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Pat Capel is a Human Givens therapist who has worked out of A Room in Town since September 2018. He specialises in short-term solution-focused therapy for adolescents and adults.
Hi Pat. Tell us about yourself and what you do in your capacity as a psychotherapist?
I’m South African by birth and have lived in the UK for 20 years. My degree is in psychology and drama but I started my working career as a school counsellor. Back in the day, school counsellors did everything from subject choice and career guidance, through to traditional emotional counselling. When that came to an end, I fell into English teaching and worked in secondary schools for just over 25 years as a full-time classroom teacher. I went back to the books in 2011 and studied in the Human Givens school of thought – which is short-term solution-focussed counselling. I finished all my training in 2016, at which point I started working part time as a therapist, and it’s built on from there. Since the end of May last year, I have been slowly building my private practice as a therapist.
What is it about Human Givens approach that you identify with?
I like the idea of Human Givens because it’s user friendly and it doesn’t commit the client to a lengthy contract of week after week or month after month. The idea is that you make yourself – as a counsellor – redundant as quickly as possible. Teenagers can relate to the Human Givens approach because it can be explained in very logical, rational scientific ways that they understand. It also looks ahead and doesn’t dwell in the past. When it comes to trauma, we need to know what the trauma is but we don’t always need to know all the details. Human Givens will look at a past event as quickly as possible, help the client move on from that, and look forward. Constantly going over the trauma can be the worst thing to do for some people. We acknowledge the trauma and then give the client the skills, techniques and the machinery to go forward. The kind of clients I see are people who are often in need of ‘just a tweak’ – a bit of guidance and reassessment of what they are doing. That’s what excites me about the Human Givens; its solution focused and goal oriented. It is often more coaching than therapy.
You work with adolescents quite a lot – in a broad sense have you noticed any particular recurring issues that your clients are keep coming to you with?
When I started out, virtually all my clients were adolescents thanks to my background in teaching. More recently I have worked with more and more adult men. Very often they are struggling with anxiety around life, work-life balance, depression, and bad sleeping habits. Those are the big ones that I am seeing now. And for all of them, minor adjustments can have a profound impact on well-being. With teenagers it is to do with stress and what’s happening at school. School is becoming quite a problem for young people – whether it is exams, moving schools, or the day-to-day pressure they feel. The other thing I am seeing with young people is divorce and the fallout from marital breakup or disharmony within the family.
What are the main challenges you have found since setting up your practice?
The main challenge – which I think everybody would say who is starting out – would be how do we get our names out there? How do we market ourselves and sell ourselves out to the wider community? What makes the perfect website, what makes the perfect Facebook page? What’s the perfect Google Ad? That for me has been the most challenging and at times quite soul-destroying aspect of it! Everybody says it takes time, which I understand. We as therapists are good at being therapists, but we are not very good at marketing ourselves. Some people find the idea of marketing or selling ourselves a bit crass but at the end of the day it is a career and we need to make a living.
What are your hopes for your practice in 2020?
Aside from growing my private practice, one area of my work I want to develop further is my school workshops. I go into schools and educate parents, staff and pupils about mental health, resilience, combatting the anxiety and stress of school. Teachers are the first port of call for stressed students – and often they don’t know what to do if someone comes to them with a severe mental health problem. We’re not expecting them to be counsellors but to try and mitigate the anxiety around the highly pressurised world of the education system – especially in the private sector.
What do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
I enjoy cooking and I walk a lot. I go to the gym and have a decent social network and try to travel whenever I can. I’m an avid reader both of fiction and the latest literature on solution-focussed short-term psychotherapy. I also enjoy a good chinwag over a glass of red wine. We as therapists need our downtime!
If anyone reading this wants to find out more about you, where can they do that?
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