Work.Life Meets: Jodie Cariss, Founder of Self Space

Business advice
Estimated read time: 5 mins
Published: 26/03/2019

Jodie is the Founder and Creative Director of Self Space and Cariss Creative. She is a Therapist with over 15 years experience in the field and a Tavistock trained executive coach. She has a direct and dynamic approach to her practice and a deeply empathic and approachable manner to the way she works. She is a Sesame trained drama and movement therapist and uses a mixture of tools in her practice. We invited Jodie to come and speak at our our upcoming ‘Work Happy: Mental Health in the Workplace‘ event on 24th April. Before she comes along and shares her mental-health wisdom we thought we’d get to know her a little better and find out more about what happens at Self Space.


We’d love to know more about you, what were you doing before you started Self Space?

I started my career as a television presenter, working mostly on wildlife shows so I travelled a lot during that time. It was a testing time for my own confidence and I found I wasn’t finding any meaning in what I was doing. That catalyst and my own interest in people was what lead me to re-train as a therapist 16 years ago. My founding company which is still running now provides mental health support to the education sector. I have a great deal of compassion for marginalised young people, parents/carers and school staff who do such an incredible job.  At Carisscreative we’ve worked with over 5000 young people since we started. I’ve also got two children Elvis 11 and Biba 9 so I was also changing nappies at that time!

Tell us a bit about what Self Space does? Where did the idea come from?

Self Space was born from what I feel is a complete gap in the market for mental health support which is aspirational and contemporary; which speaks to aspiring for wellness as opposed to ill health. When we hear the word mental health we think mental illness for some reason and Self Space is geared towards reclaiming mental health, reducing stigma and really educating around the idea that, like physical health, mental health takes work, time and attention. Feelings are massive and we often need support in understanding these.

We provide accessible talking therapy, booked via an app and in really lovely spaces. We are about normalising talking about how you feel.

Did you always know you wanted Self Space to have an app? Has this brought any challenges?

I knew I wanted to reduce some barriers to access to therapy. Often people find the phone quite difficult. I wanted it to be an easy and contemporary process and digital. We use a software package called Mind Body and it has its limitations. Currently our app doesn’t feel very us or very much like starting a supportive journey so we are working on that. But the actual function of booking this way clients really like.

What’s a typical day at work for you?

I’ve tried to reduce my clinical hours because running and scaling the business takes a lot of my capacity. I’ve started picking up a coffee (just one a day!) and getting the bus as it give me time to do emails and get lined up for the day. I’m normally in work by 8.00. I catch up with work with my assistant who has already lit all the candles and got the space ready. I do lots of meeting people and pushing new business. It’s a really easy sell and I love these meetings. If I’m available for therapy I’ll see up to seven clients a day. I catch up with my team once a week and Chance one of our lead practitioners normally brings cake! I always make time to eat, normally pho or sushi and often try and fit yoga or the gym in during the day. If I work in the evenings I’ll get home at around 9.00 but twice a week I pick my kids up from school. I am on my phone a lot, there’s a lot to do running a start up and I feel a weight of responsibility to our clients so am actively participating with that reality a lot. I don’t really drink in the week as a rule of thumb. I try and stay in touch with my friends and family most days just to say I’m thinking of you.

Sadly as we all know people are working more hours and are busier than ever, so your Skype and phone sessions are such a great idea. How do you find these compare with your face-to-face sessions? Are these as effective?

I am personally an advocate for coming into the space. It’s a really good discipline to build in travel time as it encourages us to tune into what we want to talk about when we arrive at the sessions. It’s part of self care. I also like to feel a person’s energy in the space and learn a lot from that about them. However Skype and phone also work very well and helps with better access as life is busy and any time spent on yourself is better than none.

How do you nurture a healthy work environment in your own business?

Being kind to people, trying to be clear about expectations and communicating as soon as I notice something emerge. Praising people and remembering they are human. Taking just a moment to make eye contact or just put my hand on their shoulder. We don’t always get it right but I hope my team feel they can come to me and say ‘this is really stressing me out’ etc. It can be hard when you are busy and pushed for time but I am really trying to apply a sense of kindness to the way I work and I hope this filters down. I’m a big fan of loyalty and it can be a challenge for me to overcome situations that I feel have compromised my loyalty in a relationship. But I am getting better. I do work at a very fast pace and I’m aware more and more of allowing everyone their own process speed.

Do you have any top tips that businesses can implement straight away that can help to look after their employees mental wellbeing at work?

Sign up to some Self Space sessions for your team. We offer corporate bundles which really enhance a sense of care for mental health within a company. Make sure meetings start on time. Boundaries are really important and respect for others time and energy. Try to encourage staff to you use ‘I’ rather than you in difficult situations so that self reflection and ownership is born. It helps in the long run. Veto drugs even in the top ranks. Just make it a non negotiable policy but also offer support where needed. Try to develop creativity in the way rewards are offered as opposed to conventional ‘as much as you can drink’ parties.

Mental health is still a bit of a taboo subject and not really talked about at work, especially with sick days, what more can we be doing to spread the word?

Encourage a non-judgmental attitude with availability of good support systems and empathy. We don’t want to breed a culture of excuses but we need to support real dialogue around what people are feeling and what we can do to support people to reach their potential, and be productive and content at work. This starts with truthful conversations.

Thanks for letting us pick your brain today, we thought we’d ask you the quick-fire round we ask all our interviewees…

Morning person or night owl? Morning

Favourite film: The goonies

Summer or winter? Summer

Sweet or savoury? Savoury

Cats or dogs? Neither!

City break or beach holiday? Beach all the way!

Last meal before being jetted off to a desert island? Pho with prawns, salt and pepper squid, cheese and biscuits, my Nan’s carrot cake and sparkling water and a pisco sour please!


Want to find out more about wellbeing in the workplace? Come along to our next ‘Work Happy’ event, Work Happy: Physical Wellbeing in the Workplace at our Clerkenwell space on 24th April. We’ll be hearing more from Jodie, along with some other industry experts about the importance of mental health in the workplace and how you can make some positive changes in your business.

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