Meet the Therapist: Penny Lawson
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I found that I was drawn to helping people and if I look back it was true in different roles. I was in adult career guidance, but I often ended up having fruitful conversations about family relationships, expectations, values and beliefs. I found they affected people’s career choices and progress. I’d already begun some of the training so I simply became more and more involved.
Where did you train?
I did an integrative therapist diploma in theory and practice of counselling at Stockport college. I include person-centred, in terms of believing that counselling is about supporting the client in working through their own process and coming to own conclusions. Into that I combine aspects of CBT, Transactional analysis (TA), psychodynamic and Gestalt .
How long have a you been a therapist?
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see lots of different people, from 16 year olds to post-retirement age. I see more women than men, it’s probably about 80-20 at the moment, though at other times, there have been more.
I see an awful lot of people with anxiety, and relationship difficulties. I don’t mean just intimate sexual relationships, also friendships, people who can’t develop friendships, family relationships, and issues between parents and adult children.
Where do you practise and what is significant about it?
I work from home, which is Poynton, just across into Cheshire from Greater Manchester, so I see mostly aspirational professional people. Not everyone, but that is vast majority. This is a privileged area, but people are struggling with stress, work-life balance and there’s an awful lot of confusion about what is realistic to expect from themselves and life. It’s a myth that everyone is having a great time. This is not just a problem with young people but adults too. People’s show reels are not their full reality.
What’s your consultation room like?
It’s a wooden cabin in my back garden, a private whitewashed space with three chairs and a bookcase full of books and toys. It’s very calm, very green and peaceful. I get good feedback and, for me, it’s detached from my private life without being clinical. I think people find it less intimidating than an office would be, and it’s private enough to hold them.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I love it! I’m in a very privileged position. I enjoy being able to support people in assessing what’s happening to them. And in that assessing, whether there is something they could change. It’s a very honest connection. And I love seeing people grow and develop.
What is less interesting?
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been with you for about a year. What I like about you is the articles, it makes mental health a conversation. I think we talk too much about mental ill health. Welldoing.org makes it seem we can all have challenges and we need to invest in it. It really chimes with how I feel about mental health. And I love the weekly newsletter.
How you’re finding the booking system?
I find the clients who have approached me for it love it, and so we do all the booking and payment that way.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I suggest Ted Talks, such as Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability. I also recommend mindful or natural sound apps that are either free or low-cost. If people find something that can soothe them, it will help with anxiety and sleep.
What you do for your own mental health?
I walk my dog, read novels an awful lot, go and see friends, listen to music, and I’ve just signed up for a mindfulness course.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
There’s still a lot of misconception about therapy, the feeling that people must be ill to come to therapy. Sometimes this is reinforced by family. But the more people talk openly, the more common they find their experience can be.