Meet Dawn Walton, a former call centre consultant whose abusive childhood has affected her whole life.
She was abused by both her birth and step parents but, after finding solace in cognitive hypnotherapy, she has fought back to carve out a successful career for herself in a bid to help others.
Dawn left her job – and six-figure salary – as a senior manager with BT to start afresh and launch a therapy practice that would help other people overcome the challenges she already has.
Shortly after (in May last year), she found the strength to take her abusers to court.
She now runs Think It, Change It and has offices in Dundee and Aberdeen and helps people over the world – 50% of which receive consultations via Skype and Facetime.
Dawn has also recently released her first book, The Caveman Rules of Survival. Her motto is ‘Nothing needs to be the way it’s always been’.
Here, Scotland B2B finds out more about what makes her tick and what, despite the dark days, inspired her to keep going.
Q: What motivates you, Dawn?
These days I’m motivated by helping people. I want to help as many people as I can, even if it’s in the smallest way. All the stuffy old fashioned views that things can’t be changed frustrate me. Everyone can get past their problems, and it doesn’t have to be a long painful process. Most of the clients I see are getting on with their lives within six weeks of their first session with me and I never need to see them again.
Q: What has been your most challenging day in business?
That’s a tricky one. Every day is challenging in its own way, that’s why I love what I do.
Maybe it was the day I realised client emails on a directory I am part of were not coming through to me due to a technical glitch. And they weren’t even getting a bounce back.
Maybe it was the day I got an email from a client’s son accusing me of being a scam artist because there was no way I could have helped his dad in just one session when he’d been seeking help for 20+ years from all over.
Or maybe it was the day when I got a £700 repair bill on my car after two quiet months.
I think every day can be challenging and, equally, every day can be amazing.
The email issue was because I switched to a host that stopped me getting so much junk email that I missed genuine emails. It made me review my marketing and made me look for opportunities to generate a regular income from what I do. I’m now signed up to do a Masters at Dundee University with a view to doing a Phd. The accusation made me look at my terms and conditions and make sure there was no hint of a guarantee in there, but also was the motivation behind warning potential clients that I am different to many hypnotherapists. The repair bill on my car showed me that I can still maintain my business even with unexpected costs.
Q: How have you found the strength to overcome all the odds?
Quite frankly, I have no idea. It never seemed to be an option to give up. I have always worked to get myself to a better place. What I do know is that when I had my daughter seven years ago it very much changed my perspective. Suddenly it wasn’t about me being screwed up, it was about me screwing her up and that just wasn’t an acceptable option.
Q: What has kept you fighting?
Viktor Frankl is a psychologist who was in the concentration camps. In his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ he studies the difference between those who survived the horrendous experience and those who didn’t.
What made people fight when the odds were against them? His conclusion was that it was hope. Hope of something better after. These days, when he sees clients, one of the first questions he asks them is ‘Why haven’t you killed yourself?’
It’s an interesting question. Up until five years ago it was something I considered doing every moment of every day. But I never did (obviously!) – in fact I never even made a serious attempt. I gathered the pills but never took them. I used to joke that I wished I’d be run over by a bus, but then always lived where there were no buses! Now I don’t need to fight any more. There is nothing to fight. I am happy.
Q: Did you blame yourself at any point?
My whole life I have felt unlovable and unlikeable. During the first 18 years of my life I experience most types of abuse possible. I had two sets of parents (one step and one birth) and still every single one of them abused me. When I had my daughter I looked at her and realised I would never hurt her. And I would never let anyone else hurt her. And yet no one felt like that about me. How evil and broken must I be that not a single responsible adult, as I grew up, loved me?
Q: What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs going through difficult personal situations?
There is another side. No matter what anyone tells you, you don’t have to learn to live with pain. If I can be happy, anyone can. And it won’t take years and you won’t have to pour your soul out. Nothing needs to be the way it’s always been.
Q: How did cognitive hypnotherapy help you?
In 2011 I found out about an MP3 product called Thinking Slimmer. Supposedly you listened to it every night and you lost weight. It was obviously a scam, and yet, many people I know were seeing great success. I figured for £30 it was worth a shot.
After a week of listening I posted on Twitter that I didn’t think it would work for me (you’re supposed to give it at least a month!) The founder of the company got in touch and asked why I didn’t think it would work. I was shocked. I never really told anyone what had happened so I muttered something vague. It turns out she was a cognitive hypnotherapist. She suggested I see this bloke in Harley Street that was a cognitive hypnotherapist (in fact the found of cognitive hypnotherapy) called Trevor Silvester.
I wasn’t up for travelling down to London regularly and paying some guy hundreds of pounds, but she reckoned he could help me in just a few sessions. ‘Yeah right!’ I thought. But over the next few days I thought ‘What if it was true?’ and so I closed my eyes and jumped.
Things changed after the first session. By the second session I realised I had to learn how to do this. I couldn’t believe people didn’t know about this. By the third session I was signed up to a 10-month course of one weekend a month in Regents University in London.
My first session with Trevor was May 2011 and, by August 2012, I was a qualified cognitive hypnotherapist. By July 2013, I was a full time cognitive hypnotherapist myself.
Q: How does it work?
Magic! Traditional hypnotherapy can tend to be a one-size-fits-all approach that is heavily dependent on scripts, but we are all unique and experience the world and our situations in unique ways – and our problems are often the result of miscalculations our brains make about the meaning of things when we’re younger, which will also vary from person to person, so the solution needs to be tailored to that uniqueness This is fundamental to cognitive hypnotherapy
Trance is not a special state. Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy works on the basis that trance states are part of everyday life, and include daydreaming and fantasising. Science indicates that we are in these kinds of states 90% of the time. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and not remembered anything of the journey?
All behaviour has a purpose. Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy also suggests that all behaviours have a positive purpose, so the problems we experience are just the result of unconscious thought processes based on miscalculations – like misinterpretations of childhood experiences, or significant emotional events – which lead to actions designed to bring a benefit, even though they often don’t.
Therefore Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy is about ‘waking the person up’ so they remain in control of their actions, not hijacked into smoking, eating or running from spiders.
We are individuals, not labels. Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapists can see four clients in one day for something with the same name, however it doesn’t mean the same thing will work for them. People experience their problem based on different miscalculations, so clients need to be treated individually – not just have the same ‘script’ read to them because they share similar symptoms.
Q: What is it about hypnotherapy that gets you excited?
It’s not hypnotherapy that gets me excited. It’s being able to solve problems. I have a knack of getting to the thing in the subconscious that is getting in the way. Once you have tracked it down, changing it is really simple once you understand how the brain works. I get really fired up by taking complex concepts and making them simple enough that anyone can understand. I love to do talks and watch as the light bulbs go off in people’s heads. I always get clients when I do a talk.
Q: Do you often see yourself in some of the women you treat?
I don’t find that problems are gender specific. We are all screwed up. I used to empathise a lot more than I do these days. What I think and what I have experienced is not relevant to my clients. The only way that my experience is relevant is in the absolute conviction that I can help anyone who will let me. When someone comes to me they are a puzzle box that I need to solve. But I am merely a guide, everything is happening in their head and I can’t read minds. So my challenge is to guide them, using what I know, to make the necessary changes in their head. It’s great fun!
Q: Have you found it difficult at any time to trust people?
I think people are essentially good. I am incredibly non-judgemental. In fact, if I had one wish it would not be for world peace, it would be that people stop believing they know what’s going on in other people’s heads and stop judging. We’re all screwed up. When you know what to look for, you can see how behaviour clearly reflects a person’s screw ups. It makes it very difficult to get mad at someone when you don’t make it about you though!
Q: What do you make of the stats showing that women are vastly underpaid compared to men?
I have no idea. Possibly true. I have worked in call centres most of my life. For most of that I was travelling the world as a consultant helping businesses improve. I have not interviewed for a job since I was 23. I have been promoted based on merit. I left BT in 2013 on a six figure salary to become a full time therapist. I never felt a different level to my male colleagues.
Q: How does your industry compare?
Most therapists are self-employed so not really a fair comparison to the corporate world. We set our own tariffs. Most people price themselves too low because they don’t have confidence to ask what they are worth. You have to decide your audience. Do you want the low end where you get the people who might struggle to afford it; Do you want the high end prestigious Harley Street clients; or do you want somewhere in the middle?
Q: Tell us about your business, Think It, Change It
My business model is a tricky one. I help most people in between two and three sessions which means I need a constant pipeline of new clients. My base office is Dundee where I work seven days a week, including evenings.
I rent an office in Aberdeen one day a week (Monday to Friday) and deliver therapy online over Skype and Facetime so I have clients all over the world.
I currently have clients in Australia, Kuala Lumpur, Idaho, Nevada and New York as well as all over the UK. I have previously had clients in Barcelona, Nigeria, Tanzania, Brazil and Dubai.
I love public speaking so do talks whenever I get the opportunity. I write articles regularly for Wake Up World, which has 3 million+ Facebook likes. I’ve also had articles in the Courier and the Mail Online. And of course, I have my book ‘The Caveman Rules of Survival’.
I’ve grown my business from July 2013 by 254%, with a year on year growth of around 150%. In February 2016, 76% of my clients came through referrals from someone I had already helped. I guess something is working!