Meet the Therapist: Vida Boreham
What attracted you to become a therapist?
Looking back, I think I undertook counselling training to make sense of my early life adverse experiences. I wanted a life that was fulfilling and meaningful. I was not sure if I wanted to pursue counselling as a job.
However, by the end of the diploma, having worked with some truly amazing clients during my placements, together with the life-changing experience of my own counselling, I knew I wanted to be counsellor.
Being a counsellor is a very special occupation, my clients have trusted me with their vulnerabilities and difficulties, which deserves my respect and commitment.
I specialise in family, children and adolescent counselling because I believe, and as demonstrated by research, early mental health support / intervention benefits young people’s overall wellbeing. This, in turn, contributes to improving the quality of life for the child / adolescent and their family.
Where did you train?
Place2Be, who are a national mental health charity; their post graduate course is accredited by University of East London and BACP.
Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?
I practise an integrative approach which is client led, i.e.: the client sets the agenda. My approach is informed by play therapy and relational therapy, developmental psychology, person-centred, psychodynamic and systemic therapy.
As an integrative practitioner I consider the whole being of my client and their experiences whilst valuing their individuality. I work with their emotional, behavioural, cognitive, physical and social (including family / school) aspects in counselling. I am aware of the various stages of human development which is also factored into the therapeutic work.
Integrative counselling simply means I have a broad range of theoretical understanding and techniques that I can tailor to the specific needs and developmental stage of each client, to ensure counselling is safe and effective. The client and I work together, at their pace, to help them to develop the skills and confidence needed to manage and thrive in everyday life.
The key element of my integrative approach is the therapeutic relationship between myself and my client(s). This relationship is created by me and the client. I believe being a counsellor is a healthy mix of compassion, thoughtfulness, robustness, theoretical knowledge and ongoing training.
In my child and adolescent work, I use the medium of play and creativity, which enables working with metaphor. Working this way offers the child/adolescent safety and freedom, as play and creativity is a child / adolescent’s natural form of expression.
I use sand, arts / crafting, small world figures, board and card games, Play-Doh, Lego, puzzles and tangle and squidges for fidgeting (great tension relief, as well as play). Thus, the child has a choice about which materials to use, and when / how to bring their difficulties into the session.
I facilitate the child’s agenda, by engaging with their play / activity. With some children and adolescents, I may take a more active role, engaging with and talking about their interests and preoccupations in school and at home. Play / creative approach therapy helps the child feel understood and begin to understand their difficult experiences and related emotions.
How does integrative therapy help with trauma?
I understand the impact of trauma on the mind and body, as such the therapeutic work is client-led, sensitive to their triggers and within the client’s window of tolerance to prevent re-traumatisation. Thus, ensuring safe, ethical and effective counselling.
I use play and the therapeutic relationship to offer understanding, non-judgement and a safe physical and emotional space, for clients to experience emotional regulation, and slowly begin to explore and express in their own way their feelings and thoughts.
The therapeutic relationship is fundamental to trauma work. To assist in building a safe and trusting relationship, I am genuine, consistent, transparent and acknowledge a misstep and try to make right where I have mis-stepped. At the same time, I provide support, predictability, validation of client’s voice and needs, gentle challenging and appropriate boundaries.
I appreciate that the client, in attempting to cope with the traumatic event (and sometimes it is a chronic / continuing experience) is likely to have utilised primitive defences which may no longer be helpful. Accordingly, I work mindfully and sensitively with their current coping strategies but help them to eventually develop healthier coping mechanisms.
A big part of the work, especially early on, requires me to bear their burden including feelings of rejection, disgust, shame, anger, rage, guilt, provocation and feeling powerless and overwhelmed. Whilst being nurturing, tolerant, accepting and thoughtful about such feelings and how the client is demonstrating them. Additionally, at times when thinking feels impossible and unbearable for the client, it is important to respect and facilitate this, and for me to continue being thoughtful on their behalf.
I aim to model a different relational experience, one where the relationship is compassionate, safe and thoughtful. Also, a relationship which has the client’s needs and wellbeing in mind.
The counselling process is to enable the client to become physically and emotionally regulated, empowered and develop agency.
What sort of people do you usually see?
I have experience of working in schools and private practice, with anxiety, self-esteem issues, bereavement, domestic violence, acrimonious divorce, self-harm, suicide ideation, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect. My clients range in age from four to late forties.
Family and parent counselling have involved issues of relational conflicts, disrupted attachments / relationships, parents struggling / having lost their way in managing their child / adolescent’s emotional difficulties.
What do you like about being a therapist?
Being alongside my clients on their journey and witnessing their growth and empowerment, is inspiring and humbling. I have found that with each client and each individual therapeutic relationship I have grown too, professionally and personally.
What is less pleasant?
When I initially started doing short-term counselling (between 6-8 sessions), I felt the time constraint was limiting the work. It felt by the time a sense of safety, trust and relationship had been established, the work needed to be wrapped up as we were coming to the end of the allocated sessions. In short-term counselling, funding is usually the reason why more sessions cannot be allocated.
I find the issue of underfunding in mental health care upsetting, scary and frustrating.
Because of short-term work, endings became an even more important part of counselling, as I wanted to ensure the work ended as safely as possible. Additionally, I wanted to give the client a different experience of an ending, one where it has been considered and worked towards. Some two years down the line, I have learned the time constraint tends to help the client to focus the scope of the work and they set the agenda even more so. This makes it manageable for them, as they will bring what they believe they can tackle at that point in their lives.
How long you’ve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us?
I have joined recently, and I am finding the community beneficial and a counterbalance to be a private practitioner which at times can feel isolating.
Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?
The influence of the person-centred aspect of my approach, means I do not tend to, especially with children / younger adolescent clients. However, with older adolescents, young adults and parents, if they are keen for recommendations, I do make suggestions. But I encourage them to make their own choice and find one that is more suitable for them.
What you do for your own mental health?
I have a trusted counsellor and a supervisor too.
I practice yoga daily, short manageable practices. I follow Adriene Mishler’s yoga channel on YouTube, she has videos for all emotional states and for me, it has made yoga accessible. I also enjoy walks and listening to jazz.
You are a therapist in Bromley, Greater London and Central London. What can you tell us about seeing clients in this area?
I have worked with clients from diverse cultures, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds; my clients reflect the London population. I am privileged to meet different types of people and it keeps me grounded and curious.
What’s your consultation room like?
Child, adolescent and parent / family counselling takes place at my home-based counselling room, in Bromley. This is a practical but warm, comfortable and quiet space which is well equipped to offer all age groups lots to do, so to encourage play, creativity and enable feeling, thinking and talking.
I offer adult counselling in Covent Garden / Charing Cross (Adam House) and Islington / Angel (Brighter Spaces Therapy Centre). These spaces are centrally located and easily accessible. The rooms are thoughtfully furnished to offer a warm, peaceful and comfortable space to facilitate counselling.
What do you wish people knew about therapy?
Firstly, it is okay to seek counselling support and please don’t wait until things get really bad. Secondly, it is okay to try it out with different counsellors / therapists to find the right fit for you. The relationship between counsellor and client is key, as such, find a counsellor / therapist you feel you can share your deepest and darkest with, as well as a laugh or two.
What did you learn about yourself in therapy?
Counselling offered me a chance to safely explore myself and heal from early life adverse experiences. We have painstakingly put the pieces back together. I have experienced someone supporting me, listening to me, and helping me to find myself.