Michael Caton

Growing up in an outlying south-east London housing estate, I witnessed the array of ways that friends, relatives and acquaintances coped with the challenges of poverty and social disenfranchisement. With few opportunities or the language to describe the emotional experience of such a place, casual violence, substance misuse, petty crime and imprisonment were common strategies for coping. A lived experience of physical and social poverty came with a poverty of emotions and mind. Without a language to describe very real impoverishment, ‘acting out’ rather than ‘talking out’ became the order of the day. Depression, anxiety and common mental health problems remained unnamed and hidden, and people struggled to thrive.

As a therapist, I believe that therapy could have helped many in my community. But it was not available. Therapy has remained essentially a privileged experience, afforded to those who have the ability to pay or who are able to advocate strongly enough for therapy rather than medication. I believe that therapy should not be a privilege but an essential right for those who are suffering – regardless their means.

I trained as a Group Analytic Therapist and believe that a person should be viewed within the context of their environment – and it has a strong political element and responsibility to it. Group Analysis often holds up a mirror, not only to the individual, but also to the social context that works on an individual from the start. I believe therapy should also illuminate the dynamics of class and power that influence the emotions, psyche and lives people live, perhaps challenging society to be a little better.

I have a long history of offering free at the point of contact therapy within the voluntary sector and the NHS. I currently offer low-fee therapeutic work with individuals and in groups in central and south-east London. I am a founder member of the East London Counselling Co-operative (a community interest company), which offers low-fee and free counselling and therapy throughout east London.