Behind the Business: Kimberley Wilson
What do you do for work?
I am a Chartered Counselling Psychologist working in private practice in London. I also have post-graduate training in Nutrition and much of my work looks at the overlap between food and psychology including a field called Nutritional Psychiatry, which looks the role of nutrients on the structure and function of the brain. I also work with people with disordered relationships with food. I am very keen to share the evidence for the role of nutritional and lifestyle habits on our mental health and run/speak at several public events helping to get this information out of the labs and into the hands of the people who need it most.
When did you find the work you love?
I knew that I wanted to be a psychologist back in school, when I chose my GCSEs, so I would have been about 15. I have trained and worked in the field since then. Initially the nutrition and lifestyle side was a personal interest but about 10 years ago I started to focus on the research indicating that nutrition had a role to play in emotional experiences such as aggression (I was working in prisons at the time so this was very relevant to my patients). I then did my post-grad focusing on nutritional interventions for neurodegenerative disease and began integrating my knowledge into my clinical thinking.
How did you get to where you are now? What was your journey?
It was a very straight line to be honest. GCSE, A-Levels, degrees. My first big clinical job was managing a therapy service in what was then Europe’s largest women’s prison, HMP & YOI Holloway. This is definitely a very unusual place to start but it was the most extraordinary training I could have as a clinician and I was fortunate enough to have excellent supervision from a wonderful psychotherapist, Pamela Stewart, that I still draw on to this day. After a brief stint as a competitive baker(!) I started working in a private group practice before establishing my own clinic in late 2015.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting out?
Try to save more money before you start training. Counselling Psychology training is all self-funded and trainees also have to pay for their own supervision and therapy so it really stacks up. It was enormously difficult and very stressful on top of all the academic and clinical work. Having some savings would have been a massive help!
How do you stay feeling creative and inspired?
I try to find ways to ‘play’. My work is very serious, and I take it seriously, so it is important to balance that with things that feel fun. For me that cooking, writing and movement. I think it is important to keep my life outside of the therapy room as balanced and engaged as possible to help prevent compassion fatigue and burnout.
What does a good work-life balance look like for you? And how do you maintain it?
It’s really about balancing my energy and not allowing myself to get too fatigued. I limit the number of clients I see to ensure that I am not over stretching myself and can give each one of my clients the care and investment they deserve.
I also watch a lot of stand-up comedy. When you are working with very difficult issues it is easy to develop a very skewed and negative view of the world so I do my best to balance this with humour.
How does being a woman affect your work?
Psychology is a very female profession, it’s actually a problem that we don’t have more male trainees. It was certainly a recruitment issue I ran up against at the prison. But there is some evidence to show that black people are grossly underrepresented in psychology, which is particularly striking because black people are highly overrepresented as mental health patients. I understand that the BPS is trying to understand what structural issues might be accounting for this imbalance.
How do you stay motivated when work and life get tough?
I am very fortunate to be doing a job that I find meaningful. It is this purpose that keeps me going on long days. And then there are the breakthroughs; when a client does ‘The Big Thing’ that they have often been leading up to their whole lives. It is truly life-affirming. It is an enormous privilege to play a role in someone getting their life back. The work is motivation in itself.
How do you ensure you practise self care?
I weave self-care into every aspect of my day. In large part this is just so that I can do good job. So I don’t skimp on sleep because I need to be able to give the person in front of me my full attention. I make sure that I eat enough during clinical days so that I am not distracted by hunger. I exercise regularly and make time for regular reflection.
What does money mean to you?
I try to see money as a means of covering my basic safety needs (food, home, suitable place to work). Above this I try not to be motivated by money. I live within my means so that I limit my money worries and I am never tempted to use my clients as a means to a financial end. That would feel horrible.
What one piece of money advice would you give to your younger self?
Set up an automatic direct debit to a savings account, even if it’s a just a few pounds a week and don’t touch it!
What’s next for you?
All sorts of fun things! I’m really enjoying doing events so I have a few of those planned for the spring. I have been approached by a few people to write a book so I am considering that. I want to expand my clinic by hiring a dietician and a fitness professional so that my clients can have all of their bases covered and there are a couple of projects that I can’t talk about yet! But I am trying to make the most of the opportunities that are in front of me. If my work has taught me anything it is that you need to appreciate all the good you have in the moment so I am trying my best to do that!