Meet the Therapist: Sally Turberville-Smith
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I am not sure ‘attracted’ is quite the right word. My GP suggested therapy to me when I was in my late 20s and a mature student at university. I had been suffering from an eating disorder since I was 14 following the loss of my mother to cancer and at the time I didn’t even know what a feeling was in terms of the sadness and grief I was holding on to and dealing with by ‘comfort’ eating and then binging. Therapy helped me considerably at that time and within a few months the disordered eating stopped.
Later I went into therapy because I found intimate relationships very challenging and then a few years later with another partner during our first couple session I had a very strong sensation in my body accompanied by the realisation that ‘I should be doing this’, that ‘this is what I want to do’.
I then began training at the CCPE in Little Venice very close to the new Welldoing offices!
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I practise transpersonal integrative therapy. I am also a trained couple therapist.
Transpersonal means an awareness of the spiritual aspect of our existence, something that is beyond the personal and interpersonal. It is beyond our individual egos. For me it is a connection with the divine or the mystical.
Music, meditation and being in nature are all ways I feel close to the transpersonal: my awareness is heightened and I feel totally present – heart open and mind quiet. I try to hold an awareness of this when I am with my clients. It is not necessary for them to have any religious or spiritual beliefs, although increasingly I am meeting clients whose faith and religious practices are central to who they are and how they choose to live their lives.
Integrative means that I have studied all the main therapeutic approaches such as person-centred, gestalt, existential and psychodynamic. This means that depending on the client and the presenting issue I hope to have a good understanding of what approach is most likely to help a particular client at a particular time. I try to help my clients gain a cognitive understanding of what might be difficult for them, but also very importantly a bodily or ‘felt sense’ of what might be underneath their conscious understanding.
How does your type of therapy help?
I think it is the therapist rather than the type of therapy that is the most important factor in effective therapy. My presence is the most effective tool I have. Therapy isn’t about fixing people, it is about sitting alongside them with all your humanity.
I don’t believe one school of therapy has all the answers and is any more or less effective than any other for a particular condition or symptom. We are all too complex and individual for that!
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see all sorts of different people of varying ages from 16 upwards and that is one of the most interesting aspects of my work. Recently I have seen more men in my practice, which I feel reflects how attitudes to masculinity and therapy might be changing and how many more men are becoming more curious about the therapeutic process and realising that although it might be quite scary to start a process of self-enquiry or ask for help, it is actually very liberating to get to know yourself with more compassion and to become curious and more reflective about the way you relate to yourself and the way you relate in relationships
Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?
Anxiety seems to be much more prevalent now especially in young people. The academic pressures young people face can be enormous. Parents are often working very hard and may not be as emotionally present as young people need them to be when they are going through the turbulence of adolescence. The pandemic has hit young people hard, possibly increasing their social anxiety and the comparison world of social media can make it hard for young people to foster healthy self-esteem and feel confident about who they are and what they believe in.
What do you like about being a therapist?
The variety. Being able to work from home and choose my own working hours. My preference is to see clients face-to-face, but I also work online.
The privilege of being able to share a part of someone's journey. The resilience and courage I witness as well as the pain and sadness that are inevitably part of the human condition.
What is less pleasant?
Not seeing more of my colleagues and feeling part of a therapeutic community.
Sitting too much with pain, sadness and grief. As therapists I think we can be ‘too comfortable’ in the past. I try to be mindful of the present as well as hopeful and optimistic about the future.
How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?
I have been with Welldoing for five years. What I most like about the site is all the interesting and topical articles they post about therapy, current affairs and the individuals working in the therapy and coaching professions.
I also find the Welldoing team very warm and helpful if you have any queries – they believe in what they do and that comes across in all the ways they are working to make therapy and coaching more accessible. I have joined the Welldoing Therapist Community on Facebook but I am afraid I don’t spend much time on social media!
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
I often recommend books. My favourite is How to be an Adult by David Richo. It contains everything we need to know!
Others that I know have helped clients include:
The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner Ph.D
Perfect Love Imperfect Relationships by John Welwood
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. It also comes with a free CD of guided meditations.
What do you do for your own mental health?
Tango dancing, tennis and I need a lot of time and space alone. I love reading and being in nature. I also meditate and practise yoga. For me, having spiritual practice is essential. I am about to study yoga nidra (Sleep Yoga) and I am very excited about this as I have found it to be a wonderful way to activate the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system and induce a profound sense of restorative relaxation. I would love to be able to share this practice with my clients and that is one of the reasons why I am studying it.
You are a therapist in Willesden Green, North West London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
Willesden Green is very vibrant and multicultural. I think it reflects the London demographic. Many people live here and they may have come here from anywhere in the world: Poland, Israel, Iraq, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria to name a few. I don’t meet many people like me who were born in London and have lived here all their life!
What’s your consultation room like?
Bright, spacious, beautiful. I always have fresh flowers and a lit candle.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it isn’t as daunting as you might think. Talking and expressing yourself in the presence of a compassionate listener, who can ask the right questions, can really help you get to know yourself better and feel better about yourself or what is troubling you.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Too many things to mention here! I still find intimate relationships challenging hence my interest in couples work. We are always a work in progress.