I’ve always been fascinated by humans and curious about what makes us tick. We’re a mass of contradictions - simple yet complex, powerful yet fragile, perfect yet flawed.
Every one of us is unique but we are also alike in so many ways.
Before qualifying as a counsellor in 2001 I had a successful career sales and marketing in the IT industry which was both exciting and rewarding, but also demanding and stressful. I realise now looking back on those times I had always struggled with anxiety even as a child, and as the responsibilities of my job grew so did the nagging worry, the sleepless nights and the deterioration in both my mental and physical health.
I was lucky enough to have an excellent GP who suggested I take some time to look at what was causing my anxiety and depression, and who recommended I see a counsellor.
At first I felt resistant to the idea of sharing my overwhelming feelings with anyone (let alone a complete stranger), but it was one of the best things I have ever done. In that quiet room with my counsellor there to listen and support me, I began to make sense of my life. With her help I began to realise that I needed to look after myself as well as my family and my career. What a game changer that was!It was this very positive experience with counselling that lead me to train as a counsellor myself and in 2001 I qualified as person-centred psychodynamic counsellor.
Initially I worked as a volunteer at St. Nics Hospice and West Suffolk Mind here in Bury St. Edmunds in order to acquire the hours I needed to gain experience and BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) Accreditation. During my time with MIND I also trained as an Anger Management Group Facilitator with a brilliant Gestaltist, Helen McLean who really sparked my interest in many things, not least the positive power of the group dynamic. I went on to complete a Group Facilitator Certification with Cambridge Groupwork, and In 2003 I was given the opportunity to set up a Youth Counselling Service for two high schools on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. In the following nine years I completed thousands of client hours working with young people who were struggling to cope in school and in their lives outside of it. During this time I also became a Thrive Practitioner.
Working with young people is challenging. It’s also infinitely rewarding and wonderfully enlightening. What works for adults who have a choice and who come to counselling because they want to resolve issues or improve their lives does not always work for children.
I found that many of the young people who were referred for counselling had little no emotional awareness. They couldn’t find words to describe the way they felt and they bottled up their anger, anxiety, fear and sadness, which lead them to behave in ways that prevented them engaging in both school, and in life. I could see that if they didn’t learn about the powerful purpose of feelings and how to express and process them they may well end up suffering from depression and anxiety in their adult years just as I had.
Whilst my counselling room offered them a safe space to explore their big feelings I felt they needed more. What if I could find a way to explain, very simply and visually the vital purpose of feelings and emotions and the part they play in our wellbeing. What if I could ‘fast track’ their emotional awareness and give them some effective ‘Tools’ to help them look after themselves?
I’m a visual learner myself so I started to draw simple illustrations to explain the mind body connection. The images brought relief and understanding and lead to many questions which I sought answers to. Over a period of time my simple drawings and explanations evolved into The Human Toolbox Programme – an eight module ‘wellbeing foundation course’ which is being used with young people and adults to help them take care of, and responsibility for, their physical and mental wellbeing.
Discovering the powerful Human Tools has been so helpful in my own life. I’m not saying that I don’t feel anxious or low at times but what I have come to realise is that this is part of life, and it would be frankly weird (and exhausting) to feel ‘on top of the world’ all the time. Life throws curved balls and it is full of change and loss. It’s in these times we naturally feel low.
Nature is breathtakingly clever though and has given us remarkable tools to help us weather our dark times and to ensure that we come out the other side older, wiser and more resilient.
I gained my British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) Accreditation in 2007 along with UKCP Registration. In 2014 my work with young people was recognised by the Royal Society of Arts who honoured me with a Fellowship.
Today I continue to work with a local mental health agency providing clinical supervision to the Suffolk Wellbeing IAPT Counsellors and group supervision to the volunteer counsellors who form part of a low cost counselling service. I have a thriving counselling practice working with children, young people and adults and I supervise other counsellors and Human Toolbox Practitioners. I regularly run Human Toolbox Practitioner Courses and I also act in a consultancy capacity for schools and organisations who want to raise awareness and improve the mental and physical health of staff and students.
On a more personal note … I have two amazing children who have grown up understanding the power of their own Human Tools. My son completed his degree and went on to teach English as a foreign language in Thailand before returning home to start a successful career in recruitment. My daughter travelled through Asia, Australia and Fiji after completing her A Levels and on her return decided she didn't want to go to Uni. She's now building her career in insurance and enjoying being part of a busy and successful business. I’m immensely proud of them both. They are balanced, curious, self-aware and full of the joy of living. They are also very realistic and recognise that sometimes life is tough. They know how to use their Human Tools – and they're not afraid to reach out for help when they need it.
I really hope you enjoy looking around my website and learning more about the Human Toolbox. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you want to know more.