I trained as a counsellor at Southampton University, qualifying in 2008. Soon after that I helped to set up and run a counselling and therapy centre in Portsmouth, and since then I’ve been in private practice, seeing individuals from age 14 upwards.
I trained in ‘integrative counselling’; this gave me a range of tools and methods to help me work with different problems and different people – after all, no one person and no one problem are exactly alike! Part of the process is getting to know you as an individual and learning how best to help.
How I work
I sometimes think that the counselling process is like gradually unknotting a tangled ball of wool, or perhaps gently peeling layers from an onion; you start off with a big mass of stuff that looks complicated and possibly painful to deal with, but gradually with patience and perseverance, you begin to get somewhere. And yes, that sometimes means tears, frustration or puzzlement. It’s not always easy, but then meaningful change is rarely straightforward.
So how does it work? Well, when you first come for counselling, let’s say with a stress or anxiety-related problem, you might expect us just to talk about that particular issue – why do you feel stressed? What causes it? When did it start? And we will of course talk about those questions! But we might also explore other areas of your life which at first glance seem unconnected – what does family background have to do with anxiety? Or why am I asking about your sense of resilience? Or how your relationships work out? Or how you spend your spare time?
Often, the issues and problems we bring to counselling are influenced and affected by other events or experiences in our lives, both past and present; by delving into these other aspects of your life, we can sometimes spot ‘patterns’ and common themes – these can offer a deeper understanding of who you are, how you’ve reached the point you’re at, and then ‘the bigger picture’ of how best to move forward.
I grew up in a small town in Scotland, spending a lot of time in the outdoors. I did well at school but was bullied, which made it difficult for me to feel I fitted in with girls my age. A bit later, I fell in with a rebellious crowd and got involved in things which, in hindsight, weren’t very wise choices!
My father died when I was 13 after a long illness, and part of my troubles at the time was as a result of not knowing how to handle my feelings about that. Then, when I was 17, I was badly injured in a road accident, which stopped me in my tracks for a while, but which also led – in part – to me becoming a counsellor.
In my early-20s, I went to university and studied for a degree in history and social anthropology. I learned a huge amount about understanding and respecting other peoples’ ways of doing things, other ways of looking at the world and other belief systems. This helps me to this day in the work I do.
I didn’t go straight into therapy work though; before training as a counsellor, I was a radio and television producer, working mostly for the BBC in their documentary departments. I loved listening to the stories people would share with me, often for the first time.
Sometimes the stories were joyful ones and other times they were tales of great hardship and struggle. Often I was struck by the capacity of human beings to persevere in the toughest of times and to come out the other side.
It was a privilege to be trusted with a glimpse into their lives, to gain an understanding of how they came to be the person they are.
A change of direction
Gradually though I came to realise that a short radio or television interview was not always the most appropriate forum for someone to speak openly about the difficulties or experiences they’d had in their lives; they were ‘stuck’ and I had nothing to give them other than a few minutes of my time before saying goodbye. I decided to retrain as a counsellor alongside my production work so that I could help people resolve those problems that, in some cases, they’d been living with for years.
A series of life events and life-changing decisions brought me to Portsmouth, and my desire to help people make constructive and positive changes in their lives through change-focused counselling was born.
If you’d like help with a problem or difficulty in your life, or you’re searching for a renewed sense of meaning or fulfilment, please drop me a line or give me a call. You can email me via this contact page, where you’ll also find my contact number.