We are creating a workshop where counsellors and people with learning difficulties can learn from each other to improve access and effectiveness of counselling for people with learning difficulties in Kent.

Background to the project

In 2018, we did some research on how we could improve counselling for people with learning difficulties. We already knew that mental health problems among adults with a learning difficulty are quite common; approximately 40% (according to the mental health charity, Mind, 2016). This is more than double the rate of mental health problems in the general population.

We wanted to find out whether involving people with learning difficulties in the training and development of counsellors and counselling services could improve access to mental health support for people with learning difficulties.

Our research showed that:

  • a recurring barrier for people with learning difficulties seeking counselling is that they feel they must go via their Care Managers. Many people do not feel comfortable sharing emotional difficulties with their Care Manager. 
  • 65% of people with a learning difficulty said that they thought people with a learning difficulty should help train counsellors on how to work with clients with learning difficulties. 
  • Over 90% of counsellors and student counsellors said they highly valued client involvement (including those with a learning difficulty) in developing counselling. 

So, we are developing a day-long workshop that will bring counsellors and people with a learning difficulty together to learn from each other.

What impact will the project have?

The workshop is being developed by people with and without a learning difficulty, student counsellors and counsellors and will:

  • Give counsellors insight into how clients with a learning difficulty may best access and engage with counselling.
  • Give counsellors the opportunity to talk to people with a learning difficulty who have had counselling before and find out what did and did not work for them.
  • Give people with a learning difficulty information on what counselling is, what it might be helpful for, and how to access it.
  • Support counsellors to develop accessible and inclusive information about their counselling.
  • Build trust between people with learning difficulties and the counselling community.
  • Explore barriers to accessing counselling and start to discuss possible solutions.

What your support will help fund

  • Production of a short film, written and produced by people in bemix's Media Group. The film will be used as a training resource to raise awareness and thought about counselling for people with a learning difficulty.
  • Development of the workshop itself.
  • Pilot delivery of the workshop, including:
    • coordination and facilitation of the day;
    • paid work for a self advocate with a learning difficulty to co-facilitate the workshop;
    • fully accessible venue to accommodate 15 counsellors/student counsellors, plus 15 people with a learning difficulty and their supporters (if necessary);
    • refreshments and lunch supplied by a local social enterprise
  • Evaluation of the workshop.
  • Further development of the workshop, based on pilot evaluation, to package the training for delivering future sessions and for sale to other facilitators across the country to encourage and support shared learning workshops elsewhere.
  • Complete development of the workshop so that it can be used on an ongoing, sustainable basis.

We are also applying to grant awarding organisations for additional funding support for this project. The expected costs for the entire project are £17,249.99