Empathic. Supportive. Confidential

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 2)

At the beginning of 2012 I had a breakdown.  After years of frontline activism, harassment, betrayals and assaults, my body decided it could no longer cope.  I’d known I wasn’t coping very well, but I didn’t let myself stop, the work seemed too important.  In the end, it was the physical symptoms my body produced that forced me to stop; it didn’t give me any choice.

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which didn’t come as a huge shock to anyone who knew me.  I knew I’d been through many traumatic experiences, and was suffering from many of the classic symptoms – flashbacks, anxiety, mood swings, nightmares, feeling constantly on edge.  A whole host of fun demons I constantly wrestled with leaving me incapacitated and incapable of dealing with day-to-day life.

However, the lack and services and support available for PTSD did come as a shock.  The only support readily available was for veterans. Given my PTSD was complex, covering many incidents over a number of years,  I wasn’t suitable for the available six sessions of mostly Cognitive Behavoiur Therapy based treatment on offer from NHS contracted services.   And yet, despite being a blubbering mess, I wasn’t severe enough to warrant treatment from the mental health trust.  I was put on a waiting list for psychological therapies – as far as I’m aware, I’m still on this waiting list today. 

Luckily, I had some compensation money from a wrongful arrest, and I used some of this to see a therapist with experience in trauma.  It’s been a long, slow, and at times incredibly frustrating journey, but despite a few bumps along the way, I’m now back at work, engaging with the world personally and politically.  I’m a long way from being back on the frontline, but I’m not hiding in bed with the covers pulled tight over my head.

It is notoriously difficult to find counsellors with an understanding of activism.  In the past, I’ve had psychotherapists who have tried to label my politics as “raging against the state” because of issues with my father.  I’ve heard of others who have been told their activism is a manifestation of self-harm, or their treatment has been deserved.  And whilst there are some wonderful NHS counsellors and therapists out there, these are not isolated stories, but a consistent narrative thread running across people I’ve spoken to over many years.

Access to effective treatment should never be about money, and both through mine and others experiences, we set up Counselling for Social Change (CSC) to start addressing these issues.  We wanted to support the already fantastic work being done by Activist Trauma Support, but also provide long term psychotherapeutic support to those not only suffering from PTSD, but dealing with other mental health problems as well as being involved in activism and campaigning.

Alongside seeing my therapist, one of the things which made an immense difference to my recovery, was living in a very beautiful part of West Cornwall.  Having access to the countryside, the sea, and for me, the vastness of the skies here was incredibly beneficial.  When I was well enough to leave the house, I went for long walks and bike rides, clearing my head, and embracing the panoramic views Cornwall is famous for.

We therefore decided CSC would offer three services – long term face-to-face counselling for social changers (activists, carers, volunteers, campaigners etc) in Cornwall, phone counselling for those outside of the county, and counselling retreats.  The retreats would be an opportunity to get away from everything, to have some “time out” in a beautiful environment, with full support and counselling.

Through lots of work, luck, and lovely people, this vision has nearly been realised.  We’ve got a fantastic team of dedicated counsellors with a real understanding of the issues involved.  We have an acre of land on a beautiful permaculture site, which in time, we hope to develop in to a productive forest garden.  We’ve received funding for some of our activist work, and are able to offer phone counselling and retreats for free.  I’ve also donated money from another compensation payment, and our shepherd’s hut should arrive on site in the next couple of weeks.

We are now crowdfunding to raise the last of the money we need for infrastructure to get the project up and running – for things such as the compost toilet and solar panel.  We aim to have the retreats running by August, and feel really positive and confident that this is a much needed project which will hopefully benefit many people.  We are really grateful to the people who have already donated, and hope more of you will help to get this project up and running as a resource for everyone.

Several years ago, I was one of the people involved in setting up Fitwatch.  One of the things I wrote in our initial call to action was  “If we were being systematically tortured by the State, we would protest. Mental abuse is just as important and it is vital to the strength of our actions that we challenge this.”  Good mental health is vital to us sustaining our work as activists and social changers, and we hope we can be a part of this.

 “Trauma work is part of resistance…We wonder why we, as activists, still think we can live through situations of severe police brutality without showing any emotional response.

And, in fact, we don’t. A lot of people drop out, disappear, stop being active, feel excluded because of their fear or because they are suffering from post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).”

Activist Trauma Support

Please support our work – make a pledge through our crowdfunder campaign – http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/counsellingforsocialchange/

or donate via Paypal – http://www.counsellingforsocialchange.org.uk/?page_id=87




Free counselling for activists, campaigners, and social changers

Counselling for Social Change (CSC) are offering free phone counselling and rural retreats for activists, campaigners, and social changers. Phone support is ongoing and can last as long as needed. The retreats will be in a low-impact shepherd's hut in rural West Cornwall, and can last between a weekend to a week, and can be supported through phone counselling before and after the retreat.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and burnout are serious issues for activists. The combination of police brutality, repression and taking on too much work, alongside the overwhelming nature of the changes we are trying to achieve can sometimes become too much.  Add in the day-to-day stuff we all have to deal with, and it can become hard to sustain our work.

Many of us feel guilty if we take time out and carry on for much longer than we should, causing greater and longer lasting mental health problems but we need to take our mental health seriously to to ensure stronger and more sustainable movements.

CSC was set up by people with years of experience in frontline activism (Earth First!, Climate Camp, Fitwatch etc.), and aims to support the already fantastic work being done by Activist Trauma Support. We have trained counsellors with an understanding of activism and will support you for as long as you need.

Counselling, especially phone counselling, might seem risky. We are happy to talk to you about any concerns you have. However, here are a few tips which might help:

  • Counselling is confidential and we won't keep any notes about your sessions.

  • You don't have to give us your real name.

  • Don't name others involved in your affinity group, actions etc.

  • If talking about activism, try and keep things general (especially where it might involve illegal activities). We don't need specific details of actions, we're here to deal with the emotional impact.

  • Don't give us any details of future actions, especially if they are not in the public domain.

We currently have funding for free services for activists, but if you can afford to donate something towards the counselling, it will make our funding go further.

We will be launching a crowd funding campaign to raise money to pay for the final pieces of infrastructure we need to run the retreats, and aim to be ready for people to stay from August.

Please contact us for further information:



01736 364 722

Keep up to date with what we're doing on Twitter and Facebook:





Counselling Retreat – Video

Here's a very short little vid (30secs) showing the location of the counselling retreats.

We were up there today marking out the exact location for the structures and helping manage the land!

It's an amazing spot with views of the sea, amidst newly planted orchards.

We are now ready to sort out the structures and are very likely to be up and running for the start of the summer now.

Supporting Activists, Campaigners and Carers

'Counselling for Social Change' has just received funding from cosmetics company, Lush, to provide counselling retreats and phone counselling for activists, carers and campaigners. This work is in addition to their work providing low-cost emotional support across Mid and West Cornwall.

Trustee Emily Apple said, “We've managed to pull together an amazing team of counsellors to provide long-term emotional support to people working for their communities. The retreats will give people a chance to have a break and spend some time looking after themselves.”

The Retreats will be up and running later in the year but the agency is already offering phone and face-to-face support. For more information contact CSC on 01736 364 722 or email info@counsellingforsocialchange.org.uk

Support for post-Christmas/January

For many, January can be an extremely challenging month.  We follow the stress of Christmas with the long dark nights of the New Year.

This time of year often sees family stresses and other issues come to a head and things can seem very difficult to face on your own.

Counselling for Social Change is a non-profit counselling service here to help you through.

We offer low cost counselling across Mid and West Cornwall, as well as Phone Counselling for people further afield.  We believe that everyone should have access to ongoing support no matter what their financial situation.

If you would like to talk to someone please email us on info@counsellingforsocialchange.org.uk or call 01736 364 722.

The Future of Counselling & Psychotherapy.

Some of our team are heading up to this years Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy conference on Sunday 2 December.  It looks like a great event.

"There is a major crisis facing counselling and psychotherapy in the UK. We know many of you have been affected by the decimation of primary care counselling, by the destruction of NHS psychotherapy departments, by the growth of the scandalously insufficient IAPT project, by the unwarranted dominance of CBT across the field, all buttressed by the so-called ‘scientifically’ derived guidelines produced by NICE.

If current trends continue, with relational therapies being widely cut or decommissioned in favour of a quick fix 'payment by results' culture, there could eventually be no psychotherapy or counselling provision in the public sector; the voluntary sector could soon face the same fate, and this will all inevitably spill over into private practice as well.

The programme and more information are here.

How to access counselling without breaking the bank

"AT SOME time in our lives we will all face challenges that push us to the brink. But receiving professional help can be expensive, alienating those who struggle to afford even life's basic needs.

Believing that financial circumstances should not stop people from accessing the support they need, a new group has launched in Penzance…." more

Source: The Cornishman

Rambling for Counselling for Social Change

Supporters of Counselling for Social Change will be walking to raise money for us and the Air Ambulance in this years Rotary Ramble on 30 September. 

All the money we raise from the walk will be used to provide subsidisied counselling services to people in Cornwall who can't afford support.


Please support us by emailing your pledge to info@counsellingforsocialchange.org.uk

Workshops for Counsellors

These look like a great series of workshops….

A series of one day workshops exploring key issues in counselling

Facilitators:  Malachy Dunne and Catherine Merlin

An opportunity to explore and share some of the hidden aspects of self we bring to the counselling relationship, and to develop a deeper appreciation of the Core Conditions


6 October 2012  –  Power and the Counselling Relationship  – a theoretical, cultural and personal exploration
3 November 2012  –  The Shadow Side  –  discovering our unseen motivations
1 December 2012  –  Rogers’ Core Conditions  –  towards a deeper understanding


Cost:    £85.00 per day, including lunch & tea / coffee
Book all three workshops for £200.00

For enquiries and bookings, please contact Catherine Merlin
07709 576 636  /  camerlin@btinternet.com

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