As we reached September 2023, I realised I was coming up to my thirteenth year of seeing clients.
Summarising the numbers wouldn’t capture the experience of doing this work with so many people in so many places. They would also overlook the reality of what it’s like to deliver psychotherapeutic support in our societal context, as the latter definitely makes a difference to whether psychotherapists can truly meet people’s mental health needs.
Instead, I’ll draw on some themes to give you an idea of my training, working experience, and things I’ve learned over the last thirteen years.
I trained at the Metanoia Institute for six years, qualifying as an Integrative Psychodynamic Counsellor in 2014 and an Integrative Psychotherapist in 2015. I started seeing clients as a volunteer trainee in 2010, starting at the Metanoia Institute’s Counselling & Psychotherapy Service.
In order to qualify as a psychotherapist I worked across nine NHS and third sector services, accumulating 500 client-facing hours and 150 hours in observational roles. I also had to have weekly personal psychotherapy and monthly supervision.
People always ask ‘What made you want to train?’ and I find that hard to answer definitively. My sense is that I would have always ended up in a person-facing, probably care-related, role as that’s within my skill set and interests.
Sifting through my thoughts, feelings, and present experience to respond to what someone needs is a routine part of my job. Being analytical and using my brain is part of what makes being a psychotherapist satisfying too.
Ultimately, it’s the people I get to work with and the changes we can make that keep me going. I’ve done short-term work, but these days in my private practice people request long-term and open-ended work to address the multi-faceted issues they face.
Supporting Survivors of all Genders
My final placement before qualifying was with Together Women Project, where I’d set up a psychotherapy service for women who were at risk of re-offending. This was followed by setting up a specialist counselling service for female survivors of sexual violence at Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL).
After four years of working in women-only services, with every person having experienced sexual and/or domestic abuse, I recognised I didn’t want to limit my working experience to supporting one gender.
Sexual and domestic violence sadly doesn’t discriminate, and there are vulnerability factors specific to LGBT+ folks in terms of being at risk, so when I stepped into private practice full time I made efforts to reach people of all genders.
Several years later in 2022, I completed a Diploma in gender, sex, and relationship diversity (GSRD) with Pink Therapy to enhance my skills in working with the LGBT+ community.
A thread that’s always run through my work is activism. I do this via writing and speaking wherever I can, in part to push back against myths about sexual violence. Such myths promote silence, discrimination, and a lack of access to support and justice (whatever these look like to the individual) because we all internalise them.
I also consider that psychotherapy is ineffective if the only work we do as practitioners is in the room. When appointments end, both psychotherapist and client enter a world where violence exists, so we need to push for societal change wherever safe and possible to do so. Placing the emphasis on survivors to simply recover does not stop violence at the root, as well as risking victim-blaming.
Since 2019 I have been part of an independent steering group that has lobbied to change the Crown Prosecution Service guidelines on pre-trial therapy. These guidelines have long restricted access to support and intrude upon a survivor’s confidentiality and privacy when they are simply seeking psychological help.