Meet the Therapist: Sinead Nolan
What attracted you to become a therapist?
My first career was as a journalist. The job involved asking questions and getting people to open up so I could write about them. Meeting so many people who had struggled made realise that I wanted to listen to people who were in pain. I intuitively knew it seemed to help people back then, and now I understand the science of how talking can reduce symptoms of trauma and PTSD.
I believe everyone should go to therapy if they can. Therapy allows for the examination of ones’ life. In therapy, you enter a space where you can be truly seen and heard and this can be powerful and life-affirming. That is what attracted me - I wanted to provide that non-judgemental, life-changing experience to other people.
Where did you train?
I trained as a humanistic integrative counsellor at CPPD in North London.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practice?
I am a humanistic integrative counsellor, which means I value the client as the expert in their own lives and I work with them to help them find the answers. I hope to enable people to integrate the many parts of themselves and to take back their own power.
I hope to help them gain self-awareness and let their ‘true self’ emerge more often. I also use psychodynamic theory to help my clients understand themselves through the lens of their childhood, their past and their attachment style. I believe the therapeutic relationship in itself is often the healing part no matter what is spoken about during the hour.
How does humanistic therapy help with symptoms of anxiety?
Many clients who come to me suffering with anxiety are sitting in a lot of fear and shame. The first step is to build a trusting relationship to do the work in. Anxiety can often be a symptom of deeper feelings that have not been dealt with yet. My approach means I’d try to get to the root of where their problems started, and try to uncover what clues to this may be lurking in their past. The humanistic and person-centred side of my work would be tracking the clients’ feelings and helping them to get in touch with those.
With some symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks, it can be useful to use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to work on improving the day-to-day life of the client. As Gestalt is also one of my approaches, we might do some creative work, inner child work or work with dreams.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I work with individual adult clients of any age. I often work with trauma, bereavement, OCD, panic and anxiety, PTSD and CPTSD, relationship issues and people who have suffered some form of childhood abuse or emotional neglect.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I am so lucky to say that I love my job! There is so much happening in every session on many levels and the human mind is endlessly fascinating. We often think of ourselves as one, but we have many different parts and sides to ourselves. I enjoy having the privilege of getting to know clients. Watching a person unfold, being part of that journey and helping them gain the autonomy to eventually fly free from therapy and go and live their life is extremely rewarding.
What is less pleasant?
The admin side of things can be quite boring!
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Yes, I do sometimes suggest books, reading material and youtube clips to clients. Brene Brown is great as well as The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk.
What you do for your own mental health?
I write, read, talk to friends, go climbing and travel. I go on lots of weekend breaks and love planning holidays. I’ve learned how important it is to take time out, as stress can really affect our mental health, and eventually lead to long term health issues and disease.
You are a therapist in London Bridge, Marylebone and Streatham. What can you share with us about seeing clients in those areas?
As I work in London I do tend to see a lot of younger clients in their 20s and 30s but I work with older people too. Loneliness and stress are often an issue. There is a lot of pressure on people to make ends meet, attend social events, keep up with their peers and to be happy and successful while achieving all of what is expected of them.
What’s your consultation room like?
I work in three locations. My Marylebone room is cheerful, comfy and bright, in a lovely old building near Oxford Circus. I also work in London Bridge, right next to the Shard and in a small counselling centre called ‘Sofalive’ in Streatham.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I wish people knew how life-changing it can be, and that it’s not just for people with ‘mental illness’. Therapy should be for everyone. Comfort, clarity and an internal sense of power and stability are some of the things that can come through therapy. I’ve also lost count of how many people don’t think they deserve to be there because there are others worse off than them. Lori White, the therapist who wrote the book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone says, ‘There is no hierarchy of pain!’ I love this and try to remember it.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
I learned that I was a people-pleaser who found it hard to say no to people! Putting those boundaries in place and valuing myself and taking back my power increased my self-esteem. I also learned that the work never stops. You are never ‘done’ with working on yourself.