First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
After being a stay at home single parent for five years, I was unsure which direction to take in life, I knew my days in the hospitality industry were limited. By chance I stumbled across an advert in the local paper for a six- week introductory to counselling skills course. Five years later I received my degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy and focused on combining a busy independent practice with volunteering for a local counselling charity. Outside of work I was spending more time traveling overseas to take care of my ageing parents.
Thankfully, I was fortunate to have a wonderful supervisor who helped me reflect on how I could blend my work and travel commitments by exploring the option of working online.
I must add that at that point I was a technophobe and didn’t even possess the ability to download skype! Nevertheless, I enrolled on the ten-week General Certificate in Online counselling and subsequently the Diploma in Online Supervision. Experiencing the practicalities and processes associated with working asynchronously, contributed to a deeper awareness of cognitive, emotional and relational processing speed and ability of both counsellor and client. In the words of a much-admired colleague, “space, pace and grace” are values which remain at the forefront of my mind.
Personally, I need a working environment where my intuition and observations are able to surface and perhaps be silently considered and in some-cases given voice to. I believe that in order to meet those needs for myself and subsequently my client/supervisee requires working online to be held in the same esteem as face to face practice.
Take us through a recent workday.
Today consists of a blend of online supervision, counselling and various tasks for Online Training for Counsellors. I am also attending to enquiries from clients to my independent practice. I normally work from my home office in the UK which is located downstairs or from my home office in southern Ireland which is on the third floor. At present, and for the next few weeks all of my clients and supervisees have chosen to meet with me online as I am in sunny Spain. And boy is it hot!
As well as therapeutic practice, part of today will be spent trialling a course from an external organisation which is seeking OLT endorsement, I’m looking forward to the insight that will be generated as a result.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
My MacBook, Phone and Spotify! Despite the challenging transition from a windows laptop to a Mac this machine is my go-to for everything from tutoring to booking holidays and everything in between. My phone contains my diary for client bookings etc. I use Spotify to stream music that I listen to whilst running and/or relaxing. I also use several notebooks/scrap pieces of paper to help with research and development for new courses in online therapy and supervision.
What’s your workspace setup like?
Both my dedicated workspaces consist of a desk with various compartments to house my laptop and stationery. There are two armchairs, a couple of side tables with water and tissues. I don’t display my certificates but my office in the UK has a large bright painting on the wall which many clients comment on. to work from and my husband would object if I started to spill over from there.
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
I leave fifteen to thirty minutes between the ending of a session and writing up notes otherwise I tend to write verbatim as opposed to selecting the main themes. Whist for some the ability to write verbatim can be viewed as a skill, for me it’s an indication that I haven’t fully processed the session.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
There are a number of people in my support network which includes my husband, colleagues, family and supervisor and of course my beloved dog Mason.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
For this task I tend to use the good old-fashioned method of pen and paper! There is something cathartic about ticking things of a list. Occasionally, I use the notes app on my phone.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Good question, this is an area that I need to pay more attention to. At present I am on a working holiday in Spain where there appears to be more emphasis on work as opposed to holiday. I intend to rebalance this in the next week or two. Under normal circumstances I engage in regular physical exercise. Over the years I discovered that running and walking aid my processing. This year I managed to complete my first half marathon in seven years. I was very proud of myself.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
There have been numerous pieces along the way the first two are from people who thankfully are still with us.
- Start with the end in mind and pay particular attention to the first 5/10min as it’s all in that snippet of time. I try to hold onto this and not crowd or confuse my clients with initial chitter chatter.
- Does it have to be one or the other? This is one of my favourites as it had a profound effect on breaking down the cultural dogma.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. This has a special place in my heart as it came from my late father who was a very shy and quite man. It guided me through parenting.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
Social media, I still experience ghosts of the technophobe whenever I’m faced with the box at the top of my Facebook account inviting me to, say “what’s on my mind”. The truth is this invitation has the power to erase what is on my mind. At present I am, as Susan Jeffers would suggest “feeling the fear and doing I anyway” .