Our Team

Our Team

The Place2Be team are leaders in the field of children's mental health and well-being and have a wealth of experience in counselling, education, child psychiatry and philanthropy.

Chief Executive

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive

Catherine Roche

Catherine Roche has been Chief Executive at Place2Be since January 2014. She was Chief Operating Officer from 2003, instrumental in delivering organisational growth, before becoming Deputy CEO in 2013.

Originally a secondary and adult education teacher, Catherine first became involved with Place2Be in 1996, giving pro bono advice and support while a strategic planning and organisational development specialist with KPMG Consulting. She worked with a wide range of private and public sector clients across Europe and the US with KPMG's UK operation and later as part of the US based Change Solutions team.

Catherine holds an MBA, magna cum laude, from Boston University, a BA (Hons) in English and French and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education, both from University College Cork.


Dame Benita Refson DBE
Benita RefsonBenita is a founding Trustee of Place2Be and a qualified counsellor. After 19 years, Benita stepped down as CEO in 2014 and continues to support the organisation enthusiastically through her role as President.

Benita received an OBE for Services to Children and Families in 2007; was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of East London in 2009; in 2014 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Institute of Education, University of London and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Birthday 2016 Honours List in recognition of services to education. Currently Benita is Trustee of Children of Success Schools Trust, (RAPt) Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners and a Governor at Bridge Academy Hackney. 

Executive Team

Alex Shapland-Howes, Director of Operations

AlexAlex joined Place2Be from the education charity Future First where he served as Managing Director for six years. He led that organisation’s growth into more than 10% of all secondary schools nationwide. Prior to Future First Alex was a teacher, Head of Maths and Head of Year in two inner-city London schools. He has also served as a trustee of Teach First and is currently a governor at a school in Newham. Alex holds an MBA from the University of Oxford’s Said Business School, as a recipient of the prestigious Skoll Scholarship, and a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Warwick.

Ruth Richards

Ruth Richards, Director of Marketing and Digital
Ruth is a marketing professional with extensive experience of managing brands, projects and teams. Ruth has worked in the charity sector for thirteen years, most recently as Head of Marketing and Communications at Mind, overseeing their marketing, digital and communications work.



Vicki Bednall, Director of Fundraising (Maternity Cover)
Vicki BednallVicki has over 16 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector across a variety of functions including events, individual giving, philanthropy, commercial development, corporate partnerships and supporter care. She has held fundraising leadership roles at The Prince’s Trust, WaterAid and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Vicki joined Place2Be from Breast Cancer Now, where she led the growth of the Corporate Partnerships team, post-merger. This included the successful relaunch of the sector-leading ‘Fashion Targets Breast Cancer’ campaign.


Jan McCarthy, Director of HR and Volunteers
Jan MccarthyJan McCarthy is a Fellow of the CIPD and has over 25 years' HR experience in banking and the not-for-profit sector. For the past 4 years she has been an independent HR consultant working with  business start-ups and charities where one of her early clients was Place2Be. An experienced senior manager, she was Director of HR at a large national disability charity employing 3,500 staff and 4,000 volunteers, working with schools, FE Colleges and community services for adults and young people. Jan has an MSc in Human Resource Development, Diploma in Training and Development and is also a qualified Workplace Mediator. Jan is a Fellowship and Chartered membership assessor for the CIPD and is a Trustee of a Homeless Charity for Young People.

Dr Patrick Johnston, Director of Learning
PatrickPatrick obtained his BSc in Physiology at the University of Ireland, Galway before completing a PhD in Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London. Alongside his research, Patrick has extensive experience working at the Behaviour Genetics Clinic at the South London and Maudsley Hospital. Before joining Place2Be, he was most recently Assistant Head at Highgate School, where his responsibilities included the strategic development of the school’s pupil wellbeing and mental health strategy.

Our Senior Team

Jonathan Wood, National Manager, Wales & Scotland

Jonathan WoodJonathan Wood has worked in the voluntary sector for 35 years, with 20 of those as a psychotherapist/art therapist. He has also managed counselling-based projects for those 20 years. Jonathan joined Place2Be in 2006 as Edinburgh Cluster Manager, becoming National Manager for Scotland in 2008. More recently he took up the role of Service Manager for Scotland. He has an MSC in Psychological Counselling, a PG Diploma in Art Therapy, a Diploma in Transpersonal Psychology and an MBA. Registered as an art therapist with the Health Professions Council, Jonathan has worked in the fields of homelessness, drug addiction, learning disability, mental health and children and families.

Debbie Simmons, Head of Service Midlands/North
Debbie Simmons
Debbie joined Place2Be in 2016 and has supported families with complex needs for nearly 30 years. She has Diplomas in Management & Leadership and Childhood Studies and a PGDip in CAMHS Service Transformation. Her work on rehabilitation and reintegration within HMP led her to complete an MSC in Substance Misuse and she went on to focus on early intervention within the mental health sector after managing children and family services that experienced high risk taking behaviours. She is trained in MI, CBT techniques and application with children and has CBT and CYPIAPT Certificate in Supervision. Most recently, Debbie managed mental health services for children and families accessing social services and emotional well-being services in schools.

Dr Raffaella Katsanis, Head of Service South
RaffaellaRaffaella is a Clinical Psychologist and UKCP-accredited Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor with a Masters in Psychoanalytic studies. She has worked in crisis intervention, therapeutic communities and mental health services for all ages, but has extensive experience with families and specialises in supporting adults experiencing severe mental health difficulties including depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. As Head of Service with Place2Be she helps plan, design and implement services across London in partnership with CAMHS and local authorities.

Sarah Kendrick, Head of Service South
Sarah KendrickSarah has worked therapeutically with families for over 30 years in substance misuse, youth offending, family assessment, children’s centre and school settings. She holds Postgraduate qualifications in counselling and clinical supervision and an MA in Psychotherapy. In her private practice, Sarah supervises practitioners in both clinical and non-clinical settings.
After joining Place2Be in 2000, Sarah became Head of Service in 2014, for which she manages clinical services across the South of England, as well as National Programme Lead for M-PACT Plus.

Sarah Golden, Head of Evaluation
Sarah GoldenSarah leads the Research and Evaluation team at Place2Be. She has been a researcher for 20 years working in policy research for 15 years and more recently in the charity sector. Sarah is experienced in a range of both quantitative and qualitative research and analysis skills and techniques, in particular interpreting the outcomes of mixed methodology research to explore the outcomes of interventions in education and communities. With her team, Sarah ensures Place2Be has robust research and evidence to inform practice and communicate our valuable work to funders, commissioners and policy makers.

Dr Stephen Adams-Langley, Senior Clinical Consultant
Stephen Adams LangleyDr Stephen Adams-Langley has practiced as a psychotherapist and counsellor for 20 years, working with children, young people and adults. He has held senior clinical and management roles at Place2Be for the past 15 years, managing a number of Place2Be's services in Nottingham, Medway and Cardiff, as well as in Enfield, Lambeth, Camden and Shoreditch. He was awarded his Research Doctorate in Psychotherapy from Middlesex University (Metanoia Institute) together with the Jennifer Elton Wilson prize for his Professional Development Paper in 2012. He has an MA in Psychotherapy and Counselling, a post-qualifying Advanced Diploma in Existential Psychotherapy and a BA (Honours) in English.

Dr Niki Cooper (DPsych, MA, PGdip Couns, MBACP(Accred)), Head of Learning Mental Health Workforce

Niki CooperNiki joined Place2Be in 2002. She is co-author of the Place2Be Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling Children in Schools and, since 2007, has overseen the development and management of a comprehensive professional qualifications pathway at Place2Be from Level 2 to MA. Her doctoral thesis was a critical examination of this pathway and the impact it has had on the wider field of counselling children and young people. She teaches on, or supervises, all of the qualifications courses. Before joining Place2Be she was a community based counsellor in South London for London Marriage Guidance and a secondary school counsellor.

Sharon Cole, Head of Safeguarding
Sharon ColeSharon has worked at Place2Be since August 2013, having worked with vulnerable children and families in a variety of positions across public and 3rd sector organisations. This involved working with looked after children, schools and alternative provisions, children services, Women's Aid and other children's charities.

Sharon was therapeutically trained in Psychodynamic counselling and Psychotherapy at Regents College, she is also has accreditation from the NSPCC as a Safeguarding and Child Protection Trainer.

Susan Rogers, Head of Communications
Susan RogersSusan joined Place2Be in 2015, having previously worked as Head of Communications at youth social action charities BeatBullying and MindFull – an online counselling and peer support tool for teenagers’ mental health. With a varied career in press and communications, she has previously worked at Transport for London during the London 2012 Olympic Games, on the Which? campaign for consumer rights, and for a PR agency supporting financial technology clients. Susan is responsible for Place2Be’s media, social media and campaigns, and with her team looks to find new and creative ways to tell the many stories of Place2Be’s life-changing work.


Simon Mackenzie Smith (Chair)
Simon is Chairman of UK & Ireland Corporate and Investment Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and has over 30 years’ experience in the finance sector. He is also a member of the Heart of the City Council and the Campaign Council at the National Portrait Gallery.

William Russell (Deputy Chair)
William is an Alderman and Sheriff (2016-17) of the City of London and Director of Red Savannah, Congham Hall Hotel and Knightsbridge Schools International. He worked for First Boston and Merrill Lynch for many years and became a trustee of Place2Be in 2014 and Deputy Chair in 2015.

Adrian Levy 
Adrian is a partner at leading global law firm Clifford Chance LLP. He has been a practicing lawyer for over 20 years and is the Global Head of the firm's Real Estate Sector.

Dr Bob Jezzard
Bob is a Child Psychiatrist and has a wealth of experience gained with the Department of Health and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in south-east London.

Sir Charlie Mayfield
Former Army Officer and respected British businessman, Sir Charlie is the Fifth Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and is also Chairman of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. He received a knighthood in June 2013 for Services to Business.

Elpha LeCointe
Elpha LeCointe is a barrister practising in all areas of the law relating to children. She has extensive experience in care proceedings, adoption and private law disputes within families.

Professor Eric Taylor
Eric is an Emeritus professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King's College London. He is also a Trustee for the Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health and for the National Academy of Parenting Research.

Liz Greetham
Liz has 30 years' experience of the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, primarily in assessing clinical trials of products across all therapeutic categories. She is the former CEO and Board Member of Drug Abuse Science, a private company dedicated to developing prescription medications to treat alcoholism and heroin and cocaine addiction.

Louise, Countess St Aldwyn
Louise holds a Diploma in Humanistic Counselling and Supervision. She has worked as an addiction therapist for adults, adolescents and families for over 20 years. More recently Louise trained at Place2Be and undertook a voluntary counselling placement in a Place2Be school.

The Hon Robert Rayne
Robbie is Chairman of The Rayne Foundation, Chairman of Derwent London plc, Senior Non-Executive Director of Weatherford International and Non-Executive Director of LMS Capital plc.

Siân Hill
Siân is Partner, Financial Services Tax at KPMG LLP. She has over 30 year's experience advising clients on international corporate tax issues particularly those arising on mergers and acquisitions, disposals and corporate restructuring and re-organisations.

Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell
Stephen was a Member of Parliament from 1979-2015 and had a long and industrious political career, with particular focus on Finance, Health, Education and Employment. He was Secretary of State for Health and the first elected Chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee. He is also a businessman and advisor on Healthcare and the Public Sector.

Stephen Scott CBE FRCPsych & FMedSci
Stephen Scott is Professor of Child Health and Behaviour at Kings College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, and Director of the National Academy for Parenting Research. He works clinically as a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital with a multidisciplinary team. He has also been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, a rare honour for a practising clinician.


Find out more

  • How we support schools

    A safe space in schools for children to work through their challenges

    How we support schools
  • Impact

    We increase children's social skills, confidence and learning potential

  • Why it matters

    Early support stops children's troubles growing with them

    Why it matters

Jacob's story

Jacob's teacher was worried that he was withdrawn in class and suggested he went to see Place2Be