Knowing someone was really listening and wanting to understand him helped Ian Argent through his period of depression.

At just 17 years old, Ian, from Colchester, underwent six months of psychotherapy, an experience which drove him to follow it as a career.

Now 39 years old, Ian, who practises at the Turner Centre in Head Street, Colchester, helps others work through their own issues and problems.

He says: “I always knew I was interested in people and what makes them tick, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to apply that.

“But when I went through my own psychotherapy it helped me through a difficult time, helped me understand what was going on inside me and gave me a sense of direction.

“There was someone who was a natural third party, someone who doesn’t have a vested interest or give you advice. And it is completely confidential.

“Unfortunately, sometimes family and friends are the reason someone comes to therapy, so talking to them is not the easiest thing to do.”

After studying for a psychology degree Ian went on a four-year training course in psychotherapy. By this time he had read up on the subject so had a good understanding of what it involved.

Halfway through the course he was able to start seeing clients, under supervision, and throughout the course had to continue to undergo psychotherapy himself.

He explains: “In order to do the job well it is absolutely essential you have a high degree of self awareness. It is also about being able to walk the walk. I believe that if you are going to ask someone to look at themselves and consider their behaviour, thoughts and feelings in depth, you need to have done it, too, to understand what it is like. Even when you are practicing, it is healthy to continue to have therapy to stop yourself from burning out.”

To qualify he compiled evidence of 500 hours of face-to-face meetings with clients, a written dissertation and a presentation on his work.

Ian still has to continue to update his skills and keep on top of guidance. Training is, in itself, a difficult process and Ian considers it more of a journey than just learning new skills.

“It’s education and self-exploration,” says Ian. “Some people get more than they bargained for.”

He admits the job is not for everyone: “You need to be a people person and you need to be able to listen and put your own judgements aside, because people come to see a psychotherapist for all manner of reasons,” he says.

Ian, who specialises in relationships and psychosexual work with couples, says an open mind is a must.

For anyone interested in looking into a career in psychotherapy, Ian asks them to consider the challenges. He works unsociable hours as evenings may be the only time clients can spare, and Ian explains he spends much of his time sitting down.

“I have to make sure I have breaks in the day and when I have time off, to do something active.”

Ian also advises people to go and get some therapy so they understand what it is about.

“At the end of the day I find it very rewarding,” says Ian.