What we do
Southmead Project is a registered charity providing free therapeutic and practical support to adults who were abused as children and have turned to drugs, alcohol and other ways of self-harming as a consequence of that trauma.
The abuse counselling service is available to those aged 16 years and over and offers a safe space and environment where professional counsellors will listen and explore ways of helping people to reclaim lives affected by trauma and abuse. Following initial assessment, counselling is offered based on need and is a very effective way of aiding recovery from trauma brought on by child abuse. People can access the charity at its headquarters as well as at local GP surgeries and other agencies across the city of Bristol. “The little things really matter in this work – you can’t cut corners as people who share stories of their lives with us will pick up on this. All staff have relevant skills, knowledge and experience and uses these skills together with great care and compassion”. Senior counselling team.
The specialist abuse counselling offers space to people aged 16 years and over who have experienced trauma – physical, emotional and sexual – and may have responded to such trauma by misusing drugs and/or alcohol (or other ways of self-harming) to manage strong feelings associated with the trauma. The counselling space can be accessed from six weeks up to one year where appropriate.
This six-week group is for people on our waiting list for counselling who are experiencing strong feelings in response to trauma. We work specifically with these emotions, not the individual story of the person. This is done through offering tools such as mindfulness, grounding, working through flashbacks, communication skills and so on. The group are encouraged to identify their versions of the above that are workable for them.
This group is for people who have already accessed and engaged in work to address their trauma. It is an invitation to consolidate what has been learned and to carry this forward in useful and meaningful ways. Creative ways of working such as the use of body, art, drama and narrative therapies are offered. This becomes a space in which it is conducive for people to continue reclaiming their lives from trauma.
The Southmead Project initiative for Parents and Carers aims to help those affected by addiction by delivering group programmes and meetings on a regular basis, where experiences, anxieties and concerns can be exchanged and shared with others with similar problems in a safe, confidential and non-judgemental setting and atmosphere. Meetings are led by trained facilitators and are immensely helpful in many ways; topics may be of a factual nature, such as “what is addiction?” or “what is a drug?” whilst especially helpful are those meetings where the aim is to help people cope with their feelings of shame or blame. Co-dependency may be explained, new coping skills learned and ways to avoid enabling the addict also learned. The family group programmes have been running for many years and have helped hundreds of people and is an integral part of the charity’s aim of promoting community safety.
Childhood physical, psychological and sexual abuse or neglect can lead to complex consequences for adults. Using drugs, alcohol or other ways of self-harming in order to cope and survive makes sense when we hear the stories survivors tell of the pain and distress they have experienced in the past. ‘Abuse, addiction and disclosure – contributing to recovery’ is the awareness training, run by the Southmead Project, for staff in other agencies working with people who use drugs, alcohol or other ways of self-harming. The overall aim of the training is to help participants understand the possible consequences of childhood trauma and the link between abuse and self-harming, and to increase confidence to hear disclosures.
This is achieved by offering active learning to raise awareness of our own attitudes and understanding about abuse that leads participants, in a safe environment, to hear about the reality of childhood sexual abuse. Stories of survivors’ experiences are told in person and through DVD. Survivors speaking in person ensure participants can relate to how the journey through addiction to recovery can happen and how best they can contribute to recovery. Many survivors of childhood abuse can become overwhelmed by memories and the physiological and psychological responses of anxiety and trauma. The training includes teaching some simple techniques to help clients ‘anchor trauma’ and stay safe while reducing their dependency on drugs.
Service users are always at the forefront of the work of this charity – after all, they are why we are here. Focus groups are a great way for us to learn about the charity from a service user perspective. Our most recent group really hit home just how important this charity is to so many people, summed up in the quotes below: We now have a mobile phone for service users to text us as a quick option to let us know if they need to cancel appointments or have any quick queries. We are in the process of getting email addresses from service users as an alternative to sending out letters. This will be a cheaper and quicker way to keep service users up to date with charity operations. For those people without an email address we will continue to use postal communication. We have identified our service users are not represented on our board of trustees. This is something we aim to address and are looking to recruit one or possibly two service users to our existing team of trustees.