What’s with the fish, David?  Koi carp, I think?

I was looking for a birthday card some years ago, and found a hand-painted card in an oriental style, depicting koi fish. I contacted the artist (Dr Chun-Chao Chiu) to commission artwork for my business logo. After meeting a few times over some Bubble Tea, he designed the beautiful image you now see on my website, business cards, etc.

Depictions of koi have many traditional meanings. The intention here is to symbolise working together, toward a better future.

How did you get into counselling and coaching?

Many years ago, in another place, I became friends with people who worked in different therapeutic roles. Occasionally, I would help out on weekend courses by doing the catering, etc. In this way, I developed a sense of what is involved. Later, after moving to Newcastle, I was having some difficulties and counselling was suggested to me. Over the years, I have had therapy of various kinds. Indeed, most higher-level training has a requirement for personal therapy at some time.

Early in the new millennium, I became involved in a local project called Mentor, which aimed to provide telephone support for men in the North East. My experience with that led me to work towards a counselling certificate, then diploma, at Newcastle University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. It was undoubtedly hard work, on many levels, but the quality of training was inspirational.

A series of life events took me away from Newcastle and interrupted my pursuit of an unpaid placement to build up what we call “contact hours”. In fact, much was interrupted until after my return to what I now consider home.

Life stepped in, eh? Perhaps that was necessary?

I guess that without having to face difficulties and changes, we can become a bit stuck. Sometimes we become stuck because of the difficulties …

Anyway, in 2012 I realised that I missed being involved in voluntary work and decided to train with Cruse Bereavement Care to become a Bereavement Volunteer. I accumulated 400 hours of face-to-face work, on a wide variety of cases, and collaborated with the Samaritans on a support group for people bereaved by suicide. I also qualified as a Clinical Supervisor through Cruse.

Since 2016, I have been building my independent private practice. It is my ongoing privilege to work with a significantly diverse set of clients, who have taught me a great deal about becoming a better counsellor.

Do you like learning?

Oh yes! I love learning / expanding my skills / gaining knowledge / challenging myself to do better. Continuing Personal and Professional Development is essential in my profession. Some is vital, such as Safeguarding training; some is driven by personal interests; others lead to new endeavoursadding new strings to my bow, as they say.  This is why I decided to qualify as a couple’s counsellor – and to become a certified Life Coach. These extra skills mean that I can offer a wider range of options and services to my clients.

Where did the idea of Life Coaching come from?

From my counselling clients, really.

For some clients, when they have worked through the therapeutic issues, their attention turns to the bigger picturefor instance: wondering about how to live a more purposeful life. I found it was very satisfying to continue helping my clients tackle these questions, and thought it would be useful to undergo specific training and qualify as a coach.

It seemed a natural step to offer life coaching as a separate choice for new clients, where appropriate. It then became apparent that a combined technique would be useful – using the overlapping set of skills and experience of both counselling and coaching. This would be of value to those wanting the option of working on deeper issues that can arise during the coaching process. This integrated approach is becoming more recognised for those of us qualified in both areas.

This all reflects my pluralistic attitude. I believe that there is no one-size-fits-all method for therapy or coaching. It should be a collaborative and negotiated process, combining the knowledge and life experience of both client and practitioner, aiming for a flexible working relationship that is tailored to the individual’s needs.

You know what they say about all work and no play …

Absolutely! Self-care is crucial, so that we don’t become overloaded or burn out due to the cognitive and emotional intensity of the work. I make sure to have time for being with friends, cooking, music, art, cinema, getting to the gym – and perhaps a beer afterwards. My original degree was philosophy; I’m one of those people who find everything interesting.

How is philosophy relevant to your work?

In so many ways – too many to go into here – although the concept of ethics is worth mentioning. This refers to the way we choose to conduct ourselves in life, regarding ideas of right and wrong. It is also about values and standards – where these come from and how we try to live up to them.

Perhaps it is time for me to be a bit more formal:

I value and appreciate diversity in the world, our culture, and my clients. Different people bring different perspectives to our society – and diversity brings strength.

While I do not imagine to be perfect, I genuinely never intend to discriminate based on any perceived characteristics a client may have. Such discrimination is a waste of potential and a denial of opportunity for growth and self-fulfilment.

As an Accredited Registrant Member of the National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society, I endorse and follow our Code of Ethical Practice. As a certified Life Coach, I also abide by the Code of Ethics of the Certified Coaches Alliance.

I have appropriate professional insurance, of course. I have regular clinical supervision, which is a requirement for any member of a professional body. I am voluntarily registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office, in regard to Data Protection issues.

There seems to be a lot involved in your job. What do you love most about it?

I suppose it must be the satisfaction that comes from helping someone to find that they can change their life for the better. When people realise that they have the resources within themselves to grow and develop, it frees them to make further progress on their own.

When a client says: “Thank you” to me – saying that they can see a way forward or can cope better with a significant loss – then that’s worth all the study, training and commitment.