the free psychotherapy network

free psychotherapy for people on low incomes and benefits

Riva Joffe

My family came from South Africa to the UK as political exiles when I was a child. I have always been an anti-racist activist, been part of the women’s movement since the mid-1960s, and as a person of Jewish heritage, am involved in anti-Zionist politics. For many years I was married (unhappily), adopted my children and eventually divorced (happily). I am now in a 28-year relationship with someone from a completely different ethnic background, but a very similar foreground.

I lived many lives before becoming a therapist; had a number of careers, each one of which I enjoyed hugely. My work-life began with palaeontology; then I wrote a book on conservation and what are now ‘green’ issues, and spent some years as a science teacher. Following a post-graduate degree (human nutrition) I worked in public health in the NHS, mostly as a group-worker, became a training consultant, did research in epidemiology and taught in universities and medical schools. Shortly before beginning my psychotherapy training did a post-graduate certificate course in Mediation Studies and became a (volunteer) restorative justice mediator, working with young offenders. Later I joined the team that trained the metropolitan police in ‘diversity awareness’ following the McPherson Enquiry. I started psychotherapy training some 25 years ago and was fortunate to find a course that was both political and eclectic.

I do not follow any orthodoxy but work with you as an individual with your own stories and your own needs. Having therapy with me is something like a friendly a conversation in which you talk somewhat more than I do. I do not use the ‘blank screen’. I also work politically, taking account of the social environment that has shaped you. This means working together through life-problems, not only your own personal issues but those imposed from outside causing internalised oppression and shame, regret and loss. I think of therapy as liberation, overcoming constraints on hope and well-being so that you can live your life more fully and creatively.

I have been a member of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility (PCSR) since its foundation and for some years been active on the UKCP’s Diversity, Equalities and Social Responsibility Committee, hoping to help foment a revolution in psychotherapy training and practice. Though I define myself as heterosexual I am also a registrant of Pink Therapy and work with gender and sexual minority people as well as with members of many cultures. I am not religious and though I have always worked with people of many faiths, I do not offer therapy with a spiritual component.

I joined the Free Psychotherapy Network because I believe that help should be available to people whatever their financial and life-situation. For the same reason I do not make contracts and am happy to see people for short-term focused therapy or on an ‘as-and-when’ basis. I also give informal life-coaching and help with decision-making.