Maureen Connor’s always ready to help.
The day we meet up, she’s volunteered to look after a friend’s dog for the day – despite having two cats of her own.
It means the dog has to stay locked in the kitchen for the duration of the interview because he’s too boisterous – and Maureen apologises for the yowls of protest coming from behind the door.
As a pupil at All Saints’ High School, her love of animals set her thinking that she might train to be a vet.
In the event, it’s people rather than pets who have benefited from Maureen’s dual career – as an advocate for disadvantaged people and their carers and in her blossoming business venture as a self-employed therapist specialising in reflexology, aromatherapy and hypnotherapy.
“Initially, I went into the hotel industry,” she says. “I worked front-of-house and as duty manager.”
Although that line of work didn’t last, the interaction with people has coloured her career ever since.
Maureen, who was brought up in Longwood and now lives in Birkby, worked as a volunteer for Action Kirklees.
She is now an advocate with Cloverleaf Advocacy Services, a Dewsbury-based not-for-profit organisation helping people with learning disabilities, older people, people with mental health issues and their carers to understand their rights, by support ing them in meetings and by helping them make a complaint if they are unhappy with the services they receive.
Maureen is closely involved in Cloverleaf’s Carers Count initiative, which provides carers with practical advice, information, emotional support, someone to talk to and help in a crisis.
Says Maureen: “There’s an element in it for me of wanting to work at ‘healing’ to make a difference.
“I have been a qualified reflexologist and aromatherapist for over 10 years. I have specialised in working with people with learning disabilities and autism, working from home as well as being mobile.
“You see massive differences in people whose condition means they can be anxious and freftul. The therapy seems to calm them down. Their immune system seems to be boosted because the therapy helps keep them fit and well. Some of them can even have their medication reduced as a result.”
Maureen, who studied at the White Rose School of Beauty in Huddersfield, says: “I wanted to be a nurse, but I’m squeamish and I can’t stand the sight of blood!
“But I am still helping in the healing process. In my job as an advocate, I am helping people with the spoken word. You get some difficult cases where you have to be strong for your client. The other ‘helping’ is therapy, where it is hands-on. Both are about supporting people.”
Maureen continues to build on her skills. “Over 12 months ago I decided to study hypnotherapy, which is something I have added to what I was already doing,” she says.
“Although I have only been practising for 12 months, I have had some really good successes.”
Clients include people who want to improve their performance in sport or exams, build up confidence for a job interview or public speaking engagement.
“People you would never suspect of lacking confidence have come to me for hypnotherapy sessions,” says Maureen. “But people can lack innner confidence and hypnotherapy can be very beneficial.
“One person who had failed their driving lesson seven times passed on their eighth attempt after a session. Another who had failed five times passed on the sixth time.”
Although people seek Maureen’ help because they can identify one issue that’s troubling them, Maureen says she takes the holistic approach to them. She’s a member of the Federation of Holistics Therapies.
“Things are often linked,” she says. “People might think they can separate their work and personal lives, but if one element of their life is a problem it impacts on other elements of their lives.
“I look at the complete person – their lifestyle, diet, how much ‘me time’ they allow themselves – and that can help them in lots of ways.
“Before I start any treatment, I carry out a detailed consultation to find out what’s going on. Sometimes, I identify an issue the client doesn’t even recognise themselves. I have to think and plan my hypnotherapy sessions because I tailor it exactly to the client. It means I always have butterflies in my stomach before a session!”
Says Maureen: “Out of all the gtherapies I practice, I have found hypnotherapy has tested me the most. It is something I have built very slowly.
“You have to have confidence in yourself. I admit it did not come naturally,but I am very passionate about it because I have seen some really positive results.
“It is a two-way relationship. We can’t weave a magic wand. The client has to put something into the process. If someone rang me and said their wife has asked them to ring because she wanted them to stop smoking, I’d say ‘When YOU are ready to stop smoking, come back to me’.”
Maureen says clients often have the wrong idea of hypnotherapy – that it will put them in a trance. “Hypnosis is a state of consciousness,” she says. “In reality, you have heightened awareness. It’s about relaxing the conscious mind to work with the subconscious mind It is a very subtle treatment.”
Maureen seeks to strike her own work-life balance. The conservatory at home serves as her treatment room, although many of her reflexology and aromatherapy clients prefer her to visit them, where they feel more confortable and at ease.
Family time is also precious. Maureen likes spending time with her sons, Luke and Alfie. “We all play tennis, which is my real outlet,” she says. “I’m a member of Huddersfield Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, but I haven’t been for a few months because I got tennis elbow!
“We like the cinema, the theatre, walking in the woods and going on mini-breaks – time spent with family and friends. And I love cooking Italian and Indian food, but I experiment with various dishes – as well as doing a good old-fashoned meat and potato pie.”
Being self-employed is also a thrill, although Maureen admits: “I don’t like the paperwork!”Maureen Connor
Family: Sons Luke, 19, and Alfie, 14
Holidays: I have been to Maastricht, Malta and Rome and I would love to see more of Italy, but I also love the Lake District
Car: Peugeot 207 Cabriolet
First job: I was a waitress at the Princess
Restaurant in Huddersfield. It was busy and buzzing. You worked hard for every single penny, but I loved it!
Best thing about the job? I like to make a difference, even in a small way. It is about helping people and empowering them
Worst thing about the job? Paperwork – but it has to be done!
Business tip: With any sort of business, you have to give it time to evolve. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the recognition straight away
Work: Reflexology, aromatherapy and hypnotherapy
Phone: 07815 191950