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Life lessons from an unlikely therapist

Who becomes a therapist, a hypnotherapist or any other kind for that matter? Do you have to be a ‘special kind of person’, an academic, or just have experiences that has really made you want to help others? Today I want to tell you a little bit more about myself, and the journey that led me to become a hypnotherapist and yoga teacher.

emma edwards

You’ll find many drug counsellors have been addicts themselves, weight loss specialists who they, themselves were overweight, and I think it’s an almost universal equation that bereavement counsellors and therapists have been through bereavement themselves. Bereavement is a force that demands a period of intense enquiry – enquiry about your self, your spiritual beliefs, what you’re doing with your life – the very fabric of life and love itself. Bereavement will have you questioning everything to your very bones; will make you feel emotions you didn’t know even existed. It’s a process that changes you in ways you never expected.

Nine years ago – to the day actually – My partner Neil died suddenly from SADS. It was a shock beyond anything I could comprehend. Prior to his death I had worked in as a freelance sub-editor and part-time LSA in a school for kids with learning difficulties, we lived together with our dog, and we has planned a very cosy future together. Neil had always told me how he had had hypnotherapy as a child and how it had saved him from school anxiety. That possibly stayed with me. He often told me I should be a therapist as well, as I was always “counselling” people who came to stay.

After his death my life changed in every imaginable way. I had to take a break from work, I had to move house and found myself physically and mentally drained. It was also around this time that my dad was diagnosed with dementia, and I found it frustrating that I had lost my apparent emotional strength at the time I needed it the most. I made the decision to go away travelling for a while, many friends in Australia and New Zealand had offered me sofas and spare rooms if I needed them so I took them up on it. At the time it felt very selfish to go away when friends around me were still grieving and my family were coping with my Dad’s illness, but on reflection it was a very necessary move. To go away for an intense period of healing and reflection would mean that I could come back stronger and more able to help my family and deal with my dad’s condition better myself.

It was during my four months in New Zealand and Australia that I began to understand the need for self-enquiry. It wasn’t easy, there was a lot of soul searching for me to understand my own grief, but I did come back feeling stronger and with new insights into life. I had spent lots of time alone in nature, I had been to meditation camps and tried various healing therapies (some better than others) and talked to friends and strangers about what had happened. I discovered an inner strength I never knew I had, but I also discovered an inner vulnerability I never knew I had too. These two revelations certainly have stayed with me since that time.

When I came home I had no job, no home (friends were very good with sofas) and my dad had been moved to a care home. It was still a difficult time for me, but I was armed with this new notion that if I had survived the last ten months I could survive pretty much anything! I went back to freelancing for a science journal for a while but my heart wasn’t really in it. I spent another year getting back on my feet, finding a new home, getting back into yoga, building up my social life again.

After a year, it became apparent that I needed a career change; and I felt the need for a challenge. Lots of people said I would be a good therapist. I looked at going back to university to do a psychology degree, but I didn’t have the time or money to do something so academic, so I decided to look at diploma courses that would get me trained as at therapist in a more ‘hands on’ way.

I looked at many different therapies, person-centred; CBT, NLP and then I found Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy. I am lucky that The Clifton Practice Hypnotherapy Training School is here in Bristol. I remembered what Neil had told me about hypnotherapy, and the solution-focused nature of it really appealed to me, as I am a very proactive and forward thinking sort of person. As soon as I went for the interview, I knew it was for me.

The training was fantastic. During the course of the training I quit smoking, sorted out my phobia of spiders, and did some much needed self-enquiry. Through Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy I also found I with dealing with the trauma I didn’t realise I had from when Neil died. By the beginning of 2012 I had my qualification and couldn’t wait to get started.

I have spent the last six years building up my practice, seeing clients from all backgrounds dealing with all kinds of issues. I think because of my personal journey I have gained insight and empathy, two qualities I think all therapists should have, and cannot be learned in the classroom. When a client tells me they feel as if their whole life has fallen apart, I can empathise; but I am enthused to get them back on track and let them know that they can heal, because if I can do it so can they.

I think my life experiences over the last nine years – I lost my dad in 2013, a year after I trained; before he died he told me he was proud of me, which meant the world – have made me a strong person and a good therapist. I have insights into the pitfalls that can happen when we are vulnerable (destructive behaviours, depression, anger, low-self-esteem – I went through them all); but most importantly it has showed me the importance of being kind to oneself and being one’s own best friend.

My journey has taken me to many other places that have influenced my practice. I became involved in the Death Cafe movement for a while; I spent three years volunteering at a hospice, and as yoga was one of the most influential aspects of my healing and has empowered me in work, health and life; I have spent the last two years training to be a yoga teacher and adding that to my therapist role; melding the two roles together in 2017 and developing Shine Hypnotherapy and Yoga.

All of these things have inspired me in the therapy room and this is why I have a particular interest in clients who need empowering after trauma, bereavement or other huge life changes. I have found out that life can be more difficult than you ever can imagine, but with the right tools and support, the hard times can be the most empowering and educating moments of our life. Grief is a pathway that never ends, but the path gets a lot easier to walk after time, and with the right people walking beside you.

There are 5 comments
  1. Avatar
    Helen davies

    Dear Emma
    This is a wonderfully empowering and forceful blog, and as Neil’s Mum I think I can empathise with what you have felt/are feeling and where your experience has taken you. I say ‘I think I can empathise’ because each person’s experience is so different. I am sending you a huge hug full of love and compassion and a big ‘well done’ with how you have made this bereavement empower you to move on and be so successful. Helen xx

    • Avatar
      Hugh King

      Hi Helen, so glad you found this post. Was thinking of you today. Hxx

  2. Avatar

    Beautifully written post Emma. You’ve been through so much and used that to fuel take on new challenges that allow you to support and help others. Wonderful xx

  3. Avatar
    A Georgakakos

    Lovely words and a very strong lady, Neil would have been so proud, as we all are of you xx

  4. Avatar


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