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The BGPS team has been working with Michael Brown from MKTG and Alexander Brown, Director of The Soup Kitchen at The American International Church to create a Psychologically Informed Environment at The Soup Kitchen using a model of Community In-Reach Psychology. There was some media interest in the opening of the therapy space leading to some articles and television appearances including The Guardian article above.
Whilst the people living and working in rough sleeping services and experts in complex trauma recognise that much of the suffering that individuals experience is rooted in early traumatic experiences, access to appropriate treatment remains elusive for the vast majority. Reasons for poor access to treatment include: the traditional split between mental health and substance use services, beliefs among service providers that this group is “untreatable”, reduction in traumatic stress services, client mistrust of statutory services and difficulties attending outpatient appointments due to drug using patterns, behavioural challenges and high levels of fear-based avoidance.
From 15-years of experience working with people who have a history of rough sleeping we know that it is possible to recover and heal from the trauma and associated mental health difficulties, including substance addictions given the right environment and setting. The Soup Kitchen has been a place of safety and refuge for homeless and excluded individuals for many years and so it made perfect sense to offer healing therapies within this setting.
Over the past nine months Dobrochna Zajas from BGPS has been embedding herself at The Soup Kitchen, getting to know the guests who come to the service for company, safety and a hot meal. Taking the time to build a trusting relationship is essential for people who have suffered traumatic experiences throughout childhood and adolescence, added to by the threats inherent in sleeping rough on the streets.
Jeremy Boyce has generously built a bespoke therapy space at The Soup Kitchen where Dobrochna can now meet the guests privately in order to offer evidence-based therapies including Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy including Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and Relapse Prevention and Motivational Interviewing approaches.
Additionally, Brett Grellier from BGPS provides reflective practice groups for the staff and volunteers of The Soup Kitchen, drawing on expert knowledge of psychological theories and techniques along with front-line experience of working with individuals with complex needs. This enables the team to understand the impact of traumatisation on individuals and learn to work effectively with the sensitivities and behaviours resulting from this. The reflective groups also enhance and improve their practice and help them to manage the emotional demands associated with the work.
The experience of early trauma leads to chronic fear and distress and a disconnection from self, others and the community. The Soup Kitchen is the antidote to this providing a place of safety, warmth and kindness, a community in which people can connect and build relationships with others and now evidence-based therapies to allow them to heal, develop and flourish.