Meet the Therapist: J Anthony Welsh
What attracted you to become a therapist?
A growing sense that my talents, e.g. empathy, diplomacy and pragmatism, were being wasted; plus, this is a role I have always been drawn to, albeit – due to certain health problems/obstacles – one that had previously been off-limits.
Where did you train?
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My training was in the person-centred approach, which means I offer a talking therapy that tries to unlock the potential of the client, at the same time acknowledging the bigger picture, or rather, the world that exists outside – with all the obstacles, pressures and anxieties therein; hence, the process is client-led, and although I do appreciate how unsettling this might be for some, it is worth remembering the subtleties involved e.g. working in a curious, probing, thought-provoking way, which may lead to a more challenging experience for the client.
Furthermore, the idea of a genuine therapeutic relationship – one built on trust, empathy, and acceptance – is also very important, where being authentic could mean, firstly, having a strong reaction to what a client is saying/doing (or planning to do), and secondly, being open about this, albeit, in a subtle, reflective way. After all, a firmer hand will only ever undermine the person-centred approach, while any client who remains true to themselves will always be the stronger for it.
Finally, as an artist on the side (I write) with a degree in Humanities and Philosophy, I also chose this approach because it feels the most authentic in terms of my own perspective, which tends to be compassionate and positive, with a healthy sense of realism – in other words, that person-centred ideal of always believing in the client whilst never losing sight of their reality, is also one that fits very nicely.
How does the person-centred approach help with symptoms of depression?
Although we must acknowledge the label itself (and crucially, what this means for the client), the real basis for good mental health will always rest on the idea of being kinder to ourselves, as we grow more accepting of our past, our present, and in turn, our future. Moreover, the key to this is ownership, and a deep sense of autonomy, as the client ultimately finds their own way to the truth, thereby leading to a more authentic experience of life itself, and hence, answers that are more profound and deeply felt.
What sort of people do you usually see?
So far, they tend to be individuals in their 30s or 40s, with depression/anxiety, chronic illness/pain or relationship issues being among the most common difficulties. Bereavement, self-esteem and men’s issues are further examples of areas I feel drawn to.
Of course, it is also worth mentioning the on-going impact of Covid-19, where, happily – largely due to those aforementioned health problems/obstacles – I do feel ready to show a genuine understanding when it comes to the many varied, and complex issues this will undoubtedly throw up.
What do you like about being a therapist?
As I alluded to earlier, it feels like a natural fit in terms of my own strengths, and this is obviously a very satisfying position to be in.
More importantly though, it is the way in which you get to see a person grow, as you help them to engage with their issues.
What is less pleasant?
I would say, those moments when you really feel the reality of the client’s world/everyday life, where – as much as you try to foster compassion and empathy in the room – this may not be the reality elsewhere, which can be deeply frustrating on my part, and obviously, incredibly hard on the client. Nonetheless, this is where those elements already highlighted (an on-going acceptance/believing in the client or simply being patient) can really make a difference
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
Not long, and yes, my early impressions are good; I like the way our profiles are presented, and the staff are always very helpful. Mind you, I have yet to fully realise all the tools available e.g. the welldoing.org therapist community on Facebook, although I am now using the online booking system.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Due to the client-led nature of the approach, suggestions like this are obviously tricky. I honestly believe there is a deep expertise (or know-how) in each and every one of us when it comes to our own lives, that only we will ever truly possess. Furthermore, it is hard to see how any therapist could every really match this, where – as good as our insight or reflective practice might be – a 50-minute session will always pale into insignificance when compared to the whole lifetime/experience of a client. I will also never forget a lady who in one of our sessions referred to a former therapist’s advice, which they had never really seemed to gain anything from.
Nevertheless, having had certain conditions myself (M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), where certain problems evolve over time (like troubled sleep patterns), there are certainly coping mechanisms that you pick up along the way, like good sleep hygiene, herbal teas, or sleep relaxation videos on YouTube, and at times, it may be right to offer this information to a client, albeit, never forgetting the most important thing – continuing to work through their underlying issues. Likewise, as an avid reader, it is easy to imagine a similar scenario with one of my favourite books.
What you do for your own mental health?
I love being by the water, so anytime spent by the sea or the pool (where I love a good spa) is always very relaxing. I also love music and film, and of course, spending time with family or friends.
You are a therapist in Hertfordshire. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
To be honest, I find this difficult to answer. After all, when you genuinely see your clients as unique – an ethos that has yet to be challenged – the objectivity alluded to here (in terms of an area defining your client base), is surely wrong? Moreover, in the current climate – what with the complex nature of the problems facing many sections of society – again, the objectivity called for does not sit comfortably.
What is your consultation room like?
In normal times ... small and homely, where the client will find themselves surrounded by trees and fields (there are a few houses around, but not too many – it is a small village). There is also a drive with plenty of space to park.
However, due to Covid-19, I am currently prioritising online/remote working, or possibly, hiring a room somewhere else.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Although the idea of a process – which can be bumpy and time consuming – is one that people are often aware of, sometimes, this will coincide with the desire for a quick fix, or a therapeutic relationship full of advice and direction, and of course, I understand this. Having said that, to really give counselling a chance, a client needs to understand that such a desire may not be met, where the process might also take some time.
Nonetheless, learning to trust ourselves is certainly a healthy destination in terms of any successful course of therapy; and, what’s more, when it comes to rising above any deeply entrenched obstacles, our best chance of doing so will always rely on us being as strong as we possibly can, which means growing as individuals – and this is exactly where the person-centred approach comes in.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Probably most of all, how I was able to see past, or rather come to terms with, certain things in a way that I had never been able to before.