Oxford alumnus Stelios Kiosses, TV psychologist and supervisor, tells how he quit the NHS to develop therapies that combine modern science with ancient wisdom.

The listenerBy Lindsey Harrad

Witnessing the extremes of human suffering in Romanian orphanages and psychiatric hospitals in the Ceausescu years gave Stelios Kiosses (Rewley House [OUDCE], 2010) an insight into the healing power of listening. ‘At that time I was in my late teens with no training, and I realised I couldn’t change their situation, but I could talk and listen to them — it seemed to come naturally to me.’

After initially studying experimental psychology under Professor Stuart Sutherland at Sussex University, he later undertook postgraduate qualifications at Birmingham University and Oxford in psychodynamic counselling at the department for continuing education. He was trained and worked in the NHS for a number of years as a psychotherapist alongside his private consultancy work for the Priory Hospital, where he also specialised in eating disorders and other psychiatric conditions.

‘My NHS waiting list was almost three years — this was the final straw. My colleagues were wonderful, but the bureaucracy was a great burden on me. I left the NHS to set up my own mental health clinic in Birmingham, where I use evidence-based treatments alongside complementary treatments such as aromatherapy, martial arts, meditation and food therapy to empower people to understand and manage their conditions in a more holistic approach. I call it modern science combined with ancient wisdom.’

In his other role as presenter of Channel 4’s successful series The Hoarder Next Door, featuring compulsive hoarders of often worthless items, Kiosses has helped to promote the benefits of cognitive therapy to the wider public. Two episodes of the show were filmed at Kellogg College with the dean, Dr Alistair Ross, a senior counsellor specialising in psychotherapy and other therapies.

‘It’s a very misunderstood condition,’ says Stelios. ‘If you go into an alcoholic’s house and remove all the bottles, will that cure their addiction? No, they’ll just acquire more. It’s the same for hoarders. Removing the stuff doesn’t cure the underlying condition, it’s only a temporary relief.’

However, there’s a growing public and professional awareness of compulsive hoarding, and it has recently been classified as a separate condition triggered by a range of depressive disorders, not simply a possible symptom of OCD or PTSD.

‘Compulsive hoarding is often caused by loss or trauma. It’s a form of emotional insulation against unresolved pain or negative feelings. But what I hope we demonstrate through the show is that although we can’t eliminate fear, depression and anxiety, as they are normal human emotions, we can retune our internal mechanism to keep them under control.’

Image courtesy of Stelios Kiosses.