Welcome to heartswork

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

Newsletter October 2020


Two weeks ago I went to the local health clinic for an inoculation against influenza. I joined the queue, everyone spaced 2 metres apart, and proceeded into the clinic and after being greeted and ticked off on a long list, invited to roll up the sleeve on my left arm. Then I was ushered to a line of nurses one of whom beckoned me over with a smile. She asked me whether I had had a previous flu injection on being told yes she gave me the briefest of jabs and pointed out the exit door. On the way out the staff thanked me and smiled and I thanked them. A very elderly couple were just in front of me receiving the same treatment and others were following on behind. The whole process from joining the queue took 5 minutes and the staff were efficient and warm towards all of us. As I left more and more people were arriving evidence perhaps that resistance to vaccinations is less prevalent amongst older people.
In my childhood it was a common sight to see people crippled by polio and parents were anxious to make sure we were protected against it and other diseases that killed and maimed.

From the Vaccine Knowledge Project University of Oxford website:

“Before a vaccine was introduced in the 1950s, epidemics would result in up to 7760 cases of paralytic polio in the UK each year, with up to 750 deaths. Once a vaccine was routinely available, cases of polio rapidly fell to very low levels. The last outbreak of polio in the UK was in the late 1970s, and the last case of naturally-occurring polio in the UK was in 1984.

Vaccination has eliminated polio in almost all countries in the world. Only three countries still officially have polio circulating in the population: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. However, Syria, which was polio-free for 14 years, was re-infected with the virus from Pakistan. Polio cases there have increased as a result of the civil war, which has had a major impact on sanitation and on routine vaccination. Other countries have had a few polio cases in recent years, often linked to war or civil unrest.”

From the NHS website:
“Vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health. They prevent up to 3 million deaths worldwide every year.Since vaccines were introduced in the UK, diseases like smallpox, polio and tetanus that used to kill or disable millions of people are either gone or seen very rarely. Other diseases like measles and diphtheria have been reduced by up to 99.9% since their vaccines were introduced. However, if people stop having vaccines, it’s possible for infectious diseases to quickly spread again. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 biggest threats to global health.”
Mumps and measles are on the rise again in the UK despite vaccines being readily available and herd immunity will be lost if they continue to fall.

The anti-vaxxers are a weird alliance of right wing “libertarians” and New Age fantasists who also refuse to wear face masks to protect themselves and others. If they choose to believe in “lizard people” (seriously – look it up) or that Bill Gates is behind a plot to inject everyone with chips to control the population (I kid you not) then I suggest their views on just about anything can safely be dismissed.
Whilst they are of course completely free to infect each other, fall sick and possibly die for their beliefs I’m not sure they are entitled to infect the rest of us and take up scarce medical resources.

Despite having most of the money and power (including an 80 seat majority in the House of Commons, not to mention the House of Lords) and the support of nearly all the media some wealthy entitled white people are trying to make out that their views are somehow being suppressed by a liberal/left cultural elite. Any attempt to point out that the “authorised version” of the history of our country has ignored and written out alternative views to the glorious empire version is greeted with squeals of outrage. Comedians (especially on the BBC) are seen as left wing agitators and indeed they do have fun pointing out the absurdities of the powers that be. I think the problem is that right wing humour seems to consist of sexist and racist jokes and sounds horribly ignorant and dated. To me “punching down” is bullying not humour.

To their credit Sainsburys is supporting Black History Month which has drawn the ire of actor Laurence Fox who has said he will boycott their store. I love Sainsburys response:
“We are proud to celebrate Black History Month together with our Black colleagues, customers and communities and we will not tolerate racism. We proudly represent and serve our diverse society and anyone who does not want to shop with an inclusive retailer is welcome to shop elsewhere.”

Mr Fox has started a political party called Reclaim to reclaim what he describes as “British values” which has been described as a “UKIP for culture”. Not words you often see in the same sentence.

Law and Order

The Home Office has been brainstorming ideas of how to stop people crossing the channel on small boats and being filmed by Nigel Farage. These ideas include them being incarcerated on islands in the South Atlantic and the use of wave machines so they don’t set out. At least I hope it is so they don’t set out. The big problem is with Priti Patel being the Home Secretary it is entirely possible that one of the crueller alternatives will become policy. She says her struggle to control migration is being thwarted by “activist lawyers”.
Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said that lawyers should not be political targets for simply doing their jobs. She added: “Irresponsible, misleading communications from the Government, around the job that lawyers do in the public interest, are extremely damaging to our society. Legal professionals who apply the law and follow Parliament’s express intention, are not ‘activists’.

The European Commission had launched legal proceedings against the UK over the government’s plan to break the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Boris Johnson signed the legally binding treaty at the start of the year, but the government this month said it would pass legislation that could override part of what was agreed, breaking international law.
The Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, astonished backbenchers when he told the House of Commons: “Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way. We’re taking the powers to disapply the EU law concept of direct effect … in a certain very tightly defined circumstances.”
The question as always with this government is whether it is incompetence i.e they didn’t read or didn’t understand the treaty before Johnson signed it, or bad faith – Johnson signed it and figured he could always break his word later if this kept his Brexit ultras onside. Macho posturing goes down well with Brexiteers and the right wing press and the idea of “my word is my bond” is an alien concept to Johnson in public and private life so my bet is the latter. Until some civil servant sick of being used as a pawn and abused by his masters spills the beans we won’t really know. Perhaps the only chink of light in this sorry business is the clear signals from both political parties in the U.S. that anything that upsets the Good Friday Agreement will scupper a trade deal with the U.S. The downside is our reputation for integrity as a nation that conducts itself according to rules and laws is shot to pieces as is our credibility in criticising other regimes who break international law.

Dictionary Corner
The list of words uttered by the prime minister phrases that have no meaning or are deliberate lies now has to include “oven ready” and of more recent coinage,“World beating” (as in Test and Trace), “robust and dependable” (A level exam results).

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Real heroes

Despite all the horrible stuff that is going on in the world it is important to remember that some people have the courage, energy and sometimes sheer bloody mindedness to bring those who abuse their power to book. Today especially as the IICA Report on Child Abuse in the Anglican Church comes out (6th October) I’m thinking of Phil Johnson in Eastbourne. Not only has he campaigned for years to get justice for people abused by clergy, despite the Church of England denial deceit and stonewalling, he is also a great source of strength to other survivors.

Cardiff is a City of Sanctuary, a national movement of city groups where local people, organisations and their communities work together to make their cities safe and welcoming to people seeking sanctuary from war and other forms of persecution. Yasmin and I donate to (and order lovely
takeaway meals from!) a brilliant organisation called Oasis one of those groups.

From their website:

Not only do we encourage integration within our own community and culture but we are also keen to learn and be inspired by the cultures and traditions we are exposed to daily by our wonderful clients at Oasis.

We have roughly 150 – 250 visitors daily, this includes people from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mali, and Congo among many other countries.
Some have just arrived in Cardiff whereas others have been here for a few years and visit Oasis to socialise with the many friends they have made here.

During the week our centre is open to refugees and asylum seekers, we run various women-only sessions and groups, art classes, English language classes, sports sessions, daily advisory sessions, advocacy forums, relaxation sessions, and the list goes on, oh and we provide free lunch every weekday and it’s always delicious!

Outside of our centre we aim to organise regular cultural and sports trips around Wales from museum and art gallery visits to sport team
activities and mountain peak challenges.

To involve and engage our local and wider community with what we do and all of the amazing people we meet we run regular community events such as a monthly Supper Club with a dish from a different part of the world every month, as well as our monthly Oasis Cardiff Pop Up events
where we serve global food that has been introduced to us by our culinarily talented clients. We also host two weekly community cinema clubs free for all!

About The Plate:

The Plate is a project delivered in partnership with Oasis Cardiff, in which we aim to involve and engage the local and the wider community in the work we conduct with all of the amazing people who access our centre. The project enables an opportunity to deliver regular community events, inspired by the culinary prowess of our talented clients, in which we hope to create a melting pot of cultural food heritages from around the globe. Money raised from these events is put back into the organisation, contributing towards further help, activities, regular training and Cookery Clubs for those who have expressed an interest in cooking and catering.”

When I hear Pritti Patel stirring up the Tories base (more a fog horn than a dog whistle) railing against “left wing do-gooders” I can remind myself that rightwing do-badders must not and will not have it all their own way. There are decent honourable people who are capable of empathy and concern for those who are less fortunate than themselves and have the energy and courage to support, heal and change. Suggestions
  • Listen to what medical experts say and do what you can to stay healthy yourself and protect others.
  • Get the facts from reliable sources.
  • Don’t hang out with people who don’t keep themselves safe.
  • Call, mail, Zoom even write a letter to stay in contact with others if that is what you want to do. (including me).
  • Ask for the help you need.
  • If you have the resources, send money/food etc. to people who need it . Food banks will need all the help they can get.
  • Don’t waste time arguing with trolls.“Never wrestle with pigs- the pig enjoys it and you get covered with mud”.
  • Join organisations supporting ideas and actions close to your heart.
  • Namaste,


If you would like to read past newsletters please click on the the link to Samples of Work above

Who I am

My name is Stephen Richards. For the past 34 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”.

An increasing area of work for me is in public, private and voluntary sector organisations. I train and mentor managers to develop their thinking and skills and act as a consultant to directors and managers in coping with day-to-day problems and developing and implementing effective systems to prevent them arising.

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.

Stephen Richards
Notices and some inspiring quotes

Counsellors and Psychotherapist Join the Union!

Counsellors and Psychotherapists Join the Union!

Rooms for hire in Crowborough Sally Valentine has rooms for hire at Lodge Counselling in Crowborough. I use them myself, they’re just right and the atmosphere is great as you would expect! Call her on 07885-760764. Therapy Room available for hire at Eastbourne Therapy Clinic, 16 Lushington Road. Available for permanent 1/2 days and full days and also adhoc hourly basis. For more information, contact Claire Pooley on 07595 465948 or Clairepooley@sky.com

Ongoing work….

If you’re looking for bespoke training, supervision or consultancy or therapy for yourself please bear me in mind and of course keep in touch and let me know what you are up to.

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