Thirty people came to the meeting. Most were therapist members of the network, a significant minority were not – yet, perhaps. We had a warm, positive discussion ranging across FPN’s history, its current situation and most importantly, ideas for where we go from here. Many thanks to everyone who participated.
We kicked off with a quick summary of how FPN got going and where we are at the moment. We have just over 50 therapists on our directory, half of whom are working in Greater London. The website receives over 30,000 visits a year, and enquiries have been peaking since June this year – no doubt related to the Covid pandemic. Therapists are getting overwhelmed with referral requests, especially in London. Several therapists are asking for notices by their contact details saying they have no availability. A few have decided to come off the website rather than keep turning people away. In some areas, there are far fewer enquiries. At the same time, new therapists are joining the network each month.
We covered a lot of ground. Here are some of the issues and suggestions raised:We need more therapists and new ways to get the network better known among therapists.
• There was some discussion of why therapists might not feel able or keen to join. Mainly perhaps that they have their own sliding fee scales, and of course many cannot afford to give free therapy.
• Some suggestions for making the website more accessible and easier to work out who has availability. Can we give therapists the facility to update their individual availability on the site, and allow prospective clients to search via availability?
• With most work online, for now at least, geography is not necessarily the main criterion.
• Manuela volunteered to work with Paul on how to develop the website to offer search filters for availability, style of work etc. Get in touch if you want to join us.
• A couple of therapists said they were happy to have enquiries referred on to them from other parts of the country. Please let me know if you have availability and are happy to do the same.
• The value of peer supervision groups for free work came up. At the moment there is one group only, in London. Again online meeting opens up new possibilities. Isha Isolde offered to host a WhatsApp group of people interested in forming a new supv group, and this has kicked off. Get in touch with Isha if you are interested.
• There was discussion about FPN making a more explicit statement in support of BAME clients and therapists, including the possibility of explicit support for the Black Lives Matter campaign – something like the statement by Psychotherapy and Counselling Union. Also we can connect more with the work on race issues PCSR members.
• Sasha from PCU also raised the possibility of a more developed position on unpaid work and the needs of trainees in the therapy profession.
• We talked about the possibility of political campaigning around the demand for more “real” therapy ie therapy and counselling that is relational, negotiated and organised around the circumstances and needs of the client as distinct from the narrow range of short-term behavioural therapies with imposed diagnostic parameters and treatment which currently dominates state and third-sector therapy.
• We also talked about ideas of therapy in the community. Some people are already offering free therapy in community settings, sometimes alongside a range of community activities. A2Dominion is offering FPN space in their community centres for therapy and group work which includes their residents. Jan Mosja spoke about her experience of community therapy at the East Wing Practice in Westbury. Andrea Heath proposed creating a space on the website to advertise initiatives from all sources offering free support events and peer group activity.
Thanks to Andy Metcalf for a summary of action points from the meeting:
• Contact Isha Isolde to join the WhatsApp group to discuss setting up peer supervision groups.
• Manuela Campbell and Paul Atkinson will contact each other about renewing the website and making it more accessible for clients. Anyone else who is interested in working on the website and its content please contact Paul.
• Nicola, Isha and Paul will work on a more explicit statement of support towards BAME clients and therapists, including collaboration with PCSR’s work on issues of race and racism. Contact us if you want to be involved.
• Andrea Heath is going to propose to A2Dominion setting up an art project at one of their West London community centres. Paul would like to hear from anyone interested in working with him in community centres in East London.
• Therapists with vacancies willing to receive referrals from anywhere in the UK for online work please get in touch with Andy Metcalf.
• Paul will write a draft on a campaign for real therapy, exploring its potential for national and local campaigning. Contact me if you are interested in helping.
• We will create a space on the website to list current free events and peer group initiatives of psychological support.
We decided to meet again in March. Date and time to be announced.