When someone is referred for counselling, they would usually expect sessions to take place in a comfortable yet professional room at the practitioner’s home or place of work.
Make an appointment with CancerCare therapist Jude Gaddes, however, and you’ll be talking things through in the quirky surroundings of a 23-year-old, custom-renovated VW T4 Autosleeper Trident campervan!
Jude is an experienced adult and young people’s counsellor who joined the charity earlier this year to help provide support to people affected by cancer and bereavement in the South Lakeland area.
Unfortunately, the nationwide coronavirus lockdown meant that Jude has been unable to see her clients face-to-face, so she has been keeping appointments via online platform Zoom. However, as restrictions continue to ease, she is looking forward to the day when she can slide open the doors of her van once again.
Jude said: “When I decided to set up in private practice, I began looking at options for a therapy room. I liked the idea of working from home, but our house isn't suitable, so I started researching garden offices as I needed a welcoming space that could seat two people comfortably with heating in winter and shade in the summer.”
“Meanwhile our campervan parked round the back of the house had all this. Ideally, I wanted something that felt lived in and the offices I saw felt too clinical. I began using the van as a temporary measure whilst waiting for planning permission for an extension on the house. It will happen one day, but in the meantime I am completely happy to see clients in the van.”
It seems that Jude’s clients are also more than happy to have sessions in the van, which has been fitted out with comfortable soft furnishings.
“I was unsure how clients would react to having therapy in a campervan, so I make sure that it's the first thing I mention before we meet. Most clients forget about it as soon as they step through the door, make themselves comfortable and start talking.”
“I have received the comments ‘It is a bubble of peace in a crazy world.’ ‘I feel safe in here, listening to the rain on the roof,’ and ‘It's so nice being surrounded by nature,’” Jude added.
According to Jude, the only down sides to using the van are the lack of toilet facilities, although it’s never parked far from the loo at her home in Dent near Sedbergh, and its diesel engine: “It’s not great for the environment but I am dreaming one day of an electric van!” she said.
Since lockdown, the number of counselling sessions carried out by CancerCare has only been slightly affected by social distancing with around 1,900 hours of counselling delivered via Zoom or telephone since 23 March. This is only slightly less than the 2,040 hours delivered in the four months prior to the outbreak demonstrating the continued high demand and the success the charity has had in adapting its service provision.
Chief Executive Maria Chambers said: “Since lockdown we have worked hard to ensure we were still able to help our clients, many of whom were also disproportionately affected by having to isolate from their usual support networks of family and friends.”
“It is also been inspiring to see how our counsellors, like Jude, have gone above and beyond to be able to continue supporting people affected by bereavement and loss at such a difficult time for everyone.”