It can be hard talking about mental health and when one of my family members started having serious problems after the breakup of their marriage, I decided to put my journalism skills into practice.
After a thorough search of the internet, I quickly concluded that the only person my family member should see was Wendy Dignan.
Wendy’s charges for individual (face to face or via Zoom) clients in her private practice may mean that potential clients keep scrolling to find a ‘counsellor’ or ‘coach’ who may be cheaper.
My family member had spoken to several counsellors and coaches and had been having therapy of different kinds for almost 5 years. At the very first appointment, Wendy explained the reasons these problems kept recurring, in a way that made all the difference.
I don’t want to give too much away due to confidentiality, but I’m not surprised that Wendy has such an outstanding reputation.
A real lightbulb moment.
After 6 sessions, the difference Wendy made was obvious to everyone.
I was curious about Wendy, and exactly what she does that’s so different. With my journalist’s hat firmIy in place, I decided to see if I could meet her and find out more.
The first time I saw Wendy was on the television show, Cheshire Housewives. It really struck me that she understood exactly what people go through, and I was really excited to be able to interview her.
We are only just into the start of the day and Wendy has already spoken to a woman having a panic attack, helped somebody get to an interview without having a meltdown, and suggested ways to control health anxiety.
There are 3 other people in the office directing questions at Wendy and tapping away at laptops as if somebody’s life depended on it.
Maybe it does?
One by one, Wendy answers the questions sent her way and compiles a list of the queries she needs to answer. I call them queries but actually, the answers Wendy’s working on seem like life changing stuff to me.
This is the HQ of Fearless Female and her private practice, where Wendy Dignan runs an online community to show women how to be free of anxiety and sees face to face clients. The walls are full of photographs of Wendy with celebrities and sports people she’s worked with, and it just adds to the glamour of the office in Alderley Edge.
Wendy is one of the most highly regarded psychologists in the UK, having just won Mental Health Provider of the Year 2020. She is also an anxiety specialist and suffered from anxiety herself.
I am struggling to believe that this one women powerhouse, who is busily changing women’s lives within a few sentences, has ever had an anxious moment in her life. Not only is she effortlessly providing solutions, but she is also warm, smiling and very genuine, the sort of women you just trust implicitly.
“It frustrates me that people think they have to put up with anxiety blighting their life” she tells me.
“I hear it all the time. They’ve had a bit of counselling, maybe been to see their GP, read a few books and just don’t feel any better. They then think this thing can’t be fixed. The problem with GP’s is that they just want to give you the easy option of medication. Counsellors are only trained to listen to you and people you see on the NHS are not always the best. And don’t even get me started about people calling themselves coaches”
Wendy has spent 25 years perfecting her skill whilst working with countless celebrities, fashionistas, and sports stars. I decide it’s probably best not to ask her age but suspect that in that time, she has found solutions to most things. She tells me that Fearless Female was born out of the exhaustion of seeing back-to-back clients in Harley Street, London, and Cheshire. She decided there had to be a way to condense all her knowledge and experience to fix anxiety quickly, as well as cheaply and easily.
“This is what it’s all about” Wendy tells me. She has just read an email from a woman on the Fearless Female course who’s had her first panic attack free week.
The Fearless Female course is the anxiety solution that Wendy has written and developed. It’s done entirely online with as much or as little support as you need. “Some of the women are confident enough to post things in the private group and ask for help. Anything from what’s helped others, to medication to relationship problems and HRT are discussed in the group. It’s a wonderful, warm and supportive space especially for women.” With the anxiety problems coronavirus is creating, rather than using it as a way to make more money, Wendy has opened the group to women for free.
The Fearless Female anxiety solution is not just the group, it’s a whole lot more than that. There are workbooks for different types of anxiety. Wendy describes these as being full of all the stuff that actually works. “I’ve put together all the ways that tell you how to overcome anxiety for good, using tools that are tried and tested over the last 25 years. And without much effort either, I want women to take back control of their lives as quickly and easily as possible.”
I ask Wendy if an online course can really replace face to face sessions, “Absolutely, it’s been written and designed to be better than face to face therapy, and, without the inconvenience and cost of endless visits. For some, the download of the workbook, the journal and the help sheets are enough. Some want to be able to speak to me once a week, whatever it takes.”
The help sheets have been designed to take the place of having Wendy on speed dial. The pack of help sheets have an exercise to answer every ‘emergency’ Wendy has answered. From going to a party with social anxiety, putting an end to panic attacks, to stopping constant worry thoughts so you can sleep. There’s a help card with a solution for every problem. Wendy will also answer as many questions as you have.
And it’s for life. Fearless Female membership is lifelong, unlike many other memberships that are time limited. “We’ve got some amazing members who have beaten anxiety into submission and enjoy supporting women at the start of their journey. Life has a way of sometimes sending a curve ball your way; relationship problems, illness and just general life stress can really get you down. We’re always here to support you and help you find a way forward.”
This all sounds great, but if you are anything like me, I start off with good intentions that quickly fall by the wayside. Wendy even has an answer for this, “That’s the reason I wrote the journal to go with the course. It’s a way of making yourself personally accountable and sticking with it. Anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression will take over your life if you let them, and I know all too well how difficult they are to overcome. Sometimes it just feels like you’re stuck with it, like you just have to manage things and get on with it. The journal has exercises and asks all the right questions that means you get the outcome you need.”
I am starting to see exactly why Wendy’s the go – to psychologist for celebrities. She is seriously impressive and clearly knows her stuff. Not only that, but she just gives you that sense of trust, that she is somebody who can deliver what she says she can. And likeable too, not some stuffy psychologist who has never lived in the real world, a woman everyone would want to be friends with.
I’m off at speed, following her round her purpose-built office in Alderley Edge. Plumping cushions and watering plants as she talks, the office is very Cheshire Housewives. I push her about the famous clients she has, and she smiles “It would be difficult to deny the fact that I support the women on Cheshire Housewives as you’ve all seen it on national television. Other than that, all I’ll say is that our private entrance gets used quite a lot.” I fail miserably in finding out any salacious celebrity gossip.
As I’m watching Wendy whirl round her office, it suddenly occurs to me that if it’s this easy to fix anxiety, why does anybody still suffer with it?
“Good question, in fact great question. The problem is there are lots of councillors and coaches out there, who may or may not be qualified. Many have some bogus qualification that the public would never know is total fiction. Mental health is totally unregulated, anyone can call themselves a counsellor or a coach. Even if they are properly qualified, they are only trained to listen. They are not psychologists who are trained to identify and interrupt faulty patterns of thoughts and behaviour.
Even more terrifying, counsellors, coaches and people who meddle in mental health can make things worse. Imagine having a problem that you talk about constantly for hours, in the same way as you always have; that’s right, it becomes more practiced and more ingrained”
It feels like this may be source of aggravation I have accidently stumbled on.
“It just makes me really cross that people think they’re doing the right thing getting help from self-proclaimed counsellors and coaches and spend hard earned money on, at best feeling worse, or even going away thinking they can’t be helped.
And don’t get me started on all the yoga instructors, nutritionists and purveyors of woo woo magic who meddle with people’s mental health. This is like trusting someone who’s read a book to do brain surgery, you just wouldn’t, would you?”
I get it. When you think about it like that, I understand why Wendy gets so irate about some counsellors and coaches in the mental health space. I shudder to think how much harm is being done to people and their mental well-being.
It is time for me to leave. Wendy’s keen to maintain the confidentiality of someone coming in to see her at the office. I am a bit sad to be leaving. Wendy and her team at Fearless Female HQ have created one of those spaces that wraps its arms around you and you feel safe and inspired.
I leave without any doubt that Wendy’s the real deal. That she can absolutely deliver on her promise to help you be free of anxiety, quickly and easily, and with a smile.
Don’t question if you can afford to book an individual consultation with Wendy, ask yourself if can afford not to.