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John's Story - Part Three

A man looking out at mountains in the distance

Names have been changed to honour anonymity

The experience opened new doors

Helping people with mental health problems is something that means a lot to me as I have experienced problems with my own mental health. Having had experience with eating problems, helping people with eating disorders is something very close to my heart. Sometimes it feels difficult to explain, but having lived through aspects of what is considered disordered eating behaviours, I feel a certain affinity with the client group, which I think is useful in my work as a counsellor for SWEDA.

I work in a predominantly person-centred way, and as such, attach a lot of importance to the core conditions of empathy, unconditional positive regard and genuineness. It is the first and the last of these conditions that I feel mean the most to me when working with people at SWEDA.

When it comes to empathy, I think having had not too dissimilar issues to some of the clients I work with make it easier for me to empathise and tune in to their experience. Being able to do this brings me great satisfaction, as it means that I am able to connect with clients on a deeper level which then connects with my ability to be genuine.

Shared experiences make an effective counsellor

I have heard clients describe thoughts or behaviours in sessions which I recognise from my past and this has been helpful in the sense that it means I feel like I have a deeper understanding of what they are talking about. So, when I then tell a client, who has had similar experiences to mine, that I understand what they have described or I can imagine how that must have felt, this comes from a place of ‘knowing that place’.

In my mind, clients will be able to pick up on this genuine understanding of what they have described and this can be very helpful in the counselling process. Being able to connect with clients due to some shared experience makes the work very rewarding, as I have an understanding of some of the struggles that clients face.

In my mind and body I have an experience of knowing what it was like for me disliking how my stomach looks and I can imagine what that might feel like for someone else. Or I might have a better understanding about how uncomfortable trying on clothes or looking into the mirror may be.

I am often in awe about my client’s ability and determination to work on themselves, keep going and to continue to have hope that things can get better. It’s really inspiring and quite amazing to see them work through some of their issues and ‘heal’ themselves. Perhaps there is also an aspect of healing parts of myself in working with a client group that so closely reflects some of my own experiences – seeing their hope and their progress in some way strengthens the changes and progress that I have made over the years and continue to make.

A male counsellor holding a therapy session with a client

SWEDA provided the ideal work environment 

I initially got in contact with SWEDA because I personally care a lot about helping people who have faced similar issues as I have faced. I was impressed by the thorough training at my induction and about the open culture at SWEDA.

I have always felt that all questions and feedback are very welcome and open dialogue is very much encouraged. At SWEDA, I really feel like I am part of a team and we are all pulling at the same string together. The support I get is invaluable and allows me to perform my work as a volunteer counsellor with confidence, knowing there is always someone available if I have questions and I need support.

I think as an organisation SWEDA does really well at looking after and caring for their staff and volunteers – often through lovely thoughtful gesture. Everybody really does their best to make it a fun place to work and you are encouraged to get involved in other aspects of the charity.

Since starting at SWEDA, I have represented them at a stall at a motor show and I have also been part of the SWEDA team volunteering at Glastonbury. Those were really valuable and fun experiences that made me feel more connected to my colleagues and the charity.

I also really respect SWEDA’s professionalism. The organisation is always looking forward, looking at how to improve and helps me in keeping up to date with my professional skills by organising a number of specialised CPD trainings each year.

If you are concerned you may have an eating disorder, get in touch with us. *John’s story proves that recovery is possible and that difficult life experiences can lead to promising futures.

Many of our clients experience symptoms of multiple eating disorders and this is not uncommon. If you feel you can relate to *John’s story, get in touch today and begin your recovery journey.

The SWEDA Coachhouse in Shepton Mallet with bunting in the brand colours


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