With the continued spread of the coronavirus, causing widespread economic chaos, it’s no wonder why societal anxiety has increased in recent months. Millions of workers across the world have lost their jobs, incomes, businesses and livelihoods, and the forecasted economic recovery will be slow and arduous. Fortunately, there are terrific services available to assist workers suffering emotionally and mentally because of COVID-19. Joshua Fletcher is a highly respected psychotherapist from Manchester in the United Kingdom, where he runs a very successful practice called The Panic Room. He provides his clients with a fantastic array of reliable services, designed to help minimise their anxiety and stress in the face of uncertain circumstances.
We want to thank Joshua for answering our questions, as outlined below.
Joshua, when and why did you start The Panic Room?
I started The Panic Room in May 2015 as a place for people to come to learn about their anxiety. I initially set up as a ‘coach’, but soon saw myself in a more therapeutic role, so I studied to become a psychotherapist. The practice was specific to people who suffered from acute anxiety and panic and word soon spread about it. I don’t know many other practices which have chosen a niche, but I think there needs to be more of it. I still have the same room to this day – a small room above a doctor’s surgery in Manchester.
Were there any challenges you faced during the early establishment phase?
I was very fortunate to find an available office space down the road from me. The hardest part was visiting IKEA for the furniture as visiting that place is anxiety inducing in itself. I found the whole process fun and enjoyed ‘branding’ the practice. I hired help from some professionals in website building and marketing to aid in the process. Obviously it was a test of the nerves when first meeting with clients but I had to practice what I preached! It was helpful to be open and transparent about my journey, too. As time went on, more and more readers of my book ended up enquiring about sessions at the practice, which helped to get sessions off to a quicker start as clients felt they already knew a bit about me.
How has operating a psychotherapy practice changed your perspective on providing care to people in need?
Psychotherapy has taught me the importance of unconditional positive regard for others and particularly those who are in need. Importantly though, it is for people who want to be helped and it’s up to them to decide what they’d like to change. When it comes to anxiety, I’ve realised psychotherapy can always benefit from providing education to clients, partciuarly around the biomechanics of anxiety – this is something that I have found so, so helpful.
What are the core services you provide to your clients?
I offer one-to-one therapy sessions either face-to-face, over the telephone or using video software. The sessions are a mixture of psychoeducation and humanistic counselling. The forat of the sessions is decided between the client and myself at the beginning of therapy. I’ve been fortunate enough to continue to work with anxious clients over telephone and video during the Covid-19 pandemic.
How did you tailor your services for different needs and requirements, like the differences between individuals and corporate groups?
Yes when I provide workshops for groups I use psychoeducation in an engaging, lecture-style format. I’ve done talks for the BBC, Manchester University, CAPITA and various other organisations in both the private and public sector. I invite people to reflect and contribute, but never pressure them into sharing anything. I am also very open and honest about my journey with anxiety.
How do you differentiate your practice to make it a more viable, safer option than your competitors?
I conduct my due diligence by letting clients know that I am registered with an accredited membership body. In my case it’s the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP). I’m also verified through Anxiety UK, Psychology Today and the Counselling Directory. I don’t subscribe to the mindset of competition in my field, perhaps because I’ve been fortunate enough to always have interest in my services.
You also run a podcast called The Panic Pod. How does this help support your practice and its ideals?
The Panic Pod epitomises what I do when working with anxiety. It has a reassuring, educative format that people can access for free and revisit any time they like. Each episode covers a different topic relating to anxiety, such as social anxiety, panic attacks, imposter syndrome, health anxiety, self-esteem and so on. There’s a huge emphasis on psychoeducation and I draw upon theories from various branches of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, humanistic psychotherapy and valuable self-help books.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic challenged and changed the way you provide psychotherapy care and support?
I’m working from my spare room in my house! I’m fortunate enough to still be able to work with clients and we all seem to have been able to adapt to the change. Using telephone and video software, I have been able to maintain continuity with clients – some of which have never actually met me in person, but we’re still managing to make good progress. Interestingly, one client managed to do all of her ironing whilst having a session with me – she was delighted!