Meet the Therapist: Melissa McGrath
What attracted you to become a therapist?
After working in the arts for eighteen years, I started to research other career paths as I was feeling unfulfilled. I knew that I wanted to study mental health and had an interest in this area from my own therapy journey and started a part-time psychology degree with the OU. I did the first year of the course, but something didn’t feel right, it was too geared around stats and I stopped after a year.
I had, however, added in a counselling for beginners course during that year and loved it. I was reminded of my time volunteering for the LGBT+ Switchboard in my twenties and remembered why I had volunteered before: I wanted to be of service and give back. From there I made the radical decision to leave the arts and went to work abroad at a retreat in Hawaii for three very grateful months in nature, taking a later in life gap year. I stayed on the Big Island knowing I would come home to start my journey to train as a therapist, which made it a very special year for me, and enabled me to really pause and reflect before starting something new. I studied at the Psychosynthesis Trust as The Essentials course blew me away.
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 as the model of psychotherapy, 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 the odd piece of Gestalt chair work.
I always think that the model is just one part, it is the training, but it is not the relationship built in the room. I chose this model as it works with the higher unconscious and people’s potential as well as the lower unconscious and shadow side which matched up well with me as a person. I am a spiritual person and this model allows me to work with a person’s potential and self/soul in a way that is more authentic to me as a person.
How does psychosynthesis help with symptoms of anxiety?
Psychosynthesis looks at the person through a bifocal 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 minds. 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.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with adults around a range of issues, including but not limited to:
- Sexuality and gender
- Chronic conditions
- Grief and loss
- Relationships and polyamory
- Divorce and separation
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. I like being a therapist because people trust me with their stories and together we can work to untangle the plot; it is such a privilege.
What is less pleasant?
It can be an isolated job in which you don’t have actual colleagues in an office, but I have good connections and networks at both places of work which help me stay in touch and keep up to date. I have found working out of the Trust at London Bridge has kept me connected with other practitioners and peers, but I am always looking to expand my network locally to me in East Dulwich as well.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have been with you on and off for about eight months. It is a wonderful resource full of great articles and a real focus on client needs, but also supports practitioners well with space to write articles and encourage participation in the community. I am also loving the Calm app and find all my interactions stimulating and generous. Thank you!
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I try not to recommend too many things to clients as it can take away from the process in the sessions or feel like homework, which some people find daunting, but I do recommend The Wisdom of Anxiety by Sheryl Paul. This is a great book and the author comes from a transpersonal perspective that resonates with me as a practitioner.
What you do for your own mental health?
I have been in personal therapy for some years and am still working with the same therapist of the last few years. For me talking therapy works really well, but I have also had RTT (Rapid Transformation Technique) twice in the last year and have found that really useful an addition. “I am enough” is a simple but powerful statement that comes from Marissa Peer’s RTT. I am often reminding myself of this when I feel low or have had a difficult conversation with someone to ground me.
You are a therapist in London Bridge and East Dulwich. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
I like the change of space and am grateful to have had two places to work from over the last year. I hope to get back to local in person work in July all being well as I am currently only working online due to Covid-19, however, London Bridge will be a longer wait until January as things stand currently.
I notice that I attract a wide range of ages, genders, sexualities and ethnicities, which reflects the areas I work from in some regards, but also I think this is due to my arts background, the model I work with and my website bio.
What’s your consultation room like?
At the moment it is my lounge at a desk which is a relaxing space to work in during lockdown. At London Bridge the rooms are all furnished similarly and are warm inviting spaces. I like the rooms on the second floor best as they are light spaces with very comfy chairs. The space I use in East Dulwich is a stand-alone unit that has a bathroom and an open space with a sofa and chair for the therapist. It is a lovely light space in a courtyard and clients often comment on what a great space it is, it has such a good energy.
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 blame, but that they will come up and to welcome it all.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
What a question! 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 attention and care to them. And that people are capable of change no matter what they have been told.