Despite the train strike and weather conducive to being in the great outdoors, we sold out for this year’s conference! A lovely day of workshops and discussions. A delightful lunchtime outdoor gathering adding a celebratory feel.

Some suggestions for next year have been noted and I am hoping to hear from more of you. If you have an idea for a session you would like to lead or something you want to learn more about please let me know.

Vegan food by Thyme for Tiffin


Couples Therapy on TV

I recently watched (with my partner) a programme on the BBC called Couples Therapy* and feel moved to share some thoughts on it.

  • it was a good advert for therapy
  • the couples were incredibly brave
  • it was well made with helpful insights
Orna Guralnik at work with a couple in therapy

Format – Real couples agreed to be filmed in session with New York psychoanalytic psychotherapist Orna Guralnik, who also revealed something of her process through segments with her clinical supervisor**. Couples were also shown briefly at home. Each episode interwove the journeys of three or four couples over several sessions so the viewer is invited to learn about them and witness their engagement and processing within the actual therapy sessions. The second series found itself in New York lockdown and on zoom. Multiple remote cameras were used to bring us in close and smart editing, music and cutaway segments helped us follow the various stories and added some context.

The couples’ difficult experiences were handled sensitively and appropriately, allowing us insight into how couple dynamics interplay and of course, how they can become enormously frustrating, painful and seemingly intractable.

It felt like great advertising for the often misunderstood process of therapy. My hope is that viewers can see change actually happening.

The couples have become convinced of certain outcomes or responses, they look desperate or defeated when they start, but gradually, through their own motivation, trust, courage and application, they begin to find other, better ways to relate. The therapist’s kindness and skill help form a place of calm where the couples break with habits of old, where they learn to hear what each other really wants and often they hear themselves differently too. This in turn opens up possibilities for real change.

This show demonstrates how many common assumptions can be challenged and even turned on their head. I have heard people say:

  • they wouldn’t want to dredge up the past
  • they wouldn’t want a therapist telling them how to be
  • I can’t change, this is the way I am
  • My partner can’t change
  • I’ve tried and tried but they (partner, family, boss etc) wont change

When client’s history was discussed we saw how early life experiences can embed beliefs in us that feel normal, natural or unchangeable. We witnessed how lives can not only be shaped but how they can be changed. How we can change ourselves.

Bravery. I don’t quite know how to express the feeling I have for the clients’ bravery. The show includes some wonderful moments where a person who seemed stuck finds a new perspective Or someone who habitually responds by dismissing, dissociating or even attacking takes a risk and steps into new territory. This requires trust and the courage to be really honest with their partner, with the therapist and with themselves. I see this in my work quite often, but to see it from the outside and in this narrative form was for me, profound and emotional. (Not every client manages this and the show includes one who quite strikingly doesn’t do it.)

As a therapist who works with couples it was fascinating for me to see another therapist at work. We know that the client has to do the most significant part of the work, but we know also that good listening, a solid theoretical foundation and our own integrity will be really important for the therapy to succeed.

image of water to mark the end of this post

*BBC iPlayer – Couples Therapy

**a clinical supervisor in an experienced and specially trained assistant to the therapy process. A therapist meets them regularly to discuss/review the client work that we are doing to help us work safely, efficiently and to assist our continuous learning. Having an outside eye can also help us to manage our own biases and to help us notice when our own experience is unhelpfully influencing our approach.


Reduced rate counselling for people with disabilities

Anyone who has feelings can benefit from counselling and psychotherapy, but people with disabilities are under represented in counselling. People with learning difficulties or disabilities and people who are not independent are often not referred for therapy. People with physical or mobility issues may find obstacles prevent them from attending or even looking for therapy. So I offer a discount for people in receipt of disability benefits*; for people who experience physical barriers/limitations, people with learning disabilities/difficulties or people who experience difficulties due to autistic spectrum conditions. All clients need a counsellor who can attune to their needs and work with them to find ways of expressing/exploring them. These are not a special needs, but typical, normal, general needs and I hope that a financial discount may help people facing barriers to inclusion to get in touch a therapy that might suit them.

I recognise that there may be concerns that are specific to a person’s condition or identity, that a client might want to find a person with appropriate experience of to talk to. For example a person with mobility issues may wish to talk with someone who also has mobility issues, in the hope that they will better understand each other. This makes sense, but it is also true that an experienced therapist can help a client find solutions without having to have faced the precise same issues.

I believe I am able to offer a creative, compassionate and empathic approach that will strive for appropriate solutions. I do this in collaboration with each client, and this is something I learned initially from making dance/movement with people with physical disabilities. While the range of available movements may differ from person to person, the benefits they may get from moving, exercising, expression, creation, play or reflection… is no less significant. When making performances with people with learning disabilities I realised that the goal was not to transmit my ideas, but to facilitate theirs. It doesn’t matter how good my ideas are or how inspiring I think they are… if we can’t share them. So I learned to begin with each person’s current ability/understanding and work from there. This allowed us both to communicate and meet on a practical and creative level, to find a way forward together.

In my life and various roles I have worked with many people with disabilities, impairments, injuries and difficulties. Now, as a counsellor I work for a charity that provides free counselling for people in the Greater Manchester area who are on the autistic spectrum or have learning disabilities. However, in my private practise, here in Todmorden, I have very few clients who would describe themselves as disabled. There may be several reasons for this, but I am proposing to reduce the financial barrier to therapy by offering 2 more reduced price slots (starting at £30).

*I offer several discounted slots so if you are not in receipt of benefits, but feel that cost is a barrier to seeking therapy, please feel free to enquire.


Working indoors

Meeting indoors is the typical setting, in a quiet space with resources at hand. My aim is to provide a comfortable, private space for you to explore and learn about yourself. We each have our own unique strengths, habits, vulnerabilities and needs. Discovery requires vulnerability, which requires safety.

Coloured pencils and drawing paper may be helpful sometimes

Telephone/online counselling

My preferred way of working is face to face, in the same room. But on occasion I will agree to do a video session or even a series sessions. In the past I have agreed to continue working with someone who needs to travel for work and could only maintain regular sessions by meeting me online from a suitably safe space.

During lockdowns I worked extensively on telephone and video and am pleased to say it was mostly successful. For some clients, working remotely can even offer some advantages to face to face work. If eye contact and close proximity are discomfiting or off-putting for you, you might prefer a remote counsellor. Many of my colleagues have continued to work online.

For now I only use it as an auxiliary to face to face meetings with individual clients.

NB working with a couple or group online presents some particular challenges and I would usually not agree to it.

Decorative image of leaves nestling together

Working outdoors

Eco-therapy or walk and talk therapy.

Meeting outdoors is an effective way to conduct therapy providing we understand the parameters and meet the challenges together. That said, nature and the local area provide a huge opportunities, inspirations and metaphor as well as encouraging calm, reflection, contemplation, acceptance, perspective… so many things that are helpful in the self-development process.

Walking, pausing, resting, exploring etc.

Setting challenges and observation exercises.

Changing pace and noticing our need to hurry or slow down.

Perhaps most importantly for me, walking side by side shifts us from head-to-head seating, which can so often lock us into thinking processes and encourages a journeying-together-perspective.

When outdoors, we may be utilising our senses and feelings as much or even more than our verbal capacities. By taking this more embodied approach, working outdoors can deepen the experience and integrate clients in ways that standard therapy conversations struggle to do.


But it is not always right for every client, so I insist on a staged assessment which allows us to clearly establish whether this process will suit you and whether we can work safely in this way. This includes a preparatory conversation – by phone or video-call, a meeting outside and an assessment by email/phone, before meeting outside.

Sometimes we have contracted to explore a few sessions outside followed by some inside. Each step provides reflection time to absorb what you are learning and help us build a bespoke therapy for you.

Sunlight through winter trees over a woodland path