Meet the Team

Ishtar Swaffeild, Course Director

Ishtar has extensive experience and training in the Humanistic approach to counselling and psychotherapy and holds the PCT (Britain) Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy, an MSc in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Certificate in Clinical Supervision. She has been a practising therapist, supervisor and trainer for many years and is one of the founding directors of Persona. In addition to supporting the development of students on the programme, she works as a psychotherapist, supervisor and as Clinical Director for Therapeutic Counselling Services providing support and guidance on clinical issues to a team of supervisors, counsellors working in Employee Counselling Services, and Children and Young People Counselling Services.  

When she’s not working, Ishtar enjoys Yoga, Pilates, watching movies, detective/mystery dramas and reading psychological/literary fiction. Ishtar believes this helps her to maintain a healthy perspective on life…..the rest of us are not so sure!! 

Karen McMillan, Course Coordinator

Karen McMillan is the Course Co-ordinator for all programmes offered by Persona Development and Training. Before joining the Persona team in 2015 Karen worked for a large financial institution for over 20 years where she gained her MCIBS qualification. She has experience in team supervision, administration and financial services. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, reading, walking her dog and spending time with her husband and twin sons.

Bruce Harkin,

Bruce Harkin has always been passionate about supporting others, especially children and young people, and has worked in a wide range of roles with, across the statutory and voluntary sectors since 1981. He qualified as a person-centred counsellor in 2009 and was awarded an MSc in Psychotherapy in 2014. Since qualifying, he has worked therapeutically with people experiencing a wide range of life challenges. Bruce is now an Accredited independent practitioner providing counselling, psychotherapy and clinical supervision to other counsellors. Warm, empathic and supportive, Bruce recharges through meditation, dog-walking, and motorbike riding. 

Clair Higgon,

Hi, I am one of the Persona training team and have been working with them for the last seven years on the diploma programme and five years on the post qualification supervision programme.

I qualified in 1997 through PCT Britain and did their supervision training in 2008.

I have a private practice in Dumfries and Galloway seeing clients and supervisees and offering training for local third sector organisations.

My background is in general and mental health nursing and I have worked in the NHS, Social work and voluntary sector settings.

I love the variety in my work and feel that keeps me fresh and in contact with

with diverse and interesting people. There is always something to make me think, explore things from new perspectives and grow as a result.

Whilst my work uses large amounts of mental and emotional energy I have a lot of psychical energy that needs to be expressed. To keep my balance in life I swim, walk and cycle. I have recently taken on an allotment that I am sure will give me a good work out over the summer months with, hopefully, some home grown produce to enjoy.

Janet Keogh, Person Centred Counsellor, Supervisor and Trainer

Janet Keogh is a Person Centred Counsellor, Supervisor and Trainer. Her counselling career began working across Edinburgh and the Lothians with Drug and Alcohol services.  Working in the community and prison settings, she worked with a number of different counselling modalities before finding herself within the Person-Centred community.  For many years she worked as a counsellor in peri-natal mental health and is also a qualified Infant Massage Instructor.   Currently Janet works in private practice with clients and supervisees in East Lothian and Edinburgh. 

Janet mostly enjoys family time and having fun with friends. To relax, she likes to find time for gardening, reading, yoga, macramé and most recently has been consumed by learning Italian!  


Louise Wilson,

Louise is a counsellor and supervisor currently working in private practice in Edinburgh. She gained her post-graduate diploma and MSc in Counselling and Psychotherapy from Persona and is passionate about the person-centred approach. She has worked for organisations with a focus on addiction, trauma and bereavement as well as an employee assistance programme before setting up her own practice. Louise is a trustee for the Person Centred Association and an active member of Person-Centred Therapy Scotland. She is especially interested in the social context of therapy and working in a non-pathologising way. Louise finds group work enriching, in particular the relationships and growth that emerge from a learning environment. Before discovering the life-changing world of counselling she obtained a degree in politics as well as an interior design diploma and has worked for various organisations in the corporate and hospitality sector.  Louise enjoys spending time with family and friends, film and theatre, reading, listening to music and watching live bands. In her quiet moments she meditates and walks in the nearby hills.  

Ross Cairns

Ross Cairns: Is an experienced counsellor/psychotherapist/supervisor/trainer/tutor and group facilitator who has been involved in developing and delivering training in a variety of setting and sectors over the last 20 years. He has created and delivered bespoke training packages for the Scottish Construction Sector as well as working with some smaller organisations to assist with staff training and implementation of key initiatives. Ross is a lead tutor/trainer with Persona and has played a key role in the delivery of the Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy over the last 10 years.

Ross is an MSc qualified Psychotherapist and an accredited member of BACP and he currently runs a private therapy and supervision practice as part of his portfolio of interests.

Ross became interested in working with Couples and Families when he was completing his MSc programme, and since then has built up a wealth of experience in this area. He currently sees couples and families regularly as part of his private practice.

Sarah Austin

Sarah Austin is a Person Centred counsellor and supervisor in private practise; she qualified as a therapist and later as a supervisor from Strathclyde University in 2013. Her background is in Further Education teaching and in management as Head of Education, Health and Social Care. She has previously worked as the core tutor on the Diploma in Counselling at the College of Holistic Medicine in Glasgow, facilitated the COSCA Certificate in Counselling Skills at Edinburgh College and support groups within Breast Cancer Care UK. She loves to travel and has often attended personal development and encounter groups in Europe and elsewhere. To relax and stay well Sarah loves gardening, running, walking in the hills with friends or wild swimming; when she sits still its usually with her cats and a good book!

Sue Black

Sue is a BACP accredited counsellor, COSCA accredited trainer and qualified supervisor. She has an MA(Hons) in Psychology from the University of Aberdeen and a postgraduate Diploma in Person-Centred Counselling through Persona. In 2013 she added a Certificate in Person-Centred Supervision to her portfolio. She is a member of the Higher Education Academy and has been teaching for over 12 years, from counselling skills and diploma through to training counselling supervisors.  

Sue currently teaches with Persona as well as Rowan Consultancy and has her private practice in Angus where she has been counselling for over 18 years. She works with adults and young people, with diverse issues such as boarding school survivors, dissociation and abuse. Having completed her Certificate in Online and Telephone Counselling she works remotely with both clients and supervisees. Sue also delivers training workshops for counsellors and other mental health professionals. 

In her free time, she enjoys learning Gaelic, writing creatively and spending time in nature with her dog, Mr. Darcy. She is a keen fan of tennis and rugby union, but due to a mix of Irish, Scottish and English heritage never knows who to support.