13 May

Counselling under lockdown

Reflections from a WLAC counsellor (client details changed)

At the end of February, our CEO Heather was following the Covid-19 information assiduously. We had hand sanitisers fixed to the walls and we cleaned door handles twice a day.

I then took a week’s leave (social distance skiing in Northern Italy), came back with coronavirus (I’m sure I caught it before I left, so my trip saved the entire office from getting it!), and EVERYTHING had changed.

Suddenly we were all working from home, a week before official lockdown began.  Each week we usually have maybe sixty people coming into our small offices and sitting for intensive one-hour sessions in small counselling rooms – it simply wasn’t going to work.

Although we had had hypothetical discussions about working from home, it did come upon us very suddenly. On Friday 13th March, everyone packed up and left the office for the foreseeable future.

We discovered that we are very adaptable – and so are our clients. Within a week, we all had our own work mobile phones and had contacted all our clients and arranged phone sessions with everyone who wanted to continue counselling.   And then of course there was Zoom. So easy to set up. We had a team meeting within a day of working from home and we could thrash out various issues – like what to do about people we hadn’t met who were waiting for counselling and about future referrals.

So how is counselling from home working for clients?

Clients say, “It’s nice to hear your voice”. For many of them, I have been a stable presence in their lives for some time and I am pleased to be able to continue to be there for them. I have just spoken to a mother at home with her two young boys and I asked her how she found the phone sessions, and she said, “It’s just the same”.

Martha is one of the many parents I speak to who is benefitting from the time at home with their children. We often agree to forego a session because she is making ice cream with her boys or baking a cake. When she first came to West London Action for Children before Christmas, she was tearing her hair out trying to cope with her children’s behaviour.  Martha attended our parenting group and then some counselling with me, and then Lockdown came along. She just told me that it has given her “the perfect opportunity to get to know my children”. In today’s phone session, she didn’t mention her children’s bad behaviour once. Instead she spoke of her feelings of love and protectiveness towards them.

Another mother and I have regular phone sessions that she says have changed her family life.  This woman, Jane, had a chaotic childhood with little calm parenting and she is open about wanting to parent with less anger, less shouting and less swearing.  She said she was finding bedtimes very trying, with her children refusing to stay in bed.

I suggested she spend time with her children as they settle, which she had never done before.  Now she sits with them and listens to them chatter and tell stories, then she leaves, and they go to sleep. I also helped her write a timetable out for the day, and we worked out a simple technique for reducing her shouting – she has to put a red sticker on her calendar each time she shouts and the reason for it. This has reduced her angry outbursts dramatically.

Jane feels proud of her achievements and sounds happy as she tells me how her children’s behaviour is improving as they enjoy the arts and crafts time, the cycle rides together, and the chance to chat to her as they drift off to sleep.

Some clients have opened up as much if not more than in a face-to-face counselling session. They often say, as they do in the office, that they feel relieved at the end of a session to have spoken about their deep emotions and inner conflicts.

But the lack of physical presence of my clients is hard for me – I’ve realized how much positive energy I get from being with them.  I think many homeworkers, including us therapists, are finding work more draining without the warmth and pleasure that human company brings.

Zoom does come to the rescue again. I have had zoom sessions with new clients which have really surprised me. I have met some young teenagers for the first time on zoom and seeing their faces and expressions and some time for humour enhances the work no end. Emotions can be conveyed via video as I’ve discovered: I feel moved by the emotions people convey. Clearly something transpersonal comes through video.  As one client said, “I can’t believe I’m crying at an Ipad”.

A big loss with homeworking is not being with my colleagues. I miss the banter and the shift in mood of a light-hearted conversation after an emotional session. I miss the faces, smiles, the laughter and the warmth of my work family. 

But needs must and we will be back soon!

06 Feb

I will show [you] what a woman can do!

WLAC supporter Letizia Treves is the curator of the first ever exhibition of Artermisia Gentileschi’s work ever to be held in the UK. The exhibition will open at The National Gallery in early April.

Letizia kindly gave a fascinating lecture about Artemesia’s life and work to an audience of our supporters. Daughter, wife, mother, lover, painter: Letizia explained how Artemisia challenged conventions to become a famous artist and one of the greatest storytellers of her time.

Grazie mille to Meg Kaufman for organising the event, Letizia for sharing her expert knowledge and enthusiasm with us, St Paul’s Girls School for hosting us and Bective Leslie Marsh for sponsoring the refreshments.

And thank you to everyone who came. Together we raised over £1,900.

29 Jan

Iron Age Mexican Eggs…

Intrigued? So was I. Meet fantasy author Angus Watson, to find out more.

Angus is a neighbour of Councillor Belinda Donovan, one of our long-standing supporters and volunteers. Belinda asked Angus to donate his signature Mexican Iron Age Eggs recipe for The West London Cookbook, which we are selling to raise awareness and funds for WLAC.

I first met Angus at the Cookbook launch event last September. I was standing at the back by the door because I didn’t want it to squeak and distract from the speeches. He and his wife were sneaking out early because they needed to get back for the babysitter. As they were leaving, Angus handed the copy of the Cookbook that he had bought back to me.

‘That’s a bit odd,’ I thought.

Having heard more about the charity’s work with local families, I want to give this one back and buy five instead,’ he said. ‘And please can you put me on your charity mailing list?’ Then he gave me his business card.

I immediately recognised Angus’s name from the Cookbook.

‘Iron Age Mexican Eggs?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘Page 54’.

Is there anything else I can do to help WLAC?’

‘Erm….may I interview you for our newsletter?’ I asked. ‘Yes of course,’ he said immediately, ‘Anything to help.’

We met again a few weeks later for coffee.

I explained that I wanted to find out more about why he is supporting West London Action for Children. And also the backstory to the Eggs.

Angus told me he doesn’t actually enjoy cooking very much. He likes this recipe because it requires minimal effort but looks pretty spectacular and goes down well with all the family. Sounds like my kind of recipe!

What Angus loves is writing. ‘When you cook, what you’ve spent all that time making just gets eaten,’ he explained. ‘When you write, there is a book at the end of it.’

So why Iron Age historical fantasy novels?

Angus said he was lucky to have had lots of fascinating assignments as a freelance writer and journalist, back when newspapers were prepared to invest in such things. He went looking for Bigfoot in the USA for the Telegraph and was sent diving on the scuppered German fleet at Scapa Flow for the Financial Times. He even found himself swimming with sea lions off the Galapagos Islands for the Times.

These adventures fed his curiosity and fuelled his imagination.

But it was actually closer to home, whilst researching British hill forts for the Telegraph that he decided to write fantasy novels set in the Iron Age.

‘I have become fascinated by the mystery surrounding those times. I enjoy making up a history’.

As a mother of two teenage boys, I am always on the lookout for books that might appeal to them. However, Angus warned me that his are very much written for a grownup audience. Perhaps one for my bookclub then…

So, apart from being Belinda’s neighbour, why does Angus support WLAC?

First and foremost, because he is a parent.

Angus says he knows how challenging parenting and family life can be, even if you are lucky enough to have had a secure and stable upbringing yourself, strong family support and reasonable finances. He also talked about how having your own children changes something within you and makes you look at the world differently. He wants to help children and other families who are in tough circumstances.

Angus also knows how profound and lasting the impact of early intervention therapy and counselling can be. He says that his eldest godchild who has special needs and her family have received incredibly valuable support from WLAC to help them cope with the particular challenges they face. Angus talked about about how cuts to mainstream services have significantly impacted on families like theirs and how they have to ‘fight’ for the support and resourcing they need.

Angus wants to do more to support WLAC and our work so that we can help more families.

Thank you for supporting WLAC. Together we are making a difference.

Click here to order your copy of The West London Cookbook and find out how to make Iron Age Mexican Eggs (page 54).

Or maybe buy five like Angus did. And give four to friends and neighbours and start conversations about WLAC and how we are making a difference.

13 Sep

The West London Cookbook has arrived!

Our second cookbook is complete: a collection of recipes from restaurant, chefs and foodies in West London. Featuring mouth-watering starters, main courses and puddings from popular eateries such as the River Café, the Anglesea Arms and The Bluebird Chelsea; as well as well-known local residents such as Colin Firth, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and John Le Carré.

To order a copy from 23rd September, please donate (suggested amount £10) using the link below. Please ensure you use the reference ‘Cookbook’ and leave your name and postal address when given the option to ‘add a message of support’ to your donation.


Thank you.

20 Mar

Meet a volunteer…

Brian Huckett moved to Brook Green over 20 years ago. At a Christmas party he heard about WLAC and has been a supporter ever since. For the past five years, he has been volunteering as the Treasurer for the Brook Green Events Group.
Why do you support WLAC?
I support WLAC because it is a small, local charity which I feel is doing a worthwhile job with limited resources, efficiently applied. It is very transparent.
Heather (the CEO) and her personal dedication are great motivating factors. She has given a great deal of her life to the charity and its work. She is completely genuine.
And I have great faith in the power of talking therapies. The WLAC case studies show how therapy helps children and families who face the most incredible challenges. I always read the examples in the annual review. Also, I have personal experience of how therapy can help you cope and move forward in the most difficult times.
What do you do as Brook Green Events Group Treasurer?
We are lucky to have an excellent group of fundraisers who are very experienced at running events. I have a project management background so I enjoy helping behind the scenes so that that we know exactly who is attending our events, table allocations etc and of course keeping track of all the donations and ensuring that they reach their intended destination – WLAC’s bank account!
What has been your experience of volunteering for WLAC?
This is my first experience of being closely involved in a charity. It is quite different to the corporate world; there are no apparent power struggles or internal politics. Everyone is completely committed to the cause and pulling in the same direction.
WLAC has a low-cost administrative set-up. I can see that. Sometimes it can be frustrating. But they focus their resources on delivering therapy to clients. And that is where it should be.
What do you wish other people knew about WLAC?
That it exists! WLAC does such tremendous work and it is so important. They deserve to have a higher profile.
I also think that WLAC could encourage more of its supporters to become regular donors. The centenary campaign prompted me to set up a direct debit. Hopefully more supporters will do this so that WLAC can plan ahead and help more families.
28 Feb

Lightning Talks No.4

Thank you to our Trustee Meg Kaufman for organising our fourth Lightning Talks event kindly hosted by Vas and Rupert Ticehurst-James at their Chiswick home on 28th February.

It was another fascinating line-up of quick talks by local experts covering a wide range of topics; Emery Walker, Free Association, Keeping Carnival Safe, Job Satisfaction and How Walking Can Save Your Life.

It was also a chance for Meg to talk about WLAC and raise awareness about our work.

Thank you to everyone who supported the event.