Meet the Therapist: Shelley Williams
What attracted you to become a therapist?
I first became interested when I read a book entitled ‘Dibs in Search of Self’ by Virginia M. Axline. I was struck by the powerful impact of the therapeutic relationship between a therapist and a little boy called Dibs. I was a young adult working in schools at the time, curious about the way some of the children were affected by troubled backgrounds. I wanted to go home with them and ask their parents what was happening! Instead, I began to read more and took a degree in psychology followed by a foundation certificate in counselling.
With a growing curiosity in knowing more about the mind, alongside wanting to understand my own history, I weaved my way through different life and work experiences, and my own personal therapy, until I realised I wanted to be a psychotherapist. It was a huge commitment but well worth it. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it enlivened my passion for psychotherapy!
Where did you train?
I trained at WPF Therapy, completing both my one-year foundation certificate and four-year clinical postgraduate diploma there and working within the WPF clinic.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I am a psychodynamic psychotherapist. I am trained to notice the way that our unconscious inner world influences our thoughts and behaviours. I aim to bring meaning to my clients’ difficulties, to help them make sense of what is happening. Essentially, I work with the ‘why.’ Why is this happening and why now?
Curiosity is key and, as a therapist, that means learning to be ok with ‘not knowing’. In this way clients are given the freedom to explore and come to know aspects of themselves that have been hidden to them. I am also trained to hold the therapeutic relationship in mind, which is central to the work. Patterns of relating become evident in therapy and, with careful exploration, this can promote long-term growth. The work is not about becoming entrenched in the past, but about becoming disentangled from it so that clients can live more fulfilling lives in the present. This means working through some difficult and painful experiences and feelings, so I am mindful of my client’s needs and I am guided by them.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I see a whole variety of people, young and old. Every client is unique and I am always learning.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Being a psychotherapist requires openness, integrity, exploration, thought, empathy and lifelong learning. All qualities and aspects I value. My career gives me autonomy, is imbued with meaning, and every day I am introduced to new people, thoughts and ideas. While I offer my clients a sense of security and continuity, no working day is ever the same. My clients entrust me with their fears, desires, needs, hopes - I feel very privileged to be in a position to be able to help them and I continue to grow and develop both personally and professionally.
What is less pleasant?
I am quite a social person and working mostly in private practice means I can miss the milieu of working alongside colleagues in a centre or organisation where, previously, I have been part of a team. However, I counter this by getting involved in lots of CPD seminars, meeting friends and colleagues and working as an honorary psychotherapist in the NHS.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have been with welldoing.org for two years. It is easy to use and navigate and has a good system for matching clients with therapists. This means clients who make contact have had the opportunity to consider the type of therapy that would suit their needs. This has certainly been my experience and I have done some rewarding work with clients who have contacted me through the site. I also think, for therapists, it is great value for money and if I ever have any queries (generally technical!) these are always resolved very quickly.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Occasionally a book, metaphor or image will come to mind. Very occasionally, if a client is interested, I may suggest a book. I have books on my shelves and sometimes clients will be curious and this may spark a discussion.
What you do for your own mental health?
I have been in both counselling and intensive therapy, both before, during and after my training. Therapy, I believe, becomes a part of you and I think we continue to grow through the experience far beyond the ending. It continues to be important to me. But tennis, Pilates, family and friendships, reading widely and writing are also very important to me. And sleep!
You are a therapist in BR2, Bromley. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?
I see a whole range of clients here - parents, young adults, professionals working from home or after the evening commute, expectant mothers, new fathers, people who have retired. It really varies.
What’s your consultation room like?
My main consulting room is an office in a beautiful garden, very private and tranquil, with a few books and journals and subtle art. I wanted it to be modern, quiet, warm and welcoming, without imposing any of my own ‘clutter'.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
You don’t really have to know too much other than how to find a qualified, registered psychotherapist or counsellor who is the right fit for you. Welldoing.org is a good start, particularly as therapists on the site are all registered with one of the main professional bodies – UKCP, BCP and BACP etc. It is also worth looking on the professional organisation’s own websites to understand more about therapists and the core standards of education and training you can expect. Allow yourself time and follow your gut.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
One thing I learned was to trust in my own feelings. This has a ripple effect in so many aspects of life - family, relationships, work. I also learned much about myself within relationships and the dynamics that had become so familiar to me.