What services do you provide?
‘Meeting Minds’ counselling service is run by Bristol Mind and provides affordable counselling to people in Bristol and the local area. We also run the Meeting Minds LGBTQ+ counselling service.
Why and how was it set up?
Bristol Mind’s ‘Mindline’ has been running for 22 years and provides support and advice on mental health support services in the local area. We kept hearing from callers to Mindline that there weren’t any places in Bristol where people could get long-term counselling.
We wanted to find a way to fill that gap. Meeting Minds was kick-started in February 2016 with a legacy donation and has continued to operate since then by funding itself.
What do you offer?
Our offer is different from other counselling services in Bristol.
• We can offer up to 4 months (16 weeks) of counselling – and each appointment lasts 50 minutes.
• We are also able to extend the number of counselling sessions to more than 16, if it’s appropriate for a client. This is different from many IAPT services (certainly in Bristol) which can be limited to 6 weeks of CBT-based sessions.
• We provide a variety of therapeutic approaches and can offer different styles of counselling, not just CBT-focussed sessions.
• Each person pays an agreed affordable fee, depending on their disposable income, so we have some clients who pay the full amount and some who pay the lowest scale fee.
• We have 4 LGBTQ+ counsellors, who have their own lived experience, providing therapy for that group.
How do people get in contact with you?
People usually self-refer to the service, however, we often hear from people who have been encouraged to get in contact by their friends or their GP.
The service is self-funding, how does this work?
Some people come and they’ve got no financial worries at all – they just want to come to Bristol Mind because they trust the name and they are very happy to pay the full fee of £35. Occasionally our clients have had such a good experience, they have made additional donations.
On the other hand, we have people who are on ESA and PIP and who are really struggling and so we’ve been able to offer much lower costs, around £15. Recently someone lost their PIP benefit, so we were able to waive the fee entirely so that they can continue counselling with us. The challenge is to make sure that we’re able to balance the books and keep running the service.
What are the benefits of self-funding?
Having a degree of funding autonomy allows us the ability to make decisions about the service, including what feels therapeutically and ethically appropriate for the clients, including length of therapy and approach. We can focus on offering Counselling, not CBT like other statutory local services, which isn’t appropriate for everyone.
Since beginning the service in 2016 we have provided counselling for approximately 300 individuals.
In 2016, 75% of those accessing the service were aged between 18 and 35, and 60% identified as female while 40% identified as male. Similarly, in 2017, 74% were aged between 18 and 35, however 62% identified as female, 35% as male, and 3% as trans, non-binary or gender fluid. So far in 2018, 50% of individuals identified as female, 39% as male, and 11% as trans, non-binary.
Good practice tips
We support our volunteers and counsellors by:
• Providing opportunities for their professional development and training
• Providing supervision
• Helping counsellors who wish to work as supervisors to train with us
• Covering travel expenses
• Following the BACP ethical framework for counsellors.
What our clients have said about us
“I would like to thank Bristol Mind for everything they do for the sector…you offer a very reliable and helpful service to people who couldn’t see a way out...”
“Thank you all for being part of an organisation and environment with such a positive, welcoming and accepting atmosphere; you guys and Mind as a whole, have changed my life completely…”
“I want to thank Bristol Mind for offering me help…now I feel so much stronger.”
“…I am very glad that I took this step and am feeling the benefits every day.”
“I feel overall happier for giving counselling a go!”
What impact is your service having in Bristol?
For a city of 450,000, you can count on one hand the low cost services that are able to provide counselling, so this is really making a difference. It is making therapy available where it otherwise wouldn’t be.