Meet the Therapist: Steff Roeg
What attracted you to become a therapist?
For many years I worked as a makeup artist in film and television, loving the creativity and adventure, but most importantly, the relational aspect of my job. I used to say my role was ‘therapy with brushes’! However, my life changed and became seriously challenged by a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis which led to an intractable downward spiral. Nonetheless, through a desire to understand what had led my body to collapse in this way, I began to think about my own life and wonder if I could find the cause over the symptom and heal myself by addressing it. This was the therapeutic approach that was both successful in terms of my own health but ignited a passion and curiosity to explore therapy for the wellbeing of others. I realised that empathy and interest in the psyche had always been part of who I am and training to be a therapist was a natural path.
Where did you train?
I trained at the Institute of Psychosynthesis undertaking a Middlesex University degree programme in applied clinical psychology; choosing to train in the Psychosynthesis model of psychotherapy. Psychosynthesis spoke to my interest in ‘whole body’ psychology incorporating an aspect of transpersonal and the creative Self. I worked for four years as an honorary counsellor in an NHS practice and took a psychiatric placement at St Anne's Hospital working with complex care out-patients. However, my interest in the unconscious language of the body took me to a further study in Somatic Experiencing: a form of trauma therapy that looks at how the body expresses unresolved issues held in the body but unable to be accessed through the rational mind.
How long have you been a therapist?
After the initial three years of studying theory and gaining experience as a student counsellor, I started working as a qualified therapist in 2014. I currently spend one day a week seeing low cost clients and students in training at the Institute of Psychosynthesis alongside my private practice three days a week in W1 and one evening a week in W11.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I’ve heard it said that you get the clients you are supposed to see! And I’ve found it interesting that many of my clients are quite young and often artistic. I imagine that there is an interest in exploring a more creative form of therapy that may appear less intimidating but I also think that existential issues of finding meaning and purpose sit alongside anxiety and the pressures of the age we are living in. Having said that, I have also seen lawyers, prison officers and builders; human beings with universal issues around depression, relationships, early trauma, bereavement and ‘stuckness’, the limits that create blocks to the flow of life. I’m often asked “what do you specialise in?” and my response is that one problem is rarely one problem and is best explored without being confined to a speciality; however, finding a therapist who has had a lot of experience in a particular area is not essential but a good idea.
What do you like about being a therapist?
I really like building relationship with the person I’m working with by creating a sacred and safe sanctuary that encourages authentic connection. I like the uniqueness of each client and the opportunity to choose which tools will help break through defences or unconscious resistance. Often methods can change during long-term therapy as trust grows, for example: a person with a conservative background may not instantly respond to meditation or the idea of using colours to describe feeling. But, after trust is established may feel liberated to try different tools of expression.
What is less interesting?
Carting round the things I like to have in the room I work in…books, items that can spark imagination, notes and files...I would love to have a permanent room of my own!
How long have you been with welldoing.org and what do you think of us?
I feel like welldoing.org is a community which is very important in an isolating career. It’s not just a directory, it’s a constantly developing therapy platform open to ideas. I think I have been a welldoing.org therapist for about 18 months and I’m very happy to be a part of it. I like the human element and knowing that if I call, I can speak to someone friendly and helpful (thanks Alice!)
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
Again I gauge each client on an individual basis. If someone has never tried meditation but has enjoyed a short meditation in the session, I often suggest starting with an app like Headspace or Calm. Both are excellent reminders to take a few minutes away from your busy life on a daily basis. I also sometimes recommend a film that may resonate. Recently I suggested Ingmar Bergman ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ to a client and have also brought in poetry if it felt right for the session. The imaginative mind can be an amazing portal to the unconscious.
What do you do for your own mental health?
Oh so many things! The obvious trio: eat well, exercise, meditate; but I also aim to find some joy in life every day. Laughing, seeing a friend, walking in the park or dancing to rock anthems.
What's your consultation room like?
I have three very different spaces. At the Institute my room is fairly basic but it has two comfortable chairs, some spiritual quotes on the wall and a nice green plant. In Nassau street, the room has a two seater sofa, a lovely velvet armchair, cusions, nice lighting, art work and a water jug with glasses. Finally in Powis Terrace, the room has low lighting, crystals, and a chakra chart! They’re all welcoming in their own way.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
I think therapy needs rebranding! The hushed voice confession of ‘being in therapy’ needs to go and my hope is that people will see therapy as facilitating life. Of course therapy can and does deal with deeply difficult issues like trauma, bereavement, personality disorders to name a few, but therapy can also be about developing capacity to Self manage stress for ourselves, finding out who we are, realising we don’t have to live under the constructs we are born to. Therapy can actually be an exciting journey of discovery.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Part of my training was to spend all of my study years in therapy myself. I was fortunate enough to have had a really good therapist who challenged me to look deeply at my way of being. I learned to separate what was mine and what was the voice of family members. I came to understand the importance of boundaries and how good I could feel when I was authentic with when I said ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ . Becoming open to relationship in whatever form was appropriate to my circumstance was revelatory, but I would say the biggest lesson I realised during my time in therapy was the simplest and most releasing in life: Acceptance. A version of the serenity prayer is a wonderful mantra for all:
Change the things you can
Accept the things you can’t
And have the wisdom to know the difference