Alison McClymont is a leading child psychotherapist with over a decades worth of experience at the forefront of the industry.
She is the Author of children’s book ‘Wilbur’s Memory Box.’ Keep up to date with Alison on Instagram @alisonmcclymont
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a psychotherapist and an arts therapist, originally from the UK but I’ve lived in worked in Hong Kong and Brazil. I specialize in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, and I have worked in the NHS and major NGOs treating traumatized populations, including refugees, victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence. I work with both adults and children, and my methodology depends on who I’m working with- with adults I tend to use more CBT and with children I use a lot more arts therapy
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Yes! I knew I wanted to “help people” in some way and I knew I wanted to do a “creative profession”; some exploratory googling revealed that there was such a thing as a creative arts therapist. It sounded like my dream career, and I was even more excited that there was a world-renowned training in SW London (Roehampton)not far from where I lived. I had no clinical experience or even a psychology undergraduate degree, so I spent a year getting volunteer experience and then a foundational degree in arts therapy and I then applied to the master’s course at Roehampton for professional training. The course was very popular and most had far more experience than me. I remember saying to the interviewee when asked what my “alternative plans” were if I didn’t get accepted this time- “I’ll keep coming back every year, and one day you will say yes”. Thankfully they did.
Have you ever faced any challenges along the way?
It’s incredibly hard retraining in your late 20s and I worked two part time jobs whilst studying and doing two work placements. There were definitely times I wondered if the 18-hour days were worth it, but it was only 2 years and once it was over the sense of accomplishment was amazing. Any professional training is always worth it, no matter the hassle, time, money it takes- the achievement stays with you for life
What is your biggest achievement to date?
My PhD. I choose to study the clinical efficacy of trauma recovery programs for trafficking victims in Asia. It came about form a conversation I was having with a friend, who also worked in the field saying that whilst there was lots of “kind” people doing “great and wonderful” things in charities in SE Asia… no one was evaluating them, and it might be helpful if someone did! I’m very proud of my research as it was important to me that it was based on the voices of people who truly work in the field and at the coal face of the problem, so all the clinicians I worked with were from Vietnam, Philippines, Afghanistan, Cambodia or India. We don’t hear enough in research from frontline “experts”, Western education is often based on statistics or data rather than lived experience and I think we lose so much by ignoring this, so I hope in a tiny way, my research might change that.
What is the biggest factor in your success?
A determined mindset, a supportive family, and always trying to see the positive
Have you ever mentored anyone?
Not really, but I’d like to. I’ve had some incredible mentors along the way. Not least of all the interviewer who asked me what I would do if I didn’t get into my master’s course! I’ve been blessed with the wisdom of so many kind, generous souls- if I ever get to the stage someone wants to learn from me… I’d be honored.
What one thing would you think change the pace of gender equality?
Enormous question! And I think it depends on whether you are looking at a UK level or a global level. From a global perspective, there is a wealth of data that shows that female education is the key to alleviating so many of the world’s problems, and whilst it is on the increase- we still have a long way to go. There are some particularly incredible studies in Africa that show mentoring programs for young Fathers have helped combat gender-based violence, increase female education, and end FGM. So, it’s a pretty important topic…. on a UK level, I’d love to see more female graduates in the sciences and trainees in financial professions. And of course, the more female CEOs we see across all sectors – the better.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take a more vocational look at your choice of degree rather than an “academic” one! There are so many incredible vocational programs out there and I think sadly given the competition in the workplace these days, it pays to be a specialist rather than a generalist.
What is your next challenge and what do you want to do in the future?
I’ve just written a children’s book, I wrote it for my eldest daughter to help process the emotions of moving countries- and in a bizarre and wonderful turn of events, someone else liked it and decided to publish it! So, I’d like to turn my creative therapy skills to writing more children’s books, and helping children connect with their inner world and emotional selves.
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