Meet the therapists bringing mental health care to the high street

Written by Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

Therapy is finally becoming less clinical – but can a more relaxed approach work? 

The way we think about therapy has undergone a massive transformation over the last 10 to 15 years. Not only are more people seeking mental health treatment on the NHS – a record 634,649 people completed the NHS Talking Therapy programme in 2020/21 – but more people are seeking private therapies for support on a wide range of issues, including those to do with relationships, self-esteem and work-related stress.

In short, therapy has become a lot more normalised. And while there’s still a way to go until the stigma surrounding therapy has completely dissolved, therapists are now looking for ways to make therapy more accessible, too – both for those who are now actively seeking it and those who’ve never even considered it before. 

One of the results of this shift in thinking is Self Space – a self-described “contemporary mental health service” that offers flexible therapy for people looking for “everyday mental maintenance”. 

Instead of being hidden away behind endless doors, receptionists and forms, Self Space provides flexible, on-demand therapy virtually and on the high street at one of their four locations – so you can simply walk in and see a therapist the very same day.

“Our aim really is to make therapy as accessible and as human as possible,” explains Jodie Cariss, who founded Self Space back in 2019. “To do this we have sites on the high street, work with over 60 multi-disciplined therapists and make finding a therapist and booking a session as easy as possible.”

Cariss continues: “We also have a therapy matching service run by our Community Manager (a human, not an algorithm) who can help clients find the right therapist and style of therapy to support their needs and sessions are bookable via the website at a time that suits you, even on a Sunday.” 

Shortly after founding Self Space, Cariss was joined by founding partner Chance Marshall, and the pair (who are also both therapists) have since taken the company from strength to strength. 

They recently launched two new spaces in Shoreditch (the flagship) and Manchester, which will join their other locations in Borough and Brighton.

One of the rooms at Self Space’s flagship location in Shoreditch.

The main concern for many people getting started is, of course, whether or not they’ll get on with their therapist. Unlike many other forms of healthcare, therapy heavily depends upon the relationship you share with your therapist. And that’s something Cariss and Marshall have worked hard to ensure they get right – both with their matching service and with the way they encourage users of their service to interact with their therapists.  

“The bond between a therapist and a client is a two-way dynamic,” Cariss explains. “What you put in matters and how honest and authentic you are is integral to how useful and supportive you will find the relationship. 

“We champion therapists as humans – there’s a misconception that you can’t challenge your therapist, ask questions or ask for feedback. But it’s important to share what’s on your mind, and this dynamic in the therapy room can also give you a chance to practice asking for what you need in real life and can be hugely beneficial.”

While, as you’ll have gathered, Cariss and Marshall are particularly passionate about making therapy more accessible to everyone, they’re also keen about spreading the message that therapy isn’t only for people who are ‘really struggling’ or at a crisis point.

It’s why their brand is so heavily focused on the idea of “mental maintenance”. They want people to see therapy like they would the gym – a way of looking after their mental health, rather than treating a problem once its emerged.  

 “We’ve worked really hard to show people that therapy isn’t only for when you are really struggling or at crisis point,” Cariss explains. “We’re absolutely here for people in that place but also it can be something that’s done proactively.”

Self Space’s high street location aims to increase the visibility of therapy.

Of course, one of the biggest barriers people face when it comes to accessing therapy is the cost – something Cariss and Marshall are aware of.

That’s not to say Self Space is cheap – a 30-minute session costs £60, while a bundle of six 50-minute sessions costs £450 – but the pair have tried to offer more options for those considering therapy who might not be able to afford it.

These include discounts for students and NHS workers, community workshops and group therapy sessions (for which tickets start at £25) and free virtual check-ins on the first Monday of each month.  

For Cariss, the most important thing about Self Space is simply its visibility. “So much of therapy is behind closed doors or in clinical settings – we don’t see it in everyday life so it can feel so out of reach,” she says.

“We know what to expect when walking into a hairdressers because we’re surrounded by them, so opening therapy up in this visible way has made considering support much more approachable.”

Cariss continues: “We have people drop in every day to find out more information. The power of seeing someone that looks like you walking in for a therapy session helps us know that we can too – but also shows that we’re not alone in our struggles.”

For more information about Self Space, you can visit the website. 

Images: Self Space

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