Therapist Spotlight: Cal Nield

My name is Cal, which is a shortened version of my name and one I relate to. There are stories and meanings behind names and identities that are always worth exploring. This is a clue to my professional therapeutic approach in cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) but also says a lot about my natural curiosity in life and with the people I meet. My own story is now quite a long one. I have worked as a therapist for 20 years, and before that worked as a mental health nurse in the NHS, which was my second home for over three decades.

Image of two women speaking over coffee.

Hi Cal, can you tell us a little more about yourself?

My home is more global now. I practice online as well as in person, with a speciality in offering therapy via all formats including video, voice only, instant messaging (IM chat) and email. This means therapy is much more accessible to those for whom it was difficult for whatever reason, and the ethical aspects of online or technology-assisted therapy is a subject I am really interested in.

What led you to a career in psychotherapy?

Although when I was younger, I did not know what I wanted to be, I think it was inevitable that I landed in a caring profession. As a child, I was acutely aware of the needs of others and learnt the role of caring for others early on. This is not unusual in caring professionals. As a psychotherapist, it is important to go through a process of understanding the unconscious aspects of one’s self first to be able to help others with their own unconscious processes.

The story behind the person and the narrative that they come with is a rich tapestry to unpick… therapy aims to help to weave or sew it together in a more coherent and stronger way.

You specialise in cognitive analytic therapy. What are the benefits of this approach?

I was fortunate enough to come across this approach whilst I was working in Lambeth NHS, where Anthony Ryle was developing this new model of psychotherapy training in the 1980s. Now I have updated the way I work by bringing this model into online work, which means it is more available to those who could benefit from it. CAT is a user-friendly and hugely compassionate way of understanding individual distress and difficulty from a relational and social perspective, in a way that makes coherent sense of how difficulties have evolved according to individual experience.

In CAT, the therapist and client are equals around a table. Both there for a purpose, both vulnerable in not knowing what might be discovered. But, with the therapist clear about the scaffolding around how to guide identification and recognition of patterns that have become problematic over time, while holding a safe frame, both therapist and client can discover how steps might be taken out of well-trodden, beaten tracks.

What can clients expect from the first session with you?

Whether I meet you in person or online, as a therapist in a first session, I am curious about who I am meeting, and it is that feeling of being interested in and wanting to meet that is my starting point. The story behind the person and the narrative that they come with is a rich tapestry to unpick and to value in both the beauty and the beast in the patchwork nature of it. Therapy aims to help to weave it together in a more coherent and stronger way.

In the first session, I would be aiming to understand what has brought you to therapy, and what you see as problematic for you. Having a shared idea about this is important for the working relationship. I would be aiming to make one or two links between past and present, exploring relationships from childhood and beginning to look back, and maybe even picking up a pen to map a relationship pattern on paper, to help you to think more about it with me. You would have a clear sense of my thinking as I aim to be transparent and collaborative throughout the process.

Image of a young woman in blue sweatshirt working on her laptop

What advice would you give to someone interested in therapy?

This is like my sunscreen song.

  • Contact different therapists – not just one – and ask them questions about their experience, speciality, and qualifications. This applies more than ever when therapists are working online and have potentially little experience or specialist training. I am a registered online therapist and am involved in the Association of Online Counselling & Psychotherapy (ACTO), helping to maintain high standards for online therapists.
  • Read and understand the information the therapist provides in writing, especially where they describe how they intend to look after your information and data in this digital age.
  • Take your time to find the right therapist for you as the timing will also be right when you do.

Where can people find you?

You can find me at Counselling Directory – my profile includes more information about me and my practice, fees, articles and any events I’m hosting. You can also find me on my website,, my profiles on ACTO and Solihull Wellbeing Clinic and on Facebook.

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Written by Ellen Lees
Head of Content.
Written by Ellen Lees
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