Meet the Therapist: Rachel Stafford
What attracted you to become a therapist?
For years I worked in a job that was so demanding it became impossible to live a healthy work life balance. I witnessed many people I worked alongside suffer with depression and anxiety and had my own struggles too. I realised I needed help and it was whilst I was having my own counselling that I began to understand the importance of talking about what was happening to me, why it was happening and gaining the tools and insights in to how to better cope with what I was feeling and experiencing. It made such uncomfortable conversations, comfortable. Many years later, I decided that being a counsellor and also holding ‘mentally healthy’ workshops was something that I felt so passionate about doing.
Where did you train?
I trained at Bedford Community College
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I am trained in person-centred counselling. This is at the core of my practice. Person-centred counselling is very much client led and by that, it means, the client has the autonomy to explore their feelings at their own pace in a confidential, safe, non-judgemental and empathic environment. It is my belief that offering this environment, allows the client to explore what is happening for them and gain a better understanding of themselves, and by doing that, become more self aware and empathic towards ‘self’. With this understanding, we are able to better cope with situations in our lives that we are struggling with and can begin to make changes for the better.
I am also informed in CBT.
How does person-centred therapy help with symptoms of anxiety and depression?
So many of us suffer from anxiety and/or depression often without knowing it. Acknowledging how we are feeling is the first step in understanding what is happening to us and why. The modality I use, person-centred therapy, allows me to walk alongside you and listen to what is happening, how you are feeling and how that affects your behaviour.
Shining a light on the unspoken, painful and scary thoughts we can have, allows us to understand them and figure out better ways of coping with them. Sometimes we often can’t see what is just on the edge of our awareness, but by talking and sharing, we can become fully aware of them. I look at my job as a counsellor, as helping to facilitate positive change.
What sort of people do you usually see?
My clients vary in age between 15-65. I would say that half of my clients struggle with anxiety and depression and the other half have experienced severe trauma at some stage throughout their lives. This includes clients who have experienced childhood abuse or domestic abuse. Many of my clients also suffer from PTSD or CPTSD.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
I have certainly noticed the decline in young people’s mental health since the pandemic. Our young people have suffered such a scary disruption to their daily lives and routines and I am seeing the ramifications of lockdowns and isolation now more than ever.
With regards to changes in attitude, I feel the topic of mental health has become far more prominent and more widely accepted by many, however I feel there is still such a long road ahead in trying to normalise it and educate people to feel confident in reaching out for help and not viewing their struggles as shameful or a sign of weakness.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I enjoy my work, so much. Being able to see positive change in clients is so rewarding. To see the hard work and determination they have is inspiring and just reinforces my belief in the modalities I practice. I find myself often in awe of how humans are able to change for the better even after experiencing things that are often so very damaging to oneself. The ability to be able to have hope and then find the strength for positive change is something I have been humbled by on many occasions.
What is less pleasant?
I think sometimes, it’s hard when clients put so much pressure on themselves to ‘feel’ better after two or three sessions. The frustration they feel is evident and it's hard sometimes to see them go through that without trying to ‘rescue’ them.
It’s also hard when clients realise that counselling can often uncover some really painful things for them and that actually, counselling is a process that isn’t always pleasant or easy.
Sometimes clients feel worse after starting sessions, and the hardest thing is to continue and work through it together. Sometimes clients leave when it gets too hard. That’s often difficult, however many return when they feel ready and able to.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have been with welldoing.org for a month now and have found my experience to be one of ease (regarding building my profile) and also great customer service. I certainly feel supported should I have any queries or issues and have had a few leads, one of which is now a client of mine.
What you do for your own mental health?
I have realised over the years that having a routine really works for me. I am a mother so my time is limited somewhat. I make sure that I take time for mindfulness techniques. Allowing myself to quieten my brain and just ‘be’. I also enjoy working out. I have come to the understanding that making sure I have a time in the day when I can have quiet reflective time is so very important for my mental wellbeing. Even if it is only for 10-15 minutes!
What’s your consultation room like?
I am a therapist based in Bedfordshire however I have clients in London and as far away as Weymouth as I am primarily online.
However, I do offer limited face-to-face sessions locally in a dedicated private room at my home.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
The importance of it. We go to the gym to maintain our physical health and I believe therapy is essential, at times, to maintain our mental health.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That I am beautifully human! I learnt that experiences in life absolutely do dictate the trajectory of where we go, however by understanding ourselves, who we are, what we believe about ourselves and others and how we perceive things, enables us to write our own narrative and choose where we want to go and who we want to be. We don’t have to be defined by our experiences.