Housing association offers special therapy to support employees’ mental health in Milton Keynes

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A Milton Keynes housing group is offering ground-breaking therapy to support its employees’ mental health.

Grand Union Housing Group has introduced brainworking recursive therapy (BWRT) to help employees struggling with issues including anxiety, PTSD and grief.

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The landlord, which manages 12,000 homes in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire, employs 400 people and is the first social housing provider to offer BWRT company-wide.

Nicola Bowerman with her mum ValerieNicola Bowerman with her mum Valerie
Nicola Bowerman with her mum Valerie

Like many organisations, Grand Union has seen their colleagues experience all sorts of challenges to their mental health over the last 18 months.

As part of their commitment to supporting staff wellbeing, Grand Union is now using BWRT after seeing it provide fast, effective relief to one colleague who ended up living on the streets during the pandemic and another who struggled with grief following the death of her mother to cancer.

BWRT is based in neuroscience and is different from traditional talking therapies as it works directly at the core of the problem to get a fast and permanent fix. Rather than spending months or sometimes years in counselling, people can feel much better within 1-4 sessions.

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BWRT is also less challenging for people as they don’t need to tell their therapist what’s happened, so it doesn’t require them to revisit the trauma they’ve experienced.

Anne-Marie Huff, Corporate Services Director at Grand Union, said: “We originally decided to try BWRT for a colleague who was really struggling with their mental health last year and had tried other therapies and interventions. She’d been in counselling three times a week for 13 years and had a complete breakdown during lockdown which left her living on the streets and unable to function properly.

“We wanted to help her and knew that we needed a different approach, so we offered BWRT. After just a few sessions, it completely changed her life. She’s back in her home and is flourishing at work. I was absolutely blown away with the results.

“As part of our colleague wellbeing programme, we now offer BWRT with the same amazing results and will continue to use it because it’s modern, quick and effective. It just works.”

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The colleague was so impressed with the therapy that she’s currently training in BWRT herself in order to provide it in-house.

Another colleague, HR manager Nicola Bowerman was struggling after she lost her mum Valerie last year to mouth cancer. Because it happened so quickly, and she felt more could have been done if it wasn't for Covid, Nicola was overcome with anger and grief.

This caused terrible nightmares and she dreaded going to sleep.

Nicola said: “Early in 2020 Mum was told that she had cancer, but it was treatable and after a 13-hour operation to remove the tumour, we were told that it was contained. We were given hope that mum would be ok with some radiotherapy. But in March when Covid hit, all further treatment was withdrawn, and no face-to-face consultations to see how she was doing were offered.

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“As lockdown eased, mum was finally offered radiotherapy, but I wasn’t allowed to be with her to support her, and mum struggled with the whole experience of radiotherapy because she suffered from an extreme phobia of confined spaces. Mum didn’t cope very well. It was horrific. All I could do was support her over the phone. I felt helpless.”

Unfortunately, Nicola’s mum was told the cancer had spread to her face and liver and shortly after Valerie died.

Nicola and her family were devastated. The trauma from Nicola’s grief – flashbacks of not seeing her mum throughout, robbed of time and false hope – all overcame her, and she had nightmares for weeks which left her exhausted, emotional and unable to function properly.

It was affecting her day-to-day life and her manager at Grand Union Housing Group, Anne-Marie Huff, recommended that she try BWRT.

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Nicola said: “After just one BWRT session I could finally come to terms with mum's death and start to feel better. I’ve had no more nightmares and I’m finally able to sleep. BWRT was amazing."

Grand Union has implemented a wide range of workplace and workforce initiatives aimed at improving wellbeing and been at the forefront of supporting people and raising awareness of mental health issues in the housing sector.

During her year as Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) President, Grand Union Chief Executive Aileen Evans launched the Shine a Light campaign in partnership with charity MIND, providing guidance to help housing associations support staff and customers experiencing mental health difficulties.

Aileen Evans added: “Mental health is a high priority for me. Housing can be a testing sector at the best of times, with challenges to the wellbeing of both colleagues and customers. Our success in building and managing the homes people need depends on a healthy and productive workforce, and if colleagues feel valued and supported, they’ll achieve more.

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“If our colleagues experience mental health difficulties, it’s important to provide them with practical support to help them through it. The results we’ve seen with BWRT are fantastic and I’m very pleased to offer this pioneering therapy as part of our wellbeing toolkit.”

Julie Watts, executive director at The BWRT Institute says “Covid has presented a few challenges for everyone’s mental health. BWRT is a fast and effective way to help people change their lives for the better. We’re excited that a trailblazer like Grand Union, who is leading the way in mental health, has the amazing foresight to offer BWRT as part of their employee wellbeing programme.”