Tell us about your business and how it started?
I had been teaching for many years and working in early childhood prior to that. I'd supported so many children and families throughout that time and realised that the empathy and compassion I had for those students and families who were struggling was a key strength.
Through my undergraduate studies I also had come to realise that although society tends to place responsibility for the struggles people face on the individual, that often the struggles are due to larger systems at play within our society such as patriarchy, capitalism and discrimination such as racism and sexism.
I'd faced many of my own challenges in juggling motherhood, relationships, mental health issues and work/life balance.
While I loved my career in education, I also knew that I needed a change. Although I had considered many options, I kept coming back to counselling as being what I really wanted to do. I wanted to deepen my ability to support people through difficult times as I had been supported. This meant returning to study and completing a Masters in Counselling at Monash University.
I wasn't always sure that I would have my own business but during my professional placements, when it was often a struggle to have a private, confidential space to see clients, I realised that is what I wanted - my own space, set up the way I wanted with all my resources at my fingertips.
What has been your biggest achievement in business?
It has certainly been a steep learning curve and the best thing I have done is to get help.
I've always been a very independent person and tried to do everything myself - let's face it, that's one of the reasons I wanted to go out on my own in private practice.
I've realised that I can not do this alone. Engaging other local women in business to support me in the areas that are not my 'zone of genius' has been a great investment, freeing up my time to do what I do best.
What do you wish you knew before you started your business?
There is so much more to running a business than I had ever imagined. Keeping up with everything that goes on behind the scenes such as accounting and bookkeeping, website development and maintenance, social media, professional development and supervision plus a whole lot more keeps me really busy. It has also given me a new respect for small business owners.
What impact has COVID had on your business and how have your changed your direction?
Many friends seemed to assume that my business would be thriving in the early days of COVID-19 restrictions. Although I was able to pivot quickly to working from home and immediately signed up for some professional learning about how best to support clients in an online environment in actual fact, transitioning to online counselling did have an impact.
Some clients did not want to continue their regular sessions in an online environment and for others the sheer overwhelm of the situation led them to press pause on sessions while they hunkered down to manage working from home, schooling at home and financial insecurity.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs teaches us that we cannot attend to psychological needs and self actualisation when basic needs such food, shelter and safety are not in place. So while crisis lines such as Lifeline reported an increase, things dropped a little for me during the first lockdown then bounced back then held steady during the second lockdown.
I enjoyed working from home and tried to keep up with my own self care during that time as well as invest in some marketing activities with a brand strategist and some online professional development to deepen my understanding of supporting people who have experienced trauma.
What are your favourite work tools?
When I think about my favourite work tools, I think about a concept called "therapeutic use of self".
As a counsellor, my ability to connect, empathise and reflect back to the client what I am hearing and asking questions to deepen their understanding of themselves, are my tools of trade.
While these are often regarded as "soft skills", I think one of the things that most human beings crave is to feel understood.
I regard it an incredible privilege to be able to sit with someone in their most difficult moments and hear their thoughts and concerns that are quite possibly never shared with anyone else.
In moments of self doubt, how do you build yourself back up?
I am not exempt from occasional bouts of imposter syndrome but fortunately I can use all the counselling tools that I have developed to help others, on myself.
I notice and name my "inner critic" and also remind myself that the mind has a tendency to focus on the negative - this is called a negativity bias - it is designed to keep us safe from danger - but is sometimes a little overactive.
I sometimes look back over my life and remember how far I have come, how much I have experienced and studied and remind myself of the many skills I have.
Any time we step outside our comfort zone there will moments of self doubt this is normal.
I remember reading a book many years ago, which is still around today, called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. These days I just expect that fear is going to show up whenever I am doing something new and challenging.
What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?
Professional development is continual and so I tend to read books, listen to podcasts or engage in online courses that further my professional learning.
I'm completing an online course furthering my understanding of working with trauma survivors. When we talk about trauma often people think of big, single traumatic events such as a bushfire or bank robbery. Trauma can also be ongoing trauma such as growing up with neglect, bullying or other forms of abuse.
I'm also reading a book about structural dissociation and a podcast on polyvagal theory.
I play music and play bass guitar in a duo so have regular rehearsals for upcoming gigs. It is wonderful to have some gigs to look forward to. I also play some experimental music so enjoy improvising on vocals, bass guitar and clarinet. I find this music very cathartic. I love getting out and about to see live music on the weekend and catching up with friends.
I love cafe culture and missed hanging out in cafes during lockdown.
How can women support other women?
All the women I have met in small business have taken a leap of faith in themselves and their abilities. They have often left well paid positions in the government or corporate sector to go out on their own. They have had to overcome those moments of self doubt and yes, feel the fear and do it anyway.
I love networking with and supporting these women in business. Every time we do that, we are validating their brave decision to go out on their own.
So yes, support women in business by using their services and products, tell your friends about great service and products, and mentor each other through formal and informal networking opportunities.
Dropping anchor is the most powerful strategy I teach to clients. We cannot always make the storm go away, but we can drop anchor to steady ourselves while the stormy seas rage around us.
Firstly, come back to the breath and begin with a nice long exhalation. This signals to the nervous system that we are safe.
Continue nice long exhalations while you acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.Try doing this in a curious, non-judgemental manner, without trying to push them away.
Make room for these thoughts and feelings to be there while connecting with your body in some way. Press your feet into the floor or take control over your arms and legs. Engage with the world around you, notice what you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste.
Now align with your values, and make a move in the direction of what truly matters.
Chrysalis Counselling offers therapeutic counselling services in Bendigo.
Work with Angela Mitten to experience a more content and peaceful life, discover your strengths, align with your values, move in the direction of your goals and improve emotional connection with yourself and others.
Website | Instagram | Facebook