Weeknote 22 – Graduating from therapy

Emma Parnell
3 min readMar 21, 2022

Last week I graduated from therapy. I didn’t get a ceremony or a gown but it felt like an important moment that I wanted to pause and reflect on.

Some people might wonder why I’m talking about this when I normally write about running my business and the professional learnings around this. But I’m a huge advocate of therapy and I wouldn’t be the designer I am today if it wasn’t for the help I’ve received along the way.

I was really pleased to see the lovely Mike Laurie speaking openly on Twitter last week about his positive experiences with therapy. It’s something I wish more people, and more men especially, engaged with.

I do however recognise that I am in the privledged position to be able to afford private therapy. Not everyone has access to this and NHS waiting lists can be long and exhausting for many.

My journey with therapy started over a decade ago. I actually had two false starts before finding Jenny, the therapist I would work with on and off for eight years.

I think it’s so important to find the right person. The first two people I tried working with were not a good fit. In hindsight I’m really glad I didn’t let this put me off therapy for good. But I can see how it could have that effect for some people.

I started working with Jenny back in 2013, seven months before I left New Zealand. I would get the train out to Onehunga every Tuesday night from work. I developed a tradition of going to a night market for food after my session. I’d treat myself, usually to a Thai curry, and sit in the market by myself for a while before getting the train home.

What really connected with me about Jenny’s approach was how she worked in a relational way. She would prompt me and ask questions. Other therapists I’d seen over the years tended to sit back and let me talk. After six minutes of sitting in silence with nothing else to say, I would get frustrated and this would ultimately lead to the breakdown of the relationship. I liked how Jenny took a more two-way approach.

Moving back to the UK was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Most of my friends were settling down when I was single, homeless and jobless. It was at this point that I reached back out to Jenny to ask if she’d consider doing sessions remotely. She agreed and we started having sessions over Skype.

Over the last eight years we’ve had periods of working together and periods of taking a break. Jenny has always been very flexible and was able to cater for what I needed. More recently my sessions have been every other week.

I wont go into what we’ve worked through over the years but it’s safe to say it’s really helped me make sense of some of the ways I think and behave. It’s helped me better understand why these thought patterns exist and develop strategies to cope while slowly retraining my brain over time.

A lot of these ways of thinking manifest in my work.

Jenny also helped me navigate a really challenging two year period in my career where I left the security of Snook (a company I had an incredibly strong attachment with) to take up two challenging in-house positions, neither of which were right for me.

While I’ve taken breaks from therapy before this time felt more final. It was an emotional goodbye. I feel proud of what I’ve achieved over the years and blessed to have have had such a rewarding relationship with Jenny.

I hope others out there can gain similar benefits from therapy. If you’ve been considering it, do give it a go. It’s well worth the investment.

I finally feel happy in my work again – something it’s taken a long time to rediscover.

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Emma Parnell

Freelance specialist in user research, service design and brand development. designforjoy.co.uk Previously @wearesnook, @nhsdigital, @wearewithyou.