Introducing Fiona Herbert

Fiona Herbert is a tri-lingual social worker and marriage and family therapist. She works with all couples with a special interest in international clients, parenting challenges and multicultural couples. Languages: English, Basic French and Swahili 


Welcoming couples to book in-person marriage retreat in
London, England.

Also offering an intensive marriage retreat online.

Want to attend a couples therapy retreat in London?
 Contact us.

Credentials

Education

Professional Doctorate in Psychotherapy Studies with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) (in progress.

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy (MAFT), Pan Africa Christian University , Nairobi – Kenya (AAMFT certified course in partnership with Trinity Western University, British Columbia, Canada), 2014

Diploma in Systemic Psychotherapy- Systemic Practitioner, Kensington Consultation Centre, University of Bedfordshire, (2009)

Post Qualification Award in Social Work, level 1, The Royal Holloway, University of London, (2007)

Master of Arts Degree (MA) in Social Work , Goldsmiths College, University of London, 2005

Kent State University, Ohio, USA, Credits in Community Counselling MA degree, 2002/3

BA Honours (2:1), University of Leeds, UK  Theology and Religious Studies, 2001. 

Registration:

  • the Singapore Association of Counselling, 
  • the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice, and
  • the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy


Evidence-based Models

Advanced Training in the Gottman Method

Advanced Training in Emotionally Focused Therapy

Additional Certifications & Trainings

Achievements & Responsibilities (selected)

Best Student Award for Couple and Family Therapy Masters, 2014.

Kent State University President’s Achievement award for academic & sporting success, 2003.

Nightline listening and information telephone support for Leeds University Students, 2001.

Millennium Award for voluntary work.

SANE helpline volunteer, 2002.

Training

  • DIR 201 – Registered floor time provider
  • EMDR level 1 and 2
  • Nova advanced response crisis training level 1 and 2
  • Emotional Efficacy
  • ADHD group facilitation
  • Mellow Parenting facilitator training

My Policy Research has been published and is being used as a Child Protection Policy to strengthen child protection networks across East Africa.

Practice Values

I find that generally speaking, there is no issue too small or too big that cannot be discussed in couple therapy, if it impacts the quality of the intimate relationship. In my training and experience I have learnt that often partners can get caught in a negative cycle of conflict which can at times be triggered by something seemingly inconsequential, yet can cause huge rifts and much sadness and pain. My hope is that each party feels comfortable enough to open up to me and to open to the therapeutic process enough to consider the possibility of change. If a couple is open to change then this potentially opens the relationship up to lots of positive developments, which is very exciting to watch.

Through my experiences of working and living abroad, I have often found myself to be the foreigner in the room. Whilst some may find this intimidating, I feel it has enabled me to feel confident and curious. It enables me to ask difficult questions. This makes a big difference and can accelerate a couple’s progress in therapy. 

I also love to research and to learn. This has now brought me to undertake a post-graduate doctorate in psychotherapy. This love of learning and trying new things, has been very positive for the relationships I work with.

I really love to work with those therapy cynics out there and win them over !! 

I am always warm and welcoming and quick to create a bond with my clients. It is important to me that my clients trust me and feel at ease in session. I love to get feedback and so I will often check in with clients as to how they feel the session is going. This helps build a foundation and ensures we are all working toward the same goals. I like to let aspects of myself shine through in therapy and I think my clients appreciate this about me. 

As couple therapy sessions can be quite intense, I like to use creativity and humour to find a balance that enables everyone to move forward with comfort. I am also clear about expectations from the get go, and I think this creates a sense of safety in the room.

Clinical Office

I have a lovely office, right on the River Thames just outside of London, England in a place called Henley upon Thames. The town of Henley upon Thames dates back to 1179 when King Henry 2nd first bought land to ‘make buildings.’ It has come a long way since this time and is now famous for its Regatta, and well known  residents, George Orwell and the Beatles’ very own George Harrison to name a few. 

My office is in a grade 2 Georgian listed building, it has beautiful big sash windows and is painted in neutral colours to give that much needed sense of calm.

The building is very old and the rooms are light with thick timber beams on the ceiling making it very warm and cosy in the winter months.

My office is located right on the main high street, so I am just a few minutes’ walk from the river, gastropubs, restaurants and shops.

Henley upon Thames is close to Heathrow Airport and well connected by train to central London and Oxford. 

Clinical Approach

I am a Couple and Family therapist and a Clinical Social Worker. I believe that it’s a great privilege to be allowed to enter a couple’s inner world and help their relationship develop. I have been fortunate to have spent the last 13 years living and working in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. I have found that whatever the cultural context, it all begins with the strength of the couple. There is no perfect couple but so much happiness hangs on the quality of a couple’s relationship. Great couple therapy can create lasting change for the not just the couple, but their children and extended families. I gain so much satisfaction and joy from being part of this positive evolution! 

Work Summary

After school, I went to live and work in a boarding school in Pakistan, where I taught English and sports to the boarders. I spent most of the time surrounded by people who only spoke Urdu and very little English. I think this experience sharpened my understanding of body language and the cultural lens that is needed to deepen a relationship.

As a student I had a lot of casual jobs, working in a store and waiting tables, where I learnt that my memory works best when I am engaging in the narrative as opposed to remembering customer orders! I am fortunate in that I have always been clear that I wanted to work in the care industry/mental health field, so I after completing a Masters degree in Social Work, I began working in Child Protection. I worked with many families, couples and children in the inner London boroughs as well as residential parenting assessment units, many of whom were battling addiction or the fallout from poverty. I worked with many perpetrators and victims of interpersonal violence as well, which I think has been especially helpful in my couples work today.

I quickly found myself in management and further away from the people I was originally trained to work with, hence I began to think about how I could change this. After 8 years in child protection, I moved to the Middle East, where I continued to work with couples but in an international adoption capacity. I also worked with young children with special needs in both health centres and international schools. 

This involved a lot of parent coaching which I think has been really useful in my work with couples today. 

After three years of living in the Middle East my husband, children and I moved to Kenya and it is here that I was able to complete my studies in Couple and Family therapy with a Canadian University. 

The course was life changing and I learned to adapt the theory and my knowledge to a very different context at times. This meant doing couple therapy with more than one wife from the same family. At other times I was required to think about how to support a couple through a variety of trauma or tragedy. It also enabled me to think on my feet and be creative when language barriers, or infrastructure made the more traditional ways of working less possible.

It was immensely interesting from a systemic perspective too as, though I was a student, it was often assumed I was one of the professors due to the colour of my skin. This taught me about power, race and hierarchy.

It has been interesting to continually work within and between these concepts in Asia, especially where in working with couples of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. 

When I was living in Asia, I was hindered by not being able to speak Mandarin. However, as time has passed and my experiences of living and working abroad have increased, I have been able to overcome cultural objections and build a successful career in different parts of the world. One of my clients once said to me after our last session. 

We have a Chinese saying: ‘A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a month's study of books. ‘ 

I definitely took this as a compliment given how highly valued education is within the Chinese culture. 

Personally Speaking

I was born in the East End of London which I guess makes me a ‘Cockney’ by birth. I was raised in south east London in the borough of Croydon, however. It’s a big borough and is pretty built up nowadays. Fortunately, I used to live near the old airfield so grew up exploring old plane wreckages and bomb shelters and riding round on my bike. Croydon is quite far from where I live now, so I am not there very often, these days.

I grew up with Scottish/English parents with two older brothers. Stoicism and the stiff upper lip attitude was never far away. I love being the person to witness the vulnerable side of those harder to reach personalities. I am very comfortable in that space. I also am happy to empathically invite those who are less comfortable with their emotional expression to give it a go. I find that when a non emotionally expressive partner begins to talk about their feelings, the relationship is strengthened as a result. 

I am fortunate in that both my parents are alive and well, My Mum has just turned 80. She is very young at heart and continues to race around London, doing voluntary work, hiking and sitting on mental health panels. She does not appear to be slowing down at all. Her energy and commitment is inspiring.

My Mum was a nurse and nursing university lecturer. Often times when I was growing up, neighbours and friends would come to our house for an injection or to talk through their various ailments. I noticed how caring and empathic she was, regardless of the medical issue and whatever else was going on in the house. I definitely wanted to emulate this as I saw how deeply grateful people were for her help.

My Dad has a great sense of humour, he is great at laughing at himself too and his laugh can often be heard down the street. I think it is important to hold onto humour no matter how tense a situation might be. My dad is an avid Bridge player and motorcyclist who is heavily involved in local politics and always happy to engage in debate on the latest issues in British politics. 

I am also very lucky in that I have two Scottish Aunties, one of whom unfortunately now has Alzheimer’s but the times I feel most connected to her are at family parties as we can just dance in the kitchen without any need for conversation.

I am definitely a ‘doer’ and an early bird. I like to plan the family’s activities, I am happiest when I am discovering a new place, laughing with friends and family, or scoring a goal on the hockey pitch. I l love to travel and am not afraid of taking risks, I think this translates into the therapy room. 

As a competitive sports person, I can be tenacious which can then drive a ‘stuck’ relationship forward. I definitely do not like to give up which I think benefits the couples I work with positively in a therapeutic setting.

Children

I am very fortunate to have 3 youngish kids, I love hanging out with them and despite my professional knowledge of child development and play therapy, I still get it wrong frequently. Luckily, they are very forgiving. We just try to enjoy each other as much as possible while they still want to hang out with me. 

More recently as part of the relocation back to the UK, we were fortunate enough to spend several months travelling round Europe and the UK together in a caravan. There were no pressures of the school run and after school activities. This precious time allowed me to really connect with them in a new way. 

It was an experience that came indirectly out of Covid and lockdowns and is something I will always treasure and showed me that there can be positive unintended consequences in life. 

Hobbies and Interests

Well, unfortunately I don’t have much free time, so I must use it wisely. I love to socialize, exercise and of course, travel. Travelling is very good for my soul. I also love singing, running, cycling, creative writing, album making, mask collecting, and hockey, I used to paint at times too, when I had a bit more time… mainly giant doodles with oil paints, but I loved it all the same.

Probably my hobby that ranks above the rest is hockey.  It’s the one I prioritize now, partly due to the social aspect and not knowing how many seasons I have left, before I have to hang up my boots! I’m noticing that my legs won’t carry out what my mind tells them to do and I’m noticing that most people I am now playing with are a lot younger than I am.

Hockey used to be played with much longer sticks that almost looked like umbrellas, it started in the UK in the 1800’s and the first club was formed in Blackheath, London in 1861.

Not an interest, but I do not like frogs big or small. Unfortunately they were everywhere in Singapore. They even entered our house at times whenever it rained or climbed into closed shoes (!) Thankfully my husband was on hand to clear them out again! 

Who has inspired you?

Many people have inspired me, so it is hard to know where to start,  I have always been mad about sports, and tried my hand at almost anything. This led me to have some great relationships with lots of coaches along the way. 

One in particular was a man called Aftar from Tanzania, he knew just when to push and when to praise. He was also a great raconteur and would tell stories of world cups and crazy post-match celebrations that always kept you enthralled and mildly shocked at the same time. 

I would also like to mention my school hockey teacher, one of the few people who managed to hold down a full-time job and play for England Hockey and England Cricket team simultaneously. I think playing lots of sport from a young age has taught me the importance of team work, loyalty, role definition and perseverance all very important aspects of strong couple relationships. 

I have also been continually inspired by my Grandmother who lived to the ripe old age of 96. She was incredibly brave and always willing to try new things. This even included parachuting at 75. I have found her example inspiring especially when trying to build a community, find work and settle in a new country without any roots.

Another inspirational figure for me is Bruce Lee, I am inspired by the way he adapted an ancient martial art into a new martial art that people could access and develop and art form greatly influencing cinema and culture. He adapted to a totally different culture and was hugely successful.  His training and work ethic were also enviable.

I am lucky in that I continue to be inspired by those around me too; clients who continue to stay with their partners in the face of addiction, my list could go on and on.

Philanthropic & Volunteer Activities

I do volunteer at my kids’ school and also fundraise for some Kenyan charities. 

I invite you to join me in London to conduct your private couples therapy retreat.