I am standing outside a building in Shoreditch, east London, admiring its elegantly distressed paintwork. It could be an artisanal cheese shop but for the name, Self Space, and the blurb on the window that reads: “A good conversation with a qualified person.” Let’s hope. I have a session booked: 30 minutes of therapy for £44.
I have many questions, and not just about my mental health. Can a one-off therapy session make a difference? And is Self Space at risk of being swamped by a stream of neurotic people like me?
There is only one way to find out. A young, welcoming therapist – who asks not to be named – shows me into Room 1. I had selected her from an online roster on Self Space’s website of 11 therapists and life coaches, all of whom are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. I chose her because she has a kind face in her website photo and – most importantly of all – because she was free at 10am on Tuesday morning.
We sit facing one another, her on a yellow chair, me on a blue one. At the outset, she identifies that I’m conflicted: I am reporting on consumer-friendly therapy as well as being a troubled fiftysomething hoping to sort himself out before his dotage (my words, not hers). I blurt out my worries: why do I neglect myself? Why do I feel stuck existentially? Is it too late for me to fulfil my potential? Shouldn’t I stop whining and get on with life?