Tony McSherry MSc BSc MSc (Psychotherapy) PhD (Psychology) UKCP full membership
Welcome and thank you for reading this page
I offer in person, telephone and online (Skype, Zoom, or Facetime) counselling and psychotherapy, in a quiet and private environment. Email me if you have any questions, or would like to arrange an initial brief telephone discussion about your problem. Confidentiality is crucial to my work.
On this page I have sketched some information about psychotherapy, my training, and some background. Additional information on different problems you may be facing can be found on my website http://anunusualconversation.com
I work from home on some evenings and at the weekends. I work short-term and longer-term, depending on what is best for you. I also work in the NHS as a psychotherapist in mental health services. I have worked in different therapeutic areas since 1994, and as a full-time psychotherapist since 2008. I am a fully accredited and registered Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapist, Existential-Analytical Psychotherapist, and Psychotherapeutic Counsellor. I trained in the London area, at the University of Surrey (Guildford), at the University of Roehampton.
Location and Transport
I am based in Hale Village, just outside Liverpool. There are good transport links to Hale Village from Liverpool, Merseyside, and the Manchester area. The M56, M57, M62, and the new Mersey Gateway bridge are nearby. The new bridge has opened easy access to the Wirral, Chester, and North Wales areas. The 500 bus is a regular service between Liverpool city center and Runcorn, via Hale Village. See my website for a map www.anunusualconversation.com
It's hard to 'tick box' problems often
Problems often do not fit into easy categories as each person has their own individual history and way of being, and so difficulties emerge in a unique way to the individual. For example, depression or anxiety might be completely normal reactions to a difficult situation, but it might seem that people are saying "oh, you've got depression" as if it is a cold and it's your fault.
Anxious about contacting me?
I would encourage you not to be too anxious about making contact regarding counselling or psychotherapy. Feeling anxious is a normal aspect of therapy, especially at first. See my website for further details about problems you may be struggling with www.anunusualconversation.com
Some thoughts on therapy and how it works
Therapy is about becoming more 'freed up' in oneself, or being able to 'breathe more easily' with oneself and others. It is a special kind of conversation through which you come to understand your difficulties and unravel these so they dissolve or you see them differently.
Because each person is different, psychotherapy is an individual and unique process. I provide a safe, confidential and ethical space for you to come to understand what's going on in your life and within yourself as a person. Coming to therapy is a courageous step as it can be anxiety-provoking to talk to a stranger at first. But most people manage to get through this initial anxiety and find therapy a very helpful experience.
I believe that there are also unconscious aspects to ourselves, so that we might not at first understand why we do things, or get into certain situations. But with thoughtful exploration, and in the relationship of therapy, the reasons why a problem keeps repeating, or seems so strange, will become clear. Sometimes this can happen quite quickly, and other times it takes place over a longer period. It can be like exploring a foreign continent sometimes, and it can be disorienting at first. One role of the psychotherapist is to keep the exploration safe and to notice new things along the way. I like the idea of our mind as a landscape that we discover. Sometimes we have to accept what we find in that landscape, because it is part of us and cannot be changed, but sometimes it can be changed.
There are few places left in the world where we can speak freely, allow ourselves room to think with another person about who we are, what we need in life from others, and how we might want to change. I see psychotherapy as like having an unusual conversation where you begin to breathe more easily about life's problems and difficulties. Things become clearer and easier to handle. As well as providing a safe and confidential place for you to talk about any difficulties you are having, I am interested in you developing insight, developing your self-awareness, and promoting change if possible, assertiveness, and the ability to be yourself more freely.
Becoming a therapist
I first came into contact with the world of counselling and psychotherapy in 1994 when working and studying in the area of Franciscan spirituality with others. During this period I spent lot of time practicing what would now be called mindfulness, and also other ways of self-development. I found the experience of being in my own therapy (humanistic, existential, and psychoanalytic) very helpful and through this began to look at becoming a therapist myself. It is a long journey to become a mature therapist and I would say it has taken me about 18 years, although there is no end-point to learning. This also involves a lot of supervision from other experienced supervisors and peers. I believe that having therapy myself for many years, both pre- and during training, has made me an ethical practitioner; with a sensitivity to the courage and desire it takes to take part in counselling or psychotherapy. As part of my main training I was part of a learning community, and in addition to my own personal therapy I was in group therapy (with the same group of people) for four years. These types of experiences have shown me that therapy is a special kind of learning with others, and that each therapy experience is unique. I am still involved in therapeutic groups.
Does therapy work? Yes, it does, but it can work in an unexpected way. I can personally vouch for this from my own therapy. Research also confirms that therapy helps a lot (75-80% of clients who enter therapy). The therapeutic relationship is a major factor that helps. Further details on this are outlined in the following link which details recent research from the American Psychological Association:
Training, qualifications & experience
Psychotherapy Accreditation and Registration
I am fully accredited and registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) as a Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapist, Existential-Analytical Psychotherapist, and Psychotherapeutic Counsellor. My accrediting organisations are the Universities Psychotherapy and Counselling Association (UPCA) and Universities Training College (UTC). I am accredited as an Existential-Analytical Psychotherapist through the Southern Association for Psychotherapy and Counselling (SAFPAC - see http://www.safpac.co.uk/find-an-existential-analytic-psychotherapist.html), which is approved through the UPCA and UKCP. I am fully insured and work in line with the ethical and practice code of the UKCP. This guide can be found on the following website: www.upca.org.uk. I am also a senior Mental Health Nurse (registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council).
Psychotherapeutic and Therapeutic Training
PhD (Psychology) - my research explored what is therapeutic through the work of mental health nurses (2018). Roehampton University.
Advanced Existential Practice: London City University (2010).
MSc in Counselling and Psychotherapy - research distinction. My research explored the effects of supervision on client work : Roehampton University, Surrey (2007).
Higher Diploma in Nursing Studies -Mental Health: University of Surrey, Guildford (2003).
Studies in philosophy, spirituality and theology (1994-1998: Dublin, London, Rome - Gregorian University: 1996 - 1998)
I have regular supervision, peer support, and continuing professional development. I am a member of the Manchester Psychoanalytic Matrix, and belong to the Psychotherapy Club of the UKCP at Liverpool. I have a special interest in psychoanalysis and the unconscious. I am an occasional lecturer at Roehampton University. I am also affiliated to the Critical Psychotherapy Network.
I have worked as a counsellor and psychotherapist for 16 years, full-time for the last 11 years (within the NHS), and in private practice for 10 years. I work with a wide variety of problems eg depression, anxiety, obsessive problems, compulsions. But most people don't fit into categories neatly, or their problems may be complex or completely unique. I always bear this in mind in my work - it is the individual and his or her problems with living that I work with, not the diagnosis in itself. I have worked for two charities (Emmaus, Guildford; Feltham Open Door Project, London), GP services and mental health services.
I have also run a weekly Case-Based Discussion Group for psychiatrists in training as an introduction to working psycho-therapeutically with others. I currently facilitate a Reflective Practise Group for mental health professionals.
Some background information
Prior to becoming a therapist, I gained a BSc (Hons) and MSc in University College Dublin. My subjects were geology and petroleum geology and I worked as a professional in the those fields for about ten years. I traveled a lot around the world. Over time, I decided I wanted to work to help others, and moved into the area of practical spirituality inspired by the life of St Francis of Assisi. This was a big move. I was a Franciscan brother (Order of the Friars Minor) for 4 years, living in Dublin, London, and Rome. I studied philosophy and theology at the Gregorian University,Rome. Through this, I became interested in the meaning of being a person. This became a passion for helping another in understanding the dynamics that influence his, or her, way of being and the crucial (and inspiring) relational aspects of being human. In my Franciscan vocation I also worked in a variety of roles in pastoral work and as a volunteer with the marginalised, including hospice work and those suffering from AIDS, working with people with learning disabilities, the homeless, with refugees, and Irish Travellers. I moved from this way of living into working in mental health nursing and then psychotherapy.
Theoretically my practice is informed by person-centred psychology (eg Carl Rogers), existential philosophy (eg Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas), psychoanalytical theory (eg Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan) and feminism (eg Julia Kristeva). I have a special interest in the marginalized, both in society and in oneself, what we cannot bear to think about, and what we therefore tend to exclude obsessively or express in other ways. Practically, in short-term therapy my work is about problem solving; in long-term therapy my work is about finding meaning and coming to terms with oneself and others - in often surprising and new ways. This new way of living I regard is the gift of therapy.
Publications and study
McSherry, A. (2013). Jacques Lacan’s theory of the subject as real, symbolic and imaginary: how can Lacanian theory be of help to mental health nursing practise? Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 20, 776-781.
McSherry, T., Loewenthal, D. & Cayne, J. (2015). The implications of Kristeva’s notion of the abject in understanding the significance of therapeutic knowledge and practice in mental health nursing, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 22, 82-88.
McSherry, T. (2018). Mental health nursing as therapy, In Critical Mental Health Nursing: Observations from the inside (Eds. P. Bull, J. Gadsby & S. Williams), pp. 226-246. PCCS Books: Brighton.
McSherry, T., Loewenthal, D, & Cayne, J. (2019). A Phenomenology of the Therapeutic after Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Existential Analysis (30.1), 30th Anniversary Pearl Edition. 128-143.
McSherry, T. (2019). A Phenomenology of love, thanks to Lacan, Miller and Jellybean. European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, 21(3-4), 231-243.
McSherry, T., Loewenthal, D. & Cayne, J. (2020). The private life of meaning – some implications for psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic research. European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling (forthcoming).
McSherry T. (2020). What differend do you make? An imaginary phenomenology of working with a young adult. European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling (forthcoming).
Books I have reviewed for academic journals:
Confessions from the couch: psychoanalytical notions illustrated with extracts from sessions (by Valerie Blanco). European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling (2016) 18(2), 198-201.
The wisdom of lived experience: views from psychoanalysis, neuroscience, philosophy and metaphysics (by Maxine K. Anderson). European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling (2018) 20(3), 356-364.
Meaning and Melancholia: Life in the Age of Bewilderment (by Christopher Bollas). European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling (2019) 21 (1), 83-85.
2019 (November) Universities Psychotherapy and Counselling Association and UKCP Training College Conference, Venue: Cambridge University
An imaginary phenomenology of working with a young adult in psychotherapy
2018 (December) Universities Psychotherapy and Counselling Association and UKCP Training College Conference, Venue: University of Roehampton
A Phenomenology of Love, thanks to Lacan, Miller and Jellybean
2015 (September) 'Limits and Margins' Research Student Conference, University of Roehampton
Therapeutic knowledge in mental health nursing, with particular reference to abjection
PhD interests: I completed my PhD in 2018. My research interest was on the nature of the therapeutic in the helping professions, through the lens of mental health nursing: What is it that makes talking with someone therapeutic? What factors are involved - and can they be spoken of or understood - that make a talking relationship therapeutic? The conclusions from my research can be summarized through the word 'openness'. Through being open to the other person's experience, the therapist becomes able to help that person to come to understand his or her way of being in the world. Unless the therapist can be open to his/her own experience then it is impossible for them to be open to the client. For example, unless we have been through our own experience of 'knowing ourselves' thoroughly, we will not be able to be open to the other person. This is complex, and is the main reason I think that a psychotherapist needs to have had extensive therapy himself/herself in order to help the client.
Registered / Accredited
Being registered/accredited with a professional body means an individual must have achieved a substantial level of training and experience approved by their member organisation.
UK Council for Psychotherapy
The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) is a leading professional body for the education, training and regulation of psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic counsellors. Its register is accredited by the government's Professional Standards Authority.
As part of its commitment to protect the public, it works to improve access to psychotherapy, to support and disseminate research, to improve standards and to respond effectively to complaints against its members.
UKCP standards cover the range of different psychotherapies. Registration is obtained by training or accrediting with one of its member organisations, or by holding a European Certificate in Psychotherapy. Accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.
Accredited register membership
Accredited Register Scheme
The Accredited Register Scheme was set up in 2013 by the Department of Health (DoH) as a way to recognise organisations that hold voluntary registers which meet certain standards. These standards are set by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).
This therapist has indicated that they belong to an Accredited Register.
Areas of counselling I deal with
Other areas of counselling I deal with
Symptoms and speaking
The tick-box list on this site is somewhat artificially constructed, as we cannot simply place all human behaviour and problems into neat boxes. I find it more helpful to think of our problems as a kind of message from our self, which is puzzling, frightening, or disturbing in some way. A problem then is like a message that needs to be spoken, or understood. When understanding comes, then this brings great relief - even though the problem may not disappear straight away, we know then what needs to happen to help.
I also work with clients who have mood swings. These can be caused by a number of factors, from a simple problem with diet, to drug use, to deeper issues relating to childhood trauma or disappointments. The problem can also be related to unresolved ongoing issues that have not been approached adequately in someone's everyday life, for example, unhappiness at work or an unhappy relationship.
Compulsions, and compulsive behaviour
Psychotherapeutic research, case studies, and experience, indicate that compulsive behaviours are rooted in unconscious processes and are ways of coping with unresolved unconscious conflict. 'Unconscious' here may simply mean 'something we do not want to know about' but is perhaps there in our everyday life right in front of us. Sometimes this conflict is not too hard to find and it will emerge quite quickly. Sometimes, it is more hidden, and it will take more time to be resolved or understood. Understanding often brings the means to resolution. The best way to resolve compulsive behaviour is to work with your current situation and history, and how you relate to others, including loved ones. The compulsive behaviour can then be resolved or understood in such a way that it is no longer an issue, or brings a new and creative understanding of yourself. Often, you may have to change how you are living in order for the compulsion to be resolved completely.
Problems such as phobias, in my experience and theoretical framework, are a little different to other difficulties, as they tend actually to help protect us against deep anxiety. A phobia then is usually a helpful reaction to the deeper anxiety of being a person. Coming to see this can take time. I don't think it is helpful to try to remove a true phobia, although talking about it can be helpful. The reasons why a phobia is coming to be a problem can also be addressed.
Panic disorder, panic, and panic attacks
Panic has to do with a feeling that a person finds difficult to express. In my view, in line with an insight from Wilfred Bion (psychoanalyst), it is often linked to the interplay of anger and disappointment. Talking through a situation, the 'before and after' of having a panic attack is important. Talking in detail through the situation often reveals its source and what might be the remedy. What usually comes to light is a new insight into how you are actually feeling about a situation, as well as the interplay of other factors that have led to the experience of panic.
Individuals: £60 (lasting 50 minutes)
Note re trainees: If you are in training as a counsellor, psychotherapist, counselling psychologist, or clinical psychologist, please note I have reduced rates for trainees.
Group work: £200 per hour. This may be for professional development groups in your business or other settings. Group work facilitates an open dialogue and processing of difficulties in a number of settings. Please contact me for further details.
Professional Supervision: If you are interested in professional supervision for your practise, please contact me for details about fees. I have been practising for over ten years as a supervisor for other professional counsellors and psychotherapists.
What happens in the first session?
In this meeting I will get to understand the reasons why you are thinking about coming to therapy and also how therapy can help. I may ask you about your family history, about when you first noticed there was a problem, and what changes you would like to see happen. We will be able to make a plan as to what to do next, which might not mean necessarily continuing into therapy.
Concessions offered for
What is my therapy like?
My therapy involves an exploration of your problem as it is right now in your life. This is the main focus. What you say about your difficulties is very important. I will encourage you to speak freely, but at your own pace and in your own time, although I will ask questions that I think are important to point you in a helpful direction. Therapy is a means to becoming more free in oneself, so that your anxieties and fears about yourself (and others) are resolved. Depending on your individual situation therapy will take different paths.
We will also look at your personal history, family and other relationships, in order to bring to light what kind of influences are there for you. Coming to terms with how we respond to such influences is part of the work of therapy, and involves working with both conscious and unconscious processes and ways of being. If we are working longer term, I may ask you about your dreams also.
What is therapy about and why embark on it?
Psychotherapy takes time to have a lasting effect, but it depends on what you want from it. My aim is towards you discovering your own truthfulness, which has a liberating effect. Whereas a GP service may simply offer you 6 sessions of a manualised therapy that aims at problem-solving. Solutions to problems is more like a side-effect of my psychotherapy, rather than the main aim. Also, time in more extensive psychotherapy continues having an effect that does not wear off. Participating in good psychotherapy is like making a long-term investment in your future as a person, an investment that keeps paying off in interpersonal ways long after your therapy has ended.
The effect of therapy may not be what was expected. This is because if therapy is working, our self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-understanding shift. The significance and meaning of our problems changes, becoming less important sometimes, or an avenue of insight into your wider situation and self, or dissolving altogether.
It is commonly accepted that some difficulties, such as trauma, abuse, emotional disturbances, or longstanding issues, require longer term work to promote meaningful change, or develop insight and understanding.
If you are considering therapy then this indicates that you want to change, and that you are unhappy about something in your life. 'Change' therapeutically in my experience, and according to a range of literature, involves increased self-awareness, self-understanding, understanding of one's conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious motivations. The most important factors, I believe, are self-acceptance, along with understanding our anxieties and fears around others, and wishes or desires regarding others. We learn to smile at ourselves, be more free in our thinking, appreciate the world and being alive, and more free to be with others in relaxed ways.
Regarding why it is important to speak to someone else, I am certain that it is near-impossible to resolve, or come to terms with, a personal question or difficulty alone. Another person, expert in listening and knowing what to do with what is heard, is necessary. I believe this is true almost every time, a view widely supported in the therapeutic literature, as well as other fields of human wisdom such as philosophy, literature and art.
Beginning counselling or psychotherapy: some important information*
Confidentiality and data protection
I will keep written notes regarding the content of our sessions and the process and progress of therapy. These are kept in a separate place to where I keep your contact details, and are identified only by initials. Nobody else besides myself will have access to your notes, unless for legal reasons. I am obliged to keep your notes in a safe place for a reasonable length of time, which I choose as seven years in keeping with other organisations. The only details I store electronically are your email address, phone number(s), and any emails you may send. I do not give any third party access to your emails or telephone numbers. I am currently registering with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and follow the guidelines of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Confidentiality is extremely important in psychotherapy, as sometimes what is discussed is sensitive and difficult to speak about. Psychotherapy provides a private space, and I protect this as much as possible. However, I have a duty of care to disclose information if I believe someone may be at risk of harm (in accordance with UKCP guidelines).
All therapists are required to undertake supervision with another experienced therapist to discuss client work. Your name or address are not disclosed to the supervisor. Only details of the therapy process and content material will be discussed. I will make every effort to preserve confidentiality in supervision.
Cancelling sessions and non-attendance
I require 48 hours notice of cancelled sessions. Otherwise I charge for the whole session fee. I have to charge for the cancelled session as it is nearly impossible to re-book another session, and I have planned that time and space for your session. Planning in advance means that other clients may have needed to come in the place allocated to you, and so if you do not attend, or cancel late, that other client has missed out. I also charge for sessions which you have booked but do not attend (having given no notice).
Length of sessions
Sessions last 50 minutes. This is from the agreed start time of the session. Timing in therapy is an important aspect of the work, and so as far as is reasonable we will stick to the time agreed.
*This information follows the guidelines of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy www.psychotherapy.org and www.upca.co.uk. Follow this link for full details of the standards of conduct and ethics -http://www.upca.org.uk/files/8214/5510/5822/UPCAStandardsOfConductPerformanceAndEthicsv7.pdf
The information in this section is also the set of conditions that you agree to if you begin therapy with me.