Meet the Therapist: Lii Brooke
What attracted you to become a therapist?
In short, pursuit of my life-long love, philosophy. At school, arts and humanities were my natural strengths. I chose art for a bachelor’s degree but made my way down a technical route eventually. I now work with big data at an IT consultancy. I love my job and, guess what, code makes my soul light up. When it works. Who would have guessed!
However, I missed philosophy. Counselling was a great option to explore humanities alongside my role in tech. I believe, ultimately, all disciplines originate from philosophy but psychology perhaps most directly so. And of course psychology underpins talking therapy.
In humanistic counselling we look at how a person perceives their reality, we delve into the reasons why, we create meaning. Each session for me is an exercise in living philosophy.
Where did you train?
On advice of an experienced mental health professional, I went down the college route instead of university because it was practical in my circumstances. I could continue working full-time and raising a large family while studying.
My Level 4 Diploma was at the Windsor Forest Colleges Group. Clinical placement formed a big part of the training, I learnt so much from being with real clients. This was at the Number 22 Community Counselling Services, which is a fantastic mental health charity offering free therapy.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My approach to therapy is humanistic integrative, it is based on the person-centred modality and includes some elements of the solution-focused brief therapy. What this means is that I use a blend of theories with the overarching emphasis on the value of the individual experience of reality and human autonomy.
Humanistic counselling promotes the ability of each person to assume control of their emotional wellbeing and ultimately of their life.
An existentialist at heart, I truly believe positive change is very much possible. Also, there is no one truth or one right way to be. The way you see things, is indeed the way they are. For you. At that moment in time. With this comes the freedom and the responsibility to choose meaning and act on it. Creating meaning and using existing resources, whilst focusing on growth, is what I encourage the clients to consider in our sessions.
I also strongly agree with the solution-focused tenet that therapy intervention should be as brief as possible. Life is about living!
How does your therapy help with difficulties experienced by neurodivergent adults?
In my practice I focus on supporting people with seeking a sense of meaning and navigating life as autistic adults. I am autistic myself and I have found neurodivergent clients appreciate the empathy I offer. The shared lived experience allows me to make accommodations readily and often from half a word, for example speaking at a different pace and ensuring what’s visible of my room on the screen is orderly and free of distractions.
I have found that the person-centred approach is particularly helpful with newly-diagnosed or self-diagnosed adults. Perhaps for the first time in their lives they are heard without judgement and encouraged to explore what being neurodivergent means to them. For fellow autistic people, who thrive on clarity and structure, the solution-focused elements of visualising a desired outcome and working towards it in a methodical way is useful.
In summary there are two elements at play – the psychological safety to share the innermost and the focus on designing the future. The two elements allow both freedom and control.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with adults of varying ages and social backgrounds. I have somewhat surprised myself at how much I enjoy sessions with the younger adults. Serendipitously, my clients of university age appear to enjoy our sessions too!
The common difficulties are to do with the sense of identity, the need to belong and the confusion at choosing a direction in life. The small questions of who one is and what is the meaning of life float up frequently.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I am so glad that mental health is nowadays widely considered an important part of people’s welfare. With that comes the recognition of the role societal factors play in emotional wellbeing. I see this change in outlook as an important move away from penalising the individual and instead taking collective responsibility for the success of our society.
What do you like about being a therapist?
The honesty. It is not always forthcoming; it is natural and prudent to be cautious. Once trust is established, I like that my role as a therapist demands my genuine presence with the client. And of course I am honoured when honesty and trust are reciprocated. I also like the opportunity to make a positive contribution. With the best effort it doesn’t always happen but when I see a client blossom into the version of themselves they didn’t think possible, it is amazing.
What is less pleasant?
On rare occasions clients miss sessions without notice. I used to take it personally but have come to understand that there are many reasons someone may choose to not attend. Therapy is about change and to make lasting change happen one needs to commit to it. Sometimes we are simply not ready.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I have only been with Welldoing for a few weeks. Louise and Alice’s close involvement and personal touches are wonderful. I really did not expect it. It has been a nice surprise. So far the major plus for me is the continuous professional development programme. I am sure to attend as many of the interactive sessions as I can.
What books have been important to you in terms of your professional and personal development? Do you ever recommend books to clients?
A collection of essays by Jean-Paul Sartre were pivotal in my development. The anthology was consumed hungrily on lonely walks as a despondent teenager. Existential philosophy gave me the permission to be creative in life, to continuously make and remake myself.
To those inclined towards philosophy I would recommend Hilary Lawson’s Closure, which encapsulates the post-postmodern theory of interpreting the openness of the world to intervene effectively in reality.
I also find James Davies’ Sedated to be an informative and inspiring anthropological study of the role psychiatric medication plays in maintaining dominant economic and social structures of the West.
What do you do for your own mental health?
I read as much as possible and drink good wine in moderation. Exercise is a hugely important part of keeping mentally as well as physically fit. I go to pole classes to forget all my worries for an hour and just focus on not falling on my head!
You are a therapist in Buckinghamshire who works online. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this way?
My practice is online, offering sessions outside of the typical office hours to suit full schedules. I think the timing of the appointments appeals to clients in a similar situation to my own – those with demanding careers and perhaps caring responsibilities too.
What’s your consultation room like?
My room and what the clients see on the screen is decorated in muted colours. I like an accent of sharp orange here and there. Generally it’s calm with ambient lighting. My favourite colour is grey, which is what the contents of my wardrobe are gradually turning to.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I would say if you have been unhappy for a while, then perhaps it is time for some kind of change. What that change is and how to achieve it only you, the client, know. The counsellors are here to support you wholeheartedly. Sadly, it is not within our gift to magic problems away. Therapy can be full of joy and discovery, it can also take some effort and perseverance.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
As an autistic child growing up and well into my adulthood I believed I was simply awful with people. It was an inborn handicap, I could do nothing about. During my experience in therapy, both as a client and a counsellor, I came to realise that once I allowed myself to be as I truly was, I could allow others to be themselves too. I learned I was in fact quite good with people, once I stopped punishing myself for being different.