Image above: Nicholas Rose, psychotherapist and counsellor
“When there is uncertainty, like during the Brexit negotiations or at the beginning of the pandemic, we find there are a lot more people coming in to see us wanting to talk about the anxiety they’re feeling.”
I sat down to talk to Nicholas Rose a few days before news began to filter through about the new Covid variant Omicron. Very quickly after the initial news the first couple of cases were identified in the UK and the government announced we would once again be required by law to wear face masks in shops and on public transport. Christmas plans are up in the air again this year and I’m guessing he will be busy again soon.
Nicholas started writing a column about mental health issues for The Chiswick Calendar last year, which mirrored the issues we were facing:
July 27, 2020: How are you doing with the new face covering rules?
October 18, 2020: A pandemic of anxiety.
April 13 2021: Fear of re-entry.
After a break in which he finished his book on relationships (still being edited; not published until next year) he is starting writing for us again, just in time it seems for a new wave of mental health issues.
I spoke to Nicholas about how he’d become interested in psychotherapy and what had led him to set up his practice, with 14 associates, in Chiswick.
Nicholas comes from a little place on the border of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire called Cricklade, described on brown road signs denoting sights of touristic interest as ‘an Anglo Saxon town’.
“It was mentioned in the Doomsday book” he tells me wryly. “It said something like: the people were almost as nice as the pigs they kept”.
Maybe the local youth felt they had something to live up to, because Nicholas was bullied at school. Having nearly died as a baby as a result of some stomach complaint which left him the same weight at one year old as he was at birth, he was a sickly child, which may have contributed to his being quiet and thoughtful, not interested in sport and especially not in team sport.
He may as well have worn a target on his back. He was “top of everything” when he went to secondary school but became so stressed out by “five years of torture” he “couldn’t function”. It can’t have helped that his mother was unwell, eventually receiving a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.
“I’ve always been interested in how people make sense of the world in so many different ways.
“When you experience trauma as a child it makes you stop and look at things in a different way. You become much more cautious about things that might be harmful”.
Despite those early life experiences, he blossomed at college.
“I was fortunate to get a job at WH Smith with my diploma in business and marketing. I started in admin and stock control and moved quite quickly into buying. My days were full of meetings with very senior figures and at a very young age I was responsible for choosing the products they sold to the public”.
He got on very well in the commercial world and was soon making very good money. That for many people would have been enough, especially after such an inauspicious start, but Nicholas became disillusioned with the process of making money. He was far more interested in the well-being of the people around him.
His lightbulb moment was when he picked up a leaflet about psychotherapy. He was also interested in human rights, so studied both and went on to do a five-year postgraduate training as a psychotherapist without having done a degree, because he’d worked at a senior level and produced written papers in his chosen subjects.
He is still learning, despite several years working with charities and many years in private practice.
“I’ve just done a course on psychosexual therapy but also my client work teaches me about life every day” he told me.
He was introduced to Chiswick by his partner, now his husband, and set up Nicholas Rose & Associates in 2009. The practice in Belmont Rd, behind Starbucks, boasts 11 counsellors and therapists who between them offer support for children, adolescents and adults over a broad range of issues.
“What people need to do is to find someone they can talk easily to.”
Their clients include couples, families and even organisations as well as individuals.
They are all very experienced, he told me, with at least two years in private practice. He found the issues he dealt with in private practice are different to those he dealt with before, working for charities.
In private practice clients are “more highly functioning but their quality of life can still be badly and devastatingly affected by the pressure they experience.”
Our defences are our coping mechanisms. His is displaying a little eccentricity, he told me, which diverts people and gives him thinking time to decide how to react.
When we’d finished going off at a tangent and talking about what he was looking at out the window, we returned to my question. He told me how the past 18 months had been for them.
Busy. The main concerns people come to talk to them about are depression, anxiety and relationship problems and he has seen an increase in all three during the pandemic.
“There’s now a greater acceptance of therapy, which means that people are realising things they’ve struggled with are things that can be taken to a therapist. There’s been a lot of media coverage of anxiety and mental health.
“There’s a clear relationship between uncertainty and mental health. It was really noticeable during all those votes in the House of Commons over Brexit when no one knew what the eventual outcome would be, we would get a flurry of enquiries the next day”.
The same has been true during the pandemic. They themselves are not yet back at work in the office; some prefer to work at home. Between them they offer a mix of in-person and online help.
Nicholas earns a quarter of what he was earning twenty years ago as a corporate manager, he told me, but he has found the thing he was meant to do.
“I used to come away from work feeling disconnected. I’m now engrossed, fascinated and fulfilled. Being a psychotherapist is a wonderful thing to do”.
You can read Nicholas’ latest blog here: The ‘kind’ communication which isn’t really kind at all!
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