Umbrella Therapies

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Learning to read

Children learn to read before formal schooling even. Children learn their ABC and if the parents are that way inclined, they learn their phonemes, and learn to refer to curly cats and kicking kings.

This way, when reception class beckons, they can read instructions and access the curriculum. But how -and how many- kids learn to read their bodies. To be alive to the pulses, the signals that these vessels we live in send out, second by second.

I work with kids. In an alternative education setting, as well as in private practice as a play therapist. I also work in school. And in most of the schools I work there is a room for the SENCO and the pupils who need extra input for reasons emotional, cognitive, behavioural. In this room there is usually a poster which depicts Feelings. Which asks “How are you feeling?”

Generally, this poster is illustrated with faces and expressions.  If I can pause here for a second to play with these two words…

I think of ‘making faces’

Putting on a sad face

Two faced.

Expressions though, has a different feel. It suggests ‘to express’. And from the Latin: ‘to press out’. To give form. To bring something from inside to the outside. It comes from a deeper place within.

What if kids in their education were led to tap into this fountain of knowledge. Their own pulse, the rhythm of their heartbeat. The unique messages, encoded by their body. The language, phonemes, dialect unique to Me.

I think of Body Language. We learn by this language more than the audible language that come from speaking. When we learn 70% is through what we see.

It makes sense from infancy we learn through the signals we pick up from our carer’s bodies. For better or for worse. The well cared for infant thrives in the attention of the career, who leans towards the baby with interest. Not so for the infant whose carer turns away, or leans in with hostile intent.

The carer who puts words to bodily feelings helps the infant to realise that ‘the way I feel’ is called ‘hungry’ (and that food will soon follow!). Over time, the toddler will learn to use this word to communicate their bodily state, instead of using the same code – crying – for being hungry, tired or hurt.

So far so good.

And then, many shoe sizes later:

“Hi, how are you?”

“Fine.” Or:

“I’m good.” Or:

“I’m ok.”

“OK, Really?”

How often do we know how we are really feeling?

We go to dentists for ‘check ups’

We go to the GP for a ‘check up’


How often do we ‘check in’ with our own bodies.

I want to propose that we, as therapists, educators, parents do this often – or more often – so that we can bring this consciousness to our clients, pupils, children.

What is your heartbeat telling you.

What messages are your feet and the 7000 nerve endings sending you.

Can you sense every toe on your foot?

It can be a grounding exercise to just ‘sense your feet’ for twenty seconds…

Go ahead, try it.

I want to extend the invitation: next time you sense or see a body message, in yourself or in the children you work (or live) with, work with that. Yes, emojis are fun, but they don’t communicate the real feelings. For that, you don’t need a smartphone. You need a few minutes every day to tune out of the apps and tune into the unique language of your body.

And I am confident that if kids can ‘Keep in touch’ with their bodies as they grow up, they will get to know the messages and stay fluent in the language, the dialect, of their own body.

Yes, our faces can ‘make’ expressions.

But our body Talks.



Petro-Nelise Sollé

Play Therapist, educator and somatic movement teacher



Emotional first aid kits for teenagers

Emotional first aid kits for teenagers: Most of us have about the house a first aid kit in case of emergency – a kit containing plasters, badges, antiseptic and the like. But how many of us have thought about creating an emotional first aid kit?

When I work with young people in counselling I often talk about the value of creating a first aid kit for their emotions. Thinking together about things that help or could help when they feel stressed, worried or low.

As as adult who was once a teenager myself I clearly remember days when I felt down, self conscious and anxious. My tendency in these situations was to end up dwelling and ruminating and ultimately feeling worse about about myself.

In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) there is a useful diagram referred to as the thoughts, feelings and behaviour cycle. What we think about ourselves in a situation has an effect on how we feel which dictates our reaction. If we feel low, our thoughts about ourselves are often negative and our resulting behaviour is likely to reflect this.

Thinking together with a teenager about the challenges they are facing in their lives and the ways they currently deal with their feelings is a starting point. If they are stuck in the cycle we might think about what they would like to be different, focusing on what makes them feel good about themselves.

I often introduce the idea of the emotional first aid kit at this point*. Does the young person have any hobbies, what activities do they enjoy – how do they feel when they are doing these, who do they trust to talk to? What do they do to relax? What makes them laugh? Are there any special places they spend time in. After a short while of discussion there are usually a good number of ideas that help; from talking to a friend, drawing, listening to music, to going out in nature, cooking, having a bath and watching funny clips on Youtube!

Alongside ideas that are specific to the young person’s interests I also may also introduce mindfulness and grounding techniques and quite often these end up on the emotional first aid kit too. Once the kit is completed the young person may take a photo of it on their phone –  ensuring they have it to hand to refer to in case of emergency!

Why not have a go creating one for yourself!

Nikki Simpson – Person Centred Therapist MBACP (Accred) 

*From Margot Sunderland’s brilliant book Draw on Your Emotions.













The importance of relationships to our well-being

The importance of relationships to our well-being: This week 16th – 22nd May is Mental Health Awareness week. The theme this year is ‘Relationships’, with the team at advocating that we urgently need a greater focus on the quality of our relationships.

I’m so behind them on this – understanding just how fundamental relationships are to our health and well-being is absolutely key to improving our mental health. We cannot flourish as individuals and communities without them!

Today is self-harm awareness day

Today is self-harm awareness day and we at Umbrella want to get the word out.

Self-harm affects around 400 in 100,000 people in the UK – the highest rate of any country in Europe. What’s more concerning is that these figures are likely to be higher as many people who self-harm do not seek help or tell anyone about it. Although self-harm can affect anyone, the majority of people who report self-harm are aged between 11 and 25! The Mental Health Foundation have updated their booklet ‘The truth about self-harm’ in support of this day. This is a valuable resource for anyone aiming to understand more about self-harm and steps to take if you are worried about yourself or someone else. For more from the Mental Health Foundation see: – click on the link below to access the booklet:

Truth about self harm booklet

Umbrella to officially launch during Mental Health Awareness week


 “We don’t want children’s problems to grow with them”

 Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week, a group of Gloucestershire therapists and counsellors are launching a new support service in the area.

 Umbrella offers creative and talking therapies to young people and their families, as well as support for other professionals in education, mental health and social care. The Umbrella website provides online information about these services.

 “Although we each work independently and offer different approaches (Art Psychotherapy, Play Therapy, Counselling, Psychotherapy) we were drawn to the idea of offering our services all under one ‘umbrella’. Our user-friendly website makes it simple to find a therapist or counsellor, whether you are a parent looking for support for yourself or seeking someone to work with your child, teenager or young adult” says Nikki Simpson initiator of Umbrella.

 Umbrella provides for all ages, from birth to adulthood, as well as parenthood. Lin Revington works with infants and their parents around attachment difficulties and specialises in trauma work with young people; Petro Sollé uses Play Therapy with children from ages 3 , and Saira Todd takes referrals for Arts Psychotherapy for children from 5 years old.

 Teenagers are specifically catered for by Nikki Simpson and Rhiannon Duggan who both specialise in counselling for 11-18 year olds, whilst Alida Roberts works with ages 13 upwards, as well as parents.

 Parents can also choose support for themselves. This support is available on a one-to-one basis, or in small groups where each parent can address specific issues, or learn to build and enhance the child-parent relationship.

 “What we envisage is that people will feel free to contact any one of the therapists for an initial conversation, we can then signpost you to another member of the Umbrella group if that feels more suitable” says Sarah Anderton, an experienced parenting coach and the contact for Umbrella’s professional enquiries.

 To tie in with Mental Health Awareness week (, Umbrella hopes to bring the message across that there is, indeed, “No Health without Mental Health” and hopes that as a society, we can grow more and be more able to ask for –and accept– support at the point when it is most needed.

 The Mental Health Foundation offers the following advice to parents: Children and young people’s negative feelings usually pass. However, it’s a good idea to get help if your child is distressed for a long time, if their negative feelings are stopping them from getting on with their lives, their distress is disrupting family life or they are repeatedly behaving in ways you would not expect at their age.