Meet the Therapist: Ruth Benstead
What attracted you to become a therapist?
Becoming a therapist wasn’t a conscious decision, I had experienced a personal tragedy and after a period of time felt a strong need to re-boot my life completely. I moved from my native Wales to Derbyshire and volunteered at a women’s refuge where I became involved with delivering the Freedom Programme to the residents. The refuge encouraged me to train to become a facilitator of the Freedom Programme, during that time I met a lady who had enrolled on a ten week Concepts in Counselling course at the local college and just asked me to come along to keep her company. I loved the course! And was encouraged by the tutor to enrol on level three Counselling Skills, then the same thing happened and was vigorously encouraged by the tutors to go on to do the Diploma. You could say I’m an accidental counsellor! Though my first supervisor would tell me that we end up where we are needed to be.
Where did you train?
I trained at Stockport College, our cohort had a bumpy ride for various reasons, but we gained added experience in managing difficult situations and eventually triumphed.
What sort of people do you usually see?
Most of my client base are men and women who have experienced current or historical sexual violence or abuse, and people who are survivors of domestic violence. I also work with those left behind after death by suicide. Ages range from 14 to my oldest client so far at 80 years of age.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I like witnessing the healing process, the transformation from defensive posture to open; dull pained eyes becoming brighter; people finding their voice again and slowly but surely returning to who they were before all the pain. I know I will never feel complacent or jaded by witnessing people’s resilience strength and determination, it is indeed a privilege to support such wonderful men and women through their journey.
What is less pleasant?
Oh that’s easy! Administration is what I like least, it’s accurate to say I absolutely loath it. I view it as a necessary evil. And that’s as much as I want to say on the matter! :)
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’ve been with welldoing.org for around six months and really enjoy that it’s friendly and approachable. I love the look and design of the website, it’s bright and cheerful and easy to manoeuvre around which is great for me as technology isn’t one of my greatest strengths.
Have you used the booking and payment system? And how do you find that?
Oh dear, I keep looking at it then not doing it. It looks like it would make life much easier and I fully intend to get to grips with it. I think it’s the setting up that has deterred me so far, much like finding many reasons not to get the ironing board out!
Have you joined the welldoing.org Therapist Community on Facebook? If so, how did you find it?
Yes I have joined, I think it’s a fantastic idea. Private practice can be very isolating especially in rural communities like mine. It’s an easy way of having instant access to other therapists in order to share new learning and ideas, and also to just support each other.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes I do. My most frequently suggested book is Living with the Dominator by Pat Craven. This book is extremely helpful to survivors of domestic abuse by explaining the belief system of the perpetrator, which then leads to an understanding that they themselves did nothing to cause the abuse. A word of caution though, the therapist must be able to recognise when or indeed if their client is ready to read it as it contains many triggers. That said, the book also changes lives. The app I most frequently suggest is called Sea Sights and Sounds. It’s visually lovely with lighthouses, seabirds, snow, rain and mist, then has sounds of rain, wind and thunderstorms. Many clients have found it useful when feeling anxious, stressed or just not able to sleep.
What you do for your own mental health?
I love animals! My dream job would be a koala bear keeper at an animal sanctuary. But I’m a therapist with two Westies, Suzie and Lollipop, and we love to walk in the beautiful surrounding area of High Peak where I’m lucky enough to live. Animals make me happy and are great for my mental health, try looking at an Alpaca!
What’s your consultation room like?
My consultation room is located in my garden surrounded by mature trees, it’s very peaceful and tranquil. The interior is decorated with pale pastel shades of sage and mauve. I’ve never had any negative feedback about it. I think male clients are comfortable with the vague suggestion of a seaside theme, and I think female clients just want to move in.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I wish people knew that the therapeutic relationship is paramount; I hear so often people say that therapy didn’t work for them, when most likely they were just with a therapist that wasn’t right for them. Therapy isn’t one size fits all, we all work differently, have trained differently. If your GP isn’t working for you you try a different one, if your therapist isn’t working for you find one that does. Shop around!
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
My learning from personal therapy was that my self-belief was based on other people’s opinions of me. I learned that what I’d been told from childhood about lack of ability and lack of strength just wasn’t true. I learned that I am an intelligent strong empathetic women. I learned to believe in myself....