Meet the Therapist: Michael Lipo
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I was often told I was a good listener, and that sowed the seed for it all. I later started a job in a children's home, and that helped me to see the importance in helping others – I also felt immensely good doing it! What really got me into counselling was the idea of the human condition. Since then, I have been fascinated with what it means to be human, and the different experiences that we all have. I am most interested in how we create meaning from things.
Where did you train?
I trained at Farnborough College of Technology in Hampshire, and have since had my counselling practice in Wokingham, Binfield and Bracknell.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I use an integrated approach, which means that I utilise a variety of modalities to understand and help the clients. Generally, I am a humanistic counsellor and place a lot of importance on the relationship as well as a belief in the client's ability to resolve their own issues. I am fascinated with finding meaning, purpose and direction, and how we make sense of the world around us, which can be understood as an existential or phenomenological approach.
What also helps some clients and situations is the use of CBT techniques, which can provide tools that the client can practice in between sessions – this often gives them a sense of control, and helps them to realise that they can create changes for themselves.
How does therapy help?
It helps with a range of issues and symptoms by validating feelings and exploring what it really is that is causing the issue. My therapy approach helps the client reflect more honestly on what need is not being met, and we work together to find a way to get that need met in a healthy and appropriate way.
It allows confidence to develop, skills to be learned, and an updated sense of who they are to come through. It provides some direction, motivation and reassurance to move in the direction they need. I often think there is a great deal to be said for 'thinking out loud' with the right questions being asked, and I believe in the individual's ability to find the answer that will help them feel better or get to where they need to be.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with teenagers and adults, on a one-to-one basis. I currently facilitate a group therapy programme that is not open to referrals. Most of the sessions are currently remote via video or telephone; however, I am looking at restarting face-to-face in August.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I love witnessing the growth of each client as they make the changes along the way. It humbles me each time to hear each person's emotional experience, to hear their story and to be part of that whilst they work towards their goal – whatever that is! I love being challenged to make sure I am giving the best possible experience of counselling, and working it out with each person.
What is less pleasant?
Less pleasant is the rare occasion that I feel stuck or feel unsure how to help the person in front of me. I take it really seriously, and pride myself in getting to the root of things. So when it happens that things feel 'stuck' I can often find myself trying a few different things to get there. Eventually we find a shift in that stuck feeling, and the person reflects on the 'obstacle' as something that helped them grow in a different way.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I am new to Welldoing, and I am frustrated with myself that I did not discover it sooner. It provides a welcoming and supportive community of like-minded people. It also provides interesting articles and research on a range of topics that interest me. It helps me to develop my knowledge and skills, that in turn help the people I work with.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I have three books that I regularly recommend to clients: Lost Connections by Johann Hari, 12 Rules to Life by Jordan Peterson, Recovery by Russell Brand, and The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz (which I recommend to other counsellors).
I have two apps that I recommend to clients: Headspace and Calm
What you do for your own mental health?
I meditate and I go running most mornings before anything else. I enjoy food and generally eat well. I like to get outside – fresh air and sunshine always help! Writing also helps me to maintain that creative part of my brain.
You are a therapist in Wokingham, Berkshire. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
I don't think there is anything particular about the clients in the area – none that I can identify. I also see some clients remotely that are not from the local area, and I wouldn't differentiate them from those in my local area in any particular way, apart from the individual differences already there between each client.
What’s your consultation room like?
At the moment, it's the client's own room!
When I was doing face-to-face, there was a selection of rooms to work from. All of them are quiet, private, well-lit and spacious. They are well-decorated, and provide a 'homely' sort of feeling rather than anything clinical or formal.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I wish that people, especially men, knew that it was OK to talk to someone. I am working at trying to make it more accessible to men, and teenagers, so we start to challenge the idea that only certain people with certain problems talk about their experiences. It is so important that we all take care of our health – physically, emotionally, socially.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That I am still learning in so many ways. Whilst I have a good foundation of the human condition, I am still being challenged to think of it in new and changing ways. I am also realising that the more I do learn, the more I don't know. There is so much out there to learn, and I am slowly trying to add as much as I can to what I know so that I can help people in whatever way they need.