Greenhouse therapy rooms – Creating a community of therapists in Chiswick

Image: Patsy Richardson

A place for clients to unburden and therapists and counsellors to share

One of my enduring memories of having surgery on the NHS was being in a room with 12 or so cubicles, partitioned only by thin curtains, each with a consultant questioning a patient:

“How often do you empty your bowels? … Do you have any inflammation? … Does it itch?”

The result, a babel of not-so private confidences which would give any self-respecting GDPR consultant a conniption fit.

Patsy Richardson has set out to design the exact opposite of that experience in her consulting rooms at Greenhouse in Chiswick. A suite of rooms on the corner of Chiswick High Rd and Annandale Rd, Greenhouse therapy rooms are beautifully decorated throughout in soft, restful colours, with silver birch forest wallpaper and lots of real plants that create an atmosphere which is instantly relaxing.

The soundproofed rooms are available to rent by the hour for ‘talking’ therapists and coaches to meet their clients in peace and tranquillity, and to get to know each other as well, creating a therapy community in Chiswick.

“Particularly with mental health, facilities for psychotherapy and counselling are often just an add-on: an ordinary room in office space or a medical setting” Patsy told me. “Mental health is definitely the poor cousin.”

Such a setting is not at all conducive to quiet reflection and private confidences, and certainly does not put the client in the right frame of mind to relax.

“The patients are not respected” she said.

A business venture, but also a passion project

Patsy’s first career was in marketing, working for big companies such as Cadbury’s and Unilever, but when she suffered kidney failure and had a life-saving kidney transplant from a friend at church, she reassessed her life and decided to make best use of her remaining time doing what she wanted to do.

She works as a non-executive director with a mental health charity, and she also does up property, and has united these two skill sets in a passion project, albeit a commercial one, to provide a respectful environment for therapy.

Stressing the “super strength sound proofing”, she showed me round the rooms, which are all decorated in muted pastel colours with the plant wallpaper and pot plants “bringing the outside in.

“People can come, get shelter, get sunshine and grow,” she said, betraying her professional marketing background.

“I have benefitted from so much care”

Patsy is not a therapist herself. I asked if she had experienced therapy.

“I did do psychotherapy and it was useful to me” she said, “I benefitted from so much care, so many people who have helped me in so many ways.”

She has about 20 talking therapists using the rooms regularly for meetings with clients. They cover a whole range of therapies, counselling and coaching dealing with transition – business, relationships, death, divorce; family therapy; depression and anxiety; eating disorders; trauma.

We talked a bit about ethical standards and the avoidance of quackery. She requires that the therapists and coaches who use her premises are members of their specialism’s professional body, asking them for their qualifications and affiliations. She also checks they have insurance.

“My line in the sand with medical therapy is whether or not the specialism is offered by the NHS.”

Interesting water cooler conversations

What is good for the therapists and coaches, apart from having somewhere pleasant to work, is the camaraderie engendered. Membership is free, there is no contract involved and they can book one of the eight rooms online, with 24 hour cancellation, so they come and go separately, but they are encouraged to meet each other and network.

Patsy organises coffee mornings and evening drinks so her professional can get to know each other and will be better able to help each other with cross-referrals.

Debbie Wilson

Debbie, a psychotherapist who works with adults, couples and families, told me she appreciates the warm and welcoming atmosphere:

“Psychotherapy can be quite a lonely and isolating type of job. It’s good to be able to have a chat and a cup of tea with a team of people who work together. This feels like much more of a community than other places where I’ve worked in the past.”

Tanya Kuznetsova

Tanya, a psychotherapist who works with trauma, told me:

“I really love what Patsy has done. It feels very homely and cosy. It’s calm and peaceful.”

Her specialism has only recently been recognised by the NHS as a treatment for trauma. ‘EMDR’, stands for ‘Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing’ is a way of enabling the brain to replicate the kind of healing processes it carries out in sleep.

“It’s not new, it’s just newly mainstream” she said.

Whether a person has suffered the kind of trauma which is a huge one-off shock, such as a wartime experience or an accident, or whether they have suffered the kind of trauma produced by a difficult childhood, experiencing abuse, neglect or a lack of love, the way she explained it, our traumatic memories are stored in our nervous system in raw form, without being processed.

Bilateral stimulation uses both sides of the brain alternatively. Essentially, she waves her hands about and gets someone to follow the movements with her eyes, or she uses a horizontal bar with lights that move and display in different colours. The patient’s eye movements replicate REM – Random Eye Movement in sleep, a process the brain uses for processing the events of the day.

Imagine the water cooler conversations that go on at Greenhouse!

Dr Victoria Brattan

Victoria is a specialist in Autism. Having worked with children and adults in the NHS and in private practice, providing diagnoses and assessments, she too appreciates her new work environment.

“It’s little details like having no ticking clocks that make such a difference” she told me. “I choose the rooms at the back of the building where there is no traffic noise and my clients find the environment soothing and instantly feel at ease.”

She also appreciates the super strength sound proofing.

“We could all say we have people crying or shouting from time to time. Emotions are heightened. People are in distress.”

Victoria also likes the collaborative nature of the therapy rooms.

“I like that Patsy is creating a community where people get to know each other and work out where the overlaps are. It was quite a difficult decision for me to step out of the NHS because I loved the collaborative side of it.”

Greenhouse therapy rooms are at 155A Chiswick High Road, above Chestertons estate agents. Find out more about them on their website.

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