Meet the Therapist: Mel McGrath
What attracted you to become a therapist?
After 18 years in the arts world I begun a search into a second career. I saw a coach for help after being unsure of whether to train in mental health nursing, psychology, or counselling and this helped me gain clarity over what I wanted. After a year of a psychology degree and an introduction to counselling course, I found the Psychosynthesis Trust, where I trained. What I wanted to do was be of service in a way that I hadn’t before in my life, to sit and listen, be a guide, and to just hold space for others.
I started with The Essentials course at the Trust and it all went from there, that was it, that was my model of therapy and off I went! I have not regretted this decision once and am always happy to be able to offer space to people who work in the arts, having this background and being able to understand the work from their perspective. However, I also work with a wide range of people which is a real gift.
I feel very lucky to have also worked as a manager of large teams throughout my career and been a trainer to large scale arts venues whilst also focusing my skill base in the arts around diversity and inclusion. In my twenties I also worked at the LGBT Switchboard which was a fantastic way of being part of the community and supporting people; this is what partly led to my change of career into mental health. Being a counsellor has allowed me to further develop my skills and be of service both within my community, but is not my defining client base and I welcome enquiries from all.
Where did you train?
The Psychosynthesis Trust at London Bridge
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I am trained in psychosynthesis which is a transpersonal therapy. The model allows me to work from quite a creative place and I can use meditation, breathwork, guided visualisations and drawing, where appropriate, to assist the work. I have an integrative training that gives me an oversight of other models, but I stick to my model for the majority of the time aside from some Gestalt work.
The key thing is that I work relationally and so this means that our work has meaning and I take great care to ensure you feel safe and heard when we work together, whilst maintaining a place of no judgment. For the most part we just talk – well, clients talk and I listen!
I have always thought that the model isn’t always that important for the majority of people, but the relationship built in the room is what is key and this is where I find my strengths lie: the relationship and safety felt in the room when working with me is key to our work. It is in the strength of the relationship and trust built that can really lead to deep work and healing
How does psychosynthesis help with symptoms of anxiety?
Psychosynthesis looks at the person through a split lens that allows me to see the person – their experiences, what makes them up – but also their potential and what brings them joy. For me this means that when working with anxiety, for example, I can work with the body and mind, knowing both are connected and look to the stories our bodies tell alongside thoughts and feelings.
Working with the whole system and all the parts of us that make us who we are allows us to consider our inner world as an orchestra that we can learn to know and conduct from a more peaceful, accepting place, a synthesis if you like of our inner world. I am really curious about the connection between our bodies and our thoughts, how our bodies talk, but do we really listen? With anxiety, really exploring the physical reaction can help support learning new ways to manage it better.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with adults around a range of issues, including but not limited to:
- Sexuality, gender and identity
- Chronic conditions
- Grief and loss
- Relationships and polyamory
- Divorce and separation
- Pandemic trauma
- Work stress
- Major life changes
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I have noticed that more people talk about therapy and mental health, it isn’t so taboo and especially in young people. This gives me such hope as generational changes such as these will spur change in how we all view mental health, but also our kids and their kids and so on, which I hope will lead to a better, kinder, more collaborative way of viewing mental health over time.
The sadder trend in mental health of course are the repercussions of the pandemic and changes to society over the last two years. There are vast increases of mental health issues from isolation alone and a severe lack of resources to support people both publicly and privately. I hope to see the government not only acknowledge the impact, but actually start to put more money into the resources people need as the backlogs are terrifying in the NHS especially for children. This is sad, but it will get better and I plan to be a part of this by being of service in any way that I can.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I am curious about people and I enjoy learning about someone’s path in life, why they ended up contacting me – their story, if you will. I enjoy being reminded every day that we are all unique and individual with no journey or experience the same, even when it could be heard as such by some.
I like being a therapist because people trust me with their stories and together we can work to untangle the plot, find some ways forward, and heal. It is such a privilege and I am grateful for the trust placed in me, I hope to continue for a long time to come!
What is less pleasant?
I always want to learn more, to develop for clients, and having time to study on the side can be challenging.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
Welldoing have been a consistent tool of information and support since I joined and I was very happy to meet the team in person in March, what a treat! Great people, very helpful organisation and supportive of its clients.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I used to not really recommend books that often as sometimes this can be taken as homework or something ‘to do’ by a client, but there are times when I do recommend things.
I have been a fan of Functional Medicine for a long time and there are times where this might be an appropriate offering, but the books I often recommend are Attached by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel SF Heller, and The Wisdom of Anxiety by Sheryl Paul.
I also recommend the Calm app for mindfulness, but I always encourage clients to let go and not try to ‘do well’ at meditating or mindfulness, just be in the moment.
What you do for your own mental health?
I try to meditate and have been doing Wim Hoff breathing for two years on-and-off and find this quite useful to slow my own breathing down and relax. I also enjoy dancing, sometimes badly, but moving my body brings me great joy and helps me relax.
You are a therapist in Angel, Kings Cross and London Bridge. What are your therapy rooms like?
The rooms at Angel are so warm and welcoming with great light and near the station which is helpful. I am really enjoying being mostly based at City Road (Monday from 2pm and Wednesday morning until 1.30pm), but also enjoy the variety of having a space in King’s Cross (Wednesday evening) and London Bridge (Tuesday daytime) as well.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That you won’t be in therapy forever, that it is not a failing, that it isn’t all about your family and blaming them, but that they will come up and to welcome it all.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
The biggest thing I have learnt about myself is that feelings come and go, they are to be welcomed in like guests knowing they will leave once care and attention is paid to them, and that breathing through feelings can really release deep emotions held in the body.
Updated August 2022