TWO women who set up their counselling business from scratch in just one month are celebrating four years of supporting people in Swindon.

Business partners Christine Fishlock and Heather Garbutt established Bath Road’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre in 2013.

The two met through charity Swindon Counselling Service, which closed that year.

Instead of leaving to practice elsewhere, Christine and Heather poured their efforts and a family inheritance into renovating Swindon Counselling Service’s Victorian town house in Old Town.

They had the idea to go into business together at the same time, texting each other on the same evening to suggest setting up the practice.

It took them just a month to completely restore, redecorate and refurnish the 100-year-old building.

Almost four years later, the company hires its consulting rooms to 25 counsellors, dealing with everything from divorce and bereavement through to sexual abuse, depression and anxiety.

Every month, the centre sees about 1,000 appointments.

Heather says: “We both have that passion about caring for people.”

By February next year, the Counselling And Psychotherapy Centre will have expanded to fill the building.

The colour scheme is neutral and calm - whites, greys and beige. The furniture has a Scandinavian feel – Ikea and John Lewis.

“We like to have things that are nice to the touch,” says Heather, picking up a hand towel

Inside the light-filled consulting rooms, with views over a walled garden, there’s a deathly quiet. On the stairs, we must speak in hushed voices to avoid disturbing the therapists at work.

Since starting the practice, Heather and Christine have brought in more specialists.

“All the therapists go through a rigorous vetting process,” Heather said. “We interview them first. They have to be fully insured and they have to produce professional references and qualifications.”

They include one therapist who offers “Craniosacral Therapy”, using her hands to relieve deep-held trauma and stress that it is said can be harboured subconsciously in the body.

Heather has received training in Conscious Uncoupling Coaching, the approach to divorce and separation made famous by celebrity couple Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. Next year she hopes to bring a US Relationship coach to Swindon to give a public talk about the technique.

The move is deliberate. Heather and Christine say they have seen “a lot more relationship problems” in the half-century they have collectively been practising.

They add that there are more people coming in with stress-related problems - which they put down to a busier work culture.

Christine previously had a career at the Polly Tea Rooms in Marlborough, rising to become head of cake design and then retrained as a counsellor and therapist in the mid-1990s.

Heather worked as an artist before training in art therapy.

“I’d always been interested in seeing what made people tick,” she said.

“My whole family were all about looking after people.”

She says that, at her mother’s funeral, mourners came up to her to say how much they’d enjoyed soul-bearing chats with the woman. “My mother was the group leader of the neighbourhood. Everyone came to her house for coffee.”

Neither are “natural business women”, they say.

So, when Swindon Counselling Service was forced to shut, they had to learn a lot from scratch.

“Both of us came from the caring side of things,” Heather says. “A lot of things we had to learn - all the nuts and bolts of business.”

But they have thrived - in particular Christine, who has discovered a passion and talent for the administration side of the business.

She says: “I love working, it creates so much energy, coming in and doing both therapy and the business side of things.”

Asked what advice they would give the younger versions of themselves setting up the centre, Christine says: “Take a leap of faith and go for it.”

It’s a lesson the two have taken to heart. From taking a month in 2013 to convert some of their rooms into a therapy practice, they are now renovating the remaining portion over a more leisurely six months.

Christine said: “We want to offer help for people that are struggling.”

Heather adds: “We have created a private and well-thought-out space for people.

“We’re really enjoying it and therapists are approaching us to join all the time.”

The Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre offers therapists seven days a week. Prices range from £35 to £60 for a 50 minute session.

Visit or call 01793 514550.