INTISAAR’s #healing project aimed to identify what culturally appropriate counselling looks like and what worked in the use of different therapeutic approaches at boosting people’s mental well-being who are residents in Brent. Brent was one of the boroughs that was mostly affected by COVID and left many people struggling with their mental health/well-being. These therapeutic approaches (workshops) included art and green fingers/plant therapy and online group therapy. 

What we did 

We decided to divide the projects into three groups, a young people’s group, an older people’s group, these two groups were offered the same types of therapeutic workshops but our third group which consisted of a mixed age group was offered online group therapy over ZOOM which was led by professional practitioners from ethnic minority communities 

The therapeutic workshops we carried out allowed participants to connect and share their lived experience over COVID and the post COVID challenges they are facing. The Workshops simultaneously took place on a weekly basis. 

The workshops and discussions were a great success and were well received by the participants of the project. Both the young people and the elderly groups wanted to discuss how they felt. Some minorities were very isolated due to lack of access to services during the pandemic and as result they suffered in silence. 

During the young people’s group, we discussed the impact of social media on their mental well-being, exploring both positive and negative impacts. Some young people described that they find the content and frequency of social media outputs overwhelming, thus negatively impacting their mental well-being. We frequently discussed techniques young people may find helpful in overcoming and managing the negative impacts on their mental health and well-being for example, regular social media breaks, mindful meditation, doing activities like sports etc. 

The therapeutic activity that was the most well received was beading,jewellery making and green and plant therapy. We used jewellery making and beading as a therapeutic activity for people to have an opportunity to meet new people and build meaningful connections whilst participating in a fun and creative activity. Both the young and elderly groups thoroughly enjoyed this activity, and they reported a felt experience of improved mental and physical health, it also allowed their creative juices to flow as they made wonderful necklaces and bracelets. 

Plant and green therapy were exceptionally liked as many of the participants did not even own a plant. All plants provide mental well-being benefits. Constantly seeing and being around plants help us feel calmer and more relaxed, thus decreasing levels of anxiety. Nurturing and caring for our plants can also reduce stress levels and boost our mood. 

Online therapy/counselling 

The online group therapy/counselling which was led by a professional practitioner from ethnic minorities background was extremely effective and proved to be very popular, as we sold out within 30 minutes of going live at Eventbrite the group consisted of a mixed aged group (18-30+). It provided the participants a platform where people can be who they want to be and remain true to themselves without feeling anxious or nervous about the issues and concerns they wanted to discuss that normally accompany group discussions and activities. The participants were given the steering wheel and had the chance to choose the topic of discussion themselves. 

The online group therapy/counselling was an uplifting and nurturing experience, which gave the participants their first taste of what online therapy/counselling looks like. 

“Today was amazing! We did a bunch of arts and crafts, made bracelets, and even did some gardening. It was so relaxing just having fun in a space with no judgement and I didn’t even think about going on my phone. I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity to do this!”