Helen O'Connor

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    Verified by PlusGuidance

    Professional insurance

    • Cert. Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavioral Theory & Techniques
    • Stage 1 NCSCT Certification as a Smoking Cessation Practitioner
    • Diploma in Therapeutic Hypnosis & Psychotherapy

    How I can help you

    Psychologist specialising in substance use & abuse and health behaviour & habit change

    Confidential, non-judgemental support from an experienced and qualified psychologist, for people who are concerned about their use or reliance on (legal and illicit) substances, and would like help to reduce or stop. I also support people with weight loss and weight management:

    • Alcohol*
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Performance and image enhancing drugs - diet pills, steroids, HGH etc.
    • Cannabis
    • Cocaine
    • Food (weight issues, weight management)

    Many people's substance use, whether alcohol or cocaine, even over-eating or eating unhealthily, is a learned behaviour, a habit, and often a way we manage our mood or distressing emotions (from boredom and loneliness, to grief, anxiety and depression). Over time, use of mind-altering, mood-changing substances (even nicotine is a mild stimulant) affects the brain's chemistry and ability to regulate itself, and then our reliance deepens - we keep on learning that we "need" it.  
    However, it is possible to learn new behaviours and habits, and to extinguish the old ones, if we are prepared to examine the causes of our use, our feelings when we stop or cut down, and develop strategies to cope with potential triggers for cravings and urges. We also need to practice new habits repeatedly, learn to tolerate the discomfort that nearly always comes with change, and be more accepting of ourselves, others and life - even when we mess up, others hurt us, or life disappoints us.   
    *I am unable to support people who have a physical dependency (e.g., who are physically dependent on alcohol, benzos, or opiates) in my private practice. This is because the most ethical, effective and safe treatment will involve a combination of medical and psychological support, and face-to-face contact. However, I can offer you a one-off assessment session to help you understand the severity of your dependence and your options as you approach local therapists or treatment providers. Similarly, people with addiction problems combined with enduring complex mental health difficulties would benefit more from working with a local practitioner or specialist service. It is the client's responsibility to honestly describe their existing mental health issues, and pattern of substance use and withdrawal symptoms. Without this information effective and safe support is not guaranteed. I can not provide crisis support.

    What to expect

    I use a combination of psychological therapies, most commonly motivational interviewing (which can help people who are ambivalent become more committed to and motivated about making a change), and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), which was the first cognitive behaviour therapy. 

    "People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them" - Epictetus

    It is unlikely that anything I say will give you an 'a-ha' moment that miraculously transforms the way you think about your problem and solve it for you. Instead, we collaboratively explore your difficulties using the 'ABC' model of REBT:
    1. Events and situations that occur or that we imagine might occur (A = activating events)
    2. Our thoughts, interpretations, self-talk and beliefs about those events (B = beliefs)
    3. The way we feel and act when these events occur (C = consequences) 

    The focus is on helping you solve problems at C (emotions that are distressing and/or behaviours that you would prefer not to do, or would like to do but are avoiding doing). Once we explore and understand how your issues fit into this model we can begin the work of change (there's a D and an E too!). 

    I believe that the past can shape our present and it can be useful to look to the past for early examples of issues that are still influencing the way we interpret and respond to situations in the present. However, we won't spend a great deal of time examining the past. Similarly, I don't believe that talking at length about situations at A will help you solve your problems - I can't change or prevent many of those situations happening, and often you can't either. 

    What we can do get into the nuts and bolts - our thinking - and work on that. If we are able to think differently about events that do (or might) happen, this will help us to feel and act differently when (or if) they do (e.g., not giving in to an urge to drink, smoke, or eat in response to a stressful situation). 

    "Whatever you would make habitual, practice it; and if you would not make a thing habitual, do not practice it, but accustom yourself to something else" - Epictetus

    Between-session activities are important, so that you can test and practice new ways of thinking (and therefore responding) to life's ups and downs, to help you live a healthier life and deal with urges and cravings. Without practice of new habits, the old habits will hang around or drift back. 

    Clients usually have between 6-20 sessions, often with longer intervals between sessions as you make progress. I will regularly check-in with you about how you are finding the sessions. 

    About me

    I started out as a sport and exercise psychologist because I am interested in human performance and motivation. I am still connected to sport in areas such as image and performance enhancing drugs, athlete mental health, and child athlete welfare. However, my work and interests soon took me into new areas including health behaviour change, weight management, smoking cessation, problem drinking, addictions and substance use and abuse.

    I have worked in NHS and public sector services, and currently work part-time in a drug and alcohol service in London as well as running a private practice. I am a visiting lecturer at Chichester and Greenwich Universities, and have co-authored journal articles and book chapters. 

    In 2015 I co-created the online 'Month off Booze' course. The 30+ daily emails introduce a range of psychological issues and topics (such as procrastination, discomfort dodging) that can help people with habit change – including reducing or stopping drinking. Some of the content is influenced by REBT which is the main therapeutic model I use in my practice. Around 200 people have taken the course so far, and we’ve had some great feedback. Read more here.

    I am a qualified and fully insured psychologist, chartered with the British Psychological Society and registered with the UK Health and Care Professions Council.
    • Location: London, United Kingdom
    • Professional bodies:
    • What I help people with: (in order of expertise)
      1. Addictions
      2. Alcohol Addiction
      3. Drug Abuse
      4. Smoking Addiction
      5. Drug Addiction
      6. Alcohol Abuse
      7. Substance Abuse
      8. Weight Issues
    • Therapy types I offer: (in order of most commonly practised)
      1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
      2. Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)
      3. Motivational Interviewing
    • Languages:
      • English
    • Qualifications verified by PlusGuidance:
      • Cert. Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavioral Theory & Techniques
      • Stage 1 NCSCT Certification as a Smoking Cessation Practitioner
      • Diploma in Therapeutic Hypnosis & Psychotherapy
      • MSc Sport & Performance Psychology
    • Recommend me:
    • My availability
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