What course are you studying at the moment and why did you choose this discipline?
I’m studying an MA in Gestalt Therapy Theory Studies. I chose this is because prior to training as a psychotherapist I qualified as an executive coach. The programme director was a Gestalt therapist so it was largely down to her influence and my initial understanding of the therapy.
Can you explain the Gestalt approach?
It’s a holistic embodied approach so we work with the client’s whole experience. Often a client’s struggles are related to how they are within their environment. Gestalt allows a range of creative approaches such as working with deep feelings or the way the body feels, working with sand trays, drawing or just talking.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering for MindOut?
MindOut is a great place to be a volunteer and to do a placement as a trainee counsellor. The pure range of clients that I see is quite amazing. I’ve worked with people who’ve had various issues and some have absolutely nothing to do with gender or sexuality. However it does also encompass people who are exploring their gender or sexual identity. MindOut has many counsellors from different disciplines and it’s an incredibly supportive group. The supervision that MindOut provides is another aspect of that. I’ve always felt incredibly well looked after.
Why is it important for LGBTQ clients to have an LGBTQ therapist?
This is an interesting point because many therapists say that the gender of a therapist should make no difference. However when it comes to gender identity and sexual diversity I think it’s great that people can come to MindOut. Clients know that they’re going to be understood and it’s a non-issue. Clients have talked to me about trying to talk to non-LGBTQ therapists and doctors who just don’t understand. Often their identity becomes the talking point rather than the issue that the client really wants to work on.
Why is MindOut’s LGBTQ specific, low cost counselling service needed?
Many clients have limited financial means and access to support. This is particularly true for trans communities where there is little psychological support for their mental wellbeing whilst transitioning. Counsellors are probably role models to a lot of clients, particularly the younger ones. For those reasons I think MindOut provides a unique space and there is a real need for it within the community.
What is most rewarding about volunteering with us?
MindOut offers short-term therapy up to 12 sessions. You can do a huge amount of work in this time and I’ve certainly seen dramatic shifts in people. It’s incredibly rewarding to feel that you’ve made a difference to somebody. Being able to see their personal growth and to have the privilege of working with someone on that journey is hugely rewarding.
How have you grown as a therapist through volunteering?
MindOut has given me a huge variety of experiences that you can’t learn in the classroom. The work is completely different to being face to face with a client. I’ve grown in my ability to listen to people and in my ability to respond to their needs. I’m very grateful to MindOut for giving me the opportunity to do that and for trusting me with such a diverse range of service users.
What would you say to someone who was unsure about using the counselling service?
It’s a huge first step for someone to have counselling, particularly if they are grappling with gender or sexuality. I would gently encourage them to try it. We have a huge bunch of professional and talented counsellors at MindOut so there is a lot of choice. It’s a very flexible service so if the counsellor isn’t the right fit the first time they can change to a different one.