Therapy could be the tool you need to help yourself truly shine. No matter whether you're dealing with severe depression or stress management for workplace stress, therapy empowers you to overcome the challenges in front of you. Ismene Cole explains how you can unlock your full potential through therapy.
This blog post covers the beginning of my conversation with United Kingdom based counselor and life coach Ismene Cole. This is the first part to our interview. Ismene uses a blend of counseling and coaching to help you understand the "why" and the "how to move forward." She has been featured on BBC Radio, iTunes podcasts, and a variety of blogs. Ismene is passionate about helping her clients achieve their greatest potential and creating the life they deserve.
Zach: You probably get this a lot, but I think it's something that confuses people all the time, what are the distinctions between a life coach and a counselor?
So I actually use an amalgamated approach of the two. To be clear, I guess counseling would be more looking at the “why”. So we look at things like the childhood and we'd look at why are they having the problems that they are at the time. And the coaching side looks much more at the “how?” It’s much more goal focused than therapy would be. So I tend to take people from the “why” into the “how.” Because I'm really big on potential. Yeah there is definitely a difference in that one would look backwards, one would look forward, and one tends to be much more goal based.
Zach: Why and how did you decide to become a counselor in the first place?
It was something that I was always passionate about because I had a lived experience and I think it's just helped me more than I could possibly ever have imagined. I went into therapy like a lot of people do, just not really knowing where else to go.
You just want whatever you’re feeling to stop or to be different. And I think that whole process is quite tough for people because it's quite hard to admit “I can't do this” or “it’s too overwhelming.”
For me, I kind of went out of desperation, but it was just the most incredible experience: hard, super super hard, but amazing. And so it is something I really believed in and it really helped me turn my life around in a huge way. It helped me build the foundations of my life that I've built on in the last decade. So I had that lovely lived experience and then I came out of university and tried lots of different things.
I worked at mental health charities. I worked in social services. I did group work, individual work, and I think it was that exploratory process of “I like this… I’m good at that… I don’t like this… I like working for people… I don't like in that kind of work, etc.” So it was kind of finding out, bit by bit by bit, and then eventually I had a couple of big life events and I some space in my life. I still don't know why I ended up going on that counseling course. I found myself on it. I thought I’d go and do a year, because you can do the first year as a certificate. You're not qualified, but it’s a certificate, so it helps. I just went on that and I thought “ah, there I am!” It was just knowing that this was something I can be passionate about and something I can really do.
Zach: On your profile you write “Having been to therapy myself for a number of years, it’s given me insight into both the challenges and benefits of therapy and how this can impact clients.” So could you highlight from your own experience some of the these challenges and benefits that you're talking about and how identifying them has allowed you to be a better therapist?
I guess the challenge is, which nearly everyone has to overcome unless they've had some prior therapy, that it’s very hard to admit that there is something you need help with (click here for tips on how to get the most out of your first therapy session). And I think particularly in England we're getting a lot better about not having taboo. However you still have to admit that you need help. That can be really tough, not knowing what's going to happen. Am I going to just sit there and tell some random person about my life and deepest problems? I think that's a challenge.
I think another challenge is that we have to get real about our life, about what's working and about what isn't working, about what we might have to change.
That’s important because if we know that then we can take action. But people often say, coming in for depression for example (actually I don’t really tend to get those people any more) “my relationship is awful, I don’t like myself, and I was traumatized as a child." So I think it’s that process that can be quite hard. But I guess because I've done all that, I know that it's worth it. Because I've been on the other side, that’s massively helped me. I can say I'm not just telling you this from a book. I know if you keep coming it's going to be OK. So I think that's been super powerful for me, knowing that: having lived it myself.
Zach: It seems that you said some of your clients used to come to you for depression* but now you don't really get them anymore. Why is that? Who is your client now? How has that shifted and why?
In the time I've been practicing, I’ve kind of found my niche. I work with people on potential. My marketing is probably a lot clearer, and so I help a lot people do stuff about self-worth and self-esteem and self-confidence.
I'm really big on how people can go out there in the world and really shine: discovering their passions, and finding really meaningful lives.
Because for me it's not enough to have a problem and then not have the problem, but your life is still not great. I think that we have all got this potential in us. I guess naturally the people that really want to be successful in life or find meaning in their life by contributing to a better world. I tend to get those people. So I get all sorts of professional people, or people that have their own businesses, or people that feel they have a calling to do something great in the world.
Ismene and I also spoke about why goal setting is critical for your mental health, whether workplace stress is actually misguided ambition (see this for techniques to reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace), and the importance of daily ritual to mental health. Follow our blog to hear more from Ismene on these and other topics.
To consult with Ismene Cole in-person or remotely from her UK office, contact her directly through her profile.
If you're thinking "I need a therapist near me" but Ismene doesn't specialize in what you need, try the RingMD therapist directory. We will help you find the right therapist for YOU!