During my time as a mature age student, I met a German woman who had some terrible experiences during the war. Hearing her stories and how she had built up her own resilience, taught me a lot about what people can overcome in their lives - she was a big advocate for self-responsibility.

I remember joining a group that she ran.  I signed up for it then never heard anything more about it.  One day she rang me and asked “why didn’t I come to the group last night?”  I told her “you didn’t ring me”. then she said, “Did you need me to?”

That was the beginning of many years of study with her. She taught me a lot about taking responsibility for myself and what resilience really means.

That experience has probably been my biggest teacher of how to stay true to myself and do things that were right for me.  To focus on bettering myself and not judge other people.

I’ve been in the industry for nearly 40 years now.  I started off as an electronics technician, building telephone exchanges. I went back to university as a mature age student and decided that working in the therapy and mental health sector was just something I wanted to do. It’s always been in my psyche I think.

I’m really passionate about social justice and making sure that people have access to equitable services. My current role as a Practice Specialist in Research & Innovation, is just one of the ways I thought I could help.

Whilst I was studying to be a psychologist at University a major event in my family happened.  It really changed the course of the work that I was doing at the time.

My sister was killed in a domestic violence incident. I remember vividly the response of the support services. I realised how inadequate the support was for what I felt we needed as a family at that time.

I think the people from the services were well-intentioned back then, but good intentions don’t always equate to good service.

I ended up changing my major from psychology to counseling.  With counselling, I felt like the frameworks were a better fit for what I felt people needed at times when they were particularly vulnerable.

It’s what I like about this work – we have started to listen to clients and their expertise about what they need.  We’ve moved away from thinking that only professionals know best.

As I have been both a client and a therapist, I realise that as the client, you often know what is best for you and it is the therapist’s job to help you identify this.  It is not for them to know what is best for you in every situation.

If you’re in a situation where you want things to be better, only you can really know what that means and what would help you get there. Sometimes we need help to get there because we’re stuck.

I think experience has taught me more about good practice than any of my years at university.

I use narrative therapy as my major framework, but what I have learnt from personal experience and Gestalt training has really carried me forward, because your insight isn’t about the client it’s about you.  Our job is really to help people find their own solutions to things.

I found that Gestalt therapy fitted with my experiences, and it struck a chord with me. So that’s the direction I’ve moved in.

I think if we really want to help people, we need to be constantly doing things to connect them with their own power.

This is really hard work and I always say to people, “we’re not making shoes here, we’re working with people’s lives.  People who are really vulnerable, and that comes with a different type of responsibility.”

I’m never going to know what you need better than you know yourself. My best strategy is to listen to you, to really hear what you’re saying and try and understand.