Meet the Therapist: Sarah James
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I’ve always felt drawn to being a therapist, however as a teenager I struggled with my mental health and couldn’t imagine feeling strong enough to support others. Then I started seeing a counsellor. It was a hugely transformative experience and I emerged feeling grounded, empowered and at ease. I became passionate that everyone should have access to therapy, so I began the journey to qualify. Now in my thirties it’s a privilege to hold space for those in need of support, just like my therapist did for me.
Where did you train?
I trained at the Mary Ward Centre, London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I use an integrative approach which means I work with different modalities such psychodynamic, person-centred and transpersonal. For those considering therapy but haven’t heard of those modalities before, in simple terms: psychodynamic draws on symbolism and interpretation to explore the past and the unconscious. Person-centred is a warm, relational way of working, focusing on the present. While the transpersonal looks at connection and the idea that we are all part of something bigger. You don’t have to be spiritual to explore this concept as it can relate to themes of community and the wider human experience.
This integrative approach allows me to work in a holistic manner, responding in creative and individual ways depending on what is brought to a session.
How does integrative therapy help?
I hold a safe, non-judgemental space for those I work with to develop their awareness by examining their inner world. Integrative therapy allows me to respond in a way that honours a person’s uniqueness, enabling them to begin to feel seen, perhaps for the first time.
Utilising a modality (or a mix of) to suit them, we begin to understand their beliefs, habits and motivations. I offer creative ways of working such as drawing and body work, which can empower clients to make connections, enabling positive change to occur. Working in this integrative manner, from many angles, can be deeply valuable and clarifying.
I believe we all can heal and grow, given the right conditions. Discomfort can be caused by a loss of contact with who we really are, yet when we have the space to explore, feel seen, and understood, we can renew this contact and awaken to a greater sense of wellbeing.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I have worked with people aged eighteen to those in their seventies, covering issues such as anxiety and depression. My speciality areas are bereavement and loss (of relationship / job / identity / self-worth). I welcome people from all backgrounds, cultures, gender identities and sexual orientations.
What do you like about being a therapist?
It’s an honour to be trusted with someone’s internal world and the parts of themselves that they usually keep hidden. It’s a tender process and hugely rewarding.
What is less pleasant?
It can be hard to witness struggle, however pain is often fertile soil for growth. Sometimes we need to break down to rebuild.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I’m relatively new to welldoing.org. The team seem great and the platform is user-friendly for clients and therapists.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
If I do make recommendations, they are generally unique to each client. That said, Insight Timer is a great (and free!) resource, it’s a mediation app with thousands of guided meditations covering a range of topics from loss to anxiety. This can be excellent way to introduce a self-compassionate practice into your daily routine.
What you do for your own mental health?
Most days I practice gentle yoga, meditation and I’ll move my body in some way, usually following a dance workout on YouTube. I also keep in regular contact with friends and family, connection is hugely important for mental health, especially during the pandemic.
You are a therapist in Canterbury, Kent and online. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
I have recently moved to Canterbury, having previously seen clients in London. Working online I mostly see people from Kent and London, although some come from elsewhere. Canterbury is a student town with two universities, so I’ve noticed more students have contacted me recently.
For now, my consultation room has become a virtual space. Most of my clients have expressed that this works well as they can have therapy in the comfort of their home rather than in an unfamiliar space. Also, scheduling is made easier by cutting out travel time, often enabling them to incorporate therapy into a working day, something that would be almost impossible if commuting. However, I do appreciate not everyone feels safe to speak openly at home and others don’t feel confident using technology. For now I feel working virtually is the safest and most consistent way to operate my private practice.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
That it’s one of the most courageous acts you can do. There is huge strength in vulnerability and asking for support. If we spend energy working on our bodies in the gym, why not show the same care to our minds?
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
That I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. Also, the power of holding firm healthy boundaries, and that it’s OK to do so.