Meet the Therapist: Melissa McGrath
What attracted you to become a therapist?
After 18 years in the arts world I had begun a search into a second career and after a year of a psychology degree and an introduction to counselling course, I accidentally found the Psychosynthesis Trust where I trained.
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. What I wanted to do was be of service in a way that I hadn’t before in my life and simply put to sit and listen, be a guide, but also to just hold space for others.
I found The Essentials course at the Trust by chance 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. I am always happy to be able to offer space to people who work in the arts, having this background and being able understand the work from their perspective, but 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 to have 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 my own community and supporting people in a new way and partly led to my later 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 and beyond since I began and really has become the career I hoped for.
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 also known as a transpersonal therapy. The model allows me to work from quite a creative place and I can use meditation, breath work, 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. 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. 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, mind and spirit, knowing all are connected and look to the stories our bodies tell alongside our thoughts.
Working with the whole system and all the parts of us that make us who we are allows for us to consider our inner world as an orchestra that we can learn to know and one day conduct from a more peaceful, accepting place, a synthesis if you like of our inner world and parts that make us up. I like to think of it as a way of managing our internal world in unison, or at least gaining an insight into ourselves and working from there.
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 ours 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 I have hope it will get better!
What do you like about being a therapist?
I am curious about people and I enjoy learning about someone’s path in life, how 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, to 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?
Sometimes admin and room bookings, but mostly having time for training and CPDs – I would like more time in the day please!
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 love therapy and find it helpful to keep up my own therapy alongside the work I do. It can help give me insight on my own reactions to life, but also supports me to be the best practitioner I can day to day.
I also try to meditate and have been doing Wim Hoff breathing for a year or so and find this quite useful to slow my own breathing down and relax.
You are a therapist in Angel, Kings Cross and London Bridge. What can you share with us about seeing clients in these areas?
I’m not noticing a difference in age of clients, more why people come to see me. I see people from arts backgrounds (which reflects my own) and also a range of genders and sexualities.
I work best working with a range of clients of all ages, but would say I don’t attract clients much older than myself. I think I notice this more than anything else.
What’s your consultation room like?
My rooms at Angel are so warm and welcoming with great light and so near the station which is helpful for clients. I am really enjoying being mostly based here, but also enjoy the variety of having a space in King’s Cross and London Bridge 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 I pay care and attention to them, but to also be kind to myself when I don’t make space for them or am tough on myself in my own inner world.
Updated August 2022