Analyze me - Pretish Raja-Helm speaks for himself in Therapy Today December 2018
Where is your happy place?
I need a flight to get there – it’s Barcelona.
How did you become a therapist/counsellor? I was teaching and living in Barcelona as one last desperate attempt to change something in my life. I couldn’t settle and returned to London. I stumbled into therapy and quickly realised that training to be a psychotherapist was the way forward.
What is your specialist interest?
I wouldn’t say I have a specialism. I have a keen interest in and work closely with individuals with multiple oppressed, marginalised and stigmatised identities.
When and why did you last see a therapist?
I have been in therapy since January 2012. I felt lost in life and didn’t know who I was. I finished with my therapist this summer.
Why do you think therapy works?
Through my personal experience of therapy, I have found myself to be in a better place. My own experience is fundamentally what gives me faith that therapy works.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession? Keep being curious and working on yourself, through personal therapy, CPD, films, art, reading and any other creative ways you can think of. You are your greatest resource.
What is the future for counselling and psychotherapy? My hope is that we will embody less Eurocentric ways of working and reflect the rich communities we live in.
What do you do for self-care?
Cuddle lots with my dog, Baba. He has an amazingly calming energy.
What, for you, is the most challenging issue that clients bring? The loneliness that we all face.
What gives your life meaning?
I’m starting to realise it’s about authentic and deep connections, whether through shared laughter, sadness or pain.
What do you think happens when we die? I’m a practising Hindu. Most Hindus believe that humans are in a cycle of death and rebirth called Samsara. When a person dies their Atma (soul) is reborn in a different Jiva (being), based on their previous life’s Karma (intentional action).
What’s the most recent book on therapy you’ve read and can recommend?
Intercultural Therapy: Themes, Interpretations and Practice by Jaffa Kareem and Roland Littlewood.
What book do you most often recommend to clients? Covering: The Hidden Assault On Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino. It’s about the pressures on black people to ‘act white’ and women to ‘play like men’ at work, and the tensions between civil rights and identity politics.
What is your favourite piece of music, and why? So many, but currently ‘Promises’, by Calvin Harris and Sam Smith. It’s a great song to dance to.
What’s the most recent CPD activity you’ve undertaken? Nick Totton on ‘Power in the Therapy Room’, held at Aashna. He’s a phenomenal facilitator.
What’s the longest period you’ve seen a client for? I’m still working with a client from my training, so coming up to five years.
What’s the shortest – and why did it end? One session. It was my first-ever client in private practice. They had very complex needs and let’s say my anxiety got the better of me.
When will you retire?
I hope to work in some way as long as my mind, body and soul allow me to.
Now: integrative psychotherapist, co-founder of Aashna Counselling & Psychotherapy, London.
Once was: secondary school science teacher.
First paid job: working in my family’s newsagents. I earned my keep from a very young age.