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Offering faith-based counselling for Grenfell

10 June 2019

The Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service provides therapy to the community has been working closely and successfully with al-Manaar Muslim cultural heritage centre in north Kensington.

Members of our Outreach Team have been at al-Manaar most nights during Ramadan. We were part of the Grenfell Together event, led by Muslim Aid in the Porchester in January which was a very useful way of meeting Muslim leaders and learning.

We are also working together on a project for Health Education England about faith based work.

We have many patients of all faiths receiving treatment from our core NHS services and we understand that for some people therapy and their faith are strongly interlinked.

We have been working jointly with local mosques and churches and other faith groups to make sure that they are able to get therapy in the way which best meets their needs.

Faith-based counsellors are able to get our support, or refer on to us in complex cases. For instance we offer clinical supervision to faith-based counsellors, which they value. It is part of a pattern of service delivery we are very keen on, and which we aim to develop further in the future.

Through partnerships with other organisations we are able to increase the reach of what we do and engage those we might otherwise not be able to engage. Partner organisations bring their own strengths, expertise and knowledge which we can draw on to help people more effectively.

Our therapists provide clinical supervision to al-Manaar's counsellors and we are integrating faith-based psychology into the NHS offer, as well as supporting al-Manaar. And it’s an area where we are aiming to deepen our links. We work to make sure all our staff are faith-sensitive.

We provide translators in all languages though we aim to recruit more Arabic and Farsi speaking therapists (we are training an Arabic and Farsi speaking member of staff to become a therapist).

We are piloting through our Recovery College some North Kensington community workshops around recovery and resilience and the importance of faith in July.

We were asked some questions about this approach.

Question 1

"What have been the main challenges in engaging with some of the "hardest to reach" individuals in terms of mental health provision since Grenfell - in particular those from traditional Islamic communities - and how successful would you say the NHS approach has been?

Some of the challenges due to:

  • Shame and stigma attached to mental health and help-seeking
  • Fear of disclosure, contributing religious beliefs regarding distress
  • Language barriers, mistrust of professionals
  • Confidentiality concerns
  • Culture and faith influencing understanding of mental health and determining acceptable responses to mental health issues
  • Not understanding the support that is available
  • Psychological factors such as avoidance, shame, guilt, and negative beliefs themselves, the event, and their reactions: “Others are in more pain than me - I don’t deserve help”, “It’s too painful to talk about the Fire”
  • Talking about the fire may make others in my family feel worse
  • Negative beliefs about mental health services and help seeking, because of:
    • Previous experiences of mental health services
    • Limited understanding of mental health trauma responses and the possibility of being helped with distressing symptoms; prominent with persistent grief reactions
    • Limited confidence in the ability of NHS staff to help with the issues faced by the individual

“And how successful would you say the NHS approach has been?

Over the last 18 months we have developed many collaborative ways of working with different faith communities. And we are working with Health Education England on a training project, “to identity the benefits that can be accrued when mental health services and faith leaders work together in partnership and to consider how education and training can enable both parties to enhance their capability, competence and confidence to respond and/or deliver care and support when required to do so”, (in this case with the Church of England and the Methodist Church to work in partnership, to identify and learn from mental-health related inter-faith community development work in Kensington and Chelsea that can be built on and scaled up for wider dissemination).

Question 2

"Do you see any opportunities for regular NHS provision to work alongside "faith-based psychotherapy" along the lines of the model offered at the Al-Manaar centre?

Yes, we do provide clinical supervision for the counsellors at al-Manaar.

Through our collaborative working with community organisations we have been able to offer culturally appropriate interventions which support existing ways of coping with trauma and loss. We developed these initiatives by listening to the community to shape the delivery of individual and group work.

An example of this is the Hand of Hope group which is part of the Together for Grenfell project; a partnership working between the Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service, community organisations and RBKC.

Hand of Hope developed to meet the needs of the Muslim faith community following feedback about demand for culturally appropriate and faith informed therapeutic support for those affected by the Grenfell Tower.

The Hand of Hope group was piloted for the Grenfell bereaved Arabic speaking community. Group activities are centred on cooking and sharing a meal together during the session. In addition, participants are able to offer additional group activities if requested, which include: Nasheed (Islamic hymns) singing, traditional table drumming, creative arts as well drawing on faith and spirituality of the individual.

The intervention was evaluated using anonymised quantitative outcome measures and a focus group interview. The participants reported that the group:

  • Improved their attitudes towards seeking individual therapy (86%). Previously group members reported shame attached to mental health and seeking therapy. Following the intervention, there was an increased uptake of individual therapy by women in need (60%) and their children (80%). We also received four referrals for individual therapy from the group participants.
  • Reduced social isolation and loneliness (100%) and the strengthening of social support networks
  • Greater self-awareness and understanding of mental health - increased understanding of trauma and grief and how it affects them (86%)
  • Helped provide stabilisation – group members reported a greater ability to manage difficult feelings (72%)
  • The cooking activities were reported to help their well-being (100%) and the therapeutic support was reported to be helpful (100%)

Following the success of the pilot Hand of Hope group, we are proposing to run a group at the dedicated service for survivors and the directly bereaved, delivered in Arabic and English. Depending on the need we are also proposing to run a Hand of Hopemodel that is culturally adapted but non-faith based.

Find out more about faith based therapy on this Guardian article.