Meet the Therapist: Ryan Powell
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I think it’s a mixture of just enjoying listening to and supporting people, and also having some personal experience with therapy when dealing with my own struggles.
I have a history of substance misuse and when I started training to be a therapist I was 10 years clean and sober and had helped numerous people within the 12 Step fellowships. I found this experience was a calling of sorts.
I moved to London from Canada in 2017 – I transferred with the hotel chain I was working with to work at a five star hotel here in London. I realised this was not my passion anymore and saw an ad for a role within the prison service to become an apprentice that would support service users with a history of substance misuse. I thought this was my opportunity to make the change that I craved and I went for it. I got the role and they put me through Level 2 and Level 3 counselling skills courses and after that I decided to train as a therapist.
I was promoted to becoming a full-time health and wellbeing practitioner in the prison service and there had the opportunity to deliver substance misuse interventions and work with a group of men to support them through the first five steps of 12 Step recovery. It was here that I was introduced to group therapy and I got to see the profound impact it had on these individuals and this cemented my belief that I was on the right track.
Where did you train?
CPTA (Counselling and Psychotherapy Training Academy) in Bromley, with a further diploma in rational emotive behavioural therapy from CCBT (College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies).
I am also currently enrolled in the Gestalt couples therapy certificate programme through the Gestalt Centre.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
My style is integrative and I was trained mainly in psychodynamic and person-centred frameworks; however I like to use cognitive behavioural therapy, rational emotive behavioural therapy, Gestalt and Transactional Analysis in my sessions as well.
I think that visiting the past and uncovering situations that may have formed our adult selves is important. I also believe that staying with the person and what they are bringing to the session in the present is important to acknowledge.
The journey to self-actualisation could be solved with some simple interventions, or may take longer to achieve; either way it needs to be in a space where the client feels safe and supported.
My clients see me as a non-judgemental person who is easy to talk to; they would say that they feel safe to make themselves vulnerable in my sessions but also that I will challenge them to achieve the goals that they set out to achieve.
How does your type of therapy help?
I currently work in the prison as a Primary Care Mental Health Practitioner working with anxiety, depression and low mood.
My private practice deals with these symptoms but also addiction and sexuality and issues regarding coming out, gender dysphoria, substance misuse in the LGBTQ + community and also self-harm and suicidal ideation.
All of these topics involve a soft approach to begin therapy and my style allows the person to express themselves and to get my clients to a place of self-acceptance before the journey can begin.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see all ages, both individuals and now starting to see couples.
As stated before I do have a practice that supports and affirms the LGBTQ + community, I am an ally and also identify as a gay male (he/him).
I do provide interventions to heterosexual individuals and couples as well specifically in relation to addictions, anxiety, low mood and depression.
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
The embracing of online therapy. I started my programme prior to the pandemic and started seeing clients in-person for three months before the world went to a standstill. My practice has been therefore mainly online but I am starting to expand and have recently committed to face-to-face therapy services again as I think they are important for many people and they also help therapists see cues, signs and mannerisms in the room that may not be seen via online platforms.
What do you like about being a therapist?
It teaches me that we all have our imperfections. I really enjoy supporting others but the truth is that many times I hear exactly what I need to hear and say exactly what I also need to hear in regards to my own struggles.
It reminds me to practice a healthier way of living, it reminds me to pick up the phone and not isolate and it also reminds me that I am not unique and that we all have daily problems and issues to work through.
What is less pleasant?
Boundaries. We can give a copy of the contract and read it out loud but boundary crossing is something that happens and it needs to be nipped in the but or it gets worse. Specifically with late cancellations and text messages.
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have been with the site for one month thus far. I like the layout and the booking system is one of the better ones that I have seen. I am on the welldoing.org therapist community on Facebook and it is very helpful to see a group of successful therapists and to receive insights to help build networks within our empathic community.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes – I recently read The Gift of Therapy by Yalom. I really think that this book is great for therapists, but the content can be suggested in the therapy room because it provides insight but also real life situations that the client could relate to.
His promotion of young therapists embracing as opposed to being fearful of working with dreams is brilliant.
What you do for your own mental health?
Exercise, personal therapy, travel, 12 Step meetings, help others – oh and I also like food so eating healthy most of the time but treating myself to something fried or sweet is important.
You are a therapist in London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
I work in London and like I stated my experience has been mainly online so therefore I have clients all throughout the UK for my online practice.
I have recently rented a room in Central London near Bond Street Station and I am currently taking new clients.
What’s your consultation room like?
My room is comfortable and professional. The lighting and the mood are effective in creating a positive therapy space.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Therapy isn't a place where you're going to be told off. People sometimes think they're going to be labelled with a mental health disorder of some sort by visiting a therapist; I wish people knew this is a myth.
Talking is healthy and it’s probably better to work through the stuff you're dealing with before it gets worse.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
This could be a very longwinded answer as I have a history of substance misuse, internalised homophobia and had a lack of self-love.
The short answer to this is acceptance of myself. I am not going to declare that these issues don’t creep back in from time to time but I now have a toolbox that I bring out when my mind starts telling me that I’m not worthy. For me personal therapy will be a life-long journey and I am OK with that.