Wigan and Leigh Hospice to offer al fresco support

A charity caring for terminally ill patients and their families is heading to the great outdoors to provide support.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 10:06 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 10:26 am

People accessing therapies at Wigan and Leigh Hospice are being offered al fresco sessions for the first time.

Counselling, bereavement support and complementary therapy are all now available in the hospice’s gardens on Kildare Street in Hindley.

The move comes as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and advice to meet outdoors wherever possible, but also because of the benefits nature can offer in therapy.

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Lindsey Caplan

Before the pandemic all sessions took place in the hospice building, but since March 2020 they have been by telephone or video call.

Hospice counsellor Lindsey Caplan said: “Someone I know told me she had started doing therapy outdoors as research has proven that connecting to nature can be very calming and therapeutic.

“Over the past 18 months or so all sessions have been by telephone or video call and that will continue for now for the majority of clients.

“However, some clients said they would prefer to do face-to-face sessions, so when I heard about outdoor therapy I wanted to give it a try.”

The garden at Wigan and Leigh Hospice

Both of the hospice’s counsellors, four bereavement support volunteers and the hospice’s complementary therapist all had training in delivering therapy outdoors and the first clients have now had sessions outside.

Lindsey said: “Complementary therapy can be either done outdoors - such as a shoulder or a hand massage - or in a complementary therapy room next to a window.

“Simply looking out of the window at nature can calm you.

“From one of our rooms you can see our pond, trees, reeds swaying gently in the breeze and it means your whole body just slows down.

“Counselling and bereavement sessions can take place in a quiet spot or simply strolling in the gardens.

“That connection to nature helps with mindfulness – which is to be fully aware of where we are and what we are doing.

“When we’re walking we can focus on what we can hear, smell, touch and this helps to ground us and to focus on ourselves.

“Life can be hectic – we can be dashing about from one place to another; getting in touch with nature when our minds are ‘all over the place’ can bring a sense of calm and peace.”

The well-being team has also found that being outdoors presents additional opportunities for therapy.

Lindsey said: “For some bereaved people the hospice gardens will be a place where they spent their last few days with someone they loved, so it can help them to come back and reconnect with that time.

“For those people who lose a partner and find their confidence in going outside has gone, these outdoor sessions can be helpful in building that confidence back up again.

“In the gardens there is also a path where there is a crossroads.

“Saying to someone that they can choose which path to take can be empowering.

“It is early days but we have all done a few sessions and the feedback, and the opportunities being outdoors have presented for therapy, have been very positive.”

Ann Darcy, a client of Lindsey’s who is taking outdoor therapy sessions, said: “My experience of outdoor therapy was literally a breath of fresh air; a chink of light after all these dark, lonely, isolated grief-filled days.

“To connect with nature with a caring, listening ear was just wonderful and I’m so grateful and I’m grateful to have another session.”

Next year it is hoped group bereavement sessions will be held in the gardens.

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