by Lesley Harding
Last year in September, I started as a volunteer counsellor at Evolve as part of my psychotherapy training.
In the few weeks before lockdown, I was aware that face to face counselling with my clients might not continue and that alternatives were going to be needed. It felt like a sudden loss to no longer be meeting with my clients each week and as full lockdown measures were introduced, I was left wondering how the vulnerable people in Evolve’s accommodation were adjusting.
It is a huge credit to Evolve that Counselling Co-ordinator Jenna and the team moved quickly enough to enable us to work online with our clients. Looking back, I think it was important that the switch to online working wasn’t immediate, as myself and my co-volunteer counsellors needed a couple of weeks to really adjust to the new reality. It helped to ensure that I could fully be there for my clients when the time came.
Since then, I have been working with clients through a combination of phone and video counselling. Although I’ve lived out a shared experience, it has nevertheless been different for me. It seems like, for some people, lockdown has been like a minor backdrop to their more immediate and pressing troubles. For others, it seems that it has eased their feelings of loneliness because of the shared experiences. For some, it has enforced their sense of isolation.
As a counsellor, I have had to learn different ways to connect with my clients – we rely so much in day to day life on visual cues like facial expressions. There are moments when I feel really frustrated that I can’t physically be with my clients, but I have been relieved to discover that it is still possible to feel connected with them. I hope that the time I spend with them offers them a greater sense of safety and empathy that helps them deal with all that they are going through.
Connection is the word that I have kept coming back to in the last few months. From the local volunteer groups that have sprung up overnight, to the endless creative ways people have entertained others online, and finally to the bravery of the people I counsel. They trust someone they have never met in person with their stories.
I love Evolve’s approach and ethos, and I am proud to be part of the work they do.
Evolve volunteer councillor