What made you want to start volunteering and why did you choose Launchpad?
As part of my training I had to get 100 hours of client work so I approached Launchpad in 2017 to see if I could volunteer. The reason I picked Launchpad is because there’s a huge need for mental health support among those who are homeless or facing homelessness and every day that people are still in that situation is going to make their needs greater. I wanted to do something to help.
How many hours do you volunteer a week?
It can vary, depending on my clients. I have done up to three one hourly sessions a week. We initially work with a client for six weeks and then review, and can move up to 12 or 18 sessions.
What kinds of issues have you been dealing with?
Oddly enough the issues we deal with are seldom to do with homelessness directly. A lot of people have been homeless for a while, and have issues with drugs and alcohol but these are the triggers rather than the actual issues. I tend to spend the first few sessions getting to know the client, how they feel the way they do and why. We often look at previous experiences as far back as childhood and why they reacted in certain ways at the time, and why they react to certain events because of this. We tend to look at relationships with parents and infuriatingly, almost all of my clients come from abusive upbringings.
What do you like most about volunteering at Launchpad?
Water cooler moments – have a chat and a laugh with other volunteers and staff at Launchpad. Being a stay at home dad, an author and a counsellor means you miss the office chit chat. But it’s also brilliant to see clients coming out of their shells. They come to you in a certain place and mostly when they leave, they’re in a better place. We can’t offer long term support over years and years, which is what some clients need, and they may have more work to do but for this period of their lives they’ve come a long way and grown in therapy. And it makes you proud of their achievements and there’s a lot of job satisfaction in that.
Do you have success with all clients in therapy?
Some clients will only come to one session and don’t feel like they can come back to continue therapy because it’s too hard. Which is understandable – we’re asking clients to feel emotions they’ve spent several years hiding, and it’s incredibly hard to expose yourself like that in therapy and face them. That’s why people often drink or take drugs – it’s to cover up emotions that are too painful. But we’re here for them when they’re ready.
If someone was thinking about volunteering for Launchpad what would you say to them?
Do it. Just do it. The volunteer team is incredible. There is nothing they can’t do. The care and support you get is amazing, and they look after you – on an emotional level too. You feel held when you’re here. I’ve had rough days when you come out from a particularly heavy session or there are things going on in my personal life, and you’re able to be open. They’re lovely people. They’ve been so welcoming and appreciative from the start.