How did you come to be a therapist?
Why are you a therapist?
Is being a therapist what you really want to do?
What’s your purpose for being a therapist?
These are questions I get asked a lot; on my course, in my personal life, at interviews, by clients, by anyone who happens to find out. I’ve been thinking about it all in a lot of depth recently. Posts like this are not common for me to post, because it’s about me, but it can be of benefit to people to know this, and sometimes, people can feel more comfortable approaching someone if they know their story, or if they have been through something, or if I’m also honest and open, or something else. I have thought long and hard, but I feel this is an ok thing to do and to share.
We are all on our own journey. Wherever you are right now, that’s where you are on your journey and your life, until now, has got you there. Same for me. This post is merely a ‘snapshot’ of my journey
I grew up in a very typical family, the 2.4 children kind of family. I laughed, I had friends, I smiled, I achieved, I was active, I had hobbies, although, I was an anxious child. I really started to struggle around the age of nine, and found myself spinning down into the depths of pain, numbness, disconnection and distress. Whilst managing it all within myself, I was still somehow managing to be a functioning human being (going to friend’s houses, doing my hobbies, achieving in school), all be it, a shadow of the child and teenager I could have been. No one knew. I didn’t tell anyone. I thought it was ‘normal’ and everyone felt like this. I survived those years through dance, where I found total solace. When I was dancing I was free and expressing myself. I was also accepted and my dance friends were some of the closest friends I had.
My aim from that young age was to be a teacher, so when I got to 18, I went off to uni to study teacher training (and maths!). I’m not sure I really knew what I wanted or what would make me truly happy, so this was the best I could do.
As uni drew to a close, it was evident that all the ways I had managed so far didn’t work anymore. I was struggling more than ever. This was the first time I encountered being in therapy. I hated it. I had to talk and stuff! That said, even at that early time, more than a decade ago, I realized that this was something that interested me, and that, if I ever got to a place where I was able to, it could be something that I would enjoy and could bring something to.
Over the subsequent few years, which, at times, were incredibly dark, I encountered several more therapists and many other mental health professionals (I also realized that teaching wasn’t for me, and left it, moved back home, started volunteering with a website, ran the support department on it, started volunteering with a local animal charity, and spent time doing the very best that I could do to just get through). Some of those professionals I interacted with were outstanding, and some were not so much. As I was journeying through this, I was gaining self-awareness and great mental health knowledge. I was also learning thick and fast about what made an effective professional, what people needed, what could help, and then, on the flip side, what a devastating impact a less effective professional could have and the damage that could create, and how different people saw things. I learnt a huge amount about so many things (which still serves me very well now).
Somehow, through a lot of hard work on my part, I was able to create a solid foundation to move forward from, and started to reconnect and engage back in life. I secured a job (my first adult job!), and started to rebuild my personal life. I had achieved more than professionals had said I could, I had achieved more than I ever believed I could. My life wasn’t what I had dreamed it would be, but I was suddenly starting to gain things into my life that made it valuable, made me feel more fulfilled and gave me value (in my eyes).
I changed jobs, and unfortunately, the funding for the project fell through, meaning I was then without a job. I had some major decisions to make. Where to go from here?
That was when I started my search. I knew I needed to take control of my life, and over the years, I had mulled a lot about being a therapist, so this seemed like a logical next step. I had been well and stable for a significant period of time, and knew that I had a lot to offer to any potential client, in terms of my experiences, knowledge and approach. I also suspected it would be something I would enjoy, it would give me a focus and the time was right, because my life was a blank canvas. I could make it what I wanted it to be.
That was absolutely the right thing to do. My course was part time, but it gave me enough knowledge to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that being a therapist is where I’m meant to be, for the rest of my life. I absolutely love it! I love the theory (I describe myself as a ‘happy geek’, constantly reading and learning) and the fact I get to continually learn and develop and, most importantly, working with clients is such a privilege. Anyone coming to my therapy room invites me to be a part of their courageous journey towards where they want to be; that can only be a privilege.
My journey of past despair, has brought me to this point. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I completely believe in what I do. I know how I have gone from someone who was so troubled, disconnected, unable to verbalise what was going on for her, and in such a dark place, to someone who knows who she is, what her core values are, what it’s like to be connected to myself and so much more. I’m still constantly changing and learning and growing (the same as everyone else), but without a doubt, the reason that I can be the effective therapist I am, is due to my own personal journey to get here. I know depth, I’m not afraid of depth, and can and will work deeply with clients if that’s what someone needs.
My future as a therapist is secure; it’s who and what I will be. My ultimate aim is to be the very best therapist that I can be. I’m looking forward to the journey I’m embarking on towards this (although, of course, I’ll never get there because I’ll always keep learning). I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some inspirational people, to have seen the very best of people, as well as the not so best. I have learnt through all of that. I know who I am, and I have a past that I survived, learnt from, grew from and took positive things from. I also have complete faith in every single human being who comes into my room seeking something from therapy. If we can stay with it, we can all make the journey to where we want to be. It won’t necessarily be quick, it won’t necessarily be easy, but it will absolutely be worthwhile. I know that, for sure.
So that is how I came to be a therapist, and why I came into the field of therapy.