What attracted you to become a therapist?
My working background was in journalism, which means I’m a good listener and I’m fascinated by other people’s stories. I subsequently worked for aid agencies, travelling to places like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Those two parts of my life – people in difficult situations and journalism – seemed to come together in therapy. Of course, like many therapists, I came to realise that I didn’t choose it by chance, the desire to help others has much to do with my own background and experiences too.
Where did you train?
I trained at the Minster Centre in London for an MA in integrative psychotherapy. It was rigorous training, with a strong emphasis on the experiential as well as theory. I was a tad naive about what I was letting myself in for. You have to be in personal therapy and do group work. It was all very new, challenging and kind of thrilling and transformative. I’ve been seeing clients since 2013.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work in private practice from home in Rotherhithe [South-East London] and Waterloo. I also volunteer for Haringey Bereavement Service at a GP surgery in Highgate. My clients currently range from 22 to 79, and more than half are men. That’s a shift from a year ago. Rotherhithe is a growing area for young professionals and I see quite a lot in their late 20s, early 30s. It feels as if younger men are more open to therapy than previous generations; therapy doesn’t seem to have the stigma that maybe it did for an older generation of men who were more reluctant when it came to talking about feelings, but this is not well researched by me!
What do you like about being a therapist?
It’s always wonderful to see people move through pain and loss and trauma and feel more alive and connected to themselves and those around them. Also, I believe I learn and am changed in some way by every client I see.
What is less pleasant?
I find ruptures with clients that aren’t satisfactory repaired hard. Although you always learn something from difficult experiences. I am currently being hugely helped in thinking on this by David Wallin, from an attachment perspective, and by Jessica Benjamin in her recent book Beyond Doer And Done To, which is from a more relational psychoanalytic stance.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
Quite honestly, I’ve been astonished - it’s been a revelation! I umm-ed and ah-ed for a while but finally got the nudge by meeting up with you at BACP’s Private Practice conference [end of September this year]. I reckon it was the old fogey in me holding me back, but once I got my head around it, the diary management system was very smooth and I’ve had lots of enquiries. Clients seem very happy to be doing it this way - they like paying up-front before sessions. I asked a client this week and she said ‘I like to do it on my phone, I get it all done and dusted while I’m on the go’.
As for me, I thought it would be super-complicated but it’s not. It makes getting paid a lot easier, and it’s a relief not to be chasing money all over the place. It really does make my life easier.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Very occasionally, and then it’s usually meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace.
What you do for your own mental health?
Controversially in the eyes of some of my friends, I am a season ticketholder at Millwall FC. I am also a fairly avid runner. I’m in personal therapy and part of a peer supervision group.
What’s your consultation room like?
It’s very small and quiet with just enough room for a two-seater sofa, single chair and a side table. Clients appear to like it. It’s got a lovely, cosy atmosphere and it’s an oasis from a busy London belting around outside.
What do you wish more people knew about therapy?
That you don’t have to be unwell or suffering, that to have therapy is not a sign of weakness. I’m currently encouraging two people I know into trying personal therapy, but the resistance is enormous because they feel something has to be desperately wrong to have therapy. I tell them it will help put them more in touch with themselves and others.