Vanessa Abrahams is a Transpersonal Psychotherapist who offers a holistic approach to counselling and treatment through creating a balance between mind, body and soul, to help people deal with issues such as bereavement, addiction and depression.
Having originally gained a BSc degree in Pharmacology, she spent nine years working within the Pharmaceutical industry as a medical rep before making the move to become a therapist in 2009. “I had always wanted to work in therapy, and it seemed like this was the right time to pursue this.”
Vanessa started her training on a part time basis at the Centre of Counselling and Psychotherapy, and qualified in 2016 and went on to set up her own business. The inspiration for the name of her business came about through the death of her father. “During my studies, my father unfortunately passed away, and I wanted to do something in his honour. His Hebrew name was Meyer, which means ‘from the light’ so I wanted to include that in some way so called my company ‘Innerlight’, which is totally apt as the that is the very nature of the work to help find the light within during times of darkness.”
Before Vanessa commenced her training, she volunteered for five years as a crisis counsellor for the Chabad Drugsline, working at the drop in centre and also on the helpline, working closely with people suffering from addiction, which led to her interest in this area. She also spent some time helping out on the Jewish Helpline/Miyad. Throughout her training she has also volunteered her time at Brent Bereavement Service, and continues to be involved with volunteering for the organisations In London Counselling, and Freshstart Psychotherapy which offers short and long term psychotherapy. Although Vanessa prioritises working with adults she hasn’t limited her experience to this and volunteered as a play counsellor in a primary school. The stint that she did in an acute psychiatric unit was the most harrowing and prefers to work within the community.
Although the majority of her clients are based mainly in Hendon, Edgware and Little Venice, Vanessa is able to see people at other locations, at times to suit them. Often she is contacted through Facebook or her website by concerned family members, but Vanessa feels that it is important that anyone with an issue needs to make the first step themselves in seeking therapy. “Someone has to want to make that change, and needs to be on board with trying to overcome their issue, so I only take on clients who have contacted me directly and are open to therapy. Sometimes the family member will pass on my details and they do make contact, but I don’t contact them in the first instance.”
During an initial session with a new client, Vanessa allows a space for the client to talk without interruption to allow them to share their thoughts and feelings. “Many people have been bottling things up for such a long time, that they just want to get it out, and share it. I let them talk to find out from them what they are feeling without any interruption.” At the second session, she will do a full assessment of the client, where she will discuss their background, and work out the best therapeutic approach. Vanessa recognises that every person responds differently to therapy, and tailor makes her treatment to fit.
When it comes to the amount of sessions required, Vanessa allows the client to guide this to some extent. For some clients, she would recommend an initial course of six sessions, which is then reviewed on the fifth session. “Some clients want the flexibility of open-ended therapy, whereas others may have a more fixed idea of how long they want to be in therapy for. Often the issue that they initially want to deal with is part of a larger problem, and there are other things below the surface that need to be addressed, and this can lead to a need for further sessions.”
As well as one-to-one sessions, Vanessa also runs group meditation from her home in Edgware. She feels that this can be a good introduction to the benefits of therapy, and see how it could work for them. “Often people want to have therapy, but they do not know where to start, or are scared to take that first step. They worry that they may lose control, and come undone if they start to open up. Group therapy allows people to open up in a safe and confidential environment, and start to let down their defences.”
Vanessa uses a series of different techniques and models to treat clients from role play, and visualisation to meditation, and believes that a holistic approach gives a better overall result. Within society, the idea of therapy has become far more recognised and accepted, but Vanessa feels that sometimes there can still be a bit of a taboo within some communities and cultures. Through her experience of working in both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, she recognises that many of the issues that her clients have are universal. “We all face the same issues no matter what our religion or background is, and people don’t always realise this, and often feel like they are the only one going through it. Through therapy people begin to feel like they are not alone, and that they can do something to change their own situation.”
Vanessa believes that therapy can be very beneficial for everyone as a way to discuss and process things that happen in their lives. “Life nowadays happens very quickly, and sometimes it can move so fast that there is not enough time to process experiences properly, and it may take a long time to deal with it on your own. Often clients’ report that friends who may start off wanting to help, often lose interest after a short time, and expect you to just get on with it. By being able to share this with someone who is external to the situation, it is a way to discuss openly and freely some of the issues that may be affecting you.”
Although Vanessa had always wanted to be a therapist, the direction that she has taken is quite different to the more traditional psychologist and psychiatrist approaches, and feels that transpersonal psychotherapy is much more suited to her own skills and interests. “I am really glad that by coming to my career later in life, I have a much more holistic approach which has allowed me to grow and develop. My course only allowed people over 27 years old to study on it, and encourages the importance of having life experience which is really important. This encourages more empathy and better understanding of clients.” She feels that the relationship is two way, she not only helps and teaches her clients, but they touch her world and open her eyes to see things differently, prompting her reflective practise.
Vanessa is looking to develop and grow her business, so that as well as the workshops, groups and one-to-one therapy she is able to offer residential retreats for small groups in the future. She feels that by offering a varied programme of therapy, she will appeal to a wider range of people who may be unsure of the best approach for them.
Being able to help people through some difficult parts of their lives, is what Vanessa feels is the most rewarding part of her job. “Seeing someone change and develop in a positive way can be a really beautiful experience. It empowers them to be able to face their challenges and make better choices for themself, and I feel very privileged to be a part of helping them make a difference to their lives. When I see them step into their own power and flourish it puts a smile on my face.”
Vanessa would like to offer Jewish Weekly readers a 10% discount off of 6 sessions or 20% off 12 sessions booked before 31st Dec. Please remember to quote Jewish Weekly when making the booking. To get in touch with Vanessa, please call 07882827625 or contact via her website – www.innerlightpsychotherapyandcounselling.co.uk or by email firstname.lastname@example.org