Meet the Therapist: Gemma Latimer
What attracted you to become a therapist?
People always told me they found it easy to talk to me and would come to me for support. Caring for others, particularly those in distress, came naturally to me.
Where did you train?
I began my training in person-centred counselling at Metanoia Institute and changed courses to an MSc in Gestalt psychotherapy. With the Gestalt group, I felt for the first time like I belonged, accepted as I am amongst likeminded people. I really found my tribe.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I practise Gestalt therapy. Gestalt means ‘whole’ or ‘greater than the sum of its parts’. As humans, we’re made up of many complex parts, and gestalt works to raise awareness and bring these parts together in more acceptance. When we can accept fully who we are, even those parts which may be full of shame, that is when growth happens.
I work relationally and collaboratively, meaning clients can expect a focus on the relationship between client and therapist. I believe healing happens through the relationship. I see the therapeutic journey as a joint endeavour, where I openly, curiously and non-judgmentally sit alongside clients, experience their worlds and understand ways they might get stuck or hold themselves back.
I love the aliveness of working in the present, focusing on immediate experience, bringing the therapy to life in the room. Sometimes I’ll work creatively with clients or offer a menu of experiments, to heighten awareness of particular reoccurring theme or pattern. By understanding the origins of relational patterns in a safe and holding space, clients can begin to see the larger picture of how patterns served them in the past but maybe now are outdated and due a refresh. Choices open up through therapy and clients can begin to expand in more satisfying ways.
I enjoy working with the body, inviting clients to tune into their bodily sensations and feelings, to begin to dialogue body to mind and start a process of retuning to wholeness and healing. My clients often experience Gestalt as very different from other modalities, surprised at the power at which we can get to the heart of issues. The Kepner quote, ‘returning clients to their bodies is a labour of love’, resonates with my therapeutic style.
How does Gestalt therapy help with symptoms of anxiety?
Gestalt therapy helps with symptoms of anxiety by helping explore and raise awareness of the triggers causing anxious feelings and respectfully challenge beliefs which may now be unhelpful. By sitting with and trying to understand clients individual experiences of anxiety I focus on the whole; body and mind connection. By tuning into bodily sensations associated with anxiety, we can begin to hear and acknowledge messages from our bodies, vocalise and start to self-regulate physiological symptoms. By focusing on support, grounding and resourcing, clients are able to develop their resilience and own toolbox to use both in and out of the therapy room.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see adults for individual therapy sessions, both face-to-face and online. Common difficulties can range from anxiety, depression, bereavement, stress, low self-esteem, mood and confidence, anger issues, trauma, panic attacks, relationship difficulties, lack of motivation and feeling stuck or directionless in life.
I see a lot of creatives; artists, designers and actors who appreciate the creativity that Gestalt offers.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I love seeing the transition points where clients start to recognise and trust their inner resources. Supporting people on their journeys, witnessing them grow and flourish is a real honour for me. Having previously worked in the arts as an illustrator and senior university lecturer, being a therapist brings the depth and connection that was missing in other roles.
What is less pleasant?
Connecting socially with other therapists and friends to counteract the lonely and isolating nature of the work is important for me. Confidentiality is key to create safety, which means the work remains between client and therapist. It’s not like other jobs where you can talk freely about your day, that is sometimes difficult.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been a member of welldoing.org for a year. It’s been a great platform, easy to use and communicate with clients through. It feels a holding and safe community for both therapists and clients.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I sometimes suggest meditation apps to clients. I have used Headspace most days for the past three years and find it incredibly useful to manage my own stress levels.
What you do for your own mental health?
Time in nature grounds and recharges me. Whether connecting with a tree or dipping my toes in the sea, time and space for myself alone is fundamental. Part of training as a therapist requires you to be in weekly personal therapy, even past qualifying, I still draw great support from personal therapy for my own mental wellbeing.
Meditation, yoga, breathwork and relaxation is essential to return to my own bodily strength, move energy and release emotions. Creating artwork and illustration supports me to express myself and play.
You are a therapist in Walthamstow and online. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
I’m a therapist working in Walthamstow. Seeing clients in this area means attracting young professionals and creatives, often at transitional points in their lives. Something might have changed, which requires some additional support. Whether shifting into a new career, feeling stuck or directionless, grieving after a relationship break up, embarking upon pregnancy or starting a family.
At these points when feelings can be heightened and old scrips or patterns of behaviour surface, it can be useful to talk confidentially to a therapist in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
What’s your consultation room like?
With a background in the arts, aesthetics and design are important to me. My therapy room has a contemporary mid-century style, accentuated with colour, plants and artwork. Light and airy, clients describe the space as calm, comfortable, relaxing and safe. I have a plethora of art materials, objects and props to use creatively with clients, where appropriate. In my practice, working experientially can often heighten experiences, bringing them to life by doing, rather than talking about.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Independence is promoted in our culture and all sorts of beliefs might hold people back from contacting a therapist. I would say to those people, that you are not alone with your problems and you don’t need to suffer in silence. I want to encourage others that its OK to ask for support. It shows great courage and strength.
I also frequently hear a belief that, ‘therapists have it all sorted’, which I would like to challenge! We’re human too with our own struggles and difficulties. Breaking down that barrier can be helpful, creating a less hierarchical relationship. Ultimately therapy is two people sitting together having an honest chat. It’s our humanness that connects us.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Wow, I’m not sure where to start! My biggest learning through therapy is, its ok to be me. It’s ok to relax, not try so hard, it’s ok to be different, do things my own way and find my own path. Reaching for support took time and patience to develop along with finding the voice of my self-compassion. Learning to trust myself and my own body enables me to help clients return to their own bodies and embodied wisdom. Our bodies are far wiser than our minds! Going to the depths of my own suffering with the ability to show up in my own vulnerability and authenticity is my greatest strength.