13 Years of Providing Psychotherapy (Part 2)

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13 Years of Providing Psychotherapy (Part 2 of 2)

As we reach September 2023, I realise I’m 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. If you haven’t read part one, click here.

 Writing & Speaking

Alongside supporting clients, I have done various forms of freelance writing and speaking – both for the general public and other practitioners. Whilst this means keeping up with multiple projects simultaneously (which can be stressful),  I’ve learned it also means I like variety and flexibility.

Being approached to speak on podcasts is fun too. I think it’s great to not have psychotherapists be out of reach, within a largely inaccessible mental health system. The most recent podcast conversation I had was with Anna Richardson about coming out as LGBT+ in later life.

A fair part of writing and speaking has been a way to raise awareness within society on the reality of sexual violence. I’ve felt this is important in pushing back against myths we all internalise about this issue, as members of society. Not doing so means there is room for misplaced blame, shame, and guilt to grow: and victim-blaming continues. Unfortunately, all of these can prevent survivors from speaking up and accessing support.

Wherever possible, I try to make space for the lived experiences of survivors in my work. They know what is needed in terms of support, so psychotherapists need to create opportunities to listen and respond accordingly. One example of this was the foreword of my book, which included quotes from survivors on what they felt was needed from psychotherapists. To read more on this, click here.

Training & Consultancy

As a trainer/consultant I most often support other practitioners to improve their understanding of working with the traumatic impact of sexual and domestic abuse. This is closely followed by demystifying the Crown Prosecution Service guidelines on pre-trial therapy, especially since the guidelines changed in May 2022.

More recently I have offered training on supporting LGBT+ clients. My aim in doing so is to offer a space for people to ask difficult questions (of which there are many), unlearning internalised oppressions and biases, and understanding how to signal safety to LGBT+ clients.

What I personally get from training/consultancy is feeling connected to other practitioners and learning from them, being aware of what’s going on in our field, and collectively being able to improve what we offer to clients.

Things I’ve Learned

I’m not sure I ever felt this was the case, but one of the biggest lessons learned is that psychotherapists cannot work with symptoms alone. We have to work with the person in context, along with their identity, to create realistic and meaningful change on the client’s terms.

What this means practically is knowing how regular, everyday life can accumulate varying degrees of pressure (including traumatic stress) on a person. This is especially true of people from under-represented communities who may have to navigate racism, ableism, sexism, homo-/trans-phobia, mono-normativity, and any other type of oppression.

My lived experience as a person with an intersectional identity supports me to work empathically with difference and oppression. From this I aim to offer an empowerment-based approach to psychotherapy, trusting and validating what people choose to share with me so that it can be incorporated into the process of change – on their own terms.

Simply put: clients have survived challenges and life well before I meet them. I feel their skills and lived experiences should be respected. If someone wants to change their skills and/or how they carry the impact of their lived experiences, my role is to support them to figure out what changes they feel are needed and how to get there together.

Next Steps

So, what comes next?

I’m currently completing training as a clinical supervisor, which feels like a good extension of my training/consultancy skills. I’m finalising a new framework to underpin better supporting other practitioners. Click here for more information if you’re wanting clinical supervision support.

To find out more about my working experience and qualifications, and how I could support you, click here.

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