Interview with OM Madeleine Robinson
Madeleine Robinson, Former Actress turned Psychotherapeutic Counsellor.
Madeleine Robinson (nee Curtis) attended Queen Mary’s from 1984 -1990. After graduating in Performing Arts from LAMDA she became an actress, appearing in several TV series and sitcoms, including Babes in the Wood and Baddiel’s Syndrome. A change of heart led her into counselling, and in 2012 she studied first for a diploma then Masters of Education (M.Ed.) at Girton College, Cambridge. She set up her private practice as a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor in 2016. Maddy lives in Cambridge with her partner Dan, two sons and stepson. We spoke to Maddy about her time at Queen Mary’s and how the resilience she developed here helped her during challenges she faced later in life.
How would you describe your school days?
My time at Queen Mary’s was very happy. I had lots of friends and loved all sports*, music and drama. Occasionally I was known to challenge the authority of some of the older girls as I was rather strong-willed! I think that boarding definitely helped me to develop greater resilience.
(*Maddy still holds the record for Long Jump to this day.)
Which teachers were influential during your time at school?
Miss Hepworth was brilliant. I’ve always loved sports and still train a lot today. I would say that my love of fitness definitely began with Heppy. I also loved Mrs Crayke, our Home Economics teacher. She was so incredibly kind and I really looked forward to her lessons. History lessons with Mr Burnham were brilliant too – I can still remember what he taught me to this day.
How did you get into psychotherapeutic counselling?
After attending Hurtwood House and studying drama, I became an actress for several years. I managed to get roles in several plays and TV sitcoms, but after a while I became a bit disheartened with it. As an actor you can never be you – you are usually too tall, too small, too dark, too blonde, too loud. You always have to change to fit the next job and that took its toll after a while and I realised I didn’t want to do it forever.
I moved back to Yorkshire to work at my family’s business, then decided to go back to night school and did a course in adult counselling. I just seemed to have a natural ability for it but realised that I really wanted to focus on children and adolescents. Around this time I decided to move to Cambridge with my partner and was thrilled to be accepted to read Education at Girton College.
What is psychotherapeutic counselling?
I draw from many theories and disciplines to help children and adolescents, and in my case, I use play and art to help children express their emotions. It’s very varied work – one day a week I work as an outreach worker with a charity called Blue Smile. I set up a play therapy room in a primary school and treat children there. At the moment I’ve just started a new, short term model of therapy. It can be used to help children suffering from fear, anxiety, grief and trauma. The basic premise is that the negative thoughts can be rerooted to make them more positive. This is done by a recursive loop – in simple terms, the therapist follows a certain script, and the brain focuses on the therapist’s words and rewires the neural pathways, so that the negative emotion is replaced by a more positive lens.
What is a typical day like?
Days vary hugely – some days I work with the charity and other days I’m in my private practice. I also manage a team of six therapists and see several private clients of my own so days are very long and busy but I absolutely love it. It tends to be joyful and heartbreaking all at the same time. When I go home, the best antidote to a difficult day is a hug from my children.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part is making a positive difference to a child or family’s life – it’s wonderful to see an improvement and see them enjoy life again. The difficult parts are when for some reason – be it the end of primary school, a family move or separation – I have to finish with a child before the work is complete. It’s so frustrating to know that there is more than could be done to help them. Lockdown was really hard too – although online sessions are good, for a lot of the children it is difficult not being in the same room because physical interaction can’t be beaten.
What obstacles have you encountered along the way?
I haven’t really but then I’ve always taken a very entrepreneurial approach. As an actor you can never rest: you are always having to tout yourself around, be available and make yourself known. As a result I’ve always been very proactive – I started out as a mentor at a charity, then worked my way to becoming a manager, which built my confidence. I’ve done lots of training and set up my own private practice in 2016. I rely on word of mouth recommendations but I think there is plenty of work out there if you want it.
How would you advise someone wanting to approach a career in counselling?
Some people say you need to have lived a bit in order to be a therapist. I don’t think this is true – young people can make a hugely positive difference. People often go into therapy for two reasons – they have often experienced counselling themselves and a brilliant therapist might encourage them to give back to others, or as in my case, a terrible experience might make you think you could do a far better job yourself!
What would you tell your thirteen year old self if you could go back in time?
I would tell myself that it will all be alright – to be resilient and have faith that it will all work out. I didn’t have a clue at that age what I wanted to do. It sounds a cliche but you need to remain true to yourself. I wasn’t comfortable with being an actress and, rather than be swayed by others, I should have listened to myself. Once I did this, and followed a different route, I found a career that I love, so I would say that it’s important not to be afraid of new challenges and it’s never too late to find a vocation you really enjoy.
For more information on Maddy’s counselling practice please go to www.mr-counselling.co.uk, or contact her in person on firstname.lastname@example.org
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