MyPlace is an “exciting and innovating” ecotherapy project that runs free sessions for people across Greater Manchester and Lancashire, in partnership with the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (https://www.lscft.nhs.uk/myplace). It has many different aims for participants, including helping them to gain confidence and social skills, increase employability and learn about nature.
Although the current social distancing measures mean that MyPlace can’t continue operating as up-close-and-personal to nature on the sites that it usually would, they have come up with an incredible way to bring their services to you at home, through a virtual hub.
Powered by online chatroom software, all you need is a laptop, tablet or smartphone with a webcam and microphone, to be able to experience these unique sessions.
Through a number of different functions, including: discussions, the ability to share the screen so that participants can get involved in an interactive manner and resources that can be emailed to participants, MyPlace are able to cater to a range different people’s needs and continue to keep people connected with nature, despite the current circumstances.
The sessions last between 1 and 1.5 hours in length – to avoid being too intense for participants, they happen at the same time each week, they are free to join and they include small groups of around 8 – 10 people per session which can be split down even smaller if necessary.
MyPlace are still encouraging people to practice activities that relate to the five key themes of Ecotherapy which include: Wildlife walks, Bushcraft, Gardening Projects, Conservation and Mindfulness – but in a slightly more different way than they may do in one of their greenspaces. Tasks may include observing the natural things that you pass on your daily walks, using items that you find around the house to make ‘bug hotels’ in your garden and reflecting on the past week – focusing on some of the positives or potential challenges that you may have faced and understanding how they made you feel.
As we are all very big advocates for mental health at Podio Preston, one of our Student Interns – Chloe – participated in an online taster session they did to demonstrate their new virtual therapy environment. She said that:
“Everyone was quite lovely. There was no pressure to do anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with and they made it very clear that there would be absolutely no judgement. It’s not often that I take a few minutes out to really appreciate the world around me and they helped me assess the importance of it. I may have only had a snippet of what the MyPlace project do but I definitely highly recommend getting in contact with them if you feel that it could benefit you. It sounds life changing.”
One of the MyPlace participants, Simon, also commented that:
“MyPlace moving into the digital arena is a step in the right direction, it provides a solution to the lockdown problem by bringing sessions indoors. It means that people who are isolated can get involved with group sessions which will go towards alleviating some of the challenges we all face in these strange times. This new way of delivering sessions may also open new opportunities for people who may not be able to attend sessions for whatever reason to still benefits from ecotherapy long after everything returns to normal. Digital MyPlace has made a difference to my lockdown experience because the sessions provide me with an escape from the situation I am currently trying to adapt to. It means I get to see familiar faces and do something positive that breaks up the day.”
If you think that yourself (or someone that you know) could benefit from the MyPlace project, you can access a self-referral form and more information on their website https://www.lancswt.org.uk/our-work/projects/myplace .
Myplace is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund through ‘Our Bright Future’ and ‘Reaching Communities England’ and the European Social Fund through the More Positive Together programme.