Exploring Careers in Counselling and Therapy: Practitioners Share their Stories

Augmentive blog

If you’re curious about becoming a therapist, you might want to know why other therapists have decided to embark on their journeys and what challenges and opportunities they’ve encountered. Augmentive, a mental health platform, has asked some of their therapists about how they got started.

Sam Wynter, a Counsellor, decided to become a therapist after a positive experience receiving mental health support:

“I actually decided to become a therapist because of spending so much of my adult life in the mental health system. I was able to see first-hand the genuine difference that a fully supportive and, crucially, non-judgemental space can have on the direction of a person’s life. While working with a spectacularly talented NHS therapist in 2016, I started to become more and more interested in looking into counselling as a career, and now here we are! I am now working with teenagers in a college in Kensington as well as running my own low-cost private service.”

And it’s not uncommon for psychotherapy to be a career change. This was the case for Sarah Norman, therapist and co-founder of mental health platform Augmentive. She initially looked to pursue a degree at Bristol University in Modern Languages.

“I realised quite quickly that I was on the wrong path, so I left. I became a self -employed designer and manufacturer of fashion accessories which were sold in department stores such as John Lewis, Selfridges and Fenwick in the UK as well as stores in the US. When my oldest son went to University it felt as though it was the right time to study and train in something that would be both challenging and meaningful – and involved growth. I was curious-minded and found that working with people at relational depth was the most rewarding professional experience I’d ever had. It is extraordinarily fulfilling.”

She advises those getting started to “think about what your motivation and end goal are. I have spoken to some colleagues for whom academic and psychological learning and challenge is the main driver. Others are hoping to earn a solid living in their new career. As a vocation, counselling and psychotherapy offers the privilege of daily learning and reflection and in my view, will never disappoint. However, training can be expensive and often there are many months/years of voluntary work alongside possible paid work. This is not practical or desirable for everyone.”

Caroline Michael, a hypnotherapist, tells us about how she started her journey becoming a therapist:

“My undergraduate degree was in Psychology & Media. When I graduated, I felt drawn to pursue a career in photography & media to begin with. This continued until I had my daughter and took a career break to focus on raising her. During this time I made the decision to take the opportunity to re-train and make a change in my career as I was looking for more balance now I had a family. I qualified two years ago as a Hypno-psychotherapist and launched my private practice just two months before the first lockdown. I had had a very positive experience with hypnotherapy in the past, helping me to overcome anxiety and I was really interested in learning more about it but I also wanted to go deeper with it. I found a course that combined both Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy, I knew that was the direction I wanted to go in and I haven’t looked back. I loved working in Media but after a while I found that it wasn’t fulfilling me, and I wanted to be a part of people’s healing journeys. To be able to share with them this incredible tool and ability that we have to use the trance state to affect change in our internal process.”

However, some do go into psychology straight away, and sometimes balance a career as a therapist with pursuing their academic interests.

Aura Goldman, a psychotherapist and a lecturer, puts forward a strong case for taking the time to understand what you want before choosing a career path:

“Whilst understanding the practicalities and technicalities and the mechanism of the work is obviously important, understanding myself, and figuring out my own philosophy of life, reality, knowledge, the mind, was critical to becoming an authentic practitioner. I wish I had spent a bit more time taking a pause and orienting myself philosophically before diving into my training so that I could have been much more purposeful with the time that I had.”

If you’re not sure whether you’re interested in working in this space, you might want to try out some volunteering. Being aware of mental health services through his own experiences accessing them sparked was what sparked Sam’s interest:

“It’s always been a part of my life since I was around 18. It’s fair to say that I was sceptical of it before that. However, I did work with Nightline, which is essentially the student-focused version of the Samaritans, throughout my time at university, both as a telephone volunteer and supporting the volunteers themselves, so it’s probably fair to say that I’ve been moving in that direction since at least that time, now around 10 years ago.”

Bei Bei Mu, a recently qualified counsellor said:

“The biggest challenge was to take a leap of faith to put myself out there, and then to trust myself that what I am offering is valuable. It was perhaps a necessary psychological threshold that every therapist has to cross. Once I was on the other side, clients did come.”

I hope this has given you an insight into some of the ins and outs of becoming a therapist and how to set up in private practice. In our next Blog, we will be commenting on how to balance therapy work with other aspects of your life and why choosing psychotherapy as a career is so rewarding.

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