In Search of a Safe Place for Therapy - Sara Todd

Here at New Road Psychotherapy Centre, twenty practitioners work in a centre where the five rooms available to us are used only for the purposes of counselling and psychotherapy as well as therapeutic groups. Although a lot of focus is generally placed on the therapist a client is going to see -- and they may be following a personal or professional recommendation -- a lot of people who come to our centre comment on the atmosphere of the rooms and how they feel different as soon as they walk in. What has created this atmosphere?

We have endeavoured to create a safe container within which therapeutic progress can be made. In other words the space needs to be calm, inviting and secure enough to support clients through their time in therapy.


What makes a place safe?

Visitors sometimes wonder why we don’t rent our rooms out to massage therapists, homeopaths or other users? What is the need to keep it just for counselling professionals?

One answer is that we then are all clear of the frame of ethics we work under. Therapists work within the core values of their professional body, usually British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

These professional organises required therapists to adhere to their principles -- six in the case of the BACP:

Being Trustworthy: honouring the trust placed in the practitioner (also referred to as fidelity)

Autonomy: respect for the client’s right to be self-governing

Beneficence: a commitment to promoting the client’s well-being

Non-maleficence: a commitment to avoiding harm to the client

Justice: the fair and impartial treatment of all clients and the provision of adequate services

Self-respect: fostering the practitioner’s self-knowledge and care for self

What having a group of people working together under these principles means in practical terms is that they all know the importance of not bursting into the wrong room, not having the windows cleaned during a therapy session and not having loud conversations outside your therapy room. But it goes further… they also have a deep respect of what is happening inside each therapy room and they support that work. They esteem the client’s willingness to come to therapy and work on themselves.

What if the space isn’t safe?

A colleague at New Road used to work in therapy rooms above a holistic shop. One evening the shop had a party without telling him. His client had to walk through the party to come to her session. Later, a photographer burst into the session wanting a photograph. The client left their session and never returned.

Protecting the client and supporting the practitioner

At New Road Psychotherapy Centre we have our own entrance and the client buzzes direct to the client. Once in the room a Do Not Disturb sign is turned on and a curtain pulled over the door to ensure absolute confidentiality. Toilet facilities are available for clients and a kitchen so practitioners can offer their clients a glass of water.

The Practitioners at New Road have regular meetings and so know each other well. They have a sense of ownership of the building and make efforts to look after it.

All these elements combine to create an oasis in the centre of Brighton -- a chance to turn inward -- in a safe space.