Founded and headed up by Jodie Cariss, Self Space is a contemporary alternative to traditional routes into therapy that promises ‘a good conversation with a qualified person, through straightforward access to flexible therapy.’ Their mission is to transform and modernise the culture around mental health by supporting committed individuals and companies to reach their full potential.

Launched in 2018 in response to the growing need for accessible, quality mental health support, Self Space revolutionised the way people think about going to therapy. In an effort to destigmatise how people think of accessing psychological support, and with sixteen years of experience as a therapist under her belt, Jodie opened the first space in London’s vibrant Shoreditch. Jodie was shortly joined by Chance Marshall as Founding Partner and three years later they have grown the start-up out of a small workshop in Shoreditch, with only a few therapists, to four sites across the UK and an online service.

 Self Space has amassed over sixty thousand Instagram followers and received accreditation by Dazed Beauty, The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, The Telegraph, The Evening Standard. As if that isn’t enough, there is also a book deal with Penguin in the making with a release date later on in 2022.

With a growing team of 45 registered therapists and a vibrant support team including a Community Manager, Head of Partnerships, Business Manager, through to tech support and finance, the goal is to have a Self Space on every high street.

Jodie began her career as a children’s television presenter and continued her academic studies to train as a therapist some years later.

Combining her therapeutic work for The Learning Trust Specialist Intervention Team with a private therapeutic practise and corporate consultancy she has worked closely with global creative and media agencies to develop models that promote positive social and cultural change.

Her job, she believes, is to facilitate and highlight a path toward fulfilling one’s full potential, both individually and collectively. Jodie also provides professional advice on podcasts, radio, television, and editorial features.

In honour of world mental health day, we sit down with Jodie to talk about Self Space, the importance of getting help, and what’s wrong with society’s current attitude toward therapy.

Read the full exclusive interview below.

 

1. For our readers who may not be aware of Self Space, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

We are a contemporary mental health service and believe everyday mental maintenance is an essential part of not just surviving but thriving. We focus on working on your mental health in a proactive way. With a view to knowing that being human is hard, life can be full of struggles and we are not built to feel good all of the time.

Our mission is to transform and modernise the culture around mental health by supporting individuals and companies to reach their full potential. We work with over 10,000 individuals and partner companies like Stella McCartney, depop, Huel, Oatly and 40 others to support their employees. We have a robust psychoeducation arm and deliver workshops and talks to change the existing stigmatised culture around mental health.

2. Can you tell our readers a little more about your own personal journey leading to the conception of Self Space?

I launched Self Space three years ago based on my personal experience of being asked by friends and colleagues to recommend a therapist. I ran out of people to suggest! I felt that I could do something powerful and progressive in the mental health space and move us away from reactive to proactive care and something people felt proud about rather than ashamed of. I had been a therapist for 16 years and felt I could use my experience to create a broader reach and a more accessible and contemporary service.

 

 

3. Was there a particular lightbulb moment when you became aware that there was a gap in the market that could be filled with a model like Self Space?

It grew over time. I felt a huge amount of people were not being reached with the mental health support that was on offer, which spoke mainly to ill health and not wellness and I thought this was a major barrier to access that I could help remove with an idea like Self Space.

I also wanted to create a lovely experience for clients that felt modern, inviting and aspirational. Moving away from sticky chairs in clinical rooms into something people really want to be part of.

4. What is wrong with society’s current attitude towards therapy?

There are several big misconceptions about therapy that we hear over and over again which act as a huge barrier-

1. You have to be really unwell to go to therapy

2. You need to have experienced a ‘big’ trauma to go

3. It helps you only in crisis (which it can)

All of these misconceptions keep us away from a creative, supportive, helpful space we could all use, which yes can support us to unlock past traumas, deal with big life challenges as they emerge, but can also be a place where we can go to help us reach our potential, make good relationships great, help us live into the corners of our lives. It’s limiting to imagine it is only beneficial for some, not all.

Therapy is such an incredible place for self-exploration. It gives us a chance to take a really good look at ourselves so that we can make changes that support our growth and enhance our lives

5. Do you see this as a way of democratising therapy?

Self Space isn’t a service for everyone as it is a fee-paying service. But we have worked hard to remove many of the barriers to access. No assessments, no long waiting lists (be seen today) .

The clients are in charge of their self-care, so choose when they want to come, when it suits their lives, we have a diverse team of practitioners to choose from and clients are open to choose for themselves.

6. How have you adapted to working throughout the pandemic? How has your practice changed, have you noticed any public mindset shifts?

There was a huge upsurge in therapy requests during the pandemic. We were stripped of many of our coping or defence mechanisms that we had relied on and when we were left with only ourselves, many people realised there was some work to be done.

We have a large virtual arm of the business now which was much less of a focus before the pandemic, this has obviously grown and opened up our service and allowed us to expand our team of practitioners more internationally which has been great.

I personally still love working in the room with someone, you can miss so many nuances through the computer. But being able to reach everyone can only be a benefit to the mental health space.

7. You talk about finding the therapeutic relationship very “creative”, how so?

I always think of Telling Stories by Tracey Chapman when I think of creativity in therapy. She speaks about the fiction in space between. I find therapeutic relationships hold so much scope for so many pictures, so much creation and creativity in stories being spoken. Narrative emerges from the past, colouring in the present to create a vision for your future. Therapy is a place to try things out and practice in the safety of the room, to take risks with your emotions and your thoughts, which I feel is deeply connected to our creativity and our life drive. It’s a place of despair and hope and everything in between and in those rich moments of connection

to ourselves and what is being shared, we are engaged with our seat of creativity, our creative power.

8. What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the people I work with both in the room and my team, the amazing strength we have within us as humans, the potential to change and adapt.

I’m inspired by beautiful things, fabrics, antiques, fashion, images, theatre, people in my life and the connections I share. My children are ridiculous and wonderful and inspire me daily. In fact, children in general are an inspiration, so much potential for the future.

9. What personal self-care practices do you have in place?

Lots! Therapy once a week, supervision from my supervisor – an ancient and wonderful wise man, group and peer supervision with colleagues, time with my business partner who’s an incredible person and keeps me accountable, yoga and the gym I’m pretty dedicated to that, even just small pockets of time with people I love and feel supported by is a self-care practice. Reading! I am also writing a book for Penguin this year which is quite a cathartic (and dreadful) process.

10. I can imagine it must take quite an emotional toll being a therapist, how do you make space for yourself?

I try to always bring myself back to my purpose, why I’m doing what I’m doing. Remind myself that I have something to offer this space that is helpful to others and fills me up. Also, I try to make space to understand my limitations. I try to connect with my own shame, distress and not good enough feelings actively so they don’t drive my actions. I try to listen to myself, trust my instincts and act on those rather than pleasing people. I try to be as authentic as I can for the most part of my life and this creates the biggest space.

I like to drink cocktails and eat ramen with good people. I try not to over-commit and focus on replenishing my energy rather than depleting it. I’m also a forward planner, I like to plan treats, breaks and nice things in my dairy ahead of time.

11. How have you managed to set boundaries for yourself, particularly with working remotely throughout the pandemic?

I am fairly good at boundaries. If I don’t keep enough reserves in the tank I’m no use to my clients or my company, so it’s really intrinsic to my job. But I try to keep mini commitments to myself, like make sure to eat four meals with the kids a week, I don’t start my meetings before they leave for school, I make sure to take myself out to lunch at least once a week, I keep a regular gym/yoga pattern and really make myself go even when i don’t feel like it or I’m very

busy. I do find since launching that I have limited time to socialise and can find I have less time for my friends. I feel this is a temporary life phase and am looking forward to returning to them.

I say no to things that I don’t want to do, often, and I push back on what’s not achievable. This is a massive boundary that helps keep things on track.

 

12. From your point of view, how has the landscape of mental health changed in the last five years?

I think we have evolved from no words and no action, into more words into action. There has been a tendency for mental health culture to live in pretty Instagram posts and meaningful quotes without much substance to back it up. Working on our mental health at times is hard, boring, and difficult work. We need to roll up our sleeves and put the graft in. I think people are beginning to feel more confident in sharing their struggles, in asking for help and I hope we are all more able to drop the mask we so often adopt to hide. Which is promoting positive cultural change.

 

13. From a mental health perspective, what are your views on social media?

I think anything we have a hook for can be unhelpful for our growth and wellness. I don’t think social media itself is all negative but it can have a destructive impact on how people feel . If we are looking for places to compare ourselves to others, re-assurance of our imposter anxieties, ways to feel left out, we will seek them out. If we are looking for validation, social acceptance and life meaning via social media, we will most likely be disappointed.

I think social media has given us more opportunities to come into contact with the darker, less sure aspects of ourselves, it’s given us more material to use to beat ourselves with but it didn’t give us the wound in the first place, it will have been there anyway. Anything you use destructively or in defence of feeling will have a negative impact. Social media can bring joy, connectivity, inspire us, help businesses grow, amplify our world. It’s how you use it that matters.

 

14. Where do you see the business in the next five years? Do you have plans to introduce the model globally?

We are launching a new flagship site in Shoreditch and a new branch in Manchester on new year’s eve which is exciting. I’d like to see us in all major UK cities and then an expansion to Europe, and potentially one day globally. We want to stay a human-led, human-focused brand and so scaling authentically and keeping our core values alive is key for me.

 

15. If you could choose any three people to have a session with, who would it be and why?

Billy Connolly – he’s just a mega force, so epic and interesting.

Rosemary West – I am and have always been attracted to the dark in people. I’m curious about her mind.
My Nan, I’d do anything to see her just one more time and hold her hand.