Meet the Therapist: Emily Hilton
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I've always been really interested in how other people think and how they see the world, and when I was younger this played out in a love of reading and languages. I studied French at university, and after that went into work in the film and TV and wine industries, but realised neither were the right fit. When I took stock of what mattered to me, and what I really wanted to do with my life, training to be a therapist became the obvious answer. I think there are few things more meaningful and brave we can do than face our difficulties, try to connect with ourselves and others, and ask for support and empathy when they are needed. To be the person that my clients choose to share that experience with is always a huge privilege.
Where did you train?
I trained at City and Islington College, on the Holloway Road. I also trained in bereavement therapy at Caris Bereavement Service, and saw clients there during my studies.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I am an integrative therapist, which means I use more than one theoretical approach. Existential and person-centred theory underpin my practice, but I also try to learn about other theories and approaches, and incorporate useful ideas from them too. I like to keep exploring, and to keep seeing how different therapists work.
As everyone is so different, I think it's important as a therapist to be able to offer flexibility. Some clients may want to explore their lives and relationships in depth, and some may just want to find a way to feel less anxious every day: an integrative style can work with both ends of the spectrum, and many points in between.
I also include space for different types of communication in my therapy room, as some people find talking really challenging at times: I've always got sketch pads and felt-tips on hand for clients that like to use spider-diagrams or time-lines to help them express themselves.
How does existential therapy help with feelings of grief or loss?
I find existential therapy can be really helpful for exploring loss, because it is so grounded in the bare bones of what it is to be human: it offers space to explore difficult emotions around meaning, mortality, loneliness and identity that are so often experienced in the wake of loss. It is a theory that's not afraid to wrestle with really difficult questions.
What sort of people do you usually see?
My client base is mostly made up of 'millennials' living and working in East London – like me and many of my friends. A very common phrase I hear from my clients is 'I don't understand why I don't feel happy, everything in my life is OK'. Among this generation, it seems there's a prevalence of feeling that we've 'ticked all the boxes' that we were told were the recipe to happiness, and yet not only is something missing, it also feels hard to acknowledge the fact that something is missing. Anxiety, burnout, loneliness and difficulties with excessive phone/video streaming/social media use also often feature in sessions. It seems that learning how to live happily with all the technology we now have access to is a very pertinent issue.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Every day I feel incredibly honoured to do my job, and I greatly enjoy just sitting in a room with someone, with us both trying to be as human as possible, and noticing how challenging that can be. I find the most important thing in therapy is the relationship that I have with the client, and seeing that develop as we continue to work together is really rewarding. So too is seeing a client become more confident in themselves, and more able to make the changes they want in their lives; hearing a client describe how different they are now able to feel is a real moment of shared joy.
What is less pleasant?
Looking after all of the plants in my room!
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I've been a member of welldoing.org since January 2019, and have been using the booking service since then too. I really enjoy the content I receive in their regular email updates, and I think the questionnaire function for finding a therapist is a great tool – one I've recommended to several of my therapist-hunting friends.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I think culture and art often show us aspects of ourselves we hadn't yet seen clearly, so I find my clients and I will make reference to TV shows, films, books, podcasts, video games, myths or fairy tales etc, in order to express what we're thinking or feeling. I don't tend to recommend books or apps, but I do sometimes mention articles or podcasts that voice ideas we've been exploring in sessions - the sort of content I share on my Facebook page.
What you do for your own mental health?
I play netball weekly, try to be around animals as much as possible, sink the occasional few hours into a favourite video game and watch Arsenal play their specific type of football. One of my favourite places in London is Kew Gardens, so I love to get out there for a good stroll, and often come back armed with yet another new plant for my therapy room.
You are a therapist in Liverpool Street. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
A lot of my clients are freelancers or working in start-ups. I'm hearing more often that their workplaces are taking measures to look after employees' mental health - through open communication about mental health, and offering flexible hours so clients can attend therapy - which is really heartening.
What’s your consultation room like?
Full of the aforementioned plants from Kew, and with a regularly-rotated cohort of cushions. I love my room, and find I'm constantly tweaking its contents to make it as comfortable as possible for clients.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it can be whatever they want it to be – there are no entry requirements to the therapy room; you don't have to be experiencing x, y or z in order to come in and talk about what's on your mind; every life lived is worth examining. Some of the sessions my clients find most important are the ones that start with 'I'm not sure what to talk about today'.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I learned how meaningful it can be to have someone who is truly on your side. I learned that it was OK to let my guard down, and to show my emotions, even when it felt really difficult to let someone see them. I learned the value of taking the time to try to know myself better. I learned that profound change is possible.