Welcome to heartswork

Stephen Richards (counsellor, supervisor, consultant, trainer, east, west, sussex, kent)

Happy New Year 2024
I am a very fortunate man. I was born 5 years after the end of the Second World War, 2 years after the foundation of the NHS which has been there for me on the rare occasions I’ve needed it. Despite being a reluctant pupil I had free education to the age of 16. When I was 11 I was granted an adult library ticket and the library became a refuge from home and school. At home I grew up with the BBC Home Service which became Radio 4 in 1967 – the same year the Sexual Offences Act and the Abortion Act were passed. After 2 years working in what was then called a mental subnormality hospital, I then went to college to train as a teacher – fees paid and a full maintenance grant. The old institutions closed and the children previously described as “ineducable” now lived at home and came to Special Schools like the ones I worked in. My wages and conditions, including the pension I now enjoy, were secured by powerful trade unions and there was a general concensus that education is a public good and teaching a respected profession. Later when I became self-employed I worked as a consultant and trainer helping staff working with people who had previously been inmates of big institutions to make sense of and enjoy their new freedoms.
What’s my point ? Well even when there was much less wealth in the country there were organisations and institutions e.g the NHS, BBC, local authority education and social services and the government itself which could reform themselves and improve people’s lives. I’m not talking about some mythical “good old days”- I like double glazing and mobile phones and cars that don’t break down much.
I’m talking about social connections and institutions which aren’t about financial gain, where learning is valued as a way of helping people to develop character and skills, not just so you can be a faster rat in the race. Perhaps a health service where compassion and vocation are valued and respected rather the service being seen as an opportunity for personal gain. (Even I, very cynical when it comes to politicians, was shocked at how many MPs receive financial donations or had direct interests from private health companies looking to get a piece of the action from privatisation).
Don’t get me wrong –I’m a happy man. I’d be even happier if I thought that my fellow citizens who grow the food I eat, serve me in the shops, deliver the mail, fix my computer, and do all the other tasks that enable me to live a comfortable first world life, will have proper public services that will allow them and their children to thrive- and support them when things go wrong .

November 2023
From the safety of my comfortable home watching the news and feeling angry and sad. It doesn’t take a minute to donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians

In October 2022 Prime Minister said his government will behave with “Integrity, professionalism and accountability”. I am very fortunate to have worked with many people who strive to uphold those values in their professional lives. The Prime Minister plainly has a different understanding of what those words mean.

Who I am

My name is Stephen Richards. For the past 36 years I have been self employed as a counsellor, supervisor, consultant and trainer working with a wide variety of individuals, couples, groups and organisations.

I have had substantial training in Person-Centred Counselling and Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy and have had additional training and personal experience with Gestalt therapy, Bodywork and Psychosynthesis therapies.

I am a qualified supervisor and have developed and taught professional training courses in counselling, supervision, counselling skills and groupwork.

In recent years I have also been involved in the Advanced Diploma in Forensic Counselling and Psychotherapy course and the Advanced Diploma course in Counselling and Psychotherapy with Children and Families both at Wealden College.

I have run CPD and personal growth workshops for several years ranging from “Using DSM-IV the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association” through to “Body Breath and Soul-Exploring Eastern Techniques of Personal Growth”.

For the past 3 years I’ve been living in Cardiff and using Zoom to work with clients,supervisees and consultees anywhere.

Why “heartswork”?

For the past few years I’ve had a website www.working-in-relationship.co.uk and I’ve been pleased with the content, so I’ve kept most of it on this site.

My problem was that although “working in relationship” is the only brief description which covers the different kinds of work I do it doesn’t trip off the tongue and if you’re a hunt and peck typist like me it takes a while to type and there is plenty of opportunity for error.

The title “heartswork” is inspired by my remembering a conversation I had with a Transactional Analyst from Seattle, Elaine Childs-Gowell about 20 years ago. Elaine, who died in 2006 is most well known for her book “Good Grief Rituals” and unbeknownst to me at the time was a powerful human rights activist and had a Ph.D for her studies of Shamanism. She said to me,very simply, “You have found your heart’s work and that is the important thing.”

Why the lotus logo?

In the various strands of Buddhism and Hinduism the lotus is a frequently used symbol with a variety of meanings. For me the meaning is that a flower of great beauty and symmetry is born and flourishes in the muddiest of ponds.


I believe the value of my work lies largely in the quality of relationships I make with my clients and colleagues. My success is measured by their continuing trust in my ability and character and I take as evidence the changes in their thoughts, feelings and behaviour they make with my help.

In all the different kinds of work I do my aim is to bring out the best in people which can sometimes mean helping them to understand and change some aspects of themselves which they may find unacceptable or to manage painful realities.

I believe firmly in personal responsibility, mine and my client’s, rather than external regulation and I am therefore accountable to my clients, colleagues and my conscience to behave with integrity.
I have professional supervision to enable me to be supported and challenged in my continuing growth and development. In addition I have substantial personal experience of therapy beginning in 1984 with 6 years in group therapy.

Like many of my colleagues I have serious concerns about people helping others without an in-depth examination of their own motives and the humility to seek help with their own problems. Given a choice between the practitioner who recognises he is a fallible human being who sometimes makes mistakes and sometimes needs help and the kind who never makes mistakes and never needs help – I strongly recommend the former kind!

Old-fashioned as it may be I still believe that freedom, equality and cooperation are the best conditions for healthy individuals and a healthy society.

Finding the right person

Probably the best way to pick a counsellor or psychotherapist, trainer or consultant is by word of mouth.

If people you trust say that someone is a good practitioner, go to see them (or if you want organisational work ask them to come and see you) and decide for yourself if they seem the kind of person you want to talk to, ask about their professional training and experience and see if they are open and direct in reply to your questions.

The most important thing is that they are responsive and pay good attention to you and that they make clear contracts about payment, the limits to confidentiality etc. (Please note that total confidentiality is not morally or legally sustainable).

If they are shifty, flaky, evasive, pompous, scared, scary or you simply don’t like or trust them, go elsewhere however elevated their qualifications or reputation.

If you are not in my vicinity or need a specialist service call me anyway and I will refer to someone I know whose work I trust.* I have extensive contacts in East Sussex, Kent and West Sussex and some further afield.

*Please note this is about getting the right service for you. I receive no payment for referrals.

Science and anti-science

In recent years we have had to contend with vast amounts of information channelled by conventional media and by the all pervading world wide web. If we want to be responsible citizens making decisions grounded in factual information, sound reasoning and ethics then we need to be vigilant in sorting out facts from opinion and examining the motives and qualifications of the information providers.

I am often sceptical about and often down right opposed to people who are “in authority” e.g. the Tory government – and have much more respect for people who are “an authority” by virtue of their education and experience. Small words- big difference. Never trust people who don’t want you to listen to experts or distort their conclusions to suit their agenda.

Delusions and conclusions

1. Covid does not exist.

2. If it does exist it’s not dangerous

3. It’s only dangerous to other people (who are older and/or sicker than me)

4. Don’t do anything about it – even wearing a mask over my mouth to protect myself and others-much less taking a vaccine that will help me and everyone else to reduce the risk of serious illness and possible death.

5. Persuade other people not to wear masks or take vaccines by spreading bizarre conspiracy theories including those by real fascists.

6. Bully and abuse others including those who are saving lives and will try their best to save mine should I get sick.

I recommend the following for the same reason I drive on the left, wear a seatbelt, don’t spit in the street, etc.etc. Not because I’m a sheep, because I’m a responsible citizen and I really want this pandemic to end as soon as possible.

1. Get your jabs

2. Wear a mask in crowded spaces

3. Show your Covid Passport when asked

4. Avoid people who don’t do 1, 2 and 3.

5. Support and show appreciation for NHS staff and essential workers.

Anthems – I wrote this last year -seems apposite now.

From our bedroom window looking East to the city I can see the Principality Stadium, the temple of Welsh rugby. In normal times it is the epicentre of the joyous excitement and celebration of the Six

Nations matches which affects the whole city and most of South Wales. As well as the 77,000 fans in the stadium, every pub and rugby club is full of people, many in red shirts sporting leeks, daffodil hats and all the symbols of a passionate nation.

Even sat at home watching on the TV hearing the anthem Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau anyone would need a heart of stone not to be moved.

An English translation reads:

This land of my fathers is dear to me
Land of poets and singers, and people of stature
Her brave warriors, fine patriots
Shed their blood for freedom

Land! Land! I am true to my land!
As long as the sea serves as a wall
For this pure, dear land
May the language endure for ever.

Old land of the mountains, paradise of the poets,
Every valley, every cliff a beauty guards;
Through love of my country, enchanting voices will be
Her streams and rivers to me.

Though the enemy have trampled my country underfoot,
The old language of the Welsh knows no retreat,
The spirit is not hindered by the treacherous hand
Nor silenced the sweet harp of my land.

Quite a contrast with the English anthem with “send her victorious” and the deferential “long to reign over us”- the whole song a hymn to imperial conquest in the name of the monarch.

Perhaps that captures the real difference between nationalisms- healthy love of one’s homeland or an arrogant assumption of national superiority and the right of conquest over others.

Stephen Richards
Notices and some inspiring quotes

Ongoing work….

I offer counselling,supervision and consultancy via Zoom from my home in Cardiff. Please use the contact page above.

I love this…

“The true opposite of obedience is not disobedience but independence. The true opposite of order is not disorder but freedom. The true opposite of control is not chaos but self-control.
from “Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape” by Jay Griffiths extract from an article in the Guardian Weekend supplement 4th April 2013

“Confidence, clarity and compassion are essential qualities of a teacher.” B.K.S.Iyengar

B.K.S. Iyengar died on the 20th August 2014 aged 94. If you want an inspiring story of a man who triumphed over illness and made a difference to people all over the world read about this man.

and this…

“In neo-classical economic theory, it is claimed without evidence that people are basically self-seeking, that they want above all the satisfaction of their material desires: what economists call “maximising utility”. The ultimate objective of mankind is economic growth, and that is maximized only through raw, and lightly regulated, competition. If the rewards of this system are spread unevenly, that is a necessary price. Others on the planet are to be regarded as either customers, competitors or factors of production. Effects upon the planet itself are mere “externalities” to the model, with no reckoning of the cost – at least for now. Nowhere in this analysis appears factors such as human cooperation, love, trust, compassion or hatred, curiosity or beauty. Nowhere appears the concept of meaning. What cannot be measured is ignored. But the trouble is that once our basic needs for shelter and food have been met, these factors may be the most important of all.”

Carne Ross, The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century