Meet the Therapist: Mimi Fakhri
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and curious about why people think and behave the way they do (probably because I’m curious about understanding myself, too). I recently found an old childhood diary where I wrote “instructions for hypnosis”, so I guess I’ve always had a fascination with that as well.
More recently, I lost my husband to cancer, which prompted me to re-assess what’s important in my life. Therapy brings together my love for psychology, with my values around helping others – it’s a privilege to help people, and I learn from each and every client I meet.
Where did you train?
I originally trained with the UK College of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. I chose their training because it is evidence-based and grounded in scientific principles – I now also teach with them and help to keep the course up to date with the latest research into hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I also have a Postgraduate Certificate in Evidence-Based Psychological Therapies from the Charlie Waller Institute.
I have an MSc in the psychology of judgement and decision-making is also relevant to my therapy work. My dream is to continue work on my PhD, around how emotions influence our decisions, but I’m struggling to find the time between my therapy work and my family commitments!
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I like to think of what I do as teaching people skills to help them deal better with life’s inevitable challenges. Those are based on a combination of hypnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness. Hypnosis plus CBT is a powerful combination. CBT is designed to help us notice how our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviour (and vice versa), and to develop more helpful patterns of thinking and behaving. Hypnosis uses our imagination in a clever way, to help us explore and learn new patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving – so it combines really well with CBT and can lead to shorter therapy times compared to CBT alone.
Mindfulness is very popular at the moment. It has an interesting relationship with hypnosis and my clients often find both very helpful.
How do hypnotherapy and CBT help with symptoms of stress and anxiety?
Anxiety and stress can show up in so many ways – sleep problems, panic attacks, problems with work or relationships, anger, or feelings of tension in the body (typically the chest, stomach or shoulders). CBT helps us to recognise patterns of thinking that feed into the cycle of how we feel and act, and hypnosis helps us tap into our own resources to help break that cycle, and embed more helpful ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. Hypnosis is also great for teaching people relaxation skills (how to relax your mind and body).
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with individuals suffering with stress or anxiety – that can cover a wide range of issues, such as sleep problems, panic attacks, work-related stress or social anxiety. I also really enjoy working on breaking bad habits such as nail biting, hair pulling and quitting smoking.
Although I work mostly with adults, I sometimes work with teenagers. I find it particularly rewarding working with young people, as I hope the skills they learn will be skills they can draw upon for the rest of their lives.
What do you like about being a therapist?
There’s no better feeling than when I hear clients tell me therapy has changed their lives (and the next conversation is always around how they created that change – by putting into practice the skills they have learned). Seeing someone walk into the room full of confidence and optimism, when previously they may have felt hopeless, is very moving... and sometimes small interventions can lead to big changes.
What is less pleasant?
Managing my diary!
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been with welldoing.org for just under six months. I like the simple concept of matching client to therapist – it’s easy to forget that people who are new to therapy won’t know the difference between, say, a counsellor or a CBT therapist, and I particularly like the idea of the matching service. I’ve also recently joined the therapist Facebook group.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I often recommend books to clients – I particularly like The Happiness Trap (illustrated version) by Russ Harris for its introduction to values and emotional acceptance, and Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky, for those who really enjoy CBT (yes, therapy can be enjoyable!).
I find many clients are already using mindfulness apps, so we discuss how to use them to complement the additional skills we are learning in therapy.
What you do for your own mental health?
Since training, I have found myself more aware of my thinking styles and I now naturally use CBT principles to think in more helpful ways about the inevitable challenges we all face in life. I use a mixture of hypnosis, breathing exercises and mindfulness – making time for whatever I feel will be most helpful for me at any given moment. I find running and exercise in general really lifts my mood, so I make sure to plan that into my schedule.
You are a therapist in Kingston upon Thames and New Malden. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
My clients tend to be very busy – working full-time, studying for exams, or struggling to combine work with parenthood. High standards and perfectionism are very common, and can contribute to stress and anxiety. I often spend time helping clients to re-connect with what’s important to them in their lives, and helping them to balance the everyday demands of life with self-care.
What’s your consultation room like?
I work in a couple of different locations. My therapy room in Kingston is centrally located within easy reach of all the Kingston buses and the station. My therapy room in New Malden has a car park on-site and disabled access. Both rooms are set up for talking and relaxation, and clients can recline for hypnosis and relaxation if they’d like to – my clients always get the “comfy” chair!
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That therapy isn’t just for when you are in a “crisis” – you learn useful skills that can help you throughout your life. I wish had learned the skills I teach in therapy when I was in my 20s…
That the most important thing in therapy is that you feel comfortable and have a good relationship with your therapist – so it’s important to take your time to find someone you feel comfortable with.
Oh – and that therapy can be enjoyable!
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Recognising my own unhelpful thought patterns, how often they show up for me, and how to deal with them has been hugely beneficial for me.