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Making a difference

One of Scotland’s most successful psychology and counselling organisations has expanded into Newcastle to offer its comprehensive range of therapy and wellbeing services. First Psychology was set up 15 years ago by Ewan Gillon, a psychology professor at Glasgow Caledonian University, who has worked extensively in the NHS and primary care and university counselling services. First Psychology now boasts 11 centres across Scotland, specialising in men’s mental health, with 125 clinicians offering a range of services from psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to coaching and counselling. Here, Ewan tells Colin Young why expanding into Newcastle marks a natural progression for First Psychology.

It is perhaps fitting the leading independent psychology practice in Edinburgh, that was originally set up to meet the demands of professionals and students, has now set up base in one of Newcastle’s academic hubs, close to the city’s universities and the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

The name is new, but you will recognise First Psychology’s choice of location in the shadows of St James’ Park, opposite The Trent House public house – it’s the light-coloured building on the corner of the car park.

Upstairs are two consulting rooms and a kitchen – the peculiar shape of one room is like an embrace and there are two chairs, a small table, a few pot plants and some sensitively placed tissues. And today, founder Professor Ewan Gillon is happy to take the questions.

This choice of location is no accident.

In fact, it took months.

First Psychology is here to make a difference, and Ewan says it was important to create the correct environment, which is calm, quiet and distraction-free.

He says: “We saw 37 different places.

“We walked the whole of Newcastle and Jesmond, because sometimes you spot somewhere that isn’t yet advertised.

“There are so many important criteria, including – ideally – self-contained, sound-proofed rooms and clinical and waiting space.

“But location is crucial.

“It’s got to feel relaxing, calming and safe, with no noise.”



Of course, as much as the building is important, it’s the work, advice and experience offered between the four walls that really sets Ewan and his First Psychology team apart.

He says: “There’s the experience of being welcomed and, importantly, feeling that being here offers something of value.

“The style of the practice is down-to-earth, with friendly people.

“We have innovative and dynamic people, trained through our institute, who are way ahead of competitors – diploma, academy, knowledge transfer, CPD.

“They want to help people. And that is important.

“Everything we do is personalised, embracing and welcoming.

“We develop a shared understanding of issues and why someone might want to address particular problems in their life, such as a relationship breakdown, mood, stress, anxiety, panic, behavioural problems and eating obsessive kind of problems.

“From there, we build a plan with them, which might involve some therapy or other things.

“Generally, when people come, they stay.”

It is testimony to First Psychology that as the stigma around mental health lifts, the company has reached out to so many men.

This was demonstrated in Scotland when Ewan moved his part-time counselling role into a full-time occupation, which now involves hundreds of like-minded professionals.

Over the 15 years, First Psychology has become particularly adept in the field of men’s mental health and is recognised as quite a disruptive practice that will challenge people’s perceptions of therapy.

And while Ewan is the experienced front for his business, the wide range of practitioners available means the clinic can offer a ‘concierge service’, which matches clients to age-appropriate practitioners and resonates with the younger audience.

He already feels at home in Newcastle, where he has been welcomed by the city and its residents.

Ewan adds: “The underlying purpose of our organisation is around helping people, and what drives us is being good clinicians, doing a good job and making a difference to people.

“We’re a really solid therapy practice, we have our own training institute online and we offer practical help with compassion and transparency.

“It makes sense for us to expand because we think we do a good job and we can help people, so why wouldn’t we?

“We’ve got to a point in Scotland where we’ve got a good infrastructure that can continue to grow and evolve, and there’s such an affinity between the culture here and in Scotland.

“Every time I come down, I feel that.

“We’re very experienced in working with clients, we have tens of thousands of appointments every year, so we know what we’re doing.

“From the beginning, when someone gets in touch with us, we know exactly how to respond and take everyone’s experiences as unique and of value.”


Join us on 23rd May for a unique fireside chat surrounding the topic of mental health in young people at Banyan Newcastle. In association with Newcastle Young Professional’s Forum and First Psychology. Tickets here.


May 9, 2024

  • Business & Economy

Created by North East Times