One on One… Sheila Ufot

We dip into the Society database and pick out… Sheila Ufot, Trainee Counselling Psychologist at Redbridge Psychotherapy Service and Imagine Health UK. With online extras.

One lesson learnt
Our body language speaks far more than our words and often much sooner. This was particularly true in my work with forensic clients. I naturally smile a lot, both when I am uncomfortable and when happy. This was often misconstrued as not taking things seriously. I’ve learnt to be more aware of how I am coming across, and what my body is saying.

One thing psychologists should be proud of
An increased focus on diversity and inclusivity, which has meant that many have been able to voice their experiences and be heard. This was particularly true following the Black Lives Matter movement, which brought a spotlight on the profession, particularly the representation of BAME members. A good example of this has been in the various articles regarding personal experiences of discrimination as BAME group members and ways to bring about much needed changes.

One proud moment
Giving birth to my son four years ago. I had always feared the concept of birth (never being one with much tolerance for pain), and I was able to get through it without complications. It is lovely watching him grow older and I am excited to see the person he is becoming.

One book
I really enjoyed reading The Slap, a novel written by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas. The story focuses on an incident that occurs at a social gathering, whereby a man slaps his friend’s son, and the narrative is presented through the viewpoints of eight characters. I loved how one incident could have ripple effects on not just the child and the perpetrator of the slap, but other members of the social group. It was also interesting how each had very different reactions to the same event, shaped by their own personal experiences, culture and beliefs. 

One alternative career path
I have always loved art and as a child, had envisaged a career as a painter or fashion designer. I still engage in fine art in my spare time.

One inspiration
My friend Leah Ogunlaja who sadly passed away from Covid in April. She was a qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist with years of experience providing therapy and was seeking to gain her doctorate in Counselling Psychology. I really identified with her as we were both mothers of a similar age on the course. She had such a calming spirit and warm nature and was always at hand to provide support, almost becoming somewhat of a peer lecturer. She was so passionate about psychology and the positive impact it could have on those experiencing distress. When she passed, I felt that the profession had lost someone truly great, which was echoed through the university. I aspire to be the kind of Counselling Psychologist I know she would have been.

One challenging thing about my job
Managing my own expectations. I believe that sometimes our desire to help people can lead us to feel like we may have let our clients down when they do not ‘recover’ or show progress at the end of therapy. Through my own personal therapy and supervision, I have learnt that the power to change lies with the client and all I can do is assist them on their journey. It may not always be the right time for therapeutic change (e.g. due to what is going on in their personal life and their motivation at that time), but it is not necessarily a reflection on my competence as a therapist. Lastly being content with being ‘good enough’ has always been a struggle but part of my own personal development and journey as a therapist.

One regret
Not travelling more in my 20s. I love learning about different cultures and seeing new things and with hindsight, I had both the time and resources to experience this more back then. Now with a child, it involves a lot of prior planning and I sometimes miss the spontaneity.

One article from The Psychologist
I was immediately drawn to the article ‘Knowing when to ask for help and doing so is a sign of professional competence’ by Ella Rhodes. I have previously struggled with the concept of asking for help, believing that it in some way displayed some weakness or incompetence on my part. This was particularly true when it came to work. This has previously led to stress and the risk of burnout.

The article focused on Clinical Psychologists and lived experience of mental health. I do however believe that the content of the article is applicable to all Psychology professions. It surprises me that in a profession which focuses on relieving others of psychological distress, there remains the fear of stigma for many clinicians about disclosing such information. It highlights the importance of not only self-care and speaking out about our struggles but being supported by our supervisors and managers. For some, the absence of a good supervisor led to punitive treatment experienced by those revealing their difficulties.

The article discussed the experience of Dr Natalie Kemp (Clinical Psychologist) who had lived experience of mental health difficulties and the impact this had on her career. This led her to campaign to create a culture of openness and compassion for clinicians with similar experiences within the profession. A quote that stood out for me was, ‘it is humans who work in services’. Therefore, just like those we aim to help, we deserve the same care.

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