I am based in Dorset, England, and have been working as a counsellor since 1988. Prior to that, I worked in complimentary medicine, which had become my chosen career as I had developed an interest in anything that made me well. I had been suffering with many health issues since the age of 17, when I'd had major surgery three times in the space of two months.
Whilst working in complimentary medicine and researching the many effects of environmental stresses and allergies on the body, I realised that many of my clients really needed to talk about their problems and that I was a good listener. I soon discovered that many of them recovered from various illnesses and pains when they made the changes to their lives that we had discussed in our sessions. It was at this point I decided to train as a professional counsellor.
I was a single mother bringing up two teenagers and many of their friends would come and talk to me; I soon developed a particular interest in troubled teens and young adults. My placement whilst at college was as a volunteer at a counselling establishment for sexually, emotionally and physically abused adults and young people and it was here, under my supervisor Mrs. Margaret Keoharn, that I learned most of the techniques I use in my sessions now.
Young people can be extremely challenging to work with and do not always know what they want to talk about; they frequently do not have the words or are afraid that they will not be believed. It takes a long time to build up a trusting relationship where the client feels safe enough to talk about what has happened to them. This is very important and it is important that they have a safe place to tell their story and to know that they will not be judged. Clients who have been abused feel shame, guilt and anger and their self esteem is often at rock bottom.
Experience has shown me that it is important to spend time on the past, but not to dwell on it. I am keen to work with my clients on finding new goals and ways to move on to a brighter future. We cannot change the past, but we can decide what we want to be in our future. We all need a dream; without something positive to focus on we often tend to focus on what has gone wrong and what could go wrong and instead of working towards a positive goal we stay locked in the past.
So! Whilst you will find on most counsellors’ sites a list of things they work with, for example depression, anxiety, self esteem, abuse, eating disorders etc., I am choosing to focus on the positive and what you can change to move towards what makes you happy. I could work with a client for two years and at the end of that time they might find out what it is that has caused then to feel so bad, but they will still be in the same place as when we started. For example, I worked with a client who was afraid of the dark. After a lot of sessions it became clear that this had started when their father left them in dark room at night as a child. My client had been going to bed in the summer in the light and when the clocks changed and moved forwards an hour it was suddenly pitch dark at bedtime. The father chose to let my client scream in terror night after night rather than help her to adjust by providing a night light or similar. Finding this out came about when the same thing happened to her own child when her father was putting his granddaughter to bed, as the clocks had changed and moved forwards an hour my client had started to leave the child's door ajar with the landing light on until she was asleep. My client’s father put his granddaughter to bed and did not do this despite being asked by my client to do so. The father then said “why don't you leave her to scream for a few nights, that’s what I did with you and you soon got over it,” but of course she never did!
This was very interesting of course, but my client was still afraid of the dark and had not moved on. I learned from this and now focus on the goal, in this case helping my client find ways to overcome her fear of the dark. This is how I choose to work now. I have happier clients who move to where they want to be in a much faster time.
Although I have spent many years working with young adults I have also had an adult client base and am happy to have a taster session with anyone who would like to work with me just to see if we can work together.
I have other skills I can use in my sessions if it seems appropriate and my client welcomes this. For example I like to use the Bach Flower Remedies to support my clients through emotional changes. I am also qualified in Japanese acupressure massage, Indian head massage, hand reflexology and Reiki which have been useful when people find it hard to relax or after a difficult session, any of these techniques can be added to the sessions.
I am passionate about my work and I enjoy watching my clients grow in confidence and becoming happier in their daily lives. My life has not been an easy one with years of health challenges, but each challenge has led me to learn new skills and enabled me to be more empathic with my clients.
I am particularly keen to work with clients with bowel disorders as this has been my problem for over 30 years. I am a coeliac and have had one quarter of my terminal ileum removed. I am used to being in embarrassing situations and all that goes with a troublesome bowel!
As for other areas of discussion, nothing shocks me anymore, having worked for so many years with clients who have suffered from abuse. Having worked with young people I have developed patience and know how important it is to take the time to build a strong trusting relationship.