Gavin Demurger-Jones is a counsellor in London and West Sussex

What attracted you to become a therapist?

I'd spent 20 years working in a corporate environment and I found that I was struggling to see what difference I was making to any one person’s life and how that was becoming more and more important to me. I came to realise that I needed to find a job that would make a tangible difference an individual’s life. 

I read a book by Alain de Botton about anxiety, and I was blown away by it. It was like he knew my life and then written a book about what I’d been experiencing. I then went on to read more from the School of Life which opened my eyes to existential philosophy, what it meant to be alive, to have meaning, and to have a purpose for one’s life. This in turn led me down a path of discovery and exploration into what I needed in life and then towards becoming a therapist.

Where did you train? 

I trained at the Minster Centre in London. It was an integrative course which means that I trained in several theoretical modalities as well as a specific focus on the experiential side of therapy i.e. what is it actually like? So additionally, to the theory there was a focus on personal development and growth.

Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?

I'm an integrative counsellor, which means that I blend different approaches into my counselling. I trained in person-centred, existential, psychodynamic, body and relational psychotherapy and this has the benefit of being able to adapt my approach to best suit my client’s needs.

What sort of people do you usually see?

I usually see men. Men that are struggling with various aspects of life, for example, relationship difficulties, anxiety issues, dealing with depression, healthily expressing emotions, etc. 

Of course I see women too, and they are struggling with family dynamics, relational challenges and well as historical abuse.

Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?

When I look at social media, I see the ever-growing popularity of ‘listables’ (e.g. 10 types of people that…) and ‘solutions’ (e.g. how to get closure).  

I find myself drawn to these posts, the succinct use of words, and the simplicity of the answer, however, I wonder if these actually serve us. I don’t see how these bite-size nuggets of information help us navigate the complexity that is our own life. I don’t see how these lead us to make meaningful changes in our lives. 

On the flip side, this type of communication/education was simply not there 30 years ago. It’s opening up a different level of awareness to a younger generation and that in and of itself must be a good thing. I just hope that people don’t see it as their ‘solution’ to making them mentally fit.

What do you like about being a therapist?

I love hearing about the strength of my clients and ‘the hand’ that life has dealt them. Their lives are so complicated and it’s no wonder that it’s been hard for them, that they’ve struggled and that they need someone by their side now. And then I see them grow. Week by week they change; sometimes they don’t see it, but I do and that is a privilege. 

What is less pleasant?

Therapy is hard. It’s not ‘fun’ or simply listing what’s happened in people’s lives. It’s understanding what they’ve experienced, the trauma they’ve been through, the dark place that they find themselves in, and the real fear that they experience now. As the therapist, I’m sitting alongside people as they relive the darker aspects of life.

What do you do for your mental health? 

I run a men’s group. We meet once a fortnight and it’s a chance to have a meaningful conversation, to listen and to be heard. 

I exercise regularly, I’ve nearly finished Couch to 5k, I cycle every week and I run a free local circuit training group.

I also diarise meeting friends. I found that people slowly drifted away because I was always busy, wrapped up in family life, that I lost touch with my friends and my life. So now ‘meeting friends’ is on my to-do list.

You are a therapist in Central London and West Sussex. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area? 

In London, I mainly see younger professionals. They are making sense of their lives, which direction they are going in, and the pressures that they are experiencing. They are also starting to become aware of how their history might have affected them and their subsequent behaviour now. 

In West Sussex, I mainly see parents/middle-aged people (like me). They are reflecting on their relationships with their partners, children, and parents. They are thinking about what’s next and what they need to do for themselves.

What’s your consultation room like?

I have two, my London room is next to Borough tube making it easily accessible. It’s light and spacious with a beautiful view of the Shard. 

My West Sussex one is in the small village of Balcombe. It’s snug, comfortable and very peaceful.

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

Therapists don’t have the answers. Therapy is about trying to understand yourself, your history and how it affects your behaviour. Yes, therapists have studied a lot and trained in various modalities, however, they will never be an expert on your life like you are.

What did you learn about yourself in therapy?

How much my childhood affected me, the relationships with my family and especially with my Dad. How it affected my self-belief, my confidence, and my approach to all relationships. 

Contact Gavin here

Meet more Welldoing therapists