Dr Alexander Fox-Choice Counselling at Harley Street
Welcome to “Choice Counselling at Harley Street” and I’m Dr Fox. I’ve provided you with the information below so that you know what I offer and how I can help you.
In this profile page, what I want to do more than anything else for you is to describe how I believe good therapy really works (i.e. the essential ingredients of therapy), and to also provide you with some idea on how I might tackle common mental health problems. Should you have any questions after reading this page, do not hesitate to get in touch. Indeed I offer a free 15 minute phone consultation for prospective clients.
Section A: The Therapy Process
How will therapy help me get better?
In my years working as a counsellor, I’ve concluded that transformative therapy helps clients overcome their problems and lead better lives because it essentially involves the following three dimensions: 1) Emotional support; 2) Clarification and 3) Reframing.
Let’s look at each of these in turn:
Part of a testimonial from a former client provides a nice introduction to the topic of emotional support:
Before I entered therapy with Alex, I felt really lonely and lost with my problems. I tried talking to my family and friends, but they were either too busy with their own issues or they had an agenda, a mistaken idea of what they thought was right for me. But I wanted somebody to support me so that I could be my best self. With Alex supporting me, I gained the confidence to tackle my problems and to live as I wanted to.
The narrator of a Paula Fox novel begins the story with the perturbing question/complaint: “Who listens?” Indeed. In our everyday lives, to find someone open to listening to our problems, with warm acceptance and no judgement, on a regular basis can seem like trying to square a circle. It’s not as though nobody cares-it’s just that sometimes people care in the wrong way, or they are trying to solve their own difficulties. But whatever the reasons, one thing is clear: it’s hard for us to be there for each other-especially so when we particularly need it.
Good therapy provides a space, separated from your everyday life, where you can be truly heard: as you open up about your problems in a therapeutic relationship founded upon warm acceptance rather than criticism, solidarity rather than conflict, you can start to make sense of what is troubling you and you can also start to believe that you can face your challenges and overcome them, because you aren’t doing it alone.
At Choice Counselling, I get to know each client as an individual so that I can help them find the confidence to become themselves and lead a better life. With my gentle and empathic support, my clients find their problems less daunting, more manageable and open to constructive change.
Whether clients enter therapy in a state of puzzlement or despairing bewilderment, they typically sense that something is painfully, yet obscurely amiss in their life and they want to change it. Yes, there are some rare clients who have a clear view of the nature of their problems (in their case, it’s the how rather than also the what that’s obscure), but most feel more at the mercy of a problem whose origin and significance for them is rather mystifying. Make no mistake about it, if such confusion continues for long enough, it’s hard not to feel an encroaching sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.
Good therapy aims to dispel, as much as possible, the haze surrounding a client’s problems by helping them explore the issues in enough detail that some healing clarity begins to emerge. Although I’m not of the opinion that the past needs to be excavated in minute detail, a gentle exploration of the client’s life nearly always yields a good understanding of what has gone awry, and how it might be tackled in earnest. Indeed, once the client and therapist start to see the problem properly, not only do feasible solutions start to become a reality, but also confidence builds as the client can now take stock of the actual dimensions of the problem rather than fall prey to how they imagined it might be.
So how do good therapists help clients clarify their problems? Here are three components of this process: a) understanding their life story; b) uncovering core beliefs; and c) using concepts/methods from different therapy approaches.
Understanding your life story
The writer Salman Rushdie explained why our life stories are so important for understanding ourselves:
Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.
When we think of stories, we tend to think about them as sources of entertainment, something which we consume rather than live. Yet in a very real sense we do live out our life story and our awareness of it is a direct indicator of how much awareness and control we can exert on our lives. As Mr Rushdie intimates, your life story either has you, or you have, as the author, your life story.
Good therapists are masters at helping clients clarify and understand their life story. They are keenly aware of the power of story, as they know that to understand not only how the past has shaped the client’s life in the present, but also what kinds of future the client wants to achieve and to avoid, they have to get to grips with their autobiography. Good therapists want their clients to think new and better thoughts, and they know that to help them break free from the past, they must aid their clients in telling and retelling their story until it becomes a life that the client can both recognize and affirm.
At Choice Counselling, I am adept at helping clients understand themselves and their problems better through recounting their stories, as I have a PhD in English literature (my doctorate was a psychoanalytical interpretation of the work of the Nobel prize winning playwright, Harold Pinter).
Uncovering core beliefs
The renowned linguist Wendell Johnson once remarked 'what we look at is not what we see'. He was referring to the easily overlooked fact that how we see the world is filtered through our belief system.
If our core beliefs are filters on how we see things, then we don’t want to possess viewpoints that disempower us in a variety of ways. The problem is that these filters are often so innocuous and habitual that we aren’t even aware that we possess them. We instead think that what we see is what we look at, even if the perspective is skewed and self-defeating.
Good therapy involves, in part, uncovering and clarifying these core beliefs, because once they are uprooted, exposed to the light, they are then subject to critique and, if necessary, amendment.
My first degree was in Continental philosophy and so I can act as a ‘Socratic midwife’, which allows you to find out what you really believe and whether it is true and serves you.
Using different therapy approaches
When trying to clarify and understand a client’s problems, many therapists reach for the ideas and techniques that they’ve been taught as practitioners of one approach (e.g. Gestalt, psychodynamic, person-centred). This makes sense, up to a point, because the theory from a given therapy approach might help define the nature and significance of a client’s problems so that those issues are then more open to being resolved.
Then again it might not: when applying a specific approach, we must be careful that the client feels that the ideas fit the problem rather than the problem is being made to fit the ideas. Research has shown that successful therapy involves a consideration of a client’s preferences, and in this context, this means ensuring that any clarifying explanations for their predicament are credible to them.
At Choice Counselling, I adopt what is known as a ‘pluralistic’ approach, which involves using many ideas from many different approaches to help clarify and resolve a client’s distress. When a therapist has many ways of understanding and resolving client issues, they can help the client choose one that makes sense to them.
Here is a former client remarking on how my extensive knowledge of different approaches made a big impact on her life:
Alex is an exceptional counsellor. I was immediately put at ease when I first met with him and, during our subsequent discussions, he was patient, friendly, flexible and insightful. I think Alex’s vast knowledge of counselling theory makes him stand out as a practitioner; the discussion of this was incredibly helpful for me in establishing a perspective from which to view my personal emotional issues. The sessions with Alex had a significant and lasting impact on my life, and I would enthusiastically recommend him as a counsellor.
After a client and their counsellor have achieved enough insight into the problem, the therapist can then help their client reframe, and therefore rebuild their life-this time, in a way that suits them.
Reframing is the essential, and most constructive step in therapy, as it involves the client beginning to see their life anew. While personal problems are often scary and painful, they contain vital messages about what isn’t working in your life. One of the most helpful ways to see a personal problem is as a message, perhaps cryptic, but a message nonetheless about what needs to change in your life for you to get better and to flourish. A good therapist helps you decode and understand that message, so that you can start to build the life that you want.
At Choice Counselling, I help clients from all walks of life reframe their lives by understanding their problems, working our what needs to change, so that they can start to see themselves in a much more positive light.
Here is a former client of mine discussing what it was like to rebuild their life:
I remember telling Alex how scary it was to contemplate change; still I knew I had to change. Alex reassured me that we now had a handle on what my problems were, and that we could beat these problems together. With his help, I was able to rebuild my life. Before I started counselling with him, my life seemed in ruins; after a while of working together, I saw, for the first time, I had a future that I could call my own.
Section B: Common problem areas
The previous section gave you an idea of what I consider the essential ‘ingredients’, so to speak, of effective therapy. In this section, I detail how I might tackle a variety of different common complaints.
a) Resolve your relationship woes
There is an argument to be made that most mental health problems are connected to our relationships with others. Certainly, how we get on with others has a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and about our lives. If we feel estranged or in conflict with others, especially those closest to us, it’s likely to affect our well-being on a grand scale.
At Choice Counselling, I help my clients to heal their broken relationships and, where appropriate, I encourage them to move on with their lives and start new relationships more suited to who they are.
More specifically, here are several ways I help clients move forward: firstly, I work with clients to aid them in pinpointing what actions and communication problems lie at the heart of their problems; we then discuss strategies that allow them to get closer to each other again. Secondly, when I work with clients who have had a history of bad relationships and yet seem to keep falling into the same old traps, I help them understand how those relationships are connected to their past, and I provide them with ways that they can move forward so they can choose partners more suited to what they really need.
One member of a couple wrote the following about their experience of working with me as a couple:
My wife and I were having terrible fights before coming to see Alex. We knew we loved each other but we had lost touch with how to show it to each other. He helped us understand how we had grown apart over the last few years and how we could rekindle that love again.
b) Overcome addictions/compulsions
Practically all of us are addicted to something, and nearly all of us find ourselves being driven by desires and fears that we seem to have little control over. However, some addictions and compulsions are more serious, as they threaten our health, undermine and maybe even destroy our relationships, and challenge our sanity and our sense of who we are.
There are several ways that I work with clients with addictions and compulsions. Firstly, addictions and compulsions can often be viewed as bad habits and we can work together to break these bad habits. Secondly, addictions and compulsions, as costly as they are to the person, are usually forms of escape from a dreaded emotional reality that is feared even more than the unfortunate consequences of pursuing an addiction or compulsion. Through our work together, we can face the underlying problem, resolve it, so that the addiction or compulsion is no longer needed. Finally, addictions and compulsions are symptomatic of inner conflicts, as well as outer conflicts with other people, and pinpointing and resolving these helps the client move forward.
c) Conquering anxiety
The most common mental health problem is anxiety. Not all of us will get clinically depressed, but all of us get frightened; and sometimes this fear gets out of control and becomes an anxiety condition.
There are many effective ways that I can work with you to help you with your anxiety. One approach, the CBT way, is to help you examine your thinking and change your unrealistic, overly negative thoughts into more realistic beliefs about yourself and the world; this cognitive approach is complemented with encouraging you to gradually face that which you fear. When you work with me, you will receive plenty of support in confronting your anxiety.
Another common technique is the psychodynamic approach, which encourages clients to see their current fears as being related to past adverse events and traumas from their childhoods. The basic reason why this can be effective is that once we become consciously aware of the original cause of the fear, and we start to understand it from the perspective of an adult, the fear no longer has the same power over us. Instead of reacting with fear, we begin to be able to more adaptively respond to a situation.
I will mention one last approach here, known as ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy). This is one of the newest cognitive therapy approaches to anxiety, which is based on the premise that we accept that anxious feelings are part of life and we learn to detach from them and move towards that which is more worthy of our attention. ACT offers many techniques that help clients detach from their anxieties (this is not the same as completely removing them) and reconnect with what they value. If a client wants to work in this way, I can guide them through these disidentification techniques and help them find out where they really want to be in their lives.
As I said earlier, I work with a wide range of approaches to helping with anxiety and I aim to find what works best for you.
An illustration of the process is given in a client testimonial below:
I used to have real bad social anxiety and would avoid social occasions if I could. My fears had me in their grip, and I felt like I was existing than living. When I went to see Alex, he helped me to see how these fears had nothing really to do with the present, but when I was bullied at school and how my dad treated me at home as a kid. That gave me a lot of confidence as I realised that the past needn’t define me and the techniques he offered, made me more relaxed and confident. I feel I can be more myself now.
d) Lifting mood: defeating depression
Depression is like a modern-day pandemic in this society. A former client describes how it felt before therapy:
It’s hard to think back to when I was really depressed, it just seems a different me. I’d wake up in the morning, feel lousy, struggle to get out of bed, and I’m sorry to admit it, I didn’t even feel that I deserved to look after myself by showering etc.
When I’d finally get to work, I could put on a smile for my colleagues, but I was dying inside. I’d be talking to people, but it was like they were behind a sheet of glass-there but unreachable. Everything seemed pointless and everything seemed as though I were living in a grey world.
Like how it is with anxiety, I have a multitude of ways of helping clients cope and overcome their depression. Here are a few: 1) A CBT approach involves examining and critiquing the negative automatic thoughts that often fuel your depression; 2) Solution-focused therapy encourages the client, under the therapist’s guidance, to start to imagine their life as they’d want it and then the therapist helps them to see how they can build that better, happier life; 3) ACT is another effective treatment for depression, as the therapist provides the client with ways to detach from their negative thinking and focus more on what they want; 4) Depression often involves suppressed-‘stuck’-feelings, most often anger and sadness, and experiential approaches aid the client in opening up to their buried feelings and to feel them so they can process them and no longer feel depressed.
e) Achieve greater self-acceptance
When we don’t feel ourselves and think that our life is not really our own, it’s often because we have been driven to become something socially favourable, yet it may not be who we really are.
One of the major tasks of therapy is to help clients see that they have a right to be who they are and that any weaknesses they have need not be grounds for fundamentally rejecting who they are.
I have many innovative ways of working with you to achieve this goal from using techniques culled from compassion focused therapy (e.g. fostering better self-talk) to more philosophical approaches that come from REBT (rational emotive behavioural therapy) that counsel ways to accept yourself unconditionally. Together we can tackle a variety of difficulties relating to self-acceptance, such as the following: body image issues; perfectionism; sexuality; ageing.
Here is how one former client described their journey towards greater self-acceptance:
After years of bullying as a teenager, I found it really hard to accept my sexuality and who I was. Therapy with Alex made me realise what I knew in my heart all along: I had a right to be myself and to live my life as a non-straight man. It was a big change, as I started to see my real self as a gift that I hadn’t opened. I could celebrate who I was and that was major for me.
f) Transform your negative beliefs
Beliefs define our map of the world, as they delimit what is true, what is possible and therefore what you can 'realistically' expect from life. If your beliefs are genuinely rational and realistic, then you can feel sufficiently motivated to tackle life's challenges, while also being capable of happiness. On the other hand, if they are overly negative, they become a dark filter on how you see things (e.g. anxious people might look out for non-existent threats, whereas depressed people might see efforts to change their circumstances as futile).
Fortunately, harmful beliefs can be changed. What often proves curative is for you to work with me in uncovering these negative beliefs and then we can undertake the fundamental task of challenging and discrediting these beliefs so that they much less power over you.
g) Consolidate your successes
Much of therapy is depicted from a problem-centric focus, as clients might come to counselling for help with anxiety or depression, for example, and the goal is to resolve, as much as possible, the problem. This is a perfectly acceptable model of the therapy process.
Nevertheless, there is another form of counselling, closer to coaching, which involves working with a client’s strengths and helping them to develop those strengths, so they can achieve more success. If you wish to hone your personal strengths, we can work in a solution focused way to aid you in creating your ideal future.
A former client, who is an executive, wrote about this kind of counselling:
To be honest, I never thought before that counselling could help me be a lot more effective in my business life. I tended to compartmentalize things and see my personal life and business life as separate. Alex helped me with my personal life issue and then showed how counselling could help me break free of limitations in my thinking that were holding me back in my career.
h) Loss: our greatest teacher
Viewed from one angle, life is a series of losses. Many are small (if not always trivial) and some are most significant: whether it be the loss of a partner, a child, our looks, or the heyday of our successes, we must learn to cope with the passing of time and the absence of what is still so precious to us.
To paraphrase psychologist Carl Jung, it is in our darkest moments where the gold is to be found, as life-changing losses may often be very painful, even debilitating; nevertheless, such bereavements teach us the need to re-evaluate our lives, to get better acquainted with our underlying inner resilience, and to find a means to still have a fulfilling life.
When we work together, we can find a way of understanding your grief that respects how important whatever you lost was to you, while also helping you to move forward in a constructive fashion. A key part of this process is being able to arrive at the point that you can give yourself permission to have a future, as grief can sometimes trick us into believing that moving on is a betrayal of what you have lost. Grief work will allow you to remember and honour the past, yet not be entirely defined by it.
i) Apathy and Suicidal thoughts/gestures: finding the 'why' again
I was standing in the snow by my car, looking up at the sky, when I realized that meaning had fled my life~ Allen Wheelis from his novel, "The Seeker."
Sometimes our problem is not so much a specific issue but more a general sense of malaise. What we used to enjoy no longer moves us, we can feel disconnected and indifferent to others, and our days seem to stretch out like some infinite grey plain.
Even worse than apathy is when we are at our most despairing and our painful indifference morphs into a compulsive, negative call to action. Suicidal thoughts and perhaps even attempts become a mainstay of our lives, as we are tempted by the seductively simple solution of ending it all.
In response, I would say that, as counter intuitive as it may seem, you don't want to end the existence of you as a person, but rather to end the pain that you are feeling. Suicide is seductive as a solution when you have equated you and your pain, and you feel that both are forever entwined.
That is simply not the case, though. Through the right kind of therapeutic work, you can a) manage to come to terms with your pain; b) we can work together on finding what can be termed life-based solutions to your problems, which includes reconnecting with your fundamental values and what drives you in a positive direction (this can be called finding your 'why') c) we can also work on self-forgiveness for actions that you have taken in the past that you feel guilty about. Your regrets can indeed be honoured and learnt from without them becoming some stick to beat yourself with.
Training, qualifications & experience
- I am a member of BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy)
- MA Honours Philosophy, First class, University of Dundee
- MSc Literature and Modernism, University of Edinburgh
- Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling, Abertay University
- Masters in Pluralistic Counselling, Abertay University
- PhD English Literature, University of Dundee (NB: Please note that my 'Dr' title refers to my PhD in English literature)
- COSCA Certificate in Supervision
Areas of counselling I deal with
- Affairs and betrayals
- Anger management
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Career counselling
- Carer support
- Domestic violence
- Drug addiction
- Emotional abuse
- Family issues
- Feeling sad
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Internet addiction
- Low self-confidence
- Low self-esteem
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
- Panic attacks
- Passive aggressive behaviour
- Personality disorders
- Physical abuse
- Relationship problems
- Separation and divorce
- Sex addiction
- Sexual abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
- Work-related stress
Other areas of counselling I deal with
Coaching: I'm interested in using various life coaching techniques as part of my therapy practice. For clients who want more coaching than therapy, I'm happy to incorporate that need into our sessions.
Sexuality: One of my areas of interest is working with members of the lgbt+ community. I seek to offer my lgbt+ clients a safe space to discuss their problems and to help them embrace their identity.
Students: I often work with university and college students as part of my practice. Since I was in academia for many years, and I taught university level tutorials for three years, including running my own module, I understand the typical problems that students face and can provide knowledgeable support.
Utilizing creative media: I enjoy working with 'cultural resources' with my clients. In practice, what this means is that for interested clients, they can bring to their sessions writings, films, paintings etc. that they feel expresses their problems or a form of resolution to their problems. We can work together to maximize the therapeutic benefits that can be gained from using this kind of creative material. (Please note that this material can either be created by you or someone else. There's no pressure to come up with your own material unless you want toYou can read the many articles I have written under the 'Published articles' heading here
These articles deal with common complaints such as anxiety, depression, compulsive thoughts.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Cognitive and behavioural therapies
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Cognitive therapy
I offer appointments to individuals and couples at my Harley st practice.
A 55 minute session for individuals:
A 55 minute session for couples:
I also offer online sessions using either Zoom, Skype or telephone:
£70 for a 55 minute session.
For prospective clients who wish to clarify a few things prior to attending their first session, I offer a free 15 minute phone consultation.
- Anxiety and acceptance
- Letting go of the struggle: on anxiety and control
- A cognitive behavioral approach to panic disorder
- Anxiety about anxiety: on secondary anxiety
- 3 ways to work with your negative feelings
- On social anxiety
- Two methods for treating anxiety
- On success and the imposter syndrome
- On truth equaling pain
- On the meaning of life (warning: no definitive answers given!)
- Domestic rows: a deconstruction
These are a few more testimonials from clients about their experience of working with me:
"From my first session with Alex, I felt completely at ease and able to communicate with him on a very personal level. I’ve been quite taken aback by the amount I’m learning about myself through the positive counselling I am receiving. I’m finding over time that I’m capable of expressing my feelings and who I really am and what I really thought without having any feeling of being judged. The experience for me is enlightening and I really appreciate Alex's honesty. It's hard making that first step into admitting you need help, but Alex has and continues to help me."
"Alex is an exceptionally insightful counselor. His empathetic approach combined with a highly rigorous intellectual foundation, helped me understand the personal issues I needed to address and the best ways for me to manage them. Without his guidance, I would not have been able to make important life decisions as sensitively nor as effectively for my own sake and for the well being of my family. His personalised approach was key to gaining my confidence and enabling me to move forward on issues with which I had struggled for years."
"After a particularly rough time in my life, I came to Alex seeking help in better understanding the basis of my negative feelings about myself. From the first session, Alex was both inviting and insightful. His incredible knowledge of subjects ranging from literature to philosophy and media made me feel not only at ease – he was relatable and understood what I was saying to him – but also helped me to look further inside myself and to connect the dots between life events and current mindsets.
With his help I feel I have come a long way these last few months; I have a better understanding of my own mental health and with his advice and suggestions, I am now taking proactive steps to rectify some deep-rooted cognitive biases. Alex has listened to me and carefully considered which avenues would be beneficial to explore, based on his insight and professional opinion. He has helped me to come to terms with myself, and while I may not be 100% there, I am much closer to my goal than I was before our sessions.
For anyone searching for a warm, friendly and empathetic therapist, I would highly recommend Alex. I have felt that all of our work together was purposeful and valuable, and I look forward to continuing to get know both myself – and Alex – better in the future."
"For years I knew I had issues and finally plucked up the courage to find a counsellor. I had anxiety, feelings of guilt, and an inferiority complex. Family issues dominated my thoughts and I felt a sense of guilt, shame and blamed myself. Alex helped me look at these issues differently and with his knowledge and experience helped me break free from the past and stop feeling guilty and I now know my own personality. I felt very at ease, was not scared to open up, he was approachable. I would definitely recommend him".
"Alex was able to work with me to identify many underlying issues that I have struggled with. I have found the process to be interesting and enjoyable. He provides a relaxed and comfortable environment in which I feel I can be open and talk frankly. Alex has helped me considerably in exploring my thoughts and introduced me to a number of techniques and exercises that I can use on a day to day basis to deal with anxiety as it arises."
"I’ve found Alex to be very attentive, approachable and knowledgeable. Alex has helped me work through issues in both my personal and professional life, helping me gain insights that I would not have been able to reach on my own. In addition, Alex has also equipped me with the tools that will help me deal with any future difficulties that I may encounter. I found that Alex also takes the time to get to know you so that he has a deeper understanding of you as a person; which, I think, helps him to discover what will be the best and most effective way to help you. Alex also a deep understanding of philosophy and I’ve been impressed with how he’s managed to sometimes integrate this into my sessions, where appropriate, and make it relevant to my situation. Alex has helped me a great deal and I’ve learnt a lot from him; I can’t recommend him highly enough.
"I've been having counselling with Alex for several months now. Initially, I wasn't sure how long I wanted to go; I had planned just to get me through my 'crisis' at the time. However, the more I went, the more relaxed I became and felt there was more I definitely wanted to work through. I find Alex very calming, honest..and most importantly for me..logical! I also didn't know how I would be with a male counsellor, but I can genuinely say I've worked through a lot of issues. My main concern is trust, or lack of, however I already feel a difference in my thought pattern. Slowly but steadily, I'm noticing little changes in the way I'm thinking. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Alex to anyone looking for counselling"
"Alex has helped me to create strategies to help with immediate anxiety problems as well as helping me to face long standing issues. Alex has helped me to explore many strategies in a safe, secure environment and encouraged me to seek out others in my own time. He has also helped me to vocalise my thoughts, feelings and ideas. Alex has a way of turning my thoughts back to me to help me make my own conclusions. Through these sessions I am learning how to manage on my own and in the sessions in a safe way. I feel I am being supported and guided through the wilderness of my own mind to some clarity. I am not constricted by a maximum (or minimum) number of sessions and am able to be supported in what I want to achieve, in whatever timescale that I need as an individual".
- Also registered with Counselling Directory
Maps & Directions
Type of session
|Face to face counselling:||Yes|
Types of client
|Employee Assistance Programme|
Supervision & training
I have a COSCA certificate in supervision.