Connect Health has really inspired me to develop my skills, to learn more and be part of something I believe in.

Sonia Ovens, Cognitive Behaviour Psychotherapist, SWEX (South West Essex) Integrated MSK, Pain and Rheumatology Service describes how working at Connect Health has empowered her to treat patients the way they need to be treated, outside of mechanical constraints.

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My first career was in customer services

I managed a team of 70, and really enjoyed working with people. It was there I realised that I wanted to develop further my people and problem solving skills, and when I was made redundant after 16 years and some personal losses, I wanted to move into a clinical and caring career.

I took an Access course in psychology and social work, followed by a psychology degree

I absolutely loved it and completed a Master’s in psychological therapies, before doing Post Graduate Diplomas in cognitive and behavioural therapy in 2016.

My newly qualified role was in the adult mental health crisis team at a psychiatric hospital in Oxford

We provided short term Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) interventions for outpatients, using talking therapies to help patients change negative patterns of thinking or behaviour. I worked for the consultant delivering long term therapy for severe and enduring outpatient presentations before moving to be a locum in an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) team.

After a year, I was looking for a more local position and I joined Connect Health

The psychologist recommended me for the job and I joined in Oct 2017. I was ready for the move; IAPT teams can’t always give the level of patient care that I like to deliver as it’s so fast paced and can sometimes feel a bit mechanical.

I heard the vision for Connect Health, and it sounded so appealing

As soon as I started, I loved it. It’s a really person centred organisation, and I was working as part of a brilliant team. I was involved in launching the Pain Management Programmes (PMP) for SWEX. I was a bit apprehensive as it is the first time I’d been involved in delivering anything like that, but I learnt such a lot.

The complexity of the patients was really motivating for me

When you are working with pain patients, there is a lot of comorbidity. You’re trying to treat the comorbidities alongside the pain, so you need to do something far more transdiagnostic to work towards recovery.


Connect Health is a really happy place to work. It’s really professional and supportive, and they’re very open to helping you to excel.


I was the first psychotherapist to come into SWEX, so I was able to hit the ground running and contribute a lot to the team

I was very involved in the set up, introducing outcomes, collecting research data and producing the research. We were able to understand what the clinical presentations needed in terms of priority and offer a psychology perspective which they didn’t have before.

There’s a real focus on treating patients the way they need to be treated

Whether they need four sessions or twelve, I’m empowered to do that. That’s so important to me. The IAPT service used to offer limited sessions and measures performance in terms of recovery, whereas at Connect Health it’s about patient wellbeing overall. You have the opportunity to build trust with patients and choose appropriate interventions so that they get more from the treatment.

Their trust in me to do the job actually has been huge

I’m able to manage my time and structure my days, setting my own expectations about what’s achievable. You have to be quite autonomous and work hard to get to know the patients and work well with them. CBT is all about active listening, a non-judgemental approach and focusing on what clients want to change. Connect Health gives me the space to do it.

You’ve got to have a passion for what you do

My purpose and understanding of why I’m here is clear. It’s very different from working in the NHS, and you need to ease yourself into a role that doesn’t feel so mechanical.

It’s somewhere you can develop and follow your interests

For example, I’m about to deliver suicide awareness training, which is a professional interest of mine. I’m also going to be training on acceptance commitment therapy, to share with the team and implement into practice.


My Role as a psychotherapist

I am qualified as a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist, so deliver CBT and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). I am also familiar with Compassion Focused Therapy and have completed the training as an EMDR practitioner (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). My role includes one-to-one assessment and treatments, as well as delivering the psychological interventions on our pain management programmes in accordance with patient’s clinical presentation and goals along with NICE guidelines.



If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact