My name is Melanie Cox. I am a qualified psychotherapist and founder of HQ Therapy Rooms, which operates as a private therapy and counselling practice spread over two locations in Hackney. I opened the first practice in Dalston in 2016, realising that there was a lack of therapy provision in the area, and within 6 months we were full.
The amount of need exceeded my expectations; the rooms and the therapists both reached full capacity within months of opening. The only solution, as I saw it, was more therapists! So I opened a second therapy practice just down the road in Haggerston. Now we have a community of over 60 therapists working out of 13 bespoke therapy rooms, with an additional 2 coworking spaces to collaborate, relax and socialise.
It was the support of this community of therapists that led me to set up our low-cost therapy service. I spend a lot of time at the practices; seeing my own clients and keeping in touch with other psychotherapists. It was a concern of mine and my colleagues that therapeutic services like ours struggled to support clients on low incomes and who have financial difficulties. We were acutely aware that therapy has a reputation as a middle-class pursuit.
For us, this was an ethical dilemma and one we were keen to solve. Therapists have always offered low-cost spaces as part of their private practices, but we wanted to do more and there was no way we could meet the demand within our private practices alone. Together we started thinking about how we could offer a low-cost service. We realised that by coming together, we could offer many more people access to therapy using the facilities we already had available to us.
Of course, in early 2020, the pandemic changed everything.
While we couldn’t work in person, many therapists chose to work from home, setting up Zoom or phone therapy sessions. Meanwhile, the emotional fallout of the pandemic led to an explosion in demand for therapy. Local GPs and mental health services, already heaving under the strain, were now overwhelmed by the needs of people who didn’t have access to private therapy options.
Mutual Aid groups were set up all over the country, and thousands of people put their hands up to volunteer. I wanted to contribute too and to find a purpose amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. This was my opportunity to set up the low-cost therapy service and, in lockdown, I found I finally had the time.
Sixteen months on, we provide placements for over 40 trainees, and therapy for 100’s of clients who couldn’t otherwise afford it and are affiliated with some of the most prestigious psychotherapy training organisations in the country.
I am incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.
Our aim has been to address the financial disparity and provide excellent therapy. After all, affordable therapy is one thing and quality is another. It is important that our low-cost clients have access to a high standard of counselling services. For me, this meant working with the best training organisations. We have worked hard to establish relationships and become a placement provider for organisations well known for their specific training in psychotherapy. We currently work with Metanoia, The Institute for Art in Therapy and Education (IATE), Roehampton, The Minster Centre and East London (UEL), to name a few.
We interview and assess all HQ trainees. We ensure our students come from a wide range of backgrounds. Psychotherapy training tends to attract mature students who bring extensive life experience and provide a rich career history to the profession.
We are also very interested in their personalities, their professional backgrounds, the communities they are part of and the life experience they’ve had. Hackney is an enormously diverse borough and it’s crucial that our therapists are as diverse as the community we serve.
All of our training organisations are registered with accrediting bodies like UKCP or BACP and all our trainees are independently registered. We require trainees to be insured, in supervision, and, importantly, in their own personal therapy.
Our HQ trainee therapists and counsellors each have three to five clients – sometimes more, depending on their level of experience and it’s still not enough. We get an ever-increasing number of enquiries each month and, as with many low-cost services, we have a long waiting list. We will continue to do what we can to meet demand.
Regulatory bodies are changing their training requirements to include online therapy as standard so we can accommodate a greater number of trainees and reach out to a greater number of people. That said, many clients don’t want their first contact with a therapist to be online. I’m really delighted to be able to offer our rooms for our clients and trainees to use and we are committed to developing more ways of offering therapeutic support affordably.
With this in mind, we aim to remain contemporary. The pandemic taught us to be adaptable and we continue to embrace that. We are currently offering CPD opportunities, events, lectures and networking opportunities by affiliating with other forward-thinking organisations like The Weekend University.
By building relationships with organisations such as this, we not only help to keep our trainees informed of the latest developments in the field and with the most innovative thinkers, we also connect them with contemporary, innovative businesses like this that they can continue to benefit from long after their placement hours are completed!
Therapy should be a holistic, community-centered endeavour, and accessible to everyone.
This is our business but we’re in it because we want to help people from all walks of life. It’s not about competition between practices; if we can’t help, we’ll refer you to someone that can. That said, we want to be able to offer even more ourselves. We will continue to welcome new trainees, more practitioners to use the rooms, more collaborative projects that can make use of HQ’s facilities and add to the richness of our community. So if you’re looking for a new room, a new challenge, wider contacts within our industry, potential collaborators for your own projects, or to get involved with one of ours, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us at https://www.hqtherapy.com/.