I was born and grew up in a small town outside Belfast in Northern Ireland in 1978, went to the local primary and then Grammar school.
After studying for a Health and social care vocational qualification alongside Sociology A Level, I then took a year out to work and save money for university, working in local nursing homes, the psychiatric hospital and Learning disabilities hospital as a support worker. During this year I achieved my certificate in counselling studies at evening class.
In 1998 at 19 years old, just a few months after the Peace agreement in Northern Ireland I left to study Social Policy at Newcastle University. Alongside my studies I continued to work as a Nursing Auxiliary in nursing homes, as well as the general and psychiatric hospitals around Newcastle. On completion of my degree in 2001 I worked (in an orphanage for boys up to the age of 18) and travelled for a few months in America before returning to Newcastle and finding employment as a Support Worker in a west end residential service supporting people with issues such as addictions, mental health, domestic violence, immigration and refugee status and involvement in the criminal justice system. I also attended Newcastle College to study counselling.
In 2002 I began my studies at Northern Guild, where I initially obtained my Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling, then continued my studies to achieve the Diploma in Psychotherapy and MSc in Integrative Psychotherapy. I completed my studies in 2008, then soon after moved to France with my now husband, I returned to Newcastle for graduation in July 2009.
Where are you based?
Pau, South West France.
Capital of the Béarn department in the Aquitaine region, Pau is an old royal city beautifully set between the mountains and the ocean, at the extreme southwest tip of France.
What are you doing now?
I have a small private practice made up mainly of anglophone ex-pats, American exchange students from the university, and occasional French native speakers.
What does your working week look like?
On average I see up to 10 clients spread throughout the week, both online and in person. I generally work between the hours of 9-5 Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri and until 1pm on a Wednesday to accommodate childcare as I have 3 children, 5-year-old twins and an 8-year-old.
How was the emergence of online working impacted your practice?
Generally positively, I worked online a bit pre covid so it wasn’t a total shock.
Working with an ex-pat population means I’d often have clients move before they were ready to finish therapy so we would continue via skype (back in the day!). I like that there is a much wider acceptance of working online and a greater choice of platforms to use too.
How did your training at Northern Guild prepare you for working as a therapist?
Overall, I would say that the quality and depth of the training gave me the tools and confidence to set up in private practice and instilled deeply in me the importance of working ethically and with integrity.
What opportunities have opened up for you since qualifying?
Thanks to the recognised level of training at the guild I was able to undertake my EMDR training which I have used extensively. In my capacity as an independent therapist, I have advised the local International School on many occasions and helped in the development of a drop-in guidance counselling service. I also advise the local university’s American student exchange service when the need arises and often work with their students.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I envisage that as my children become more independent, I will expand my private practice and continue to build on what I have already created.