Paul Atkinson

I have been working in private practice in London, as a counsellor and a Jungian psychotherapist, for more than 30 years. I am a member of the College of Psychoanalysts-UK.

I was a political activist during my 20s, involved in community and trade union action, the men’s movement and sexual politics, and ‘radical’ group psychotherapy. In my 30s, I worked with school refusers in north London.

I have always seen psychotherapy as a social and, in a subtle way, political profession. At the heart of the work, for me, is the encouragement of people, including myself, to live more fully – with less fear and more love. I see people’s internal and external worlds as always intertwined, reflecting and affecting each other. A psychotherapy that wants to separate people’s psychological lives from their past and current social worlds does not make sense to me. Nor does a psychotherapy that is interested in individual change without social change.

Like most psychotherapists, I have always operated a sliding scale of fees, reflecting people’s capacity to pay. More recently, as my children have grown up, as NHS provision of decent long-term psychotherapy has declined, and as the government’s attacks on social security, living wages and the most vulnerable members of society have escalated, I have felt more urgent about working with people with little access to emotional support and limited space for psychological insight.

For me, involvement with the Free Psychotherapy Network is one response to this need in me to be socially engaged as a therapist. I see a growing number of clients for free, have started organising free psychotherapy on my local housing estates in Poplar, and am working with political activists around mental health and community support groups. I have recently become involved in a new wave of men’s therapy groups.

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