Meet the Therapist: Marie Fernandes
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I’d done a lot of people-facing voluntary work in the past, working with homelessness charities, parenting groups and bereavement support. I initially started training simply to support these positions and then found I was really interested and motivated to take it further. I completed training, got a lot of experience across a range of different environments and age groups. It felt as if I’d found what I was meant to do and I took the leap into becoming a professional therapist.
Where did you train?
I started training in West London. Since initially qualifying I’ve undertaken a lot of continued professional development through many different national organisations. Access to learning has become more global since the 2020 when a lot shifted online, I’ve been able to take advantage of that to pursue areas, such as trauma, where I want to develop my practice.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I practise integrative therapy which means that I utilise different models and ways of working rather than focus on one. Most clients come into therapy because they want to change something in the way they live their lives. My work is person-centred insofar that it always focuses on the person in front of me, sometimes I bring in CBT techniques as they can be useful in having an immediate impact for clients.
I work a lot with complex trauma and the context of the past in terms of childhood, family relationships and history as well as relationships is always very important. I also have a keen interest in neuroscience and the insights it offers into the ways we act and behave.
More recently I’ve done some training on the links between our mental and physical wellbeing. I pursued this as many of the people I see have long term physical conditions and I was interested in finding out more about the connections and how I could help in my role.
Most of my clients come to therapy wanting to change something about the way they live their lives. I believe that compassion and understanding are key to making this happen and an important of my work is bringing this into the therapeutic space.
How does integrative therapy help with symptoms of anxiety?
I work with many clients who struggle with anxiety. In our sessions I spend time listening to the way this plays out in their lives and the resulting challenges, stress and pressures. I offer psycho-education about what anxiety is, the role has in our lives and how this can become an adverse condition. I may offer clients techniques to manage their anxiety in the moment (if they are having panic attacks for example) as well as suggesting ways of managing for the longer term.
We talk about how anxiety may have developed in response to difficult living circumstances, events or relationships. It’s important for people to understand that struggling with anxiety is not a weakness or reflection on who they are but more often a response to what may have happened to them. We then go on to apply this understanding to everyday life and learning to navigate a different way of being. We spend time in sessions considering, discussing and reviewing changes, noticing what goes well but learning from rather than judging what may be more problematical.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with a diverse range of adults in terms of age and background. Many of my clients are of Asian or Afro Caribbean heritage this may reflect perception of my own culture and race.
Most of the people I see across all groups have struggles with self-esteem or anxiety, often this arises from difficult childhood or past experiences or relationships.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
There are many campaigns encouraging us to talk about adverse mental health and look for support but often for those involved it can still be a struggle. Even so many people who attend therapy don’t let others in their lives know about it which is notable.
I work with a lot of people in the 25-35 age group; it seems that women in particular are becoming more comfortable speaking about being in therapy and even sharing their experiences. However, men still find it difficult not only to seek therapy but also to let others know that they attend. Overall, I feel we are heading in the right direction, but slowly.
I really value the work Welldoing does in advocating and promoting therapy and better mental health.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I feel privileged to accompany my clients on a journey of hope. Every person who comes to see me does so with the expectation that they can change and gain a better life in some way. So often clients are deeply critical and judgemental of themselves; therapy helps them to see themselves more positively and with greater compassion. I support clients in this process and towards the changes they feel they need to make.
Of course, there are difficulties but it is a rare day when I don’t feel that I have the best job in the world
What is less pleasant?
Our work lends itself to isolation as therapists work alone and confidentially. To counter this peer support, supervision and self-care are all vital.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I been with Welldoing for nearly five years. I really like the website. It’s professional, clear and easy to navigate. Finding a therapist can seem really daunting and clients who’ve found me through the matching service have found it really helpful.
Welldoing have put a lot of thought into what is offered to therapists too, in terms of opt in or free training and services.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I often suggest that clients try different meditation and mindfulness apps. I use Calm myself and often recommend this to clients.
What you do for your own mental health?
I usually start my day by taking my two dogs out for an hour or so before starting work. I also do 45 minutes of yoga most days. I sing with a choir which I think is very mindful as the focus is entirely on breath, timing, notes and songs. I enjoy watercolour painting and listening to podcasts. I have a wonderful family and a great group of friends. I love my WhatsApp groups which are always there for moments of personal crisis or grumbles.
As a therapist I access regular group and individual supervision. It’s also useful meeting other therapists through training, conferences and forums.
You are a therapist in West London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
I have great transport links working in Ruislip; there’s a Central Line tube station just down the road and it’s very accessible via car. Most of those I see in my face-to-face work live locally to this end of London. However, I also see clients online who live all over the UK and in some cases overseas.
What’s your consultation room like?
I work in my conservatory, which offers a perfect environment. It is very simply and neutrally furnished and decorated, as I want the visual focus to be on the garden, which is green and restful.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Therapy is about learning to give ourselves understanding, acceptance and compassion. This can be life-changing.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I learned to understand myself, how my experiences and relationships shaped the person I had become but also that I had the capacity to change. It also gave me more self-awareness and a greater consciousness of the impact I have on others.