Meet the Therapist: Lada Shustova-Carter
What attracted you to become a therapist?
A few years ago, I hit a brick wall. I was in-between jobs and was uncertain about and dissatisfied with my career. This was the time to ask myself what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life.
The lightbulb moment occurred when I realised that I should channel my energy towards helping people with their mental health and psychological wellbeing. I realised that becoming a therapist would give me energy and satisfaction, so I signed up for a course the next day and have never looked back!
Being able to hold my clients in what is perhaps the most difficult and confusing times in their lives is a great responsibility – as well as a wonderful privilege.
Where did you train?
I trained with Chrysalis for the Certificate in Hypnotherapy, then up to a Level 5 Professional Diploma in Psychodynamic Counselling.
I also trained with the Marriage Care organisation for the Diploma in Relationship Counselling. I am still a Marriage Care volunteer and continue to help couples resolve their difficulties.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I am an integrative therapist, which means I use a wide variety of techniques depending on the issues presented by clients. My main approach though is psychodynamic counselling. As the attachment style we develop in infancy carries over into adulthood, the best way to move forward is by untangling the knots from the past. Talking through previous experiences allows us to make sense of what is going on for us at this moment.
Elements of person-centred and cognitive behaviour therapies, gestalt, transactional analysis and emotionally focused therapy (for couples) are also integrated into my work. Using different tools according to the client's specific needs is not only extremely beneficial for the therapeutic process but provides additional flexibility.
I have also found that the use of metaphors can be very powerful in therapy. With the right metaphor we can shift a mindset that has been blocking an individual, sometimes just in one sentence which has a particular resonance.
As the American psychotherapist Irvin Yalom said, we create a different therapy for each client. We are all unique individuals, and what works for one person may not be right for another. Every client deserves and should expect not just special but tailored treatment.
How does your integrative therapy approach helps with symptoms of anxiety and depression?
A burden shared is a burden halved. CBT techniques are best, I find, for clients with anxiety issues: recording their thoughts and challenging their beliefs.
I introduce clients to mindfulness techniques and, if appropriate, use hypnotherapy for anxiety related issues, such as OCD, phobias and BDD.
The person-centred approach is also useful for treating depression as it helps clients to express their ongoing issues and explore the roots of their depressive thoughts in a safe and empathetic environment.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with individuals and couples over 18, who mainly come to me when they are anxious, confused or feeling low. I have a rather diverse client base at the moment, and see people from many cultural and religious backgrounds. This makes my job even more fascinating as I am always learning something new from them.
In addition, I am fluent in Russian, which means counselling for those who feel more comfortable talking in their first language is available too.
As a hypnotherapist I work with clients with various phobias and unhelpful habits. Hypnosis is a powerful way of ‘resetting’ the mind and creating new pathways to the future, free of fear and maladaptive behaviours. My hypnotherapy successes have included my flight phobia client returning from a holiday abroad and telling how relaxed they felt on the plane, and my other client with dental phobia voluntarily booking a hygienist appointment – for the first time in their life!
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
Interestingly, the pandemic has affected people’s mental health in many contradictory ways. While some people, when in isolation, have slipped into depression or struggled with substance abuse and compulsive thoughts, some on the other hand have found improvements in life by changing their pace, rediscovering hobbies and learning completely new skills.
Sadly, I have also noticed what a huge impact Covid restrictions have had on weakening relationships between couples. More time together has brought more tensions and misunderstandings to the fore, and in many cases has prompted these couples to seek help.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I feel privileged to be able to hold a person’s hand – metaphorically speaking – on their therapeutic journey. I love challenging their thinking patterns and turning their negative assumptions upside down. Rewiring their brains with a challenge, prompting them to seek answers for themselves and encouraging them to believe in themselves – these are the best part of the job. And of course, there are those wonderful Aha! moments…
What is less pleasant?
Clients resistant to change. Feeling that I am on my own in the room and working much harder than those who came here asking for help can sometimes be disheartening.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have been with Welldoing for a year now. I like how they welcomed me when I joined, and throughout last year, as they approached me for personalised matching services.
Their site looks professional and is easy to navigate. They make it nice and straightforward for the therapist when engaging with their potential clients via email.
The newsletter is incredibly informative too – especially the articles and videos on latest developments in the therapy field. I have only recently joined the welldoing.org on FB, so am looking forward to connecting with the community.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
If it is relevant to our work, I resource clients with further reading and learning. For anxiety issues mainly, I recommend apps such as Calm and Headspace. I may also send a client an article or a YouTube video link if I think it will be helpful in developing their thinking.
My book recommendations in the past have included Viktor Frankl’s Search for Meaning, Games People Play by Eric Berne, or The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray.
What you do for your own mental health?
Therapists rely on each other for mutual support, so I make sure I keep in touch with my friends in the profession, where we enjoy learning and socialising together. I also have two supervisors, advising me with my clinical work as well as helping sustain my mental wellbeing and safety.
During lockdown I started practicing daily yoga (thanks to YouTube!). I also make sure I go for a walk every day, regardless of the weather.
Luckily, I have a big garden – where work never stops as every season brings numerous jobs to do, and incredible joy. I have recently re-joined the local Zumba classes – can’t beat a good dance after a long day in the office!
You are a therapist in Reading and the surrounding areas. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
There are many businesses in the Reading area, so many of my clients come mainly from professional backgrounds. I live very close to the University, so, not surprisingly, there are a few students on my books as well (I offer a special rate for them).
What’s your consultation room like?
My therapy room is light, neat and welcoming. I love the combination of grey and mustard, which makes up the main colour scheme. The chairs are comfortable, and were chosen carefully to fit the purpose for both counselling and hypnosis. There is a collection of plants dotted around (love them!) and many, many books (love them even more!)
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Therapy is a powerful tool to help keep our minds healthy. I often say that seeing a therapist is like treating your brain to a spa.
Unfortunately, here in the UK, there is still somewhat of a stigma attached. Having counselling is regarded as a sign of defeat, weakness, or even madness. This is very wrong.
We need to campaign to change these views and get the message across that speaking to a professional counsellor on regular basis indicates a sign of strength and self-care.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I have learnt that I need to pace myself and be more mindful. Due to my nature, I love being busy – be that mentally or physically – and I sometimes find myself rushing around too much.
I tell clients to meditate, to connect with nature, to show themselves some love and care … but do I do it enough myself? Regular exercise, a good diet and a healthy sleep routine help me maintain healthy mind… I am still working on the meditation though!