additional training to support their psychological needs. I was working with patients facing life-changing surgery, experiencing loss and grief and those at the end of their life journey. My counsellor training provided the necessary skills and insights to be able to offer an holistic approach which is more in keeping with my way of being. I then made the transition from nursing to setting up in private counselling practice in 2008.
Where did you train?
I studied for my MSc in Counselling and Psychotherapy over four years at the University of Surrey, Guildford. I qualified in 1999.
I am committed to Continued Professional Development and regularly undertake shorter courses/study days to remain current and expand my knowledge base.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My training was integrative, which means that we covered and practiced a wide range of therapeutic approaches and techniques. However, I was most drawn to the person-centred approach as this is a good fit with the way that I move through the world.
I strongly believe that the client is the expert on themselves, and I am providing a safe holding space for their explorations, which allows them to be heard and to find the clarity needed for positive change.
The basic tenets of the person-centred approach are:
Congruence: helping the client recognise there there is a gap between ‘felt sense’ (how they feel internally) and action or behaviour, so that they can move towards a more balanced internal and external state. Client issues can often be exacerbated by how they want to be versus how they have been told they should be.
Unconditional positive regard: providing a non-judgmental and accepting space for the client to safely explore any issues they wish to address in therapy without fear of being judged.
Empathy: being empathic with my clients offers a sense of being heard and understood in ways that everyday relationships/interactions generally don’t offer. This provides a safe environment for client self exploration.
I also believe that the therapeutic relationship, the relationship between myself and my clients, is key to the success of counselling work and I encourage clients to take up my free 15 minute initial phone call so that we can both get a sense of each other and make sure we are a ‘good fit’ going forwards.
How does your therapy style help with symptoms of depression?
When working with clients who may be experiencing low mood or depression, my approach offers the breathing space to find the words to explore their feelings, helping them find coping strategies that best work for them.
By listening, empathising and staying with the difficult feelings, clients can move to a state where they feel more regulated and able to make the positive changes they wish to make but always at a pace that is right for them.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I predominantly work with individuals over the age of 18 years, and my client ages have ranged from 18 to 85! It’s never too soon or too late to make positive changes in life. I have experience of working in hospital, university settings, children’s hospice and with employee assistance counselling schemes.
I work with a wide range of client issues, from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, to grief, pregnancy loss, pre and postnatal anxiety and depression. Clients often come with work related stress and relationship issues, or acute or chronic health problems.
Some clients come with a general sense of stuckness or dis-ease, then together we pinpoint the issues during therapy and find a way forward that works for the client .
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
In have noticed that the general taboo about talking therapies has decreased, particularly with men and more male clients are seeking help sooner, which can only be positive change in attitude.
Also, more new mums are coming forward sooner with pre or postnatal anxiety or depression or general adjustment issues with parenthood. In have particularly seen an increase in postnatal issues following Covid, where lockdown and changes in the hospital environment have added to the stress and isolation some families have experienced.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I love the variety of people that I meet. It’s very satisfying when clients come to the end of their sessions because they feel better, have made the changes they identified they needed and now feel ready to ‘go it alone’.
Following a relocation to rural Wales, I am now exclusively working remotely, either online or by phone and am very much enjoying this way of working. I think this had broadened the client base and client’s’ opportunities to fit sessions into busy lives.
What is less pleasant?
Working with clients in pain and distress can be challenging, but my 15 years of experience in private practice plus the tenets of the person-centred approach along with the support of my supervisor mean that I can stay alongside my clients when they are struggling, knowing that difficult feelings are, like all feelings, transient and they will pass, making way for healing and change.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I am new to Welldoing so am looking forward to seeing how the platform works for myself and my clients.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes, I will often recommend resources to clients, be it work sheets that feel relevant, books such as Matthew Johnstone’s I had a Black Dog and Living with a Black Dog as they are written by someone who has experienced depression and co-written by his wife who knows what it is like to live alongside someone with depression.
I also recommend the Insight Timer app, which has many free mediations, sleep, breathwork and yoga resources for wellbeing.
What you do for your own mental health?
Being outside regularly is key for my mental health, so spending time in nature, with the elements, there’s nothing like a blustery day to blow the cobwebs away. I also take downtime by reading and crafting, creative expression is a cathartic process for me.
What’s your consultation room like?
Clients who have sessions with me by zoom will see several pictures of trees behind me, I strive to provide a background that is calming but also not too distracting.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it works! That it is an invaluable tool for self-growth and positive change
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I learned about the patterns that were in place for me that added to my stuckness and then I learned how to challenge and change them.