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.

03 Feb

Sponsor our heroic London Marathon runners

On 26th April, Becky, Ben, Josh, Lance and Terry will be taking on the challenge of running a collective 131 miles to raise money for WLAC.

Please support their heroic efforts by clicking on the links below, which will take you through to their Fundraising pages. Please donate to help them hit their fundraising targets, and make the early morning runs, and aches and pains worth it.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BeckyCatlin

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BenMartin26

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/josh-saunders-SAVMLMBONDS333-2020-202232

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lance-corcoran

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/terry-vangasse-SAVMLMBONDS333-2020-225373

01 Feb

Video Interaction Guidance – A new therapeutic approach

Five of our team have been training in Video Interaction Guidance – an intervention through which the therapist aims to enhance communication within relationships.  This approach fits well with our solution-focused ethos, where clients are supported to make positive change through strength-based interventions.

Video Interaction Guidance is delivered by video-recording interactions between a parent and child, usually in a period of play.  The next phase is the video review session where the client is supported in reflecting on clips of their own successful interactions.  This session uses a micro-analysis of successful moments in the relationship, with an emphasis on moments when the parent is attuned to their child’s emotions and behaviour.  The approach is a collaborative one which celebrates positive interactions, with the belief that this is key to bringing about the change the client is hoping for.

Video Interaction Guidance is usually a short term intervention, used in many settings to help families to make their desired changes by witnessing, recognising and experiencing a different, more positive, narrative about themselves. 

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.

23 Jan

Our most successful Bridge Evening to date!

Thank you to everyone who came along to our WLAC Bridge Evening in Brook Green last week, and helped to raise over £4000 for WLAC!

The evening was held at the Holy Trinity Parish Church in Brook Green, and saw nearly 80 guests enjoy a fantastic evening of Chicago Bridge.  Guests were treated to a delicious supper, whilst fighting it out for the WLAC Bridge crown!  Well done to our winners, and our thanks to all who came along to play and support WLAC.

Thank you to our wonderful Brook Green Events Group – Isabel, Brian, Emma, Gilly and Vicky – for their tireless energy and seamless organisation of the event, and to our kind sponsors Bective Leslie Marsh their continued support.

23 Jan

Over £44,000 raised for WLAC through the Big Give Christmas Challenge 2019

We are delighted to announce the final figure raised by West London Action for Children via the Big Give Christmas Challenge 2019 is £44,235!

A huge thank you to everyone who supported us in the challenge, both by donating and by spreading the word.  We are thrilled to have been able to unlock and utilise all of our match funding from our Pledge Givers and from our Charity Champions The Childhood Trust, helping us to hit our fundraising target.

All money raised will go directly to providing free counselling and therapy services for local children and parents in need – supporting families to reduce feelings of isolation and increase self-confidence and resilience.

From everyone here at West London Action for Children, thank you