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How are we people led?
Our board of Directors and Management Committee:
Open Minds’ Management Committee are all individuals passionate about mental health and getting people the right treatment at the right time. This is because they have each experienced, in their own lives, the problems that can come when people are not able to access the right support sooner enough.
By definition the service users of Open Minds are vulnerable people; most suffer depression or anxiety, and 45% are affected by anger and domestic violence, with many affected by PTSD and suicidal thinking. As a result we have a policy that clients cannot apply to the management committee until 6 months after receiving treatment at Open Minds. This is because it is reasonable to expect that people might need more support from us within 6 months of leaving our service, and to allow people this time to separate their identity as client from potential support or committee member. This protects the client and their ability to return for counselling if needed, but also protects the possible conflict of interest between a client receiving therapy from a counsellor and then becoming part of the management committee which oversees counselling.
We have always encouraged clients who are mentally well-enough to volunteer at various events and activities we undertake in order to build their confidence and skills. We have in the past been supported by clients, or former clients, with administrative volunteering, with research and auditing support, with events and fundraising and therapeutic group work. We schedule this so that the client (or former client) will not work on the same day as their counsellor and thereby dilute the therapeutic relationship. We can only offer volunteering opportunities where there are genuine vacancies and need, as these require line-management and support through our organisational structure.
We have in the past, and continue to provide when resources allow, support groups for adults or children and young people with complex needs, which empower the clients to support and nurture one another. These are led by professional counsellors to enable the group members to be sufficiently supported, and if participants need one to one support this is then available.
We are in the process of developing small focus groups of clients to perform an expert-by-experience role in directing change at Open Minds. This would be small groups of clients or former clients who have been assessed as no longer a risk to themselves or others, who can provide feedback on ways in which we can work more effectively.
We ask the questions – what works, what doesn’t and how can we improve?
For our annual audit we consult clients, attendees of training, volunteers and organisations with whom we work. This includes anonymous internet and postal feedback by client and counsellor separately, psychometric assessments of client outcomes and telephone interviews.
Examples of learning from feedback
We adapt quickly to changing needs of our client base, restructuring to increase capacity and training our counsellors as more specialist skills become required. people led examples include:
1) In 2016 – 2017 45% of referrals involved Domestic Violence so we increased our anger and PTSD specialist training.
2) Feedback prompted us to open more days in the week, and we now open Monday to Thursday 10 til 7pm and Friday and Saturday 10 til 3pm.
3) For people with mobility issues we have multi-purpose, accessible ground floor rooms and accessible sensory garden.
4) Having more autistic clients led us to develop more adaptable rooms for people with sensory processing difficulties, and a sensory garden.
5) We increased our advocacy for people needing diagnoses, and the support we give to people with mental illnesses when attending medical assessments such as ESA or PIP.
6) When 93% of anger-management referrals needed counselling rather than group work, we moved resources to specialist anger-management counselling.
7) Our referral forms are designed to ask people what they need from the very beginning of using our service; male or female counsellors, days or times they prefer and more.
Open Minds use this continuous flow of feedback to monitor the effectiveness of what we do and make changes as and when need arises.
We are very responsive and flexible; showing people that they have been listened to by preparing feedback reports (including a full annual audit) explaining changes we are making, and how their feedback has shaped how we work, and how it will better benefit the people we help. If we can’t accommodate suggested changes we explain why