A love of art and meditation and a desire to help people feel happier, inspirational Elizabeth Forrest chats to me about why she became a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapist) therapist and how her work inspires the way she lives.
What made you become a CBT therapist?
I had already been a person centred counsellor for a few years, but then CBT was gaining popularity and I was interested in finding out more ways of helping people to help themselves.
Have you always had an interest in Psychology?
Psychology has always been a big thing for me. I have a fascination with why we think the way we think and do the things we do. I studied Psychology A-level in college and then I did an Applied Psychology degree at John Moores University in Liverpool and got a First. Psychology is such a vast area but the degree inspired me to specialise in mental health.
What made you choose Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a way of supporting people?
I’d been delivering counselling within the NHS and various local charities when the opportunity came up to do CBT training full time in the NHS. CBT is more practical, whereas in the counselling relationship I could feel a bit powerless. I wanted to be more directive and thats the attraction of CBT, it’s that it’s more structured and active. CBT and person centred counselling are both very helpful but very different.
Are you going to stay a CBT therapist?
Absolutely, I love CBT, but I called my private practise Forrest Talking Therapies rather than anything CBT based because I might want to do different things than I had been doing in the NHS. So, there’s a possibility that in the future I can offer counselling as well and also I’m exploring Compassion Focused Therapy which is part of CBT but at a slightly different angle.
What kind of issues do you work with in CBT?
I currently work with depression and anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress, body dysmorphic disorder, work related stress, low self esteem, social anxiety and OCD. I work with anyone over the age 16. So, I recently saw someone who was 17 years old and then someone who was 80. You see people from all walks of life and with all different experiences, that’s one of the things I love about being a therapist.
Do you have any mottos in life?
Well, one is to be gentle with yourself and treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Because we are too hard on ourselves aren’t we? There is a lot of pressure from everywhere, from society and social media. There’s a lot of pressure to be something that we’re not all the time and it’s very easy to feel that pressure and get caught up with that and become quite self critical. So there’s a definite need to looking after yourself and to take things slowly. In real life it’s not so easy as it sounds, but I just try and remind myself all the time and I think thats the thing, it's a bit like mindfulness in a way. It’s that constant thing of just noticing when you’re not being gentle with yourself and say hang on, no I need to just step back and relax a little bit here.
You’ve been practising mindfulness for years now.
A long time, yeah. Well, the first contact I had with meditation was when I did my degree dissertation so scarily, thats nearly twenty years ago.
So you’ve been practising mindfulness for twenty years?
On and off, yes. Sometimes a lot more off than on, but, yeah.
So, it’s pretty popular right now, what advice would you give for anyone trying mindfulness?
It’s been really great to see the interest in mindfulness grow. It wasn’t called mindfulness twenty years ago, it was just called meditation and I think people saw it as a hippyish thing and a bit different, but it’s really nice to see it become more popular and that it’s been applied to our general wellbeing. People do it loads now and yoga has become more popular too. I think yoga has helped the mindfulness thing as well. I would really recommend mindfulness to people because anyone can do it and it doesn’t depend on your physical ability.
You said you also had another motto, what is that?
Feel the fear and do it anyway!
Ah, so how do you live by that?
Oh gosh, well setting up my private work, that was a big commitment and a scary thing to do. I had a full time job in the NHS but I decided to reduce my hours to give my business a try. I got a mentor from the Women’s Organisation to help with the business side of things. But, yeah, just getting out there and renting room space and promoting yourself. The advertising stuff, I mean it’s really exciting, I’ve loved it, but it is scary as well because it’s not in my nature to promote myself in that way.
So many people feel terrified about changing jobs and worry about what will happen if they start up their own business. There is an uncertainty about money as well.
Yeah, there was a financial side to it. And, also if you work in the NHS, if there are any problems, you have got their protection and the backup of your colleagues. However, in private practice you haven’t got anything, you’re out there on your own.
So many people feel that they are expected to have a job or be in a certain place in their lives and they should know where they’re going in their life. To change your job when it isn’t working for you is a pretty couragous thing to do.
Yeah, well it happened when there was a lot going on in my personal life and I needed to take some time out for myself to recover. So I had about six months where I did part time hours in the NHS and took a Creative Alternatives course (which I used to work for) I did a creative meditative type programme with them and just had a bit of time for myself. And then my colleague, Abdul had set up a private practice and he needed a supervisor, so he came to me and said will you supervise me? And, I said well yeah, if I do that, I’m going to have to get the insurance, so I might as well set up my own business. It sounds like a bit of leap doesn’t it? (laughs). It just felt like an opportunity to try it and see how it goes because I had this lovely six months of relaxing, then I went and set up my own business.
I guess it’s nice to have someone else that you know set up a business at the same time.
Yes, that was an inspiration I suppose because he took redundancy from NHS and went off and did private practice and I thought well you know what, if he can do that, then why can’t I?
What are your coping strategies?
I love walking on the local beach, reading, drinking tea/coffee, yoga. Actually, as a teenager I had a glandular fever so my energy levels weren’t good. And, I was always kind of academic (definitely not sporty). None of my family are sporty. So, now I go to all these gym classes. Sometimes, I catch sight of myself in the mirror when I’m doing body combat and I think who the hell’s that! But I love it! So yeah, the gym classes are great. I have a love of art history as well. I love going to art galleries and reading books about it as well.
That’s a passion of yours isn’t it?
It is yeah, there’s a lot to explore still. I need to get more into that and revisit the therapeutic side of art. I used to run workshops at Creative Alternatives. Helping people be more sociable, get together, develop skills. And, what I loved about it was that you didn’t have to be good at art, it was for any level of ability.
Well, it has been lovely to chat with you today Elizabeth. Thank you so much for sharing your reasons for being a private therapist and how it has influenced your life.
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