Meet the Therapist: Gemma Grainger
What attracted you to become a therapist?
The attraction came after I realised I was kind of already doing it. I have a strong memory of being sat in the car with my Mum one afternoon. She has always worked in palliative, end-of-life care, and she drew my attention to the fact that I could be of real help to her and her team, and the lack of proper counselling offered to her patients and their families at the time. Something clicked that day. I think like many other therapists, we’ve always been therapists to our friends and families, and now we have the training.
Where did you train?
I did a psychology degree at Cardiff University, and then I trained at University of East London on their counselling and psychotherapy course. It was an integrative course and I really recommend it for the process and great tutors.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I chose my studies really carefully to avoid narrowing my choices. I also know where my weaker areas for studying lie – in Biology for example, so was careful to avoid a heavily biological based approach when training. People are so individual, and different methods appeal to different people. Not only that, the same person can appreciate and grow from different methods at different times in their lives, and different issues that they present. Together, with my client, we identify the focus and how we can help make that better, An integrative approach means we can go more solution-focussed if we need to, or we can explore elements from their past in a more exploratory way if we think that will be helpful. It’s a dynamic and collaborative approach, but it all stems from listening to what is going on for my client in the present.
How does integrative therapy help with symptoms of anxiety?
As an integrative therapist it is very easy to default into a CBT focus when starting to work with a client who experiences anxiety. From my experience, allowing them the space to air their anxieties, be heard, acknowledge and accept them, learn about the normal and maladaptive elements, where they might originate in their lifeline, and then continue to talk about this ongoing process is actually the most helpful thing they can do. Often, I will offer some more CBT focussed exercises or ways of talking about their anxiety, but generally I find that the talking process alone does a lot of healing.
What sort of people do you usually see?
Being a young female therapist I do often see people within my own demographic. Interestingly, I also see a lot of 30-45 year old male clients. With both groups the main themes emerging surround identity and understanding themselves and their place in the world. Confidence is a huge recurring theme too.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I love the interaction with all the different types of people. I love building the relationships and watching them evolve. I love the moments where you realise a connection has been formed and I can start to challenge more confidently and in a more relaxed way. Also I do treasure the moments when a client discloses something they say they have never told anyone else. That really does feel special.
What is less pleasant?
That the relationships don’t go beyond the therapy hour and the therapy room. Often an email or text between sessions will indicate the connection beyond the restrictions, and having to question every reply so as to not break those boundaries can be tiresome and tricky. I’m learning a lot from reading about this at the moment but the constant scrutiny and self-awareness can be a little tortuous sometimes!
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve only been with welldoing.org a couple of weeks, I had heard positive things and so decided to join, also because of the booking system, which so far seems really easy to use. I also love the Calm subscription available to welldoing.org members!
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Headspace and Calm I often refer to.
Usually I refer to psychological researchers for the client to Google rather than books, and sometimes I will find summaries of their theories to send on if I think it can be helpful. I recently sent the Ainsworth Attachment Theory to a client, that’s a commonly useful one.
What you do for your own mental health?
Other than my own personal therapy, I use Calm to help me sleep, I exercise a few times a week, I go for walks. My favourite new thing at the moment is taking a flask of tea and riding the bus through London - that’s very therapeutic.
You are a therapist in Shoreditch, London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in that area?
Shoreditch is full of new dynamic companies, there are a lot of co-working spaces like WeWork and they tend to be flexible with their working hours, often they will offer a wellbeing scheme so it is actually encouraged that their employees take a break and come to therapy.
There’s a lot of creative people here and a lot of tech here, and that impacts the types of clients I will often fill my days seeing.
What’s your consultation room like?
I have a few, but all are well-furnished and inviting. One building has a waiting room as there are 11 therapy rooms here, which is great for having some sort of social element as I get to interact with lots of other therapists.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I wish people didn’t think that you had to have a ‘big problem’ to come to therapy. It is really worth spending some money and time to just talk for 50 minutes and be properly heard. When else do we truly get that?
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I am constantly learning about myself and don’t suppose that will ever stop. I have learnt to be proud of my achievements, I have learnt that sometimes I need to consider some of my behaviours more deeply than I am allowing myself to.