Meet the Therapist: Jo Mercer
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I struggled with depression when I was at university. Luckily, I was able to see the student therapist twice a week for two years. It was a life-changing experience for me, and I think it’s sad that that sort of intensive therapy isn’t available for undergraduates today. Experiencing how transformative therapy can be sowed the seed of my ambition to become a therapist, although it took many years for me to get there!
Where did you train?
I started off at the Philadelphia Association and then later went on to WPF Therapy.
Can you tell us about the sort of therapy you practise?
I chose to train in the school of therapy that had so helped me. I practise psychodynamic psychotherapy, which is rooted in psychoanalytic theory. Although we no longer expect people to come five days a week and lie on a couch!
How does psychodynamic therapy help clients?
This kind of therapy works really well for long-standing and deep-rooted issues, so is particularly suited for those of us who notice repetitive patterns of thinking or feeling that negatively impact our lives. For example, we may find ourselves in the same sorts of disappointing relationships time and again, or certain types of situations might always lead to incapacitating anxiety.
Untangling these long-standing issues takes some time, but it is very rewarding. It enables us to understand ourselves inside out, and from this place, we can build deeper connections with others and live a more congruent life.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with adults, and all sorts of people come to therapy with me. I also specialise in working with people who have experienced emotional abuse. This might mean someone who is currently suffering narcissistic abuse from a partner, parent or in another close relationship. They may be struggling with very complex and painful decisions about whether to separate; or they may be trying to “get over it” to rebuild their lives after a shattering separation. Often someone will just desperately want to understand what has happened to them, so they don’t keep repeating the patterns of the past.
What do you like about being a therapist?
So often people feel they are the only one who struggles in the way they do, and that somehow it must all be their fault. I love it when someone has a eureka moment and recognises this isn’t true! It’s a very empowering realisation. It’s a real privilege to be there in those moments.
What’s less pleasant?
Of course, it is sad to hear when someone is not being seen or heard in their life. Sometimes therapy is a person’s first experience of being really listened to and held in mind.
How long have you been with welldoing.org, and what do you think of us?
I’ve been with welldoing.org for two or three years (actually I’m not sure!). I think the client matching service is really great. In my experience, the team have been spot on in helping clients find someone who is the right fit for them. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a therapist. I also think the booking and payment system works seamlessly well; I do love anything that reduces admin for therapist and client alike!
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
To be honest, I generally don’t. However, I love YouTube: I love Brene Brown for all of us who struggle with vulnerability and shame. I also love Mandy Saligari’s video “Feelings: handle them before they handle you”, which appears on the surface to be about addiction but really is about having and holding your own feelings.
What do you do for your own mental health?
I’m a big advocate of having a hobby that counterbalances your work life. I’m really into interior design and am a Rightmove fantasist. For me, creating a lovely home brings calm, security, and a sense of being grounded.
You’re a therapist in Central London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in that area?
I think Covid-19 has brought changes to the way we view searching for a therapist. Now that Zoom has become a familiar medium for communication, people are able to make choices based on something other than their location. I have a number of international clients, and perhaps half of the people I see are not based in London.
What’s your consultation room like?
I work with a group of therapists in a stuccoed building in Belgravia, which makes it sound rather grander than it is. We’re 150 metres north of Victoria Station (Mainline, Tube, Bus station), which means we’re amazingly accessible for anyone working in Central London.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
It’s not unusual for people to feel terribly anxious about starting therapy. I wish people knew you can book a one-off exploratory session to think things through with someone, and discover for yourself whether therapy feels right.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I learnt that the things I thought were my weaknesses are actually my strengths. When I was young, I spent a lot of time wishing I was more like everyone else; now I realise it’s just fine being me!