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Counselling service helps reverse damage of childhood trauma

Posted onPosted on 15th Dec

A pioneering project helping young people affected by trauma to rebuild their lives has received high praise for breaking the cycle of violence in Nottinghamshire.

The Evolution Project, delivered by charity Base 51, was commissioned by Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) to support young people who have been impacted by serious violence as a perpetrator, victim or bystander and to promote recovery through counselling.

It is one of a series of intensive support packages being funded by the VRU to help address the adverse childhood traumas which can lead some young people into a life of violence and knife crime as victims or perpetrators.

Since launching in April, the Evolution Project has received 16 referrals of young people aged between 11 and 25 (nine males and seven females), completed 14 full assessments and delivered 40 one-to-one counselling sessions.

Throughout Covid-19, the project has continued to support young people online including creating its own Youtube channel to deliver positive activities to reduce stress including guided meditations, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation sessions as well as hosting Zoom meetings and delivering phone-based support.

Among those receiving help is a 22-year-old man from Nottingham who was forced to flee his home country after enduring severe domestic violence. Once in the UK, and while homeless, he became a victim of sexual exploitation and is now struggling to cope with traumatic flashbacks and feelings of guilt, fear, anger and shame as well as suicidal thoughts. In addition to self-harming, he has tried to take his own life on several occasions.

Since having online counselling sessions through the Evolution Project, the man has begun to develop a sense of safety and security. He has reflected on his past trauma and has also begun to process the pain of betrayal and being taken advantage of. As well as learning new ways of coping with his feelings which do not involve self-harm, he is gradually developing a positive mind-set, resilience and strength.

Although the counselling is ongoing, the young man feels able to open up about things he has never discussed before and is hopeful about the future.

Jeniesha Doyle, who manages Base 51’s youth group NGY, said: “Evolution counselling is providing a safe space for young people affected by serious violence to talk about their traumatic experiences and many of them are sharing their thoughts and feelings for the first time.

“Their traumatic experiences include domestic violence, exploitation, gang-related violence and physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The counselling is giving young people the opportunity to process their trauma safely in addition to learning new and effective coping methods to manage their moods and behaviour.

“Many of the young people have said they finally feel their voice is being listened to and they feel heard. This is resulting in increased confidence as they find a language for their experience and empowered to express themselves in other areas of their lives in positive ways.”

Dave Wakelin, director of the VRU, said: “We are really impressed by the services provided by Base 51. They are providing critical counselling support that is having a profound benefit to their clients. Providing this level of intensive help will enable trauma to be discussed and worked through in a way provides huge benefits.”

Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping, chair of the VRU and its Strategic Board, added: “The VRU has had a hugely successful first year, investing in fantastic projects like Evolution which is supporting young people at a very personal level to repair the harm and hurt they have experienced in childhood.

“We know young people who have suffered a number of Adverse Childhood Experiences (AVEs) are more likely to be associated with criminality in adulthood and it makes absolute sense to work on a holistic level to give these young people the chance of recovery so they can eventually triumph and succeed.

“Through enforcement and partnership work we are already delivering sustained reductions in knife crime, bucking national and regional trends, but we will not relent until all young people are given the futures they deserve and our communities are free from knives and violence.”

The project has been visited by Nottinghamshire’s serving High Sheriff, Dame Elizabeth Fradd DBE. DL, who has paid special interest in the work being undertaken by the VRU to turnaround young lives.

“I was so impressed by the range of opportunities being offered at Base 51 when I visited recently,” she said.

“I heard first-hand from a group of young people how they are encouraged to access a variety of programmes to meet their individual needs. Importantly, they spoke of being enabled to develop the courage to do things they wouldn’t otherwise have done, and that the centre provides hope and friendship to them, often when facing very difficult circumstances.

“My tour of the building and listening to the young people provided me with a greater understanding of the work of Base 51 and the attachment they have to it. I think the staff have done extraordinarily well to continue to support so many young people. It isn’t easy at the best of times to be working in this field but the added problems of managing to maintain services within Covid restrictions places the staff under additional stress. My thanks and congratulations to all involved.”