Meet the Therapist: James McWilliams
What attracted you to become a therapist?
Interestingly, I would say two different paths have led me professionally into the field of psychotherapy.
The first involved volunteering for a LGBTQ+ helpline called Switchboard (formerly known as the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard), where I spent five years manning the phones and on-line chat service. Supporting people in this way was an incredibly rich and rewarding experience.
Whereas the second path emerged from my own personal experience of therapy, which I embarked on whilst going through a difficult period in my life seven years ago. Therapy had such a profound and dramatic impact on my self-esteem and self-worth, I knew deep down I wanted to support others through their healing process in the same way.
Where did you train?
I trained for three years at the Psychosynthesis Trust in London Bridge, gaining a Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling. I was drawn to the course by the largely experiential nature of the training combined with the academic rigour of a Master’s degree. It is possibly one the most challenging but also the most deeply profound experiences I have ever undertaken (whilst also working full-time!).
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I practice psychosynthesis counselling which is a transpersonal psychotherapy, and is often described as a ‘psychology with a soul’. Not to be confused with religion, psychosynthesis is a secular discipline which explores both the higher and lower forms of the self within; supporting clients through their own personal difficulties whilst enabling them to become more of who they truly are.
Psychosynthesis is also an integrative training which enables me to incorporate psychodynamic, Gestalt, Jungian and CBT elements into my work with clients, tailoring my practice to each individual depending on their therapeutic needs.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with individual clients from the age of 25 and up, though all ages and walks of life are welcome! Typically, my clients are in need of support through depression, anxiety and relationship difficulties, but are also often searching for deeper meaning and purpose in their lives. It is a privilege to be a guide on their emerging journeys.
What do you like about being a therapist?
As a therapist, nothing gives me greater joy to see my clients grow in their confidence, authentic resilience and self-esteem. My clients are also my greatest teachers, as each and every session is a learning experience.
What is less pleasant?
The work can be very demanding both mentally and physically, so I have learned (quickly) self-care is crucial in this profession. Having downtime and plenty of rest is key!
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have only joined welldoing.org recently, so I am looking forward to see how the site supports and signposts clients effectively.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
From time to time I discuss relevant books with clients, depending on what is emerging in the session and whether my intuition suggests they would be interested. My top three frequent recommendations are Gerhardt’s Why Love Matters, Van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score and Peck’s The Road Less Travelled.
What you do for your own mental health?
I have been practising yoga for the past eight years and find it hugely complimentary to my on-going personal therapy. Good sleep is fundamental, whilst regular in-person contact with family, friends and loved ones is crucial in an ever physically divisive, technological world.
You are a therapist in SE1 and WC1, London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
I see clients both in London Bridge and Oxford Circus in central London. Generally speaking, my clients are corporate professionals, with work stress and anxiety often a factor in their arrival into the therapy room. I also work with members of the LGBTQ+ community, exploring shame and sexual/gender identity.
What’s your consultation room like?
My consultations rooms are simple and comfortable. For me, lighting is important for creating the right atmosphere for clients to feel at ease.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Therapy is not about giving advice or someone telling you what you should/need do. A big learning curve for many clients is realising I am not going to tell them how they should live their lives or make decisions for them. This often leads to frustration and disappointment at first, but if they are willing to walk the path, therapy enables them to take responsibility for their own choices.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
First and foremost I have learned to have a relationship with myself, and to self-soothe with compassion when I feel shame.