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Behind the Business #4 – OK Talk Counselling

We’re meeting the businesses in Bristol Pound’s network who are making the most of our Premium Business Services. We want to hear the stories about their business, about themselves and how being a part of a localised economy helps them.

Words | Tim Oxley Smith

We caught up with Marina, founder of OK Talk Counselling, on Skype, where she dials in from her counselling room. We’ve wanted to speak with Marina for Behind the Business for a while but her busy schedule meeting clients in and around Bristol, as well as looking after her young son, made it tricky to track her down.  


Before setting up her business in 2016, Marina had earned her degree in Psychology and Counselling in Manchester, a culmination of her life-long interest in the mind and human behaviour. Four years ago, she worked and studied for her Master’s before moving to Portishead. Her office is based on High Street but she also visits schools, offices and homes across Bristol. 


No typical conversation 


We started off by asking what a typical day looks like at OK Talk Counselling. Between her morning and evening appointments, Marina makes time for a lunchtime walk or meet with friends to help break up her workday. It was good to hear that Marina was practising what she preaches; as looking after her own mental wellbeing means she can more effectively help others.


But it turns out, there’s not really a typical day for Marina. Her clients vary from teenagers in secondary schools to younger children and sometimes their families too. Then there are employees of businesses all across Bristol who she sees. Sometimes the bosses themselves chat with Marina too. 


What makes OK Talk Counselling different


Every business needs to have a unique selling point, even businesses with such a worthy cause as Marina’s. We asked her what OK Talk’s was: “The most important factor is that I have no long waiting lists, so that people can access counselling quickly and easily”, Marina explains. This is in contrast to the provision of mental health services on the NHS in Bristol, where it can sometimes take several months to get an appointment. 

In addition to the vital factor of availability, the structure of the sessions are collaborative and adaptable, depending on the client. Marina’s approach keeps confidentiality paramount but, with the client’s permission, involves parents, siblings and even colleagues and employers to help find resolutions. 


In Marina’s words: “This is counselling, so you never know what the person is going to talk about. So my approach is very person-centred.”


Helping clients to respect themselves


Next, we asked Marina what she wanted the ethos of OK Talk Counselling to be when she started out. “Compassion and respect. Sometimes I feel we’re not respected by the people around us – this could be family, friends or at work.” On the idea of compassion, Marina thinks it is essential to be compassionate – to yourself as well as to others.


“I’ve noticed with my clients that sometimes we forget to show compassion to ourselves. It’s not about being selfish but exploring how to care for and respect ourselves”.


As a counsellor, Marina specialises in speaking with and listening to individual clients. When explaining OK Talk’s core values of compassion and respect, we saw her spirited dedication to making things better for her clients and it made us realise that Marina is well placed to reflect on what’s going on in the minds of individuals in our society.


Less social, despite social media


We asked Marina to share her thoughts on what is going on today and how experiences have changed. Comparing the level of self-harm she heard about from her childhood to what she encounters as a counsellor today, there’s been a massive change. Marina can only recall one case of it happening then, but today it’s happening in classrooms with young people sending each other pictures and seeking advice. Tragically, all of this is likely to stem from a collective lack of compassion that these individuals have for themselves.


Marina explains, “I think what’s happening now is that we do not really socialise as much. We don’t know how to create friendships. When we communicate, we send emails and messages and we don’t even make as many phone calls as we used to. We don’t feel as confident anymore.”


Working hard at mental health


With our next question, we wanted to find out if there was anything Marina had picked up on that was Bristol-specific – good or bad. This turned out to be a pretty naive question at first, as Marina tells us that most of the discussions she has as a counsellor are tough. But, Marina was able to pick out a positive trend.


She tells us how, in the recent past, there was still a stigma around talking about mental health in the workplace. Now Marina sees encouraging signs that individuals and employers see looking after mental health as a priority – as necessary as skilling-up and training. Despite this, adults in particular are still finding opening up a bit of a weird experience.


How Bristol Pound works for OK Talk Counselling


Marina has noticed that in Bristol “people get inspired and want to be a part of change”. And this echoes what we want being a part of Bristol Pound’s Premium Business Services to mean. Marina describes how it’s important to be a part of something: “I’ve been to three networking events and met loads of people, made new contacts and heard about new businesses starting out who’re working with the Bristol Pound. It’s a more personal business network.”


Marina continued to say that “People (on the Bristol Pound network) are really friendly and relaxed. And it’s important to feel that because business is stressful. But Bristol Pound, it’s a great environment to be a part of”.


And that sums up Bristol Pound’s Premium Business Services nicely. Thanks, Marina. If you’d be interested in becoming a part of a uniquely friendly network, please contact Ian (ian.madle@bristolpounds.org).

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