Name: Val Sampson
Job title: Relationship Counsellor and Coach
Time in current role: 12 years
Why did you decide to start your business?
I trained as a journalist after leaving university. After a stint on a local paper I became a showbusiness reporter on a national newspaper, leaving to go freelance in my late 20s and writing for various publications including The Times, the Daily Mail and The Guardian. I was still working as a journalist when I wrote a book about Tantra which started as a features idea for The Times.
While I was promoting the book on radio and TV, I decided I needed to find out more about couples and relationships. I qualified as a Relate counsellor and for a while I continued to work as a journalist while building up my couples counselling practice. I still write the occasional piece for publication and maintain a blog on my website.
What are the key functions of your role?
Over the years I’ve developed a model for supporting couples to find a way through their struggles. Whether it’s the aftermath of an affair, work and kids taking over their lives, or the loss of jobs or people they’ve loved. They need help gaining an understanding of their past, as well as learning tools and techniques for improving communication and resolving conflict so they have a brighter future.
Talk us through your typical working day
My first client appointment is at 9.30am and my last is at 6.30pm. I wouldn’t expect to see more than four sets of clients in a day – it’s important to have time to reflect before and after each session. My job involves a lot of sitting, so I try to get to a yoga class at lunchtime a couple of times during the week or at least out for a walk. I also meet with colleagues for support (every counsellor needs to work with a supervisor) and I regularly go on training courses to ensure my practice is up-to-date.
I qualified as an executive coach in 2008, so sometimes I spend time coaching people in their workplace or running personal development training courses for corporate and public sector organisations. I work with a psychologist colleague on these so it gives me the opportunity to enjoy being part of a team.
Your favourite part of the job?
Working with a couple in the final session when we review the entire process. People leave my consulting room feeling empowered in their relationship, and like they’ve found the love they feared they’d lost forever.
…and the part you could do without?
Admin. For example, chasing clients who say they will pay by bank transfer and then forget. Pretty minor stuff.
How would your clients describe you in three words?
Non-judgemental. Supportive. Relaxed.
Plans for the future?
I’ve been thinking about writing another book. My dilemma is that each of my books has taken as long as a pregnancy – so I need to feel very committed to the subject to write for nine months. I’m waiting to get an idea that I can stick with and stay passionate about for that long.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t be put off by the word ‘network’. It just means talking to people. Talk to as many people as you can about your project. Put your energy out there and others will respond – sometimes from a direction that surprises you. Join professional organisations and invest in your website – it’s your shop window and your future customers/clients will judge you on it. LLY