Susan Rhodes is a therapist working in South-West London

What attracted you to become a therapist?

In the sorts of work I’ve done before - in large corporations, higher education, being a foster carer, or in voluntary organisations - the most important part of the process was and is working with people at a personal level. So it made sense to me to move further into that by going into therapy. I think it’s about providing a safe space for people, allowing them to make a change or transition.

Where did you train? 

I trained at Nottingham University after a real existential struggle over what modality and what that meant to me and to clients who sought me out as a therapist in the future. I did the Honours degree in humanistic counselling and I’ve been working with clients since 2011. 

What sort of people do you usually see?

I see mainly women of various ages, I see the occasional male client – and I really enjoy working with them.  What I see a lot of is people who’ve had a trauma in their life and are grappling with that and how it affects them in the day to day.  

What do you like about being a therapist?

I think the fact that sometimes that I am not a therapist as such, sometimes, I feel I am mining, engineering, rolling up my sleeves alongside people, or like a record stuck in a groove. I seek to be a facilitator for people in their own explorations around what’s going on for them and to meet them where they are and to where possible try and neutralise the power of the role that comes with the title ‘therapist’.

What is less pleasant?

Apart from doing my own admin, I think when it throws up a particular challenge for my own personal growth. Not that I don’t like it, I know it’s good for me too. I see it as an opportunity - I see most things I don’t like as an opportunity. I don’t think I’d be doing this if there were many things I didn’t like about it. 

How long you’ve been with and what you think of us?

I’ve been with only for a couple of months but I really see you as an essential part of what I’m doing. Keeping payments on track, allowing where necessary clients to make own appointments, but also bringing an audience into the therapeutic world that might not necessarily connect with it otherwise. It’s a wonderful site, with great articles; it naturally attracts people to it, and that benefits me. As a partnership we work through anything that facilitates the client’s progress. I am on other directories too, but I don’t seem to get the level of clients I’m getting from you. These people are reading the posts, looking at it closely already. Your content on the site makes therapy more accessible and perhaps a little less daunting for them, it gives clients more freedom and autonomy.

Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?

Yes I do but it’s usually client-driven. Making a blanket recommendation can stir up all sorts of things for clients. I want to help clients recognise that they can get more resources. It all helps to give autonomy and power back to the client and I see helping clients find stuff that ‘speaks to them’ is useful in that, and can help in working together more fruitfully at times.

What you do for your own mental health? 

I’ve got a fantabulous supervisor, and I go back into therapy from time to time; I’m cleaning my pipes at the moment. Also I walk, being in nature is vital to me. I have deep tissue massages, they’re a big part of my self-care. I garden and sing in choirs, and watch back to back episodes of rubbishy-good US box sets (24, Scandal, Hit and Miss, Billlions, etc.) 

What’s your consultation room like?

It’s comfortable and has one or two totems that are mine which clients wouldn’t know are about me personally. It has warm grey walls, two chairs, one that opens up into a recliner and a colourful rug on the floor, lamps, some psycho-educational stuff pinned up, a Hockney print and a nice natural smell, making it seem very calm. It’s personal but not personal; there’s nothing that shows my personal life, or any books. Clients comment that they feel comfortable which is important. 

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

That therapy is a huge and worthwhile investment. I’m hesitant to describe it that way, because I also work with people whose resources may not afford that investment and where possible I can look at concessions. It’s not just about painful stuff, it’s also about our own growth. I wish that people could get over the stigma - especially in this country, and that it could be a natural part of growth. I’d also like them to know that sometimes it can get worse before it gets better and so they shouldn’t be put off by that. There is someone to work alongside them while that is happening.