2024 Presenters

In order of appearance (schedule at the bottom of the page):

Maria Albertsen, Clare Slaney, Marvis Stewart

PRESNTATION: How comfortable do we really feel talking about poor clients?

*More than 1 in 5 people in the UK (22%) were in poverty in 2021/22, 14.4 million people. In 2021/22, 6 million people, or 4 in 10 people in poverty, were in ‘very deep’ poverty, with an income far below the standard poverty line.

Poverty can affect anyone but it affects some groups of people more than others, e.g. disabled people, carers, some minority ethnic groups, larger families, families on income related benefits – the list goes on. As the cost of living crisis continues, inflation continues to rise, and we witness a nation wide mental health epidemic, with no indication that we will be out of this anytime soon, we ask you to consider what impact this has on our work as therapists? Can we provide in-depth analysis to someone who is literally starving? Can we expect a child who is hungry and cold to engage? How do we respond when a client can’t pay and it affects our own income? We ask you to remember that we as therapists are not separate from society. Poverty affects us too. Of course, we don’t have all the answers, if any at all. But we do ask you to join us and to think critically about this so that we can best support those living in poverty, whilst they look to us to provide a therapeutic service and maintain a therapeutic framework.

(*Joseph Rowntree Foundation – UK Poverty 2024: The essential guide to understanding poverty in the UK)

Bio: Maria Albertsen – Maria is an experienced counsellor, psychotherapist and supervisor with over 22 years of experience working in both the private and public sectors (NHS & Education). She has experience in business consultation and marketing for counselling organisations and individual therapists in private practice. Maria is the Founder of Counsellors Together UK and National Counsellors’ Day. You can read more about Maria on her website here.

Bio: Clare Slaney – Clare is a counsellor, psychotherapist and supervisor based in London. You can find out more about Clare on her website here.

Bio: Marvis Stewart – Marvis is a Humanistic and Integrative counsellor living in Southampton. In her private practice, Marvis has mainly worked with clients facing financial hardship, recognising the critical need for accessible therapy. With an awareness of the intersection between financial struggles and therapeutic efficacy, Marvis has also campaigned against counsellor exploitation and seeks to understand the ethics of charging fees to clients experiencing financial hardship from counsellors who are also experiencing the same or similar financial difficulties. She currently manages a counselling service within a primary school setting recognising the challenges that poverty and scarcity bring for families supporting children through their academic journey. You can follow Marvis on Twitter @marviStewart1

Dr Elizabeth Cotton, Surviving Work

PRESNTATION: Professional cannibalism and why we still can’t talk about money

This session will explore political and professional dynamics within the therapy sector and try to open up a discussion about snobbery and class. Using data from two CTUK surveys Elizabeth will explore the impact of SCoPEd and the uberization of therapy, particularly the growth of platformization and on-demand therapy on future incomes. Elizabeth will with a typical lack of sophistication raise a challenge about the need to address our complicity in maintaining a system of professional cannibalism and ask what will it take to stop dancing for daddy? 

Bio: Dr Elizabeth Cotton is a writer and educator in the field of industrial relations and mental health. She is an Associate Professor of Responsible Business at the University of Leicester and the founder of Surviving Work. Her current research is around the digitalization of therapy and she convenes The Digital Therapy Project www.thedigitaltherapyproject.org which includes the CTUK. Her book UberTherapy: The new business of mental health will be published in 2024 by Bristol University Press. 

Jo Smith & Professor Emma L. Giles

PRESENTATION: Food Insecurity in Adults with Severe Mental Illness

This presentation will outline the key findings from a National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) study entitled “a mixed methods study using co-production to explore food insecurity in adults with Severe Mental Illness living in Northern England”. This will include the food insecurity prevalence and experiences of people with Severe Mental Illness, and potential solutions to support people to access sufficient healthy, affordable food. Further data will be presented from a recent scoping review regarding the available food insecurity interventions for UK adults, undertaken by Jo Smith during her PhD studies.

Bio: Jo Smith – Jo has been working as a Registered Dietitian within the NHS for over 26 years after qualifying in 1997 from Leeds Metropolitan University. She gained an MSc in Evidence Based Practice in 2008 and is currently studying part-time for a PhD in Nutrition at Teesside University. Jo was Head of Dietetics at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust for 15 years and previously chaired the Mental Health Specialist Group of the British Dietetic Association. She currently works as a Consultant Dietitian (Clinical Academic) in a joint post between Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust and Teesside University. Jo is joint Chief Investigator on several NIHR research grants and has specialist interests in food insecurity, obesity, health inequalities, dietary intakes, and the eating behaviour of people with mental health conditions.

Website: https://research.tees.ac.uk/en/persons/jo-smith Twitter: @Jo_AnneSmith

Bio: Professor Emma L. Giles – Emma is Professor of Integrating Physical and Mental Health in the School of Health and Life Sciences, at Teesside University. She gained a PhD in public health and social marketing in 2010 from Newcastle University. Emma is Lead of the Centre for Public Health in the School, Co-Public Health Speciality Group Lead in the Local NIHR Clinical Research Network, Co-Chair of the North East Obesity Forum, Co-lead of the Fuse, Centre for Translational Research theme of ‘behaviour change’ and Co-Deputy Lead of the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North East and North Cumbria ‘Integrating physical health, mental health, and social care’ theme. Emma is joint Chief Investigator on several NIHR research grants and has specialist interests in diet-related long-terms conditions, such as obesity and food allergies, and wider determinants of health such as food insecurity, health inequalities, dietary intake.

Website: https://research.tees.ac.uk/en/persons/emma-giles Twitter: @Emma_LGiles

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) – Headline Sponsor

PRESENTATION: Understanding the cost of living crisis: Valuing our mental health

Lisa Morrison Coulthard, Director of Professional Standards, Policy and Research at BACP, is joined by an expert panel to discuss the key findings and recommendations for the next government found in BACP’s report on “Understanding the cost of living crisis: Valuing our mental health”.


Bio: Lisa Morrison Coulthard joined BACP in December 2023 as Director of Professional Standards, Policy and Research. As a Chartered Psychologist, she has almost 30 years’ experience in professional membership and research organisations in the charity sector, primarily supporting mental health. With specific expertise in strategic leadership and stakeholder engagement, throughout her career she’s helped bridge the gap between evidence, policy development and decision making; influencing Government on a variety of issues relating to mental health.

Erin Stevens

PRESENTATION: Counting the Cost: Money, Precarity, and Harm in Therapy

Money operates in this profession as a gatekeeper; it dictates who can access therapy, who can train, who can work, who can progress, and who can have a voice.

“It is inevitable” they cry “It’s always been this way”. These narratives are not only facile, but also inaccurate.

In this presentation, Erin will look at the relationship between the harms of money on a societal level, the insidious impacts on our profession, and its relationship with harm in therapy. She will examine who benefits from the multi-million-pound therapy industry, and who ultimately loses out, taking a look at power and profit at the top, the disenfranchised workforce that props it up, and the damage that this system inflicts on the most vulnerable clients.

As ever, Erin will call upon those with the power to effect change to give up the ineffectual navel-gazing focus groups and redirect energy and funds into real, systemic overhaul.

Bio: Erin Stevens (she/they)

Erin is a therapist, supervisor, writer and trainer living and working in West Yorkshire. As a therapist, Erin works primarily with people who have been harmed in previous therapy – a specialism developed over a number of years, when it became apparent that there was a dearth of support and understanding for people who have experienced harm, and that the conversation was still seen as a taboo in the profession.

Erin works to raise awareness of the significantly increased rates of harm for those with marginalised identities, at all levels of the therapy profession, and campaigns for justice for marginalised and minoritised people in the profession and beyond.

National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society (NCPS) – Headline Sponsor

PRESENTATION: Stable, Well-Paid Work: Increasing Public Sector Opportunities for Counsellors & Psychotherapists

Meg will speak about the work NCPS is doing around promoting counsellors as part of mental health support teams in schools, as part of a broader access to therapies through the NHS and through cross departmental initiatives such as Early Support HUBS.

She will also share how NCPS is working to raise the profile of counselling more broadly with commissioners and activists within mental health to make sure that counsellors and psychotherapists aren’t forgotten in conversations about workforce.

Bio: Meg is the Head of Policy & Public Affairs at the NCPS, and has been supporting counsellors and the counselling profession for just shy of a decade. She’s passionate about autonomy, creativity, and diversity in therapy, and works to increase stable, well-paid opportunities for counsellors and psychotherapists; promote the value of counselling and psychotherapy in an increasingly medicalised and quantified world, and keep society grounded in what makes therapy therapeutic.

Lucia Sarmiento

PRESENTATION: The Injustice of Poverty in Therapy

Poverty and class hierarchies are ubiquitous and pervasive in our society. The therapeutic profession is no exception to this, as we encounter inequalities among therapists and in client access to services. Despite this, training on this topic is seldom available and the issue of injustice and its impact on people’s lives tends to be dismissed in our theories and practices.

In this presentation we will explore the impact that poverty may have on people’s emotional well-being in this individualistic society. We will also examine our professional practices in light of this, as well as the ethical issues that emerge from them and possible alternatives to consider.

Bio: Lucia Sarmiento Verano (she/her) is a humanistic psychotherapist in private practice in Oxford and online. With a background in Sociology and Political Science, she has worked as an anti-racism trainer and consultant with mental health organisations. She has experience delivering training and facilitating reflective discussions around topics of anti-oppression and decolonial thinking in mental health. Alongside her work as a therapist and trainer, Lucia is undertaking research on the topics of anti-oppression and resistance as a Ph.D. student at the Birkbeck University of London. 

Daniel Browne

PRESENTATION: Winning the Battle for Affordable LGBT+ Affirmative Therapy

In this presentation, Daniel will share the journey he embarked on to set up a donations based counselling service for LGBT+ people. You will hear about why the service is needed, the challenges and struggles to obtain funding, how funds were finally awarded, how the service was set up, and the impact it is having on the lives of LGBT+ people.

Bio: Daniel Browne (he/him) is a counsellor in private practice since 2009. He specialises in working with LGBT+ clients. He is the author of ‘How to be an LGBT+ Affirmative Therapist’ and spends his spare time training other therapists to be LGBT+ affirmative and speaking at conferences around the world. As a gay, mixed race, working class person with an activist spirit, Daniel is committed to social justice, equity and accessibility in therapy and in society.

Victoria Childs

PRESENTATION: Navigating the Cost of Greed Crisis: the need for solidarity among working-class psychotherapists and counsellors.

Victoria Childs will speak about the experience of setting up a network for working class psychotherapists and counsellors, the Working Class Psychotherapists Association (WCPA). This association aims to improve representation within our profession and grow solidarity in a supportive community of practice for professionals who are, or have ever been, affected by socio-economic oppression.

Where do working class psychotherapists and counsellors fit in a traditionally middle class profession and how can we advocate for our own interests within the field? 

Bio: Victoria Childs is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with nearly thirty years experience in private practice in central London. She is involved in several psychotherapy organisations and in 2015 was a founder member of PCU, the first trade union for psychotherapists and counsellors.

For over twenty years she has also produced films and programmed events on psychoanalytic topics. She has written and presented material to promote debate around the interface between psychoanalysis and politics, with a particular interest in the history of critical psychiatry. 

Psychotherapy and Counselling Union (PCU)

Presenters are Jo Heaton and Marilyn McGowan 
PRESENTATION: Standing up for therapists and therapy in a time of austerity

Whilst counselling and psychotherapy has never been a guaranteed route to a steady income and generous pay the financial situation facing many of us has worsened over the last few years – even as, ironically the need for therapy has increased. For those working in schools, for third sector organisations or EAP providers income has been squeezed as funders have cut back and EAP companies have out competed for tenders by freezing (at best) session fees. Highly exploitative digital platforms are only making the situation worse. Membership bodies prefer to avoid discussion about appropriate pay and conditions – claiming that this is a matter for employers – and offer complacent advice about the need to accept ‘portfolio’ working. This is fine if it’s a genuine choice – but if psychologists, teachers and doctors aren’t expected to live a precarious portfolio life, why should therapists? The PCU argues that we must organise and stand together if we are to have any hope of challenging this situation.

To discover our constitutional aims, please visit our website: www.psychotherapyandcounsellingunion.co.uk

Bio: Jo Heaton – Jo Heaton is a Person-Centred counsellor and supervisor, in private practice since 2016. Jo has experience of working within an NHS GP practice, Employee Assistance Programmes, university research Counselling Unit and a Bereavement Counselling Service. She works with Therapy Train Stirling CIC as a co-tutor on the Professional Diploma in Person-Centred Counselling.

Jo is an active member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union and is currently the Secretary for the Scotland branch and member of the Executive Committee as the Regional Representative for Scotland. Her work in the Union involves raising awareness of the challenges to practitioners and to address the unfairness and exploitation inherent in current working structures of the profession.

Bio: Marilyn McGowan – Dr Marilyn McGowan has been a school counsellor and supervisor for the last thirty years. She is a member of the PCU executive where she is also the union’s lead on school counselling advocating for better pay and conditions for school counsellors.

She lectures on all aspects of counselling with the Iron Mill College in Poole and is also a member of the ERG group at BACP with the aim of developing good quality counselling services for young people.

Her Professional Doctorate focused on the relationship of the school counsellor to its host school and found that counselling could play a key role in developing ethos and mental health in schools. 


9.30 – 10.00am – Registration (15 mins) / Welcome with Maria Albertsen and John Wilson (Onlinevents) (15 mins)

10.00 – 10.30am – Maria Albertsen, Clare Slaney, Marvis Stewart. PRESNTATION: How comfortable do we really feel talking about poor clients?

10.30 – 11.00am – Dr Elizabeth Cotton, Surviving Work. PRESNTATION: Professional cannibalism and why we still can’t talk about money.

11.00 – 11.30am – Jo Smith & Professor Emma L. Giles – PRSENTATION: Food Insecurity in Adults with Severe Mental Illness.

11.30 – 11.45am – BREAK

11.45 – 12.15pm – Sponsor – details coming soon

12.15 – 12.45pm – Erin Stevens. PRESENTATION: Counting the Cost: Money, Precarity, and Harm in Therapy.

12.45 – 1.30pm – LUNCH BREAK

1.30 – 2.00pm – National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society (NCPS). PRESENTATION: Stable, Well-Paid Work: Increasing Public Sector Opportunities for Counsellors & Psychotherapists. With Meg Moss, Head of Policy & Public Affairs.

2.00 – 2.30pm – Lucia Sarmiento. PRESENTATION: The Injustice of Poverty in Therapy.

2.30 – 3.00pm – Daniel Browne. PRESENTATION: Winning the Battle for Affordable LGBT+ Affirmative Therapy.

3.00 – 3.15pm – BREAK

3.15 – 3.45pm – Victoria Childs. PRESENTATION: Navigating the Cost of Greed Crisis: the need for solidarity among working-class psychotherapists and counsellors.

3.45 – 4.15pm – Psychotherapy and Counselling Union (PCU) – PRESENTATION: Standing up for therapists and therapy in a time of austerity. With Jo Heaton and Marilyn McGowan.

4.15pm – 4.30pm – CLOSING – Debrief and prize draw