home first back 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 forward

3. Carers group

4. Men/ women’s groups

5. Counselling

6. Consultancy/ training

7. Advocacy

8. Luncheon club

9. Art psychotherapy (student on placement – myself)

This style of working is a concrete reality in SACMHA primarily because the strength of
the organisation is the fact that it is staffed entirely by African Caribbean workers, all of
whom have a clear personal understanding of oppression as it relates to black people in
the British context, as well as a professional understanding of oppression as it relates to
the black users of mental health services dominated by Eurocentric norms.

Additionally SACMHA retains very close ties with the local black community and other
voluntary sector black organisations in order to maintain its community mandate.

SACMHA Who We Are!

I had to find my own clients. The mission was to get to know the clients in a social setting
at the weekly lunch club. I had to court the attention of possible clients because I was
offering a new service. So, I was to be judged by my personality, not by my professional
status. Some clients were referred to me after my first week.

At the lunch club, I would serve meals, discuss newspaper articles with, listen to music
with, inquire about the health of, sit in silence next to possible clients. I was expected to
take an interest in the physical appearance of the client, who did the haircut or hairdo,
where they bought their clothes, the full works. The client had to be seen as a person, not
an illness.

I had to see and also be seen. I made many mistakes not reading body language properly:
putting my feet in by asking impertinent questions; making a potential client so cross she
told me to 'just go away'. I was pleased by this, as she actually spoke to me. This woman
chooses to be mute, and I found working with her that art materials stimulated her to
speak spontaneously.

Some clients picked up on my nervousness, and I found I couldn't get through to them.
So I just let them read their newspapers. One client came into the art room just to read her

All my clients distrusted the psychiatric services. Some had done art therapy in hospital,
but the general feeling was that 'art' and 'therapy' were part of the system. A black art
therapist is unusual, and I had to go through an initiation process. There is a distrust of art
because it is not a profession one aspires to. There's no status or money in it – unlike
being a nurse, doctor, teacher, lawyer, social worker, musician, dancer.