Meet the Therapist: Jude Hutchinson
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I don’t think I was ready to do the self-development and self-awareness work needed to become a therapist until I reached my mid 40s. Before then I had been a palliative care social worker. It was the therapeutic aspect of that work which I found most rewarding, so when I was ready to retrain after raising my children, I started my counselling journey.
Where did you train?
I did all my counselling training at Redbridge Adult Institute.
Tell us about the type of therapy that you practise
I trained mainly person-centred with a dash of Gestalt, existentialism and CBT. I loved everything I learned and all aspects of psychology fascinate me.
During my diploma years, the pandemic hit and I used this time to do independent study in a variety of areas. I completed Level 2 qualifications in CBT and Working with Young people, and busied myself with online events, workshops and webinars on many, many subjects.
Nowadays, the person-centred approach is at the core of all my work but depending on the issues my clients bring and their preferred way of working, I tailor our sessions uniquely, often incorporating mindful and creative techniques, and introduce the transactional analysis techniques which have been so useful to me in my own self-development.
I am continuing my studies working with neurodivergent teens and adults, life coaching, and am due to start couples training. I absolutely love learning and hope to never stop.
How does the way you work help with symptoms of loss?
I would say that loss is a subject which affects almost all of my clients in some way. Many people relate loss to bereavement but it is so much more than that. Loss of purpose, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of friendships, loss of hope and many more.
Society tells us how to deal with loss so it can be helpful to unpack that and our assumptions around the subject of loss to find out how the loss is, and has, impacted my clients.
Because I work in a person-centred way, I believe that building the rapport and trust with each client is paramount to the success of therapy. I do this by actively listening to their story, by not judging, by being transparent and authentic. The most important part of this is them seeing me as these things, modelling the authenticity that my clients want to achieve.
My clients use session time to explore any issues they choose and we never know in which direction the session might take. That’s the beauty of counselling and keeps it exciting and fresh for us both. Since my diploma, I have chosen to continue studying and enjoy being able to bring a wider range of techniques to support my clients.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see a wide variety of people. I tend to see quite a lot of teens with additional needs because I’ve done a lot of training with this client group and my daughter has learning disabilities and Autism so this lived experience helps me to relate more easily.
I used to see mainly women in their 30s and 40s. Lately more than half of my adult clients are men between 30 and 60. I’m seeing more and more clients struggling with a sense of identity and not knowing what they want in life.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I find with my younger clients, mobile phone usage and time spent on social media is much more of an issue than with my older clients and I believe this will be an ever-increasing problem. In these situations, I combine my therapeutic approaches with psychoeducation.
For teens who are not falling asleep until the early morning due to being on their phone well into the night, and being exhausted the following day as a result, I explain about the addictive nature of social media and that the blue light emitted by their phone screen reduces the amount of the hormone melatonin into their system, thereby messing with their sleep-wake cycle. Once they are armed with knowledge, they are free to decide whether to change their routines or not.
Cyber bullying, FOMO (fear of missing out), comparing to others, are all made worse by social media. Social media and the internet have many advantages, but can make the symptoms of vulnerable people worse.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I work in private practice and enjoy the freedom it gives me. I choose the hours I work and manage my own diary. I’m an early bird so I can see clients at 8am if we choose. Sometimes I can see clients online late in the evening. However, I choose when to have a day off. I can choose which clients I work with and how much I charge.
I’m very organised and efficient so the admin and organisation side of the work doesn’t bother me at all. I can choose what I want to study next and who I want to study with.
I enjoy being on my own and seeing other people, so I sometimes work from therapy rooms and meet other counsellors in supervision or socially.
What is less pleasant?
I guess the obvious drawback is not knowing if I’ll constantly have the quantity of work I have now. But that’s the drawback of any self-employed person. I can’t think of any other drawbacks. I love my job!
How long have you been with welldoing.org?
I believe it’s a couple of months. It’s a good system and has helpful people involved. I have had clients through them and I would love to have more.
Do you suggest books or apps to clients?
Rarely. Occasionally if I read a good book on a subject I’ll share with a client based on relevance. For example I read an amazing book called The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry. I suggested it to a few of my clients when appropriate, and many of my friends.
Sometimes I offer a client a guided meditation. If they enjoy that I might also suggest a free app to build meditation into their daily routine.
What do you do for your own mental health?
I laugh. A lot. It’s true that laughter is good for the soul. I actually did a Laughter Yoga Training.
I enjoy walking. I am lucky to be living near Epping Forest so I walk there. I had a lovely dog for 12 years who was wonderful for my emotional wellbeing. Sadly he passed away six months ago and I don’t walk nearly as much as I did. We have adopted another rescue dog who is coming to his forever home this week. I’m looking forward to being able to do lots of outdoor stuff with him too.
I am fortunate to have a great relationship with my sister and some good friends I love spending time with.
I love listening to music and that can relax or uplift me at any time.
My partner got me into camping. It’s quite a challenging holiday for someone who likes a clean toilet and showers, but the fun of sleeping in a tent, eating barbequed food and going for long walks on the beach is worth it.
You are a counsellor in Essex – what can you tell us about seeing clients in that area?
I live in Buckhurst Hill on the borders of Essex and London. It’s a nice, friendly area and I’ve lived in roughly the same area my whole life. It is near to London, but also right near Epping Forest so I feel I have the best of both worlds. The busy town for when I want some fun, or culture, and a more quiet village feel where I’m most comfortable.
Because I am so near to London I see all sorts of people – ages, nationalities, race, religion, older people, younger people, neurotypical people, neurodiverse people.
What's your consultation room like?
At the moment I work about half my time online and half face-to-face. When I’m working online, I’m in my study in my house. When I’m working face-to-face I’m working from two therapy rooms – one in South Woodford E18, and one in Buckhurst Hill IG9. They are both lovely and conveniently located.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Many of my clients come to therapy wanting advice. “What should I do?” “Tell me what to do?”.
I don’t think a therapist should advise, and I don’t. I might suggest something for us to explore together and show them another way to look at a situation, but advising is disempowering and encourages dependence. That is unethical.
If I told a client what to do, how would that help them? We are different people. What I choose to do is what I think is right for me. It’s not for me to choose for another person.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Oh my! Where to start? I really could write a thesis on this question.
To keep it brief, I’ve learned that success doesn’t mean how much money you have.
I have learned how to become aware when I’m triggered and to take a minute to pause, assess what’s going on for me, and respond in an adult way.
I have learned that self-care is essential to remaining strong and resilient.
I have learned that I can do hard things.
I have learned that I have a natural ability to build rapports with a variety of people.
I have learned that I don’t have to use my humour and self-deprecation as defence mechanisms.
I have learned that I am just about the most enthusiastic person I know.