Louise Chunn and Welldoing.org

Ex-Vogue editor Louise Chunn has started an ambitious new therapist directory
Her own experience of searching for a therapist encouraged her to  review how the members of the public find therapists

Louise Chunn speaks with us about her latest counselling services.Louise Chunn is the former editor of Psychologies magazine. In the course of her career, she has been editor of the Guardian Woman’s page, Good Housekeeping, InStyle and deputy editor of Vogue.

Following her own successful experience of therapy, she has set up an ambitious online magazine and therapist directory with a difference. She hopes her new project Welldoing will allow people who are looking for therapy to be more empowered and informed as they search for a therapist.

Chunn feels that the traditional way of finding a therapist involves too much guess-work. She says, ‘By matching  expectations and needs of potential clients with what therapists have to offer, the chances of finding the best person to help you is so much better.’

Louise speaks to us about her plans:

psychotherapyUK: How did you hit upon the idea of creating a new medium for people looking for therapists?

Louise Chunn: I’d been looking for a therapist 5 or 6 years ago and had found myself dazed and confused. By putting in a North London postcode I got hundreds of therapists and I didn’t understand any of the language. I made a very random selection based on distance, which seems rather silly. I had a good experience of that therapy.

After that I started at Psychologies and learned more about the different types of therapy but felt that, in the end, it shouldn’t be the therapy-seeker’s concern to know all about the subject before being able to choose.

If you go into therapy not knowing what kind (of therapy) you’re going to have, it can be quite a shock. Hopefully it’s a good outcome but maybe the next person on the list would’ve been better suited to you. I want to deliver the sort of service that simply finds someone on your wavelength, and to help the person seeking therapy know what they are looking for.

The business (Welldoing) is about matching users with therapists but I believe part of the mission for the site is getting information out there for users: about therapy and around leading a good life; being practical and realistic about how much sleep, exercise and nutrition you might need.

Welldoing is a business, very much a tough start-up, almost at the level of ‘if I build it they will come!’ Everybody involved are enthusiasts for the topic. I’ve never worked harder in my life. I do enjoy it. Isn’t this great to do something that feels worthwhile!

In fashion magazines it’s normal for journalists not to be fashion professionals, but this is unusual in the therapy world. How did this come about for you?

Before editing Psychologies, I was Editor at InStyle when it was all about celebrities and fashion. My dad was an allergist in 1970s when that was seen as strange, and mum was a nurse with a business putting together locums and doctors. Both wrote. I feel I’m now doing a mix of what they both did; and it feels absolutely right.

Therapy is its own world and I know it has its own conflicts and hierarchies but I feel I am representing the user; their voice and view. I don’t have to understand very much at all about modes of therapy. I can report, or ask for contributions. As a journalist I can’t be afraid of asking questions. We have quite a few members of the site contributing but I emphasise this is not for peers; it’s for the ordinary reader. Contributors take on the mission of helping people get over the feeling that therapy is strange and unknowable and possibly suspect.

What might therapists on your directory expect that is different to other directories?

I think there are several things different to other therapy directories. The user questionnaire is an important aspect and is tested and refined – any comments are welcome. It’s a tricky one to get right and we’re working hard on it. The algorithm works well. There is a now a child and adolescent search. The directory is free until the end of September, and thereafter £5 per month.

What are your plans for the future?

At some point I hope to also have a ‘find a nutritionist’ or ‘masseur’ … bringing together mind and body, without getting into crystal gazing – sticking with things that some have some evidence-based success. For a lot of people it really is about the relationship, so if you go to see a personal trainer, they may know all the moves in the world, but if they’re not the right match, you’re not going to get very far. With the right trainer it can be life changing.

Even now I’m conscious of wondering what’s right (to include in the directory). I can’t decide about life coaches – not yet but maybe in future.

For now it’s therapists, to explain and demystify. (The counselling profession is) reasonably well regulated. The BACP and UKCP are an absolute dream on checking, tough rules and hearings of malpractice. Other (professions) are a free-for-all and people can say they may have done things that they may not have, so there’s a need to be careful as we move forward.

How did you hit upon the title Welldoing.org?

My daughter came up with it. I wanted an ‘ing’ word because I wanted it to be active. I wanted it to indicate that it didn’t just happen, you had to put a bit of work in.

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