We speak to Juliet Layton, MBACP (Snr Accredited) counsellor and supervisor, about her career journey so far, and her advice for those interested in therapy.
I have always been interested in people, relationships and mental health. Like many drawn to this profession, I have my own experiences of mental health challenges and of growing and learning from these experiences. I moved to Jamaica when I was 10 because my parents split up and my mother returned to her home.
I realise now as well as adjusting to a vastly different life; new social rules, stricter schooling, being ‘different’, different food and different temperature, I was also grieving the loss of my father, other close family and my friends. There was no support for my mental health at that time and divorce back then was uncommon. I didn’t have friends who could understand my position and family members seemed unaware of the immense impact this had on me. I coped as best I could.
I moved back to England in my early 20s. I had wanted to go to university to study psychology but didn’t get the grades needed to attend the highly competitive University of the West Indies. Instead, I moved into the world of Human Resources (HR), initially working in a bank in Kingston, Jamaica (on Knutsford Boulevard for those familiar with Kingston), and then continuing in HR when I moved to England. A chance discussion with my manager about jobs we wanted to do as a child brought to focus my desire to be working in the field of mental health. I attended a six-week introduction to counselling at my local adult education college and the rest, as they say, is history!
I never looked back. I enjoyed the learning, challenges, making a difference and increased self-awareness that counselling training offered. For many years I combined working in HR with being a counsellor, supervisor and trainer, and a couple of years ago decided to take the plunge to concentrate on my counselling work. I don’t really know what took me so long to take the plunge, but I am so glad I did. New opportunities opened and I became the Programme Leader on a well-established counselling degree programme, began supervising at a hospice, became an internal moderator for a private counselling training organisation and increased my private counselling and supervision practice.
It has been a busy time filled with learning and challenges, particularly with the pandemic, which has meant I quickly had to learn to teach and provide counselling and supervision online. I got so much out of the online training available last year and Onlinevents had a series of weekly sessions to support counsellors moving online, these were invaluable and created a sense of community.
Well, in some ways, I wouldn’t have been a counsellor if it wasn’t for being in the HR field first. It was that initial conversation at work that got me motivated and my manager arranged for me to have some financial support for all my training, which was so helpful.
As I developed counselling skills and theoretical knowledge about mental health, I wanted to make better use of my developing insights into people and relationships and became a workplace coach and mediator. My workplace was really committed to developing their workforce and I was able to make the most of the varied training on offer. Every contact with a coaching client or mediating taught me more. I witnessed the real transformation that can happen when people are offered a safe space to talk, explore, to be curious and open.
In time, I became the Wellbeing Consultant and trained and coached the organisation-wide group of fairness and wellbeing champions. Our aim was to provide accessible colleagues who were trained to listen, and signpost colleagues to the support they needed and usually this was around mental health issues. This work led us to see that more could be done for people joining the organisation and experiencing the ‘induction crisis’, more could be gained from flexible working and also more about the needs and experiences of those in marginalised groups.
I would like to see counselling being more accessible to more people and more employment opportunities for counsellors to offer this.
I am pleased to see that over the years mental health is now seen as something that can be talked about. It is now more OK than it used to be to say if you’re not feeling OK. I recognise though, that there is still a long way to go.
My experience in HR has helped me to understand how work can be a stressor for some people and it can also be a place for reparation and growth. There is a lot that workplaces can do to provide a healthy environment for their people to grow and thrive. In my counselling work, I keep a close ear open to hear about how people’s work affects their sense of identity and wellbeing.
I have now been working as a qualified counsellor for 17 years and have worked with many people. Some people come to counselling when they are in crisis and increasingly, I am seeing people coming because they believe there is a benefit to talk about their past and their patterns in relationships, they want to take responsibility for making things different. It seems like people are seeing that counselling can be useful for self-development and not just when things get really tough. I’ve had more than one client say, “everyone should have counselling”. I would like to see counselling being more accessible to more people and more employment opportunities for counsellors to offer this.
When clients make contact with me, usually after seeing my profile on Counselling Directory or the BACP, I invite them to a first session. In this first session, I ask them to tell me about what has brought them to counselling. I ask, “Why now?” and ask them how they feel about coming for counselling. These three questions can provide so much information. I may also ask questions about childhood, coping strategies or self-care, support networks current and past health, whether they experience or have experienced any suicidal thoughts, or other concerns and goals for counselling. This is all to help us work out whether counselling could be helpful for them at the moment.
I also encourage them to ask me questions and even if there aren’t any at that stage, I check in regularly to see if questions arise in our early work together. I always give people the option to take some time before they book for another session as it is important that people feel comfortable enough with their counsellor and can be open about their thoughts and feelings; research shows that the relationship is key for good outcomes.
If you are interested in therapy and aren’t quite sure if it is for you, I suggest having a look at Counselling Directory and read through a few profiles. Notice who you are drawn to and give them a call or email. It can be helpful to see more than one therapist for an initial session so you can see how you feel with different people. Your counsellor is likely to understand that you’ll be doing this and could even open a discussion to help you work out what you’re looking for.
You can find me on Counselling Directory. Here you can learn more about my approach to counselling and the different issues I can help you with. If you’d like to chat further or book a session, you can call or email me directly from my profile. You can also find me listed on the BACP and Surbiton Counselling Partnership.
Share this article with a friend
We are launching very soon
So if you'd like to know more about services and be added to our upcoming newsletter please enter your details below. Thank you.