Julie Murphy is a counsellor in Wishaw and online

What attracted you to become a therapist?

A long time ago I spent 15 years as a manager in the catering industry. Jobs varied from the fast food industry to the licensed trade.

One day standing behind the bar I realised I had another 35+ years of work ahead of me. I realised I no longer enjoyed what I was doing and needed a change.

For me, I need to enjoy my job and standing behind the bar that day I realised I didn’t have the same passion that I previously had.

As I started to explore different career options, I kept coming back to counselling. I tried out a part-time course, enjoyed it and continued. Four years later I became a qualified counsellor.

With each new course I did, I enjoyed it more and realised I had found my passion for work again. I’m glad I made the decision to retrain all those years ago.

Where did you train?

I did my post-graduate diploma in person-centred counselling at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?

I am a person-centred therapist and I love that the client is the expert, not me. They know themselves better than anyone does. I’m there to help guide them rather than tell them. 

I may ask questions about what is going on for them, this is twofold. Not only does this help give me a better understanding, it can also help the client to dive deeper and get a better understanding of their situation. By coming to their own realisations, rather than being told, changes/growth/progress can be easier to achieve.

Each client is seen as an individual and I meet them where they are, tailoring the sessions to them rather than getting them to fit in with the approach.

I may put back to them what I’m seeing and/or hearing, like holding a mirror up to them which allows them to really understand what they’re saying. They may have detached themselves from the situation at one point when it was too painful and haven’t realised they need to reconnect with it again to allow themselves to process it. This helps clients to be in control of how they process things at a pace that suits them.

How does person-centred counselling help with symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety is a symptom, a side effect of something that is going on for us at a deeper level. We may be ignoring it, understandably as it’s too uncomfortable.

Clients may think the anxiety that is the problem but what is actually at the root of the anxiety?

I like to start to break it down:

  • How does it feel: emotionally, physically and mentally?
  • How and when does it manifest?
  • How long have they felt this way?

These may be some questions I ask. Firstly, we work together to understand the anxiety in more detail. Clients may not know the answer to these questions initially. Becoming aware of the anxiety and getting a better understanding is the first step to taking back control.

We may also look at coping techniques suitable to the individual; they may already have some of their own techniques.

Eventually, we will get to the root of the anxiety. It may be something that happened recently or it may be something that happened a long time ago that still needs to be processed.

Teaching clients self-validation can go a long way to empowering them to take back control of their anxiety. There are times when anxiety is a valid emotion. We all experience it sometimes, but when it starts to take over and cause problems, it becomes an issue.

Knowing more about the client as an individual can help when it comes to working with their anxiety. They may minimise their own feelings and experiences or they may worry about how others will perceive them, be a perfectionist etc and we can work on these other issues while linking them to their anxiety.

What sort of people do you usually see? 

I work with adult individuals. I have spent a lot of time over the years working with trauma, anxiety, loss and bereavement. But again, it’s back to the individual. Some clients may not know why they’re coming to counselling, they just know they need to go as they are having difficulties in their life. I can help them to explore what is going on for them so that we can both get a better understanding in order to move forward.

Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?

On the plus side, mental health awareness is growing all the time. Mental health is no longer seen as a taboo subject. Though we do still have a long way to go.

On the negative side, the darker side of social media, the anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, cyberbullying and hatred/arguments it can cause are so harmful and I’ve seen this is across all age groups.

What do you like about being a therapist?

I love it when a client has a lightbulb moment.

I enjoy being able to help people take back control of their lives.  

I also enjoy helping people realise that boundaries are essential and worthwhile, helping them work through the initial uncomfortableness of boundary setting, then seeing them realise it wasn’t that bad and boundaries really are essential.

What is less pleasant?

Hearing about how bad people can be to others. Knowing about the dark side of humanity.

How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?

I recently joined Welldoing. I really like the simplicity of the online booking system so much that I’m looking into something similar for my own website. I’m a bit of a technophobe so I’m always later than others when it comes to embracing new technology.

Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients? 

Not a book as such but I strongly suggest to clients to google the drama triangle after we have done work on it during the session. It’s so relatable and validating that this is usually a guaranteed lightbulb moment.

For people who want to do reading, when it comes to trauma I recommend Bessel Van Der Kolk and for grief Julia Samuel and David Kessler.

What you do for your own mental health?

As I get older I’m becoming more introverted. Although I live near the town centre, there are a few good woodland areas within walking distance that I enjoy taking my dog to. I love the peace and quiet, no cars etc. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to see deer. I always feel grounded after a nice walk through the woods.

If I’ve had a busy week, I deliberately take time out from the world to recharge whether that’s reading or watching TV but it has to be something that I don’t need my brain in order to watch. I also love music and I have a playlist for every mood. Classic rock is usually my go too – can’t beat a bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

You are a therapist in Wishaw. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area? 

Wishaw and the surrounding towns were mining towns and at times I think that tough mentality shaped the generations that followed. On the surface, it looks like a good thing to have a strong, tough mentality but in reality, many people are suppressing or minimising their emotions due to being conditioned from a young age to “just get on with it” “don’t cry” etc.  

Luckily that does seem to be changing with the growing awareness of the importance of good mental health.

What’s your consultation room like?

My therapy room is nice and cosy and ready to go if Covid ever disappears.

Unfortunately, I am unable to do face-to-face sessions. If I were to open the window to ventilate, this would breach confidentiality which is one of the most important aspects of therapy.  

So at the moment I only work by video call, which is still face-to-face albeit virtually or by telephone. On the plus side, I can now work with anyone throughout the UK as opposed to people who could travel to my office.

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

A lot of people take some time between first thinking about therapy and actually booking a session. Once they do start therapy and begin to work through their problems they wish they started way back when they first thought about it.

I also hear a lot of toxic positivity – “there are people worse off than me”. That may be, but you’re still struggling enough to consider going to therapy.

Early intervention can stop problems from escalating and may even be easier to deal with early on.

What did you learn about yourself in therapy?

Where to start?! I’d say one of my biggest learnings was to listen to myself – when I am being incongruent and not being true to myself, my stomach goes like a washing machine, similar to anxiety. The end result is that I can ruminate on not speaking up for days, even weeks and in turn, internalising this and turning on myself.

Although being congruent (depending on the situation) can still result in the washing machine stomach, it goes away in 2-24 hours as opposed to 2-14 days.

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