Nafeeza Towheed is an integrative therapist working in Shoreditch in East London

What attracted you to become a therapist?

I’ve always been interested in people’s stories. I did English and drama at uni, and I loved the idea of putting myself into other people’s shoes. In my late 20s, I felt quite lost and low, and didn’t know how to get out of that, so I had counselling. I’d done about four sessions when my counsellor asked if I’d ever thought about it as a career. I’d always laughed if anyone suggested that in the past, but he said why don’t you do an introductory course and see what you think. The rest is history.

Where did you train? 

At the Minster Centre, in North-West London. It offers integrative training which really appealed, as I’ve always resisted labels. I wanted the opportunity to develop my own style. It was a five-year training, heavily experiential, with group work, and practical weekends, plus your own work in psychotherapy.

In my case, integrative brings together relational therapy, body-oriented psychotherapy - sometimes it’s useful to look at how we store trauma in the body - and a focus on early relationships. 

How long have you been a therapist?

I’ve been seeing clients since 2010. I’m based in Shoreditch, which is a very diverse area. I was born and brought up in London and I love the vibrancy of a big city. Around Shoreditch there are artists, sutdents, entreprenuers, and local East Londoners.

What sort of people do  you usually see?

I see anyone from around 20 to around late 40s. I see many people with mixed heritages, who are working out their identity and where they fit in, people in transitional stages, or figuring out what kind of relationships they want, what their purpose in life is. I see slightly more women than men - but more of a balance lately as mental health has been so much more highlighted in last years. 

My own background is mixed; I’m from an Asian heritage, but mum was born in Uganda (forced out by Idi Amin) while Dad was born in the Caribbean. There are a lot of influences,  and I’ve always had that feeling of never quite fitting in to one cultural group - feeling different, not knowing where to place myself.

What do you like about being a therapist?

I love that I’m challenged to learn more, all the time. I love seeing people make connections about different events in their life, and then seeing the impact. I come from the belief that most people have the resources to make their lives whole, and much of my work is teasing that out of them, so they can see that in themselves.

What is less interesting?

Therapy can sometimes be a solitary profession - it’s important to keep in contact with other therapists and have a peer network. Mine is a combination of those I trained with, and those I’ve met on training days since then. I’m also a member of the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN), which is good for meeting like-minded people

How long you’ve been with and what you think of us?

I’ve been with you since the beginning of 2017, and I’ve really seen how useful it is. It reaches a different audience to some of the other directories, and I like the way it makes the idea of therapy more accessible to wider group of people. Those who have come to me through are a lot more diverse. 

How are you finding the booking system?

It’s great - a lot of clients like to have the option of paying with cards online, and seeing availability there too. Most other professions have that facility and it makes sense that therapists do it as well. It builds trust to see and pay in a way that you’re used to.

Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?

I read a lot, not just therapy related, so of course it comes through in therapy. I send people articles, suggest books, podcasts, TED talks, poetry and I get the same back in return. Recently I enjoyed Marianne Cantwell’s TED Talk on the power of not quite fitting in - it resonates with a lot of people I see. It’s about embracing your difference and the way you see the world.

What you do for your own mental health? 

I nurture my relationship with myself. I do yoga, play netball, I read a lot, go to the theatre, I was in a choir until recently. I do things that make me feel well and happy and are a balance to the work that I do.

What’s your consultation room like?

I picked it because I didn’t want anything very clinical. It used to be a fire station and it’s kept some of the old features, such as red doors, and a spiral staircase. It’s very East End Shoreditch and clients usually comment that they like it.

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

I wish people knew therapy wasn’t just for when you are in deep crisis or as a last resort. It’s a way of nurturing yourself and developing self-awareness throughout your life. It’s a way of getting time and space for processing what’s going on in your life. We don’t give ourselves time for reflection - I’d like people to know that therapy works to do this, giving a non-judgmental perspective.

Visit Nafeeza's profile here