How and/or why did you become a therapist?
I was interested in people. This began as an interest in Theology and Anthropology, but whittled down to an interest in therapy — In the personal and subjective experiences an individual has rather than looking at those experiences on a larger scale or a group level. As I began to learn, I become very interested in the process of therapy, and the way in which a skilled form of listening and a therapeutic relationship can bring about change.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist?
Watching an individual change. Without doubt. As a therapist, you are granted the permission to meet with someone often at their darkest times – at a point of crisis, chaos, pain, confusion. Over time you then become witness, in a very personal way, to the change that begins to come about for that person if the individual is putting the work into the counselling.
What’s unique or special in your background or approach to interpersonal relationships?
For me it’s the focus on the individual. This sounds obvious, but the mode in which I work (integrative) means that my focus will be on that person, on their unique set of circumstances, experiences and personality, and what is the best way to work with them. This is very different to the concept of ‘this my mode of therapy and you either fit in with it or not’. Rather, integrative therapy encourages adapting your approach to the individual in front of you.
This also places the emphasis on the therapeutic relationship, which I think is best established by working this way.
What are your favourite or most interesting interpersonal relationship tips/advice?
This links to the above question – I’m not a fan of tips / advice as my role as a counsellor is not to give out advice. Also, what will be a good ‘tip’ for one person will be completely different to another, as their circumstances will not be the same.
What are some things about therapy that you want to increase public awareness about?
My goodness, so many things! The good news is that at the moment, in the UK, this is being done for me. There is a big drive around raising public awareness of mental health, and caring for your mental health in the same way you would your physical health. This awareness also focuses on challenging the stigma that has traditionally surrounded mental health. So there’s lots of fantastic campaigns happening and many people are opening up about their own personal experiences of mental health, and the support they sought out.
What are some of the biggest mistakes a therapist or patient can make?
The most important thing about mistakes in therapy is that they’re discussed. The onus for doing this I believe lies with the therapist who, if they think they made a mistake in some way, is first able to take it to supervision for discussion and second, if appropriate, has the ability to check in on what happened with the client; finding out how the client feels about it. The therapist is hopefully also able to be transparent with the client about what went wrong for them in that moment.
Equally, if the client has said or done something “triggering” for the therapist, the onus lies with the therapist to discuss this in supervision – exploring why they have reacted the way that they did, and whether this is to do with therapist and should be kept with the therapist, or whether it is potentially something useful to take back to the client and into the therapy.
“Mistakes” or what I would call “ruptures” in therapy are difficult, but if dealt with rather than shied away from, are often a very rich part of the therapeutic process.
You can learn more about Rachel Buchan at https://rachelbuchanpsychotherapy.co.uk.