What is counselling?
For me, counselling is first and foremost a very meaningful relationship. It is a safe relationship in which we are seen, heard, held; in which we are given the space and time to reflect on what it means to be human within our experience, our life, our relationships, our culture. For some, life can be so fraught, busy and full of societal, familial and personal expectations.
It can be very hard to take a step back and see the choice we have to change, grow and find our own purpose. For others, we have never been loved in a safe way, and counselling can help us build our own foundations of security.
What has inspired you on your counselling journey?
It started when I read Skills in Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy, by Emmy van Deurzen and Martin Adams, back when I was doing my undergraduate degree in psychology. Since then, inspiration has come from a handful of colleagues, supervisors and existential writers. In terms of supervisors and colleagues, Nancy Hakim-Dowek, Marc Boaz, Susan Iacovou and Stella Duffy stand out for me: they are all existentially minded, but not in the slightest bit dogmatic about it. A huge sense of empathy and humanity guides their practice. The existential inspiration has remained consistent throughout. In terms of books, I am inspired by Viktor Frankl, Edith Eger (both of whom survived the Holocaust), Robert Stolorow, Paul Tillich, Hannah Arendt and Irvin Yalom.
What does spirituality mean to you?
Spirituality is, for me, about connection and ethics. I believe all human beings have an ethical call to be concerned about the state of the world and the suffering of others. I also believe that so much suffering could be avoided if we were better at connecting. The need to connect is written in our very DNA.
Most useful piece of advice for a student or newly qualified therapist
For a student: go into each stage of your training open to hear what others have to bring – both fellow trainees and teachers. The training is long and slow: being open to every stage of it and every individual you meet along the way makes it incredibly enriching. For a newly qualified therapist: practise self-care. For me, this is about consciously taking time for myself and being in nature.
Do you have a favourite quote?
'What is this world if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.' It is from a poem by WH Davies, a Welsh poet and writer, who lived much of his life as a tramp.
Favourite counselling book
I am a big fan of group therapy and have run several groups over the past couple of years. I love Yalom’s The Schopenhauer Cure. It has it all: a philosophical underpinning, and a therapist facing death while he manages messy group dynamics and believes he is failing one of his clients. It is incredibly human and real.
Favourite podcast or website
Therapy Chat, with Laura Reagan. She really gets the full range of professionals on.
Favourite piece of music
Hallelujah, by Jeff Buckley.
Tip for a successful counselling session
Leave your ego outside supervision. Don’t be defensive. Be honest about the doubts you have, and about how you really feel with the client.
What is the most important issue facing the counselling world today?
Oh wow, where to begin? Can I choose several? I suppose if I had to choose one it would be the hugely distressing conditions facing our clients in contemporary human life: climate change, forced migration, war and mobilisation, massive economic struggle, a lack of meaning. Working with refugees really brought home to me how little effect we can have when the world of our clients is so fundamentally unstable.