Meet the Therapist: Matthew Benjamin
What attracted you to become a therapist?
In 2015 I took some time out to focus on my self-care and encourage healthy lifestyle changes. Within this period, I became involved in group counselling, one-to-one sessions, CBT, yoga classes, and daily meditation practice. I became increasingly curious about why we are the way we are, why we do what we do, and what makes us tick.
I had already been in therapy for several years with a wonderful psychodynamic therapist and very much appreciated the value of therapy in my life. My desire to learn more, and to use my experience to help others grew stronger.
In January 2017 I had a lightbulb moment and had a clear vision of me sitting in a room with a client, holding space. I journalled this, and the vision became a goal. A few months later I signed up to start training.
Where did you train?
I trained at the Metanoia Institute in Ealing Common, London. I have also just finished training under Dr Gabor Mate on his year-long compassionate inquiry course, which is online, based in Canada. I hold an advanced diploma in Transactional Analysis Psychotherapeutic Counselling.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I practise transactional analysis (TA), a modality of therapy created by Eric Berne.
Berne’s research led him to believe that answers were not to be found by understanding our personalities, but by understanding our social interactions. TA is a type of therapy that helps you understand why you think, feel, and act in the ways you do. My approach is relational.
I chose this modality after I was introduced to TA from a colleague who had already completed the MSc. She signposted me to Metanoia and I undertook the TA101 training weekend. By the end of the first day, I felt something alive in me and sensed this was the right course.
How does TA help with symptoms of depression or addiction?
As adults, when we have a problem, we can either use the full power of our grown-up thinking or we can go into “script”. Our life script, our beliefs about ourselves, others, the world, can be analysed.
In TA we support clients to adjust behavioural patterns and fears, to be able to recognise what their scripts contain. They can then take a step back and unpack how they are feeling, with a much better idea of why they reacted the way they did.
What sort of people do you usually see?
My client base currently ranges from people in their early 20s to their 60s. Common difficulties are depression, anxiety, imposter syndrome, addiction, loneliness, relationship issues, struggling to finish things, and social anxieties.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I have noticed a huge increase in social anxiety, particularly in younger people.
I have also seen a lot more men willing to open up about feelings that they have never been confident to talk about previously, due to the inherited belief that men need to appear strong.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I think being given the privilege of holding space for clients who are processing their suffering and being trusted to be with that person through their journey is incredible. Witnessing positive change can be magical.
What is less pleasant?
Feeling the pain of the client is terribly hard at times, as are endings. Each relationship is unique and special.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I haven’t been with welldoing.org for long – another therapist friend recommended the platform to me. I love the interface and the layout. It seems really well designed.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Rarely, but occasionally I point some clients in the direction of Dr. Joe Dispensa, Breaking the Habit Of Being Yourself being one title I have shared. Sometimes the mixture of neurobiology and spirituality seems to resonate well.
What you do for your own mental health?
I listen to healing tones. I am passionate about the use of sound and vibration as a powerful form of therapy. I don’t directly use it in my practice, but I have other projects that are based on sound and music related therapies. I also make sure I am out in nature every day without fail.
You are a therapist in Harley Street, Central London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
It’s wonderful to have an office in the centre of London, particularly on Harley Street, as I have always associated this with therapy somehow. Most of my clients travel in from other parts of London, and I see more people online.
I think my client base is defined more by their needs than my location.
What’s your consultation room like?
It’s quite old fashioned – which I like. It's lovely and light which makes the space feel welcoming.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I think many people still come in as a last resort or when they have an 'emergency life event'. I wish more people were able to find their way into therapy before they reached these points.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I am still learning about myself every week in therapy. Peeling back the layers. I learned that there are different parts of me that come into play and that some of those parts need holding, compassion, and nurturing, because they don’t know how to deal with the grown-up world. I suppose you could call this my inner child.