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Expansion plans for West Yorkshire counselling agency as demand for Covid-19 mental health support grows

A West Yorkshire counselling agency offering low-cost therapy to people who are struggling with their mental health has set its sights on UK-wide expansion after finding a huge growth in demand due to impact of Covid-19.

The former Drighlington Health Hub Community Interest Company (CIC) Ltd opened in autumn 2018 with directors Nathan Gould and Sally Benson aiming to offer open-ended high-quality support to people who struggled to meet normal ‘private practice’ rates.

Its base in Wakefield Road, Drighlington, offered support through 40 volunteer counsellors but, like many other organisations, feared for its existence when lockdown was imposed in March, and face to face counselling had to stop immediately.

Instead it found its services more needed than ever. Moving its entire operation online it found itself in demand from clients not only from the local area, but from across the UK. Now its immediate future is a rapid expansion of online services involving up to 100 volunteer counsellors. To reflect its broader remit, the company has changed its name to UK Counselling Network CIC Ltd.

Said Nathan: “What a shock when lockdown occurred. Our entire way of working was under threat. It was change or cease to exist.

“We realised our counselling would need to move online and we sourced suitable training to help counsellors move to this way of working. We realised that we could be as effective working remotely as face to face.”

Nathan said the increase in demand for low-cost counselling (sessions can be as little as £15) meant an urgent recruitment campaign to bring more counsellors on board, adding that both the NHS and most of the charity sector worked on a short-term crisis-management model of mental health support – enough to help someone ‘survive’ but perhaps not to thrive.

“Our service offers an opportunity for people to seek support for their mental wellbeing at a price that is affordable,” said Nathan. “Counselling is not just for those in crisis but can help anyone who is struggling with their day to day lives.

“The aftermath of Covid is likely to have a long-term impact on mental health and we are here to listen and support.”

Nathan urged any counsellors interested in supporting the venture should visit the company website .Applications from students working towards a Level 4 qualification in counselling are also invited.