For almost 7 years now, IntraQuest Community CIC has been dedicated to offering psycho-therapeutic services to people of all ages. Our mission is simple – we believe that everyone deserves mental health, and we’re committed to helping as many people as possible achieve it. Our business was borne from difficult early experiences and mental health challenges. Our founders, Jenny and Karen, have been victims of mental health difficulties, have overcome difficult early experiences and gone on to qualify as therapists and practitioners dedicated to providing the help and support they themselves either received or needed.
Over the years, we have refined our services, and whilst we have services suitable for anyone of any age, we specialise in services for young children and the support networks that sit around them. For the last 2 years, our small team of dedicated, fully-qualified and frankly awesome therapists have been providing child therapy both at our small site in Oldham, Greater Manchester, and on placement in local schools. Some of the experiences that these children have had can be absolutely horrific – they’re dealing with trauma, illness, abuse, being witness to awful events, all of which can have a long-term impact on their mental health, and even worse, affect them for the rest of their lives. Remembering that children are learning about right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, and often they don’t even comprehend what’s happened to them – they don’t have the cognition or the language to articulate how they feel or how they’ve been impacted. As a result, child therapy requires specialist intervention that helps children and young people understand, accept and overcome what they’ve been through, so that damage done in early years is repaired and they can go on to lead healthy, functional lives.
THE COVID CRISIS
Most of our child and family therapy services are delivered face to face, often in close quarters – they have to be really, as exploration needs to be safe, but is largely down to interpretation of behaviour given that young children don’t have the cognition or emotional vocabulary for ‘talking’ therapies. So as you can imagine, COVID-19 has hit our services hard. All of our therapists have been pulled out of schools, and all child therapy had to be quickly suspended. And whilst yes, this is detrimental to our business, the impact on our child clients has been the biggest. Stopping therapy mid-way through treatment can undo all the good work the child has done, or even worse, leave them in a state of discovery with no resolution or repair.
Because of this, we’ve been frantically looking for ways that we can re-start therapy for our clients safely in a COVID world. Because no therapy has been delivered for about 6 months, we’ve also seen a massive waiting list build up, of children that desperately require support and treatment and have been unable to access it. We’ve had to think beyond what we’ve always done, get creative and find ways that we can not only start treatment again, but provide more treatment than we ever have done to help support children and young people that have been unable to access our services for so long.
OUR NEW VISION
Delivering psycho-therapy safely in a COVID world is of course our biggest priority. We MUST provide services that adhere to the following principles:
- Social distancing measures MUST be possible in therapy sessions (i.e. spaces must accommodate 2m between therapist and client, or at least 1m+ with PPE)
- Access to therapy spaces must also be safe, ideally without entering or passing through communal inside spaces
- Therapy spaces and equipment must be sanitised/replaced after each client
- Outdoor interventions and services would be preferable
- Contact with and exposure to accompanying parents and carers must also be minimal and observe social distancing measures
- PPE must be available for therapists, clients and accompanying adults at all times
As soon as we began to hold up our existing services to these measures, we knew we would be unable to re-open without making significant changes. Our existing therapeutic spaces are accessed via communal spaces (i.e. rooms within a building), are either too small or not ventilated enough to observe social distancing, all take place indoors and cannot easily and quickly be sanitised between clients. We had to make some changes.
And so, we have developed our vision to create the North West’s first fully COVID-19 friendly Psycho-therapeutic service centre!
We are fortunate enough to have a bit of land on our premises that we can re-purpose to deliver adjusted services safely. We plan to do this in the following ways:
- Erecting free-standing, all-weather therapy ‘Pods’ – free-standing structures that are accessed externally, have enough space inside to observe social distancing and can be quickly sanitised between clients;
- Individual child therapy kits – each child will have their own therapy kit that no other client uses. Only when treatment with that child has concluded will the kit be fully sanitised and made ready for a new ‘owner’;
- A free-standing ‘hygiene pod’, that is also accessed externally, where clients can wash pre and post therapy and use the toilet without accessing communal spaces, and that can be easily sanitised after every use;
- Outdoor, all-weather sensory areas where child therapy can take place in the open air;
- Animal-assisted therapy*, including:
- A free-standing animal therapy ‘pod’, accessed externally, accommodating social distancing measures and easily sanitised after each session;
- An all-weather animal pen, where individual and group animal therapy can be carried out in a fully ventilated space, with all social distancing measures observed
- Outdoor animal pen, where interaction with animals can take place in the open air
- Therapy animals – including small animals (such as guinea pigs and rabbits) and dogs, that will require housing, care and training. Many of our animals will also be rescue animals, as we’re also committed to re-homing abandoned or unwanted animals as well (this is a personal passion – we love our furry friends!).
* Several of our therapists are already qualified animal-assisted therapists, so we are utilising skills already available within our team.
Our vision is about enabling us to offer adjusted or amended services to children and young people so that their therapeutic journey can continue safely, without risk to their own health or the health of our community. Our primary aim is to protect our clients and staff, but we also have to observe the responsibility we have to reduce the wider spread of infection. This means creating safe spaces for ANYONE that comes to the centre – staff, clients and accompanying adults/visitors. The nature of our services means that we need to make perhaps more adjustments than most, which costs money and takes time, both of which we are short on until we can start trading and providing services again.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
We are reaching out to many different sources for support, as well as relying on our own reserves. With the help of the Aviva Community Fund, we aim to have the full animal-assisted therapy service up and running as soon as possible, with a goal of by the end of 2020/very early 2021. This is the service that will enable us to deliver treatment to the most beneficiaries in the safest way, as most of the therapy can take place outdoors or in the outdoor all-weather spaces. Here’s what YOUR donations will enable us to do:
- Target £50,000 – Full implementation of COVID-19 friendly Animal-assisted Therapy services
- Stretch Target £70,000 – Full implementation of the services PLUS a therapy grant for up to 12 children – we will provide fully-funded therapy to up to 12 children that have been severely affected by COVID-19, either through anxiety, illness, loss, bereavement or neglect as a direct result of the Pandemic.
As you can see, with your help, we will be able to re-gain our purpose – helping to repair and re-build the lives of children and young people.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where are you based?
We’re based just outside Oldham in Greater Manchester and see children and clients from across the Greater Manchester region.
Can we come and visit?
We’d love for our supporters to come and visit the site to see how they’ve contributed! We will be arranging a number of open days once the project is complete that supporters will be invited to. Come and experience our sensory areas and meet some of our therapy animals!
How many children do you treat?
Courses of treatment can take up to 6 months, so we work very intensively with children. At present we see on average 30 children at any one time, but with your help, we’ll be able to double, even triple that number within a few months.
What types of Therapy do you offer?
Our main mode is called Play Therapy – it involves observing children in their imaginary, ‘play’ world, interpreting the way that they create and the stories that form in their play. Remembering that children don’t have the cognition or vocabulary to articulate their issues, it’s about the therapist interpreting the language that they DO speak – which is play. We do also offer Filial therapy – a form of Play Therapy that includes parents or carers, as well as sensory modes such as Theraplay. We aim as part of this project to offer these services safely, as well as adding Outdoor Play Therapy and Animal-assisted Therapy to our offer.
Who are your typical clients?
We offer services to all ages, but we work primarily with children and young people, often taking referrals from Social Care and Schools. Our clients have typically suffered difficult or traumatic early experiences. Very often, they aren’t easy stories to hear. We are helping to repair damage as a result of loss, abuse (physical, mental and sexual), neglect and abandonment, amongst many other things. The level of confusion that this causes, and the skewed version of reality it creates in the mind of a child can permanently disrupt their foundations if not treated. This can mean that not only are they broken victims now, they will potentially go on to lead dysfunctional adult lives. Childhood therapy and intervention can make a real difference. Reparation is always possible if the right intervention is provided.
How are your services accessed?
The vast majority of our services are accessed via referrals from Public Services, like Social Care, GPs and Schools. We are a non-profit organisation that runs as cost-effectively as possible, but our services still come at a cost, and it is often public services and central funding that covers those costs given that the families that require it are often low-income. That being said, we do have a number of private clients as well, and we always work very closely with all families to provide whatever support we can in line with their means.
How important is funding to your organisation?
In short – it’s essential! We simply cannot do what we do without support and funding. Our business isn’t about making money – it’s a vocation and a passion to provide every person with the help and support they need to lead independent lives that they can be proud of. We believe that this is everyone’s right. Funding and support from people and communities like YOU is what enables us to do what we do as cost-effectively as possible, making as many of our services accessible to as many people.