“We’re at the stage now in society where people are very, very happy talking about their personal trainer; but we still won’t talk about going to see a personal counsellor,” said therapist Hereward Proops, author of the www.welovestornoway.com ‘Mind Matters’ column.
“We are fine discussing out physical health openly, but mental health is still a bit hushed – that’s what the Mind Matters column is about, I wanted to get that dialogue going, to give easy access to information and get people talking about it.”
Hereward, who gained a Masters in Counselling Psychology from Keele University in 2014, has been helping island residents get talking through his private counselling services for the past year and a half.
Arriving on Lewis with his wife in 2009, he took up a post of support worker with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, before a brief return to city life to complete his studies then back to the islands to set up their family home in Bayble, Point.
And with a therapy room extension completed at the house – with separate exterior access to enable clients’ privacy and stunning views across Bayble beach to Bayble island – Hereward welcomes clients to the new safe, confidential, and quite serene base.
“I’m delighted with the new space,” he said. “The outside access means that people don’t have to go through the house and it’s situated at the back of the house, so offers that degree of privacy.”
With outside decking and furniture to take in the inspiring views, Hereward’s therapy room offers a very calming space both inside and out.
Comfortable chairs and couch offering a relaxing environment, a stove bringing a cosy familiarity and the muted subtle décor delivers a gentle and open atmosphere.
A Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (MBACP), Hereward also volunteers with the Counselling and Family Mediation Centre in Stornoway.
Through his private counselling services – each session priced £35 – he uses a number of different approaches, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), person-centred approach, and eco-therapy.
Hereward also welcomes teenagers and young children in need of counselling or therapy.
“CBT is about exploring our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and also understanding how they can influence one another,” Hereward explained. “It's a more directive therapy and can be useful as a means to give the client strategies for managing challenges, such as dealing with anxiety-inducing situations.
“The person-centred approach goes a lot deeper and is best seen as a therapeutic approach led by the client. We explore what they choose to bring to the sessions; this might be their past, their current situation or their plans for the future.
“I enjoy working in a person-centred way as I’m certainly not the expert on the client – the client is the expert on themselves – and we work within that framework, we work together, it’s not about me imposing what I think in any way.”
Most recently, Hereward has also established an encounter group for individuals who suffer from anxiety: “This is a fortnightly meeting where individuals can communicate openly and honestly about their experiences with problem anxiety and support one another in an environment of acceptance and understanding,” he said.
And continuing that his counselling and psychotherapy services are open to all, Hereward added: “Counselling is an effective treatment for people suffering from grief, anxiety, depression and other mental health difficulties.
“However, some people chose to come for counselling as a means to explore themselves further and gain deeper understanding of their lives. Counselling does promote a health personal growth, and I do believe that everyone can benefit from it.”
And you can also find out more about a range of mental health issues and news through Hereward’s column ‘Mind Matters’ at www.welovestornoway.com