What attracted you to become a therapist?
Do you know what it is like to read a really good book and find yourself exclaiming, “Now I understand why I feel that way”? That’s what happened to me when I first picked up a book by Emmy van Deurzen, an extraordinary Dutch psychiatrist who made a transition from the medical model of treating mental health to one where each client is the expert regarding his/her own inner world.
Where did you train?
I was trained by Professor van Deurzen at the New School of Psychotherapy. My Masters degree was conferred by Sheffield University.
Can you tell us a bit about the type of therapy you practice?
Existential psychotherapy has a philosophical basis and is simply about what it means to be human. It isn’t based on any formal scheme or structure and so the way I work with each client is unique and tailored to that client. We use a form of questioning to learn how the client is thinking and feeling without imposing our own beliefs and emotions on the client’s material. Having formed a relationship based on trust which offers a safe space to contain the deepest and most painful secrets, client and therapist proceed hand-in-hand with a form of dialogue which should bring a greater understanding of why we feel the way we do with certain people and in certain situations.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see about as wide a range of adults as you can imagine. My oldest clients are usually in their seventies, my youngest are students. Some are studying, some unable to work for health reasons, one was preparing for his death, others working through IVF.
I have worked with many unsure about who they are, some unsure about their sexual identity, unwilling to “self-identify” as heterosexual or bisexual. I’ve worked with gay couples, straight couples, two people labelling themselves “polyamorous” and one transgender person.
I’ve handled workplace bullying and counselled survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In London I worked with people from Africa, India, Iran, the Lebanon, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Turkey. In Mere so far the most exotic are those who have spent most of their lives in London, like me.
What do you like about being a therapist?
What I enjoy most about being a therapist is the insight I get into other people’s lives and their worlds. Sometimes it is as engaging as watching a compelling boxset. I can’t wait till next week’s episode!
What is less pleasant?
It isn’t easy to watch someone you know and care about die or continue to suffer after a life-changing illness. It can be an effort to maintain professional calm and control in the face of really difficult material. But that’s how we need to be, always putting the client’s needs first, keeping them safe.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I think I’ve been with welldoing.org since it started. I like the way therapists are encouraged to contribute useful articles to the website and the sense of community you offer, like the Facebook therapist community. I think any form of networking between therapists is excellent. It can be a lonely profession if you live and work in a rural area.
As I hope to increase my online work so intend to utilise the booking system.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I often suggest books or use books with clients in a session.
What you do for your own mental health?
Lots of things. I still work part-time in the music business and go to amazing music performances here and abroad. I now live in a glorious part of the country where my office-consulting room is surrounded by birds and trees. Swimming in a warm sea is a favourite pastime. In the dark time of the year I use visualisation techniques to teleport myself back to the Mediterranean.
You are a therapist in Mere and online. What can you tell us about the areas you practice in?
You might think living on the Wiltshire / Somerset / Dorset border would mean a shortage of people with problems. What we should remember is that someone can feel just as isolated in London where the city never sleeps as you do where the next farm is over a mile away. Cancer and heart disease don’t notice your postcode. If you haven’t addressed issues in your closest relationships or don’t engage with your local community, it is very difficult to enjoy the glorious world around you.
My online clients are mainly in London. It’s a great place to live if you’re young and fit or can afford taxis. If you are ill or disabled it can become a very stressful environment.
What’s your consultation room like?
Surrounded by my garden, full of the sound of birdsong, bathed in sunshine with lots of windows. No traffic noise, just the sound of the wind today.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it is a means of enabling you to help yourself, rather than handing you solutions on a plate. I wish more of the insurers I work with told their clients about the option of working online, which can offer greater flexibility as well accessibility.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That I am lucky to be alive, that you can overcome pain and disability if you surround yourself with lovely people, that giving something back to society is hugely rewarding.