This feature looks at the varied and diverse career paths people take within the field of psychology. In this issue, we follow Rosalyn Palmer, a Transformational Therapist (Clinical Hypnotherapy and RTT) and Mindset Coach.
Growing up, I wanted to be a journalist. As a child, an illness left me weak so much of my time was spent at home, reading or creating stories and poems. My early years were spent living above my parents’ shop in a run-down suburb of Nottingham. The shop was a mishmash of food and hardware, catering to local families. As a result, my parents knew all the local secrets, including the wages that were gambled away and the families unable to feed their children. These customers would come into the shop and I would see my mother furtively pass them packages. I remember the women clutching my mother’s hand and the looks exchanged. I was taught to look out for the underdog and fight for the marginalised from as early as I can remember.
As I grew up, I was drawn by the vibrancy of London and went there for three years to study for a bachelor of arts degree in English literature. All life, and human psychology, are on display in literature. From Shakespeare’s myriad of characters to the likes of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and, my favourites, Jay Gatsby and Madame Bovary. You see how their circumstances, personalities, and psychology affect their actions. Studying war literature, I was fascinated to see how men (and women) can come through the darkest of times, yet not often with their sanity intact. In hindsight, this early insight and empathy was crucial to my eventual role as a rapid transformational therapist and coach. However, my way was not straightforward and I spent many years in various industries and countries shaping my path.
PR and understanding the human mind
After university, I was offered a job in public relations (PR) in the theatre industry. I accepted immediately, despite knowing nothing about PR except that it involved writing press releases, liaising with journalists, dealing with clients and hosting parties. I did not acknowledge to myself that the job afforded me a convenient mask—shy and introverted at heart—it allowed me to behave like an extrovert. I threw myself into the work and that required socialising, spending my time around actors and directors in the West End and across the UK. I applied to Lynne Frank’s PR agency, and began two years in a world where trips on the Orient Express, breakfast with movie stars, launch events with the Rolling Stones, and seeing leading fashion designers at close quarters were all regular occurrences. I cut my teeth on leading-edge PR and, two years later, I started my own highly successful PR agency called RPPR. One of our first clients was Tony Robbins, who was then looking for UK representation.
My work with Tony was the first step towards my current role. He introduced me to training your thinking and, specifically, to neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). In order to best represent him I wanted to understand his product and spent much time in various NLP-based personal development courses. This led to a number of other high-profile thought leader clients, including: Robert Holden and his Happiness Clinic; Brandon Bays and her ‘psycho-immune-healing’ programme, The Journey; Edward de Bono and his Lateral Thinking and Six Thinking Hats programme. As my business grew, so did my fascination with, and understanding of, different models of human behaviour.
Despite this, and my outward successes, things were not right with me. Behind the mask and the understanding of mindset, I was often exhausted and addicted. My immune system was pushed to breaking point with stress and alcohol-filled days and, the more successful I looked on the outside, the more unhappy I was on the inside. Having received psychotherapy in my late twenties to help release anger from childhood, I turned to therapy once more. During the early years of the PR agency, I sought hypnotherapy for money blocks and a tendency to self-sabotage, and then more psychotherapy to stop resenting the business.
For a while this helped but soon things started to unravel in my professional and personal life. After nearly 10 years of RPPR, it was sold and merged with another agency. The joint cultures did not work and, after an exhausting and demoralising year, I left the business. Within six months, the unexpected death of my father-in-law abroad led my husband and I to leave the UK for a time to take care of my in-laws’ family business. It seemed like a great adventure, after all we were off to the Bahamas. However, it turned into one of the most challenging times of my life.
Navigating change and the impact on identity
Moving overseas with the children greatly unsettled them and, in hindsight, the sudden move was also tough on my then husband. Having sold our house in the UK, all of us were in a foreign country, seemingly without a safety net. I felt removed from my family, friends, and networks. With only temporary residency status, I was not permitted to work and struggled with this change to my identity. Things worsened the following year when my father, still in the UK, had a stroke and became severely depressed. Again I reached out for therapy and counselling, adding further sessions when a year later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Things worsened when, six months later, my mother was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. My cancer treatment was in America and, for 18 months, I flew from our home in the Bahamas to the USA for my hospital appointments, along with frequent flights to the UK to attend the hospital visits for both of my parents.
All of this illness, compounded with the financial struggle of expensive flights and treatments, and the impact on the children’s emotional wellbeing, proved too much for my marriage. I returned to the UK as a single, unemployed mother and completed my cancer treatments just in time to see my mother die and help my father. At that time, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and anti-depressants saw me through the darkest nights as I tried to start a new life in Nottingham with my children.
Now in the midlands, I wanted to avoid a return to the frenetic life of a PR agency staffer. After my years learning more about human behaviour, both as a part of work and in my personal life, I was very interested in what makes people tick and decided to train as a life coach. I attended a course at Go M.A.D. Thinking in Leicestershire and, afterwards, accepted a job in the company. Go M.A.D’s methodology for business change is founded on a UK-based research study, which focused on understanding and mapping out exactly what people did when successfully making a difference. Against the backdrop of what had gone before in my life and career this was an area which had great appeal for me.
Growth and transformation
After three years at Go M.A.D., I wanted to apply the new skills and understanding I had developed in a different context. I wanted to make a real difference and spent the next five years at the non-profit charity The Leprosy Mission. The ethos of working for a charity, on behalf of some of the most stigmatised and ostracised people in the world, was a million miles away from what I was used to and I loved it for that reason. As part of the job I met with tribal communities, and those living in slums, in Africa and India, and became acquainted with a whole new perspective with a renewed focus on helping people. As a result, I also became a trustee for Langley House Trust and Kainos and was tasked with board input at a marketing level on the rights and rehabilitation of prisoners and ex-offenders.
On a personal level, therapy had helped me through the darkest days after my move back from the Bahamas. I had remarried in the meantime but, unfortunately, this second marriage also did not last and a severe menopause made me unrecognisable to myself. After several years of sleepless nights, weight gain, brain fog and depression, I became dependent on antidepressants. At the same time I found myself hitting a new ceiling at work, and began pondering, ‘what now?’. Again I turned to psychotherapy. Again this helped me break my dependency and and afforded me a new outlook. Therapy, in one form or another, had been part of my life for a long time. I wondered if this could be the next step for me.
Rapid transformational coaching
Through hypnotherapist Marisa Peer, who I had seen professionally in the nineties, I joined a group of trainees for her inaugural clinical hypnotherapy course (later named rapid transformational therapy). I found it fascinating. My background in communications, NLP, personal development, organisational change, safeguarding and hypnotherapy had prepared me well. All of the training made sense and I was driven to read all the additional books on the continuing professional development reading list and immerse myself via research and learning into the subconscious mind and behaviour and neuroplasticity.
Upon completing the course, I was ready to work with clients. Referred by a GP, my first client suffered with erectile dysfunction. With one hypnotherapy session we were able to completely resolve the issue and this success was an incredible boost to my confidence, and led to further referrals from the doctor. I wanted to ensure that my knowledge remained fully up-to-date, and volunteered as a trainer for Marisa’s course alongside my client work. Soon this became a consultancy role and I have now trained on 12 live courses, and mentor students from around the world in groups and individually online.
These days, in addition to training therapists and seeing clients in my private practice, I also work as the wellness expert for my community radio station and write a monthly wellbeing column for my local newspaper. My three decades of communications, journalism and marketing mean I can speak about relatively complex issues concerning human behaviour and brain neuroplasticity in a straightforward and accessible way, and I have also put this to use as an author, producing one award winning solo book and contributed to two more bestselling books.
Behind the success
From my PR credentials and business achievements, I was labelled a success. Yet behind the mask, I often paid a high price, including burnout, brushes with addiction, and ill health.
With hindsight, these challenges have been crucial in the preparation for my current role. Combined with the therapy I had along the way and an early grounding in different models of human behaviour, they have helped me become a highly empathetic and effective therapist, coach, and wellbeing ambassador.
I am honoured to touch and transform lives through my work, both in private practice and through writing, speaking and mentoring. Today, I continue to build my knowledge, especially in the psychoneurology sector. Despite the many challenges, I am proud to have built a career that allows me to help others.
- R. Palmer. Reset! A blueprint for a better life, Panoma Press, 2018.
- J. B. Owen, M. Tarzia, R. L. Lehay. Ignite your female leadership: Thirty-five outstanding stories by women who are inspiring the world through feminine leadership, JBO Global INC, 2019.
- J. B. Owen, R. L. Lehay. Ignite your life for women: Thirty-five inspiring stories that will create success in every area of your life, JBO Global INC, 2019.
- A. Gilbert, I. Chakravorty. Go MAD about coaching, Go MAD Books, 2002.