In our third entry to our "Meet the Team" series, we sit down with our Lead Counsellor, Charlie Gould-Smith.
Would you care to introduce yourself?
Hi, I am Charlie and I am the Lead Counsellor here at Southampton Counselling Practice. I am teacher at a local FE college, where I teach Person Centred counselling, and I am a volunteer counsellor with Beyond Reflections a Gender Identity charity.
Are there any areas or client types you particularly work with or enjoying working with?
I enjoy working with any client, they are all so unique and it is always a humbling honour and privilege to join anyone on any part of their journey that allow me to share with them. But I do have particular experience in working with members of the LGBTQIA+ Community, especially the Transgender community and their friends, family and loved ones. I also have experience of working with grief, bereavement and loss, in many of the forms that can take.
Why or what made you want to be a counsellor?
Wow, ok, got into the big stuff! In my 20s I (finally) sought out personal counselling to deal with various things and events in my life. Whilst working with that therapist and as I got ‘better’ I felt a desire to want to give back and I was thinking about how I could do that, what felt right for me and that sparked something in me. Then a voice said: ‘How about you become a counsellor? It might be a long journey but it is the right one.’ As I started on the journey of becoming a counsellor I realized that all the things that I enjoyed and thought were good qualities and aspect of me all aligned with being a counsellor - it felt like I had found the career I had always been looking for. It played to my strengths, made me confront and embrace my weaknesses and allowed me to feel empowered in who I was and what I wanted in and out of life. It is dedicated and hard but rewarding work.
Why the Person Centred Approach?
Ha, honestly, at first I fell into the Person Centred Approach. I was looking around for courses that fit with what my research into counselling courses said I needed, but one that also could fit reasonably easily into working full time and was affordable. Having found an institution that did all the courses I needed, at times I could make work with my job and at a price I could afford I signed up. Turns out they taught Person Centred counselling. But the more I learned about it the more I knew it was right for me. It aligned so perfectly with my values, how I saw and had experienced humanity. The theories made sense on many levels, it was radically different to other theories (as I saw them) and I love a bit of the radical. But it was so human, kind and really valued people giving them respect and acceptance, it was one of the happiest accidents in my life.
What has shaped your therapeutic practice the most?
There is so much, anything that relates to connecting to and the experience of others; anything that places the Person Centred Approach in a more social and political space. My first supervisor, they really taught me so much and I am still learning from them, even though we do not work together anymore. My students, they are forever teaching me new things and reframing the Person Centred Approach in ways I had never thought about, I do tell them they teach me more than I teach them. But possibly the biggest thing to shape my practice was taking a sabbatical. Not long after I finished my studies I spent two months away from practicing counselling to focus on other things and I developed so much as a person and counsellor in that time. It might sound cheesy but that journey is still going on.
How do you look after your mental health?
Let’s start with the classics: Yoga, meditation, which I do pretty much daily; journaling, spending time outside or looking at nature which I do at least on a weekly basis. I also consciously breath slowly, particularly before a meal or when I sit down after a busy day- three deep breaths helps move my body and mind into a calmer space the rest and digest part of my nervous system, it also massively benefits my physical as well as mental health. Other things I do for my mental health are: spending time on my own; listening to and being out in the rain; connecting to and honouring what I need in a moment; tidying up; eating well, and cooking - I love cooking. Making food for people I love, brings me such joy and it is a really meditative process. I love sharing food with people as well, a celebration of any kind involves food for me, if there is no cake was it really a celebration? I love food, people who work with me know I plan my whole day around food and when I will next eat. It is the act of making food for someone or an event, or setting aside time for the ritual of food that I enjoy, it brings me real contentment, joy and a sense of achievement and self.
What does successful therapy look like?
It is different for every client. For some it will be addressing that one issue and getting that resolved; for others it will be understanding themselves more; for some knowing who they are. A lot of the time I only get to go on a small part of this journey with them, because these journeys never end, but whatever they share with me is an honour. My job as a therapist is to create a space where my client’s feel can explore and discover what they want and need to and feel empowered to make the decisions that are best for them. So, for me a client feeling like they have explored themselves or something and understood or accepted it more than when I first came into their journey or them feeling empowered in someway or trusting themselves more, honouring and accepting themselves more, these all sound like a good thing. But I think only the client knows when their therapy has been successful, they know what that looks or feels like and I trust in that.
What is your superpower?
I have a strange ability to know where things are. To be clear, this is more than just me remembering where I have left things; my parents will call me when they have lost something to ask me where it is- they live 4 hours away! And I can nearly always tell them where it is. So, I guess I have a psychic connection to inanimate objects?! Though I can’t see me joining the X-men or having a Marvel film made about me anytime soon.
Charlie is our Lead Counsellor and is available for both remote sessions, and face-to-face counselling from our Southampton therapy space. You can find her full profile here.
If you'd like to contact Charlie, you can book a free 20 minute consultation with her using the portal below, or email her directly at email@example.com