Spotlight on our team -Henk
About my own journey
I grew up on a farm in the Netherlands. The only mention of sexuality at school was through derogative swear words. ‘Straight’ or heteronormative values, beliefs and behaviours were praised and reinforced, and I imagine they still are. Logically, I interpreted that as disapproving of my sexuality and of who I was. As a result, I carried not just a massive secret, but also shame and fear for being ‘found out’ – even though part of me knew deep down there was nothing to be ashamed of. It left me with a sense of ‘not belonging’, not being ‘good enough’, being inferior to others and like an outsider. On top, my insecurities made me a perfect target for bullies – another secret I felt I had to keep from my parents.
After I had left home to study, my sense of freedom stirred a drive to be my true self, and soon I could no longer bear to carry my ‘secret’ for my parents. During a weekend back home my coming out felt more like a ‘blurting it out’. The build-up to this moment had been huge, and I was surprised at my parent’s acceptance, but also at my own disappointment of their acceptance. My belief in their disapproving of my sexuality was so rock solid that I found it difficult to accept I had been wrong. They had known for ages but wanted to wait when the time was right for me to talk about this. “If only they had asked sooner” was all I could think about.
My experience is just an example of what growing up as a queer person can be like – everyone’s experience and journey is different, but there are common grounds. Counselling theory would suggest that my in-born drive to grow found obstacles in terms of beliefs about self and others, based on my own assumptions (e.g. being not acceptable or not good enough) and experiences (e.g. being bullied). This then helped me develop emotional and behavioural patterns in my teens and twenties in order to maintain these beliefs; to avoid pain; and to find love, reassurance and acceptance (e.g., fear of being judged, procrastinating, being defensive, wanting to be alone, self-harming, commitment issues in relationships, hating anything to do with religion, etc.). However, subsequent counselling, as well as the course I did to become a therapist myself, have helped me realise these things and work through them. But most of all, it helped me understand and accept who I am as a person and gain a sense of self.
Of course, it was not all negative – my upbringing has seen lots of fun and laughter, too, and since secondary school and coming out, things have been so much better. But in answering the question what it was to grow up queer, I have to say this was not a positive experience, and I would like this to be different for others. I would like to live in a world where we don’t need to justify who we are, how we dress or behave – but instead be accepted, no – celebrated, for who we are.
I am seeing a world that is slowly becoming a better place for many of us. I want to contribute to that by helping clients be able to live their lives more fully – by helping identify their ‘obstacles’ and the behavioural and emotional patterns, that they developed as a consequence. As I have a shared experience with many LGBTQ+ clients, it is only logical that I would want to help other members of the community of which I am part of.
About how I work
Helping you unpick what is going on for you is where we’d start – in your own time, with me being present with you in our exploration of what you want to talk about, without pressures or me telling you what to do. Instead, by showing warmth and empathy, and by being genuine and fully accepting of who you are, I aim to create an atmosphere where you feel it’s OK to open up to me about your experience. I may ask you to say a bit more about certain things, say something to help you think about what you just said a bit deeper – or suggest another way of looking at things – all to help you get a clearer picture of what is going on for you. You might realise that you have choices of what to do with, or about your issues. Understanding yourself better has positive impact on many aspects of your life. That is why I believe that people don’t need to come to counselling just because they experience difficulties. Counselling therapy is there for everyone to gain insight into their own lives, in order to lead a happier, more fulfilling life.
Although my work is person-centred at heart, it is also informed by other approaches. If it feels more helpful to you, I can be more goal focused or use creative techniques. I am faith aware (though not signed up to any religion as such) and can explore with you anything you are struggling with, including the meaning of life.
In my spare time
When I’m not working, I am probably spending time with loved ones, or being engaged with listening to my favourite music, cooking, foraging for edible mushrooms, doing some medieval calligraphy, going for country walks (being surrounded by nature always makes me feel good!) or slouching on the sofa watching films with my partner.
If you wish to contact Henk, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The quote on the above image is from Carl Rogers. He was an American psychologist 1902-1987. He is widely regarded as one of the most eminent thinkers in humanistic psychology. He developed what is known as client-centred therapy.