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Mental Health Support and hot food at The Soup Kitchen

Mental Health Support and hot food at The Soup Kitchen

Mental Health Support and hot food at The Soup Kitchen

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dr Brett Grellier, Director & Consultant Psychologist at BGPS (www.bgpsych.com) discussed with the Frontline Network the launch of an innovative new project by Alexander Brown and Michael of The Soup Kitchen at The American International Church. This service offers mental health support and hot food to individuals experiencing homelessness and mental health difficulties in London:

Rough sleeping services, frontline workers and experts in complex trauma recognise that much of the suffering individuals experience is rooted in early traumatic experiences. And yet, 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 service
• 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.

However, for individuals with history of rough sleeping, it is possible to recover and heal from the trauma and associated mental health difficulties, including substance addictions, given the right environment.

The Soup Kitchen operates in The American International Church (Tottenham Court Road) and is a place of safety and refuge for homeless and excluded individuals. Therefore, it made perfect sense to offer healing therapies within this setting.

Over the past nine months Dobrochna Zajas, from BGPS, embedded herself at The Soup Kitchen. During this time, she was able to get to know the guests who come to the service for company, safety and a hot meal.

A bespoke therapy space at The Soup Kitchen has been built, where Dobrochna can now meet the guests privately in order to offer evidence-based therapies. These therapy services include:

• Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
• Cognitive Behavioural Therapy including Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)
• Relapse Prevention and Motivational Interviewing approaches

The clinic is open two days a week – Tuesday and Wednesday – while the Soup Kitchen itself is open 10am-12.30pm throughout the week.

Taking the time to build a trusting relationship is essential for people who have suffered traumatic experiences throughout childhood and adolescence. This is added to by the threats inherent in sleeping rough on the streets.

Brett provides reflective practice groups for the staff and volunteers at The Soup Kitchen. This reflective practice group 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 group also enhances and improves their practice and helps 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. It is 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.

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