I Want Your Job: Psychotherapist

'It can be distressing and solitary'

Gudrun Stummer, 34, is a psychotherapist at the Integrative Psychotherapy Centre in Manchester.

What does a psychotherapist actually do?

I'm trained to work in depth with a client's psychological processes. I encourage them to reflect on their lives and relationships, and learn new skills such as managing anger or anxiety. After the initial interview with a new client, I do several one-on-one sessions where we get to know each other. Then I combine what they've told me about their feelings with my training in psychological theory, to work out what the problem is. Each person needs a completely individual treatment plan.

How does your work schedule pan out?

I normally get up late and do paperwork during the day. Because I'm self-employed, like most psychotherapists, I spend a lot of time doing my accounts and making phone calls. I see clients from about 4 to 9pm, because most people come after they've finished work. At the weekends, I teach people who are training to be psychotherapists and do voluntary work. Most psychotherapists only do 20 contact hours a week with clients. It gets exhausting and draining, so you need to balance it out with time on your own, and with your friends and family.

What's the hardest thing about being a psychotherapist?

You have to be emotionally available to clients who are often angry, disrespectful, or on medication. It can be very distressing. Even if they are giving you a hard time, you need to be committed to them. It's also a very solitary job. You're always on your own with clients, and it's all about them - it's not your space. You need a really good supervisor and to have been through intensive therapy yourself, to be able to cope with the emotional impact.

What's the best thing about it?

You havemoments where you can see people open up, and that feels really amazing. It's like a mini-enlightenment right in front of you. They're more balanced, happy and at peace with themselves, and you can see them go out there and live their lives. And there are precious moments, which are hard to describe - when you meet as two people, and truly share something. It's never boring - clients always keep you on your toes. You're constantly required to grow as a practitioner.

What skills do you need to be a psychotherapist?

It takes a lot more than just sitting there and nodding - it's a really complex skill. Curiosity about yourself, and others, is the main passion you need. Knowing the theory of psychotherapy is a good start, but more important is being able to be present, flexible and able to improvise, because often you're covering new areas. The first year is toughest - you just need to jump in.

What advice would you give someone who wanted your job?

Check out the UKCP website, read some books and go to a workshop to see if you're interested. To qualify, you have to train for four years, and do weekly therapy sessions. You need to be willing to sit there even if you don't have anything to say, because that's often when really interesting things will pop up. If you understand your own pain, you will have compassion. You can only guide people to where you've been yourself.

What's the salary and career path like?

It's not a job to do for the money. A self-employed psychotherapist would be lucky to make more than £20,000 a year, after tax, in the first half of their career, because there are so many overheads. There are also some positions within the NHS. If you're creative, you can build the job around what you are passionate about - diversifying into lecturing, writing books and articles, or running workshops abroad.

The Integrative Psychotherapy Centre's website is www.therapyinmanchester.co.uk. For information on careers and training in psychotherapy, see the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) website, www.psychotherapy.org.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Junior Developer - Cirencester - £29,000

£25000 - £29000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have be...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us