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Staying connected with icap

May 17, 2020

At icap we closed the doors of our two centres, in London and Birmingham, on the day after St Patrick’s day, eight weeks ago. Our groups met for their final sessions and arrangements were made to keep in touch while we wait for the time when we can meet safely again.

The world seems a very different place now to the day we locked the doors and began working from our various homes throughout the UK. In many ways though, we continue to do as we have done since icap began.

Our work is fundamentally about connections; connecting to ourselves and to others, to our past and present, to how the past can inform the present and how both connect us to our potential futures. It is also about finding a language for experience.

Much of the work we have always done is about love and loss, about loneliness and belonging. In these days when many of us are feeling anxious one of the many things we are having to re-think is what it means to feel connected or isolated, to feel alone and whether or not this means also feeling lonely. Life in ‘lockdown’ can also be a chance to connect to ourselves in a different way, to discover our resources.

The first weeks of our lockdown at icap were taken up with making sure our clients were able to transition as smoothly as possible from face to face sessions to online and telephone counselling.

About 95% of our one to one therapy is going ahead and the transition has happened with relative ease in most cases, an ongoing tribute to the resourcefulness of clients and the kindness and skill of the team. 5% of our one to one clients have elected to wait until face to face sessions can begin again.

Some of our 80+ year old clients have turned out to need less help with the technology than some of our team; a reminder, if any were needed, of how our assumptions can prevent us from appreciating and being occasionally surprised by each other.

We are currently offering one to one sessions to about 150 people per week. We are also operating a helpline which can be accessed using the telephone number of icap’s London office. Information about the services we are currently able to provide can be found on our website or by calling icap.

As those of you know who are familiar with icap, the people who come through our doors, virtually or otherwise, are from all walks of life and all parts of the Irish community. Clients range in age from our youngest client who is 18 to our oldest, currently, at 84. Two thirds are women.

About 95% of our one to one therapy is going ahead and the transition has happened with relative ease in most cases, an ongoing tribute to the resourcefulness of clients and the kindness and skill of the team. 5% of our one to one clients have elected to wait until face to face sessions can begin again.

Some of our 80+ year old clients have turned out to need less help with the technology than some of our team; a reminder, if any were needed, of how our assumptions can prevent us from appreciating and being occasionally surprised by each other.

We are currently offering one to one sessions to about 150 people per week. We are also operating a helpline which can be accessed using the telephone number of icap’s London office. Information about the services we are currently able to provide can be found on our website or by calling icap.

As those of you know who are familiar with icap, the people who come through our doors, virtually or otherwise, are from all walks of life and all parts of the Irish community. Clients range in age from our youngest client who is 18 to our oldest, currently, at 84. Two thirds are women.

Many of our people are living alone, some by choice, others for complex reasons, some following the death of a partner. Where there are children there may be estrangement or they may have grown and gone.

Some people struggle with disconnection from friends and family. Some have lived with a sense of disconnection for as long as they can remember and might speak about reaching a kind of peace with themselves.

Most of us in one way or another are reflecting on our lives. Some of us are living in situations of discomfort or danger. The language of lockdown can be chillingly accurate for some of our clients suggesting, as it does, a life in prison or in another kind of institution.

We share, with our clients and the community as whole, a real anxiety about loved ones.

There are elderly parents, relatives, siblings we cannot look after, friends and family we cannot visit. We can only speak at a distance, on a screen, by telephone.

Some of us have lost loved ones and are desperately missing the traditions and rituals which help us to mourn and to celebrate the life of the person we loved.

Bereavement, loss and anxiety are themes which people are bringing to therapy. Anxiety about jobs which may not return, businesses which might be struggling, the feeling that the usual ways of managing are unavailable.

We’re trying to come to terms with losses, those we have experienced and those which are anticipated. Elderly parents die or might die without us having a chance to say goodbye or to have the conversations we want or need to have.

We are all needing to find extra resilience in ourselves. Sometimes this resilience means being able to ask for some help.

In the world of mental health and psychotherapy we hear and speak about people and communities who are ‘hard to reach’. Some of our people are not accustomed to anyone responding to their needs, perhaps because they have had lives which have been characterised by cruelty or neglect. Perhaps they have become disconnected from family, from home, from themselves. Perhaps, though, there has simply been an expectation that they look after the needs of others.

In some ways we can all be hard to reach. Our needs can be hard for us to reach or even to allow. In the words of one client, “It might be better to give than to receive, but maybe I should try both and then decide…..”

People come to icap for therapy, to get to know themselves a little better. Sometimes we all need time and a little help to connect to ourselves.

We are discovering each day ways to adapt our lives and our working practices to the new and developing normal. Some of the services we are offering will have to wait for a time when we can gather together again. The women’s social history and writing groups will be amongst the first to begin. These are groups where women will come together to tell their stories through therapeutic writing, through listening to each other’s stories and to the songs we each have as the soundtrack to our lives.

Our other groups, for carers of those living with dementia and other life limiting conditions, our men’s groups and our psychotherapy group, have all had to be put on hold for now.

We keep in touch regularly, we stay connected to our clients and to each other. We are working, and will continue to work, to protect the therapeutic ‘home’ which has had the privilege of helping and supporting the Irish community for over twenty years.

Guest Blog by Geraldine Ryan, Clinical Director, icap

At icap, the welfare of those who use our service and our staff is paramount. We are operating a work from home policy in line with the Government’s latest advice. Therapy for our clients continues via telephone and Zoom. If you already use our services or would like to get in touch, you can call us on our usual numbers – London 020 7727906 or Birmingham 0121 6667707.

This is a difficult and troubling time for us all.

Please stay safe and follow government guidelines.

A message from Catherine Hennessy, CEO icap

For more information or to reach out see icap.org.uk



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