Room to Heal is an organisation dedicated to supporting those who have experienced a violation of their human rights and torture. They operate from their base in London and are affiliated with the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victim (IRCT). The IRCT is an overseeing council that helps member centres, such as Room to Heal, to provide the best quality of torture rehabilitation care that is possible.
Unlike other organisations and charities which cater to different individuals that have experienced a wide range of torture, Room to Heal is slightly more niche in who they intend to help. They specifically help asylum seekers and refugees who have experienced torture outside and inside the UK.
Room to Heal was started by Mark Fish in 2007. Mark was working in northern Uganda as a psychotherapist and counsellor. He witnessed first-hand what the aftermath of torture looks like and he wanted to make a difference and help torture survivors.
Upon returning to the UK, Mark started working for similar charities and organisations such as the Helen Barber Foundation and Freedom from Torture. He then decided to start his own torture rehabilitation centre. By using his expertise and community values, he has created a successful programme to help torture sufferers move on from their difficult period.
The Room To Heal Programme
The Room to Heal programme is only available for their accepted members. Those that do qualify for torture rehabilitation will be afforded a holistic approach to tackle the different areas of post-torture recovery.
The assessment process – to become a member you need to qualify for Room to Heal’s support. The assessment process will involve a potential member going to talk to a Room to Heal therapist and discussing their asylum-related problems and their mental health. The therapist will be able to gauge the individual’s psychological needs and if Room to Heal is a suitable solution for them.
Individual support – If the therapist believes the individual can benefit from the Room to Heal approach and services, they will proceed to offer individual support. Personal support involves helping clients with post-trauma symptoms and is only given on a short-term basis. It is used to ready the torture survivor for the Room to Heal community.
Holistic torture rehabilitation – Room to heal understand that offering support will not go far if the other aspects of the client’s life are unstable. This is why their casework team partner up with external organisations and charities to address other issues facing asylum seekers and refugees.
This will involve helping the torture survivor find stable and long-term accommodation, financial support to be able to eat, possibly educational and employment opportunities and social support to stimulate relationships and develop core skills needed to function within the society.
Other support – Room to Heal recognise the importance of providing extra support to torture victims and do so by offering therapeutic support groups. The groups can entail different activities but usually precede a social lunch and creative workshops. Some of the more creative events may include yoga. music, storytelling, therapeutic massages and embroidery.
Room to Heal will also offer the opportunity for their clients to take a retreat. The retreats will run two or three times each year and will take place in the countryside away from London. The idea behind going to the countryside is to escape the stress that living in a fast-paced city can bring. It gives clients a chance to relax, enjoy nature and improve their mental wellbeing.
Therapeutic gardening is another activity offered to torture survivors by Room to Heal. It’s ironic that gardening is a central part of their programme considering the organisation began with refugees sitting in a garden to talk as part of a therapy group.
It is designed to give asylum seekers – many of whom worked in nature back in their home country – a way to connect to their homeland in the concrete jungle of London. They also have to take responsibility and care for plants and vegetables which is a great way of redirecting thoughts away from their past.
Therapeutic gardening also instils a need to work as a group just like any strong community and encourages friendships and bonds to be made between fellow torture survivors. The members have even created a video to show just what therapeutic gardening means to their daily lives.
Find Out More
Visit the Room to Heal website to find out more about their organisation, including ways to help, ways to get help and to read their informative blog. You can also subscribe to their newsletter or start fundraising to support a torture survivor.