Twenty-first century Britain needs psychotherapy more than ever before. Thanks to major public figures in politics, sport and the royal family opening up recently about emotional difficulties, there is far more willingness to recognise and to discuss the prevalence of mental distress. There is consensus that we need accessible, responsive and effective services for everyone in need. And there is consensus that our NHS does not have the resources to cope with every need: the services are highly variable, fragmented, often absent, often hard to access without a long wait. A single example? Over 70% of consultants in Palliative Care in the UK struggle to find access to suitable psychological support for terminally ill patients suffering from anxiety.
Inevitably, it is those who are economically deprived who are hardest hit by the shortage of effective support: full fee private psychotherapy or counselling isn’t an option, while these are the people most likely to be exposed to adversity, stress, isolation, anxiety and depression. Unmet needs for accessible and effective services lead to escalating personal, social and financial costs – worsening mental health, greater isolation, wider health and social problems which affect family, community and the economy as well as the individual.
The Severnside Institute for Psychotherapy (“Severnside”) has for 30 years played an important role in contributing to the provision of accessible and effective services across Bristol and the South West by providing psychotherapy services for the public and training new generations of practitioners. To help make therapy accessible, Severnside provides a professional consultation and referral service, and psychotherapy with qualified therapists and trainees across the region, offering reduced fee consultations and low fee psychotherapy for those in financial hardship.
And as for the effectiveness of psychotherapy? First, we have the evidence of our own experience at Severnside: from day to day we witness the fundamental difference that therapy has made in our patients’ lives. And research evidence substantiates this, as recognition grows of the usefulness of psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy, particularly for complex and long-standing psychological distress, and in their potential for enduring impact, well after therapy has finished. Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy recognises that people often act in ways which do not obviously make sense. People act in ways that harm their own interests, but they may struggle to recognise or understand their own behaviour. And it is no simple matter to unravel the entrenched and interwoven patterns of thinking, experiencing and relating that underlie anxiety, depression, phobia, self-harm and addictive behaviours.
Severnside therapists provide a facilitating environment where people may explore their thoughts, feelings and values, including the unconscious, the conflicting and the downright painful, and so become less dominated by distressing symptoms, more insightful, and more able to experience creative, fulfilling lives. To achieve this, training, experience, clinical supervision and a strong professional framework are essential. As is a suitable location. Since 1989 Severnside has provided all of these things, and today it manages the premises at 11 Orchard Street as office base, training centre and the venue for more than 200 hours of therapy every week.
Severnside is aiming to secure 11 Orchard Street as a permanent home for its charitable work, for its role as a professional body, for its training activity, and as an affordable venue for around 50 therapists and counsellors, working in various ways and with various organisations, to practice in a quiet, safe, discreet and convenient location.
By exercising an option to purchase 11 Orchard Street, we can make therapy and training more available and accessible. The financial saving and long-term security that would result from a purchase would enable us to improve wheelchair access, offer more low cost therapy, subsidise a fully operational clinic, offering consultation, information, assessments, referrals and a single point of contact for anyone in the region looking to access psychotherapy.
The long-term financial benefits of ownership would also mean that we could keep our training costs down and offer training bursaries for some trainee therapists on low incomes and continue to offer training and continuing professional development to those wishing to develop their skills.
The average age of psychotherapists in the UK has risen and the cost of psychotherapy continues to rise. It is therefore important for the wider community in the South West that new students can enter an accessible, affordable training programme and progress to work professionally, safely and ethically here in the region – with the help of Severnside.
The wider world benefits from the training of Severnside. Our graduates share their expertise, skills and experience within the NHS and in many public and charitable sector settings. Those in private practice also contribute, through reduced fee schemes, and by meeting the needs of many who cannot access help elsewhere.
Severnside is now asking for financial support – gifts, pledges, legacies – or support-in-kind, so that we can secure our home and with it ensure we continue to make psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy more available and accessible in Bristol and the Southwest. Donating is easy – you can visit our JustGiving campaign page to make a donation online, or contact our Administrator (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details on how to make a donation via bank ransfer.