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Arts & Culture

Entrepreneurial duo expand Sunderland counselling business

A counselling business set up by two university friends is expanding into a second office just a year after being established.

Tracy Woodhouse and Helen Lumley set up Breakfree Counselling, based at the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) on Sunderland Enterprise Park, after graduating together from Sunderland University.

The two women came up with the business concept during one of their university projects and decided to set it up for real after graduation.

The pair say that they complement each other’s skills, with Tracy’s interest in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness combining with Helen’s experience of psychoanalysis to provide a range of services.

Tracy said: “Although the NHS do a great job, waiting lists are long, meaning their help is sometimes limited with people only receiving a set amount of sessions before being moved on.

“We want to be there for people whenever they need us and not be dictated to and be pressured about numbers, reports and statistics.”

Helen agreed: “We had an ethos we wanted to create. We wanted a business that would meet our needs both within and outside work whilst still delivering a personal service for our clients.

“We both have families so needed flexibility and to create something that worked for us.”

Going into business on their own, the duo approached the North East BIC for start-up advice, as well as a potential space to locate their business.

They have seen such success in their first year that they’ve now taken on a second office within the BIC to cope with their ambitious plans for the future.

Helen added: “We’re working on several school contracts to provide group and individual counselling as we believe early intervention is so important — 3 in 10 young people are affected by mental health.

“We’re also working on an employee assistance programme. Our ambition is to roll out positive mental health initiatives across the North East.

“We want positive mental health to be seen as important as physical health.”