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I worked as a Chartered Clinical psychologist for over 10 years in NHS, Social care and research settings, until setting up Beyond Barriers in 2019.  During this time I have worked with a wide range of life stories and emotional difficulties including the effects of adversity and trauma, particularly within relationships.  In latter years this has included offering consultation and supervision to staff and organisations. 

I am driven by a need to create mental health services that are informed by what has happened to someone, rather than pathologizing people's understandable attempts to cope with distress. I believe people should be empowered within therapy to have the courage to heal, make choices and thrive beyond the barriers of mental health difficulties.  I am also passionate about reducing stigma around complex mental health needs and support the movement towards more trauma-informed communities.  My focus from 2018 has been to improve access to affordable alternatives to traditional mental health systems by establishing an independent alternative - particularly for people who have been unable to access appropriate help but need compassionate, expert, accessible support.

My approach

My clinical skills have been developed to support a broad range of need, often (but not exclusively) as a result of adversity in early life experiences or later trauma and loss. This includes difficulties managing emotions, self-criticism, self-attacking, crisis-management, PTSD, anxiety, and relationship difficulties in adults and older teens.

I believe that when hurt happens within core relationships, people need healthy ones in which to recover and grow.  So our therapeutic relationship is key in supporting whatever tailored intervention we develop. I have a range of approaches including Compassion focused therapy, EMDR and Cognitive-Analytical, Polyvagal and Somatically-informed interventions.  I really enjoy running groups, and have developed and run groups providing compassion focussed therapy, DBT-based coping skills groups and CBT recovery groups over the past 10 years.  I believe that a group of people with similar lived experiences are a powerful and empowering opportunity for recovery. 

I have completed post-qualification training in Compassion Focussed Therapy for adults, children, and peri-natal needs, EMDR, Cognitive Analytic Consultation, DBT Skills, Mentalisation-based group work & More than words (Bodywork tools for talking therapies) training, which allow me to practice in a Trauma-informed way.

Consultation & Training

I get great satisfaction from supporting staff, teams and organisations to function within challenging contexts by enhancing their understanding of dynamics within their system.  In latter years, a significant part of my work has involved upskilling and supporting other clinical staff to provide therapeutic relationships in which healing and growth can occur, (via Structured Clinical Management and Relational Recovery approaches). I have been lucky enough to work alongside social workers, occupational therapists, nurses, police, commissioners, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, probation officers and  peer specialists in these roles.  I have offered training included academic teaching, practice development sessions, Staff wellbeing workshops, and training in Complex trauma for NHS staff. 

I try to practice what I teach, so a focus on self-practice and a work-life balance enables me to work effectively and enjoy my role as a psychologist. This means a big part of my life involves spending time with my family, catching up with friends and supporting change in my local community.


You can read my CV here 

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Zoe Rivers
Lead Therapist
Director of Beyond Barriers
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