Meet the Therapist: Ruth Abban
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I have always had an interest in people, with a curiosity to listen to underlying challenges behind what people experience. Having a legal background and a passion for advocacy, I decided to transition to psychotherapy.
I felt more suited to therapy as a profession and I have found it an effective way to advocate and amplify the voices of others. There is something about therapy that centres the voices of people, especially those in society who have been the most marginalised.
However, one of my main driving forces was my very first teacher that I had when beginning my psychotherapy training, who I learned so much from. It was very refreshing to see a Black lecturer who looked like me excelling in the profession. Him telling me that he spotted potential in me to qualify as a psychotherapist really encouraged me to complete my training. Although he has now sadly passed away, his legacy and impact still lives on and I hope that I am making him proud.
This lecturer also encouraged me to bring my full self as a Black woman into the profession and it feels like a ‘full circle’ moment now! I also have the privilege of training others through my work as a facilitator with Kaemotherapy, the leading psychotherapeutic training and coaching service on race in therapy in the UK. It is truly rewarding to be able to support therapists and mental health organisations to develop skills and confidence to support clients from racialised communities, and I have seen more people who look like me becoming more attracted to the profession – and excelling in it too.
Where did you train?
I trained for five years to Diploma level at Morley College, completing clinical hours in a counselling organisation where I eventually worked as the Clinical Placement Manager.
I also worked in children and young people’s charities whilst studying and post-qualifying.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
Having learned a variety of therapeutic approaches on my training, I practice integratively, which provides me the versatility to tailor therapy to the specific needs of each client.
I mainly do this in an existential-humanistic way, as clients are able to delve into their challenges in the way they want to and are able to define meanings for themselves and their lives in their own ways when exploring the underlying reasons behind their experiences.
I apply an intersectional and intercultural lens to my way of working, as aspects of each person’s identity and culture uniquely impact how they experience life, and it is important for all parts of a person to be considered in therapy.
How does integrative therapy help with symptoms of racial trauma?
My style of integrative therapy helps with symptoms of racial trauma, as it provides systemic context to a client’s individual experiencing. For example, a client from a racially minoritised background may initially present with having social anxiety at their workplace, but exploring further with them, further aspects of their lives linking to their racial identities could come up, such as: being the only person of colour at their workplace, them having previously experienced racial microaggressions at work and cultural patterns of relating to others. These, alongside other factors that they raise, will all have an impact on how they will present to others in their workplace.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see individuals, usually teenagers and young adults, primarily from Black, Asian and other ethnically minoritised communities.
Common areas explored with me in therapy are: adultification bias, racial identity and racial trauma, alongside other common mental health challenges (such as anxiety, depression and bereavement).
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
The popularity of remote therapy, especially since the pandemic, has definitely increased the accessibility of therapy and has helped to reduce the stigma of ‘going’ to see a therapist, since people can also attend sessions from their own homes.
It has also been great to see more people from minoritised communities accessing therapy, as the stigma towards therapy is usually greater for these groups.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Developing authentic and meaningful relationships with people and allowing clients to express aspects of themselves that they may have suppressed. Seeing them embrace aspects of their identities that they may have been socialised to ‘self-silence’ is a beautiful thing to witness.
What is less pleasant?
Knowing that certain systemic aspects of what clients may share are not ones that can easily be changed and hearing the pain of the ongoing trauma that can come with that.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I joined Welldoing earlier this month after being highly recommended to by colleagues, and it has been great to be a part of such an amazing organisation!
I have felt welcomed by the warm and friendly team and find the systems easy to use, especially the booking system.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes, depending on what they may share with me in therapy. One book that has been helpful for a lot of my Black clients in particular is Living While Black: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Racial Trauma by the psychologist Guilaine Kinouani. The tools provided in the book enables people to not just find ways to ‘survive’ but to also thrive, whilst also providing validation for their experiences that can often be dismissed in society.
What you do for your own mental health?
Listening to music, going for long walks, reading, singing, dancing and regularly socialising with others.
You are a therapist who works online. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
Working online has allowed for there to be a wide range of clients who see me for therapy, as I find that they usually prefer to see me via this method.
What’s your consultation room like?
Warm, spacious and comfortable, with plenty of lighting.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That the process is multifaceted – behind what is on the surface, there are underlying layers that may be painful to uncover, but useful for healing.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
So much! One of them was how much my racial identity had impacted a lot of what I had experienced in life, and tools for how to affirm myself in systems not designed to acknowledge my background.