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‘Hurt needs to be heard in order for healing to take place’ 

Counsellor, psychotherapist and coach Rita Edah MA, MBACP, MACC talks about her therapy practice and why she is so passionate about helping those who have suffered abuse 

When and why did you set up your practice? 

I completed my coaching diploma in June 2016, and my post-graduate diploma in counselling and psychotherapy in June 2018. A month later, I set up in private practice. I wanted the freedom and flexibility to be able to work with a diverse range of people – for instance, those who can attend at the same time every week as well as those who need or want more flexibility on the timing and frequency of meetings.  

Did you experience any barriers while setting up your practice?  

I guess the most important barrier I faced was my own self-doubt. I had to find a way to take the risk, one tentative step at a time, with the support of those who could empathise with me in my self-doubts. They helped me to move forward in the times when my confidence was absent, without pressuring me.  

How does your faith impact your work?  

My faith is an integral part of who I am, so wherever I show up – be it at work or at play – my faith shows up with me. It has evolved over the years, and hopefully will continue to do so. If you’d asked me this question 20 years ago, I’d have told you how I might actively do some Christian rituals like read the Bible, pray, wait for a word from the Lord before making a decision. Experience has taught me that God is not a micro-manager. He loves me and he trusts me. So, when I get to make choices, I simply rely on being at peace. I make my decision; if I’m at peace about it, then I know that God is in it. It also helps to know that if I get something wrong, God will fix it – if it needs fixing. 

What kind of issues do your clients present?  

My clients present a range of issues including anxiety, depression, feelings of being stuck, post-traumatic stress, reeling from the impact of abuse, divorce, separation, bereavement, estrangement from family/friends, crisis of identity, crisis of faith, modern-day slavery, rape, sexual assault and racial trauma.  

Did the issues change during 2020?  

In 2020 a lot of the same issues got exacerbated by some key events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter protests, an outrage on Twitter by survivors of rape and sexual assault (I’m not sure how it started) and the Lekki toll gate massacre in Nigeria. I noticed how these events triggered and, in some cases, re-traumatised clients, bringing some into therapy for the first time.  

Why is therapy important and what are its benefits?  

I believe that hurt needs to be heard in order for healing to take place. We can find ourselves struggling with mental health challenges when we don’t communicate our hurts and difficult experiences. It may be that we attempt to share but are not heard or understood. Many of us have learned to push down our painful emotions and ‘window dress’ our lives, but when we suffer in silence we can end up acting out inappropriately as the pain has to go somewhere. I recognise that it’s not always easy to share certain experiences and/or explore certain thoughts and feelings with family and friends so a good counsellor or psychotherapist offers a safe space. They facilitate a healing relationship where the client can feel heard, accepted, valued and accompanied. 

What can people do if they can’t afford therapy? Are there other ways to get support?  

They are many charities that offer free or low-cost therapy. A quick Google search should bring up those near you. Some practitioners (myself included) also offer concession rates so do ask. The Free Psychotherapy Network is also a useful resource for those on low incomes and benefits. You can also get a referral from your GP to receive therapy on the NHS. However, be aware that there is often a waiting list.  

What can we all be doing right now to help maintain healthy emotional habits?  

It is vital to endeavour to rest, get a good night’s sleep, eat well, keep hydrated and ensure there is adequate physical movement in your schedule. You can limit the amount of noise you expose yourself to in terms of news items and social media content that arouse your hypervigilance. Try to increase the amount of time you spend alone in places where you find peace and nourishment, and make space to be with people who see you and are seen by you too. It is important to cultivate an authentic relationship with your inner self as well as with others who want to do the same. Learn to be more compassionate and kinder to yourself. It is also helpful to realise that it is OK to seek professional help. Therapy isn’t just helpful in a crisis; engaging with it early can help prevent a crisis.  

Where does God fit in with the way you practise therapy?  

I’m aware of God’s presence in my counselling room. I’ve known significant moments of movement in therapy to happen when I’ve responded spontaneously and intuitively. I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between intuition and the Holy Spirit’s promptings, and I guess I’m not confident enough yet to say that they are one and the same. As you can see, my journey of faith continues, but I am sure that God loves me, and that I can be free to practise in the way that feels right and authentic to me moment by moment. For example, while some of my clients have faith, some don’t and I work with every one with the same attitude of trust, respect, acceptance and care. Some know about my faith and others don’t – if they ask, or if it feels right and useful (to the client) for me to disclose my faith, then I do. 

What issues are you most passionate about helping through your practice and why?  

I’m most passionate about helping those who have experienced any form of abuse, in particular child abuse and domestic violence. This includes verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, physical and sexual abuse in a marriage or an intimate partner relationship. Also, parental abuse – parents using, abusing, manipulating and controlling or attempting to control their adult children for their own ends; child-to-parent abuse, elder abuse – adult children using, abusing, manipulating and controlling or attempting to control older family members for their own ends and spiritual abuse – where the Bible is used as a weapon of manipulation and control or where religious traditions are used as an excuse for exercising control and power over others.  

There is no love in abuse, irrespective of how the perpetrator might package it. It is oppressive, aggressive, unjust and deplorable. The impact it can have on the one being abused can be grievously devastating – physically, psychologically and spiritually. Fortunately, healing is possible. There can be rich, fulfilling life after abuse. I know this first-hand. 

To find out more about Rita and her practice, visit ritaedah.com  

Rita is also launching a therapeutic book club: Freedom from Domestic Abuse 

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