Paul Garden is a therapist working in London 

What attracted you to become a therapist?

I was a yoga and meditation teacher for years, living in Asia. I became increasingly interested in the scientific study of how meditation worked, and I saw the possibility to understand and work with people from a different perspective. Yoga and meditation are also a therapy of sorts, but being a psychological therapist has allowed me access to different groups of people. So becoming a therapist has mainly evolved from my desire to understand yoga and meditation from a scientific standpoint, and an insatiable interest in the human mind.

Where did you train? 

I did my undergraduate in psychology and neuroscience at the University of Westminster. I developed an interest in psychosis and its relationship to the nature of reality, and studied a Master’s in early psychosis intervention the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College. I worked as an assistant psychologist for the NHS at Lambeth Hospital on an in-patient psychosis unit for two years., and I also worked part-time at Kids Company for almost five years. I've completed another Masters in Counselling psychology, and I'm currently doing a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at City University.  As part of this training I have worked as a therapist in various specialist NHS clinics around London. Two decades of mindfulness and yoga training has informed all of my practice. I've done lots of solitary retreats including three months alone in a Himalayan cave on the border of Tibet and Nepal. 

How long have a you been a therapist?

I started seeing clients for psychological therapy formally in 2013, running mindfulness groups and CBT groups and others on the early intervention psychosis, as well as working therapeutically with young people (aged 16-25) at Kids company. I’m seeing clients on various NHS placements, and I'm now also in private practice in London, which is going very well. I'm an integrative therapist including CBT, but my preferred approach is humanistic and I'm starting to include psychodynamic. Mindfulness of course permeates my thinking when I’m working with people. I basically tailor everything I do to suit the specific needs of each individual person that I work with.

What sort of people do  you usually see?

In private practice, I'm seeing a lot of people who are looking for meaning, trying to make sense in their lives. Some have reached a point of crisis, but others are seeing the impact that early trauma is having on their present experience. Although I avoid too much emphasis on diagnostic labels, because I view people holistically, I work a lot with anxiety, depression, mood, personality, psychosis, addiction, career and relationship issues. So far, through, I’m seeing many in their 20s and 30s. But in the NHS surgeries, I see more people are in their 40s and 50s and upwards. In the private practice, the gender balance is even; with the addiction clinic, there are more men; with the GP practice, more women. 

What do you like about being a therapist?

I value going on the journey together with my clients. Although people come during a difficult time in their lives, and I empathise with their struggle, we get to meet each other on a truly authentic level that’s open, sincere and non-judgemental. I’m sensitive to the subtle nuances when people talk, and enjoy helping to put the pieces together. As well as its primary aim of being beneficial for my clients, it feeds my curiosity about what it means to be a human, highlighting the universality of us all. I always learn something when I’m working with someone, and find it wonderfully gratifying to see people taking control back of their life, and to witness them as they start to feel empowered. 


What is less interesting?

The admin! There's so much paperwork. In the NHS job it’s quite overwhelming. 

How long you’ve been with and what you think of us?

I’m delighted with I signed up with you after a friend enthusiastically recommended the site, I've been with you for about six weeks and I’ve had such a huge response, so it's clearly popular and well-marketed. I'm using the diary management booking system which is great. It's taken away the conversations about money, giving more time and focus on the important issues during the actual session. I've found there's a significant difference when you are not talking about money in the room, which is very freeing.

I also think the site is very well-organised, and helpful when my IT skills let me down (thank you Alice!)

Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?

Yes, although I’m very cautious about doing it, and like my work in general it’s done on a very individual basis; I like to get to know people first. There is a book called Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, which I often suggest to people looking for a sense of direction. It’s a wonderful fable whose main character is able to learn from every circumstance that life throws his way. As well as it being a personal favourite, I've always have great feedback from that book. Also, I like the App Headspace -  it’s really convenient if someone is interested in mindfulness. It's secular, there's nothing Buddhist about it, and can allow people to develop very useful tools for their mind and self awareness.

What you do for your own mental health? 

I lean on my partner! No, I meditate and practice yoga, I swim almost every day. I also try and have a green moment daily. I cycle around the city, and I will walk the bike through a park when there’s chance. It helps to keep perspective which is easy to lose in London.

What’s your consultation room like?

It's in Central London, near Oxford Circus. It’s a nice room. The client is on a two-seater sofa, I’m in an armchair. There is a  wooden floor, big windows, and light walls. One half of the room has bookshelves and my computer, while the client and I sit in the other half. 

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

The stigmatised notion of therapy is definitely reducing. I think more and more people are understanding therapy as journey of self-discovery; a method of focused attention on themselves that allows them to develop much needed understanding. With understanding comes empowerment. From that position people are ready for whatever comes next.