A new in-house counselling service began in January of 2018, with its design influenced by our residents’ completion of a questionnaire. Many residents felt meeting with a counsellor in-house was more beneficial than meeting externally.

Whether through discussion with other residents, reflection upon their own needs, or encouragement from staff, the residents are recognising the value of this service more and more.

We have increasingly recognised the importance of focussing far greater attention upon creating networks, social inclusion and developing a purpose to one’s life. Developing stronger networks, both within, and without, Wytham Hall, will help clients remain stimulated and provide emotional and practical support.

The problems often faced by our residents leave them suffering with varying degrees of mental health problems and, for some, counselling is a way of beginning to address these problems. Wytham Hall allows residents time to reflect on their lives in a quiet environment and in doing so often brings such problems to the fore. This presents both an opportunity and a risk to the resident.

The service offered is open ended, which allows a resident enough time with the counsellor to increase the chance of finding a solution to their problems. Often emotional problems can prevent a resident from moving on to their own accommodation successfully and so gaining stability through meeting with a counsellor is crucial.

Our counsellor works to improve the psychological input across the entire service. We are working towards engaging residents and encouraging them to take more responsibility for their own development. The staff provide a facilitative, rather than controlling, function. We are also learning more of how our interactions have an influence on residents.

To help us, some residents took part in discussions with the counsellor to think of ideas to support residents in these areas. The residents came up with an idea to meet regularly to play board games. The focus is on fun and enabling the residents to get to know one another in a relaxed environment. The confidence earned from this will hopefully feed into other areas of their lives.

Therapeutic intervention works most effectively if the client is fully trusting of the person providing it. Often residents will reject an intervention if it feels like they are somehow dehumanised by being involved in a process. Therefore, our aim is to include the residents in every aspect of the decision making process so that they have a part to play in the nature of their support. Thus far this has led to the length of sessions being partly determined by the resident and in one case that the sessions occur off site and involve coffee.

Another aspect of this work has been the offer to our residents that they can meet with the counsellor to report on positive developments only. Perhaps the resident has privately achieved their goal of getting out of bed before 9am for a whole week and due to their social isolation, they have no one to tell to receive the equivalent a little pat on the back that many of us take for granted.

We regularly review every aspect of the service to ensure we are learning from the residents in terms of what works and what doesn’t. This is a new provision and its nature is highly likely to evolve over time. Intended future work will include providing more innovative community-based input as there is plenty of evidence to suggest that small interventions help a great deal.