A NURSE of 20 years is striving to make a difference for those in the town in need of mental health support.

Nicky Bates recently founded the TLC Counselling Hub after converting an annex at her Charlton Road property into a business premises.

The service seeks to provide a fresh alternative for those who need help but are facing long waiting lists and calls upon Nicky’s experience from both her personal life and her work at hospitals and mental health charities.

“I just can’t wait to get going. It’s been a long time in the making,” she said.

“If you can make a difference to one or two peoples’ lives, that’s what it’s all about.”

Nicky has spent the last year-and-a-half working for Andover Mind, currently volunteers at the Olive Branch, in Winchester, and recently finished seven years of training to become a fully qualified counsellor.

Now she hopes her newly converted counselling hub will provide a safe and comfortable space – something Nicky says is vital – for people struggling with their mental health.

“You really do need to be comfortable,” she said. “For people to be comfortable in themselves they need to be in a comfortable environment.”

The service is based on gestalt theory and uses a more creative approach to conventional counselling. Clients still have the chance to discuss their issues but can also incorporate more visual methods, allowing them to illustrate their feelings through drawings, sand trays, mood cards and more.

She added: “If you were to just sit opposite someone, sometimes it does work but by being creative people can express themselves. Even if they can’t say it, they can show what they are feeling.”

Nicky says her experiences of being around mental illness, particularly while nursing, have shown her the value of listening to people and allowing them to open up.

She said: “Growing up as a child it was always around me. But it was probably my nursing that was the biggest thing for me.

“I was nursing on the ward, and I worked on an elderly care ward. I would sit on someone’s bed and found that giving them five minutes of your time was as good as any medication you could give them.”

“Older people tend to be from the generation that ‘just got on with it’ but actually just getting on with it isn’t always the best thing. They just get on with it with a stiff upper lip but actually they’re probably still really hurting too.”

She added: “We own our own lock and key. We know what bothers and troubles us and usually we know what needs to be doing to fix that – sometimes we just need someone to facilitate the process.”

Discounted sessions will be available for both elderly and student users. For more information go to tlccounsellinghub.co.uk or search ‘TLC Counselling Hub’ on Facebook.