Jessie Emilion

About you: I’m an accredited counsellor, psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer, teaching on psychotherapy programmes in the UK, India and Malta. I was central to the introduction of cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) in Malta and India. In India, I have developed the model further by incorporating religious, cultural and societal values, making the model relevant to the Indian society and psyche. I am passionate about improving global mental health. I am currently CAT lead psychotherapist in Southwark, with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and consultant supervisor to Greenwich Cruse. My clinical work gives me a purpose and insight into the complexities of the human mind and the society we live in.

Why join the group? I have extensive experience of working in the NHS both in primary and secondary care. As a trained interpreter and bilingual therapist, I have worked with many refugee communities and third-sector organisations. I have a special interest in bilingualism, culture and race, and the impact of these constructs on the development of the self. These topics excite and energise me. There is so much work to be done in addressing inequality, discrimination, power and privilege within mental health.

What you hope to bring: I hope to bring both my personal and professional qualities – my expertise in the field but also qualities such as creativity, compassion and fun. We learn more and do well when we are having fun. With the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, it is very clear that we need to address structural discrimination and close the gap in health inequalities, and I am committed to this.

What might people be surprised to learn about you? I grew up by the beach but still cannot swim. One day I will get there! I am a committed rangoli (kolam) artist, and enjoy creating big pieces of floor art. I love watching EastEnders after a hard day’s work.

Mel Halacre

About you: When I qualified as a counsellor, there were few organisations tailoring therapy for disabled people, yet my personal experiences and my research showed it was needed. So, in 2009, I set up Spokz People CIC, a non-profit organisation offering disability affirmative therapy.

Why join the group? My aim has always been to improve therapy for disabled people and other marginalised groups. I have been encouraged by all the developments taking place within BACP these past few years. This was an opportunity to contribute to positive change. If we create more equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)-aware therapists, we improve therapy.

What you hope to bring: I am a pragmatist at heart and very much feel that organisations can learn a lot from the bottom-up knowledge that is available. I’m not a huge fan of policies and procedures; I see them as important in terms of establishing a baseline, but what I am most passionate about is how these policies and strategies are actually implemented so they become alive and a reality. I hope to pass on the experiences of all the marginalised clients, therapists and students my organisation has had contact with and to offer practical, usable suggestions on how to improve inclusion.

If we are going to move forward with EDI, we need to find a way to de-shame the conversation for all parties. We need to acknowledge what hasn’t happened and be proactive in reaching out to clients and therapists who have been marginalised, listen to them and value their insights. In the therapy field, we are trained to self-reflect and this self-reflective capacity offers us a unique opportunity around EDI: we can choose to offer marginalised clients and therapists a different experience. As a result, all of us can experience personal growth and healing from oppression.

What might people be surprised to learn about you? Though I have a British accent, I lived in the Netherlands for 14 years and sometimes my words are ‘lost in translation’.

Bryony Harper

About you: I’m a person-centred counsellor living and working in the East Midlands. I completed both my BA in humanistic counselling practice and my MA in trauma studies at the University of Nottingham. Since completing my training, I have worked primarily with young people and survivors of sexual violence, and I’m currently the counselling manager at Base 51, a charity supporting young people in Nottingham.

Why join the group? I have always been passionate about equality and diversity. Since my counsellor training, I have been mindful of opportunities to improve the accessibility of the counselling profession for clients, counsellors and trainees, so it’s an exciting opportunity to be a part of shaping BACP’s EDI strategy.

What you hope to bring: I’m hoping to draw on my experiences of working to improve inclusivity, accessibility and diversity across multiple occupations, alongside my professional and personal experiences as a queer woman from a working-class background and my in-depth knowledge of the barriers impacting clients and counsellors from marginalised communities.

What might people be surprised to learn about you? I’ve always wanted to be able to communicate with and understand as many people as possible. I first went to university to study German and Dutch but there were too many history exams, so I changed course and studied to be a counsellor instead.

Nick Rennie

About you: I am going to cheat and blend ‘about me’ across all sections because you want to do yourself justice, right? Over the years, my jobs have followed the theme of helping others. My roles have included mentoring, community engagement, youth work, and youth and adult mental health work. I am now the founder/director of You First Therapeutic Services, and also work part-time in the NHS as a patient equalities officer.

Why join the group? I have been aware of equality, diversity and inclusion all my life, even when I was too young to know what these words meant. I believe that the Task and Finish Group is a place where I can contribute to change and make improvements now and for the future within the profession. If I didn’t believe in what BACP could accomplish, I wouldn’t be here. The past year has highlighted the divide in understanding not just between individuals of different backgrounds but between the cultures of entire communities. I am not one for tick-box exercises and believe that organisations should do things because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s the ‘in’ thing to do.

What you hope to bring: As well as my experience of being a member of a variety of EDI and therapist networks, I will bring my passion for counselling and EDI knowledge and lived experiences to the group. I hope to bring positive change across the profession to enable all members to feel listened to and supported by BACP.

What might people be surprised to learn about you? I’m a big fan of Japanese culture and did a beginners’ course in the language following a trip to Tokyo. And I love practising tai chi.

Carolyn Lee

About you: I qualified as a person-centred therapist in 2019 with a master’s in counselling and psychotherapy from Keele University. I trained as a therapist after nearly 20 years working in diversity and inclusion in the corporate world for international organisations. I often worked with individuals in highly stressful personal and professional situations, so therapeutic training felt like the next step for me. I now combine working as a therapist and coach with delivering diversity and inclusion training and consultancy work.

Why join the group? It’s really important to me that diversity and inclusion sit at the centre of the organisations to which I belong. This group is an opportunity to really engage with the process of meaningful change for BACP, and an opportunity for me to bring my pre-therapist work and experience into my current ‘day job’. It offers a chance to contribute to the change process, and it’s a journey I wanted to be part of.

What you hope to bring: My knowledge and expertise of EDI, and a strong sense that diversity and inclusion work goes beyond what is covered under legislation. I have a lot of energy for EDI, and know there are no easy answers, but I hope that my experience means I can offer a broad holistic perspective that embraces all aspects of EDI.

What might people be surprised to learn about you? I spent a year living on a First Nations (Native American) Cree Reservation in the Canadian Arctic, learning to live in 24-hour daylight, 24-hour darkness, and temperatures below -50°C. It was a very long way from the closest town, and I learnt a lot about resilience, resourcefulness and how to read the night sky. It was also an amazing opportunity to live within another culture from another tradition, and that experience of being a cultural outsider has stuck with me throughout my career.

Steve Rattray

About you: Since the millennium, my fading sight has confronted me with the reality of visual impairment. Having first-hand experience of the barriers that disabled people can face in living an independent life, I was drawn to counselling as a means of being supportive of others. Having worked my way through the accreditation process, I’m now both a senior accredited counsellor and supervisor, and work with a range of third-sector organisations, and health and social care services to support the enablement, empowerment and rehabilitation of people with sight loss. Since 2010, I’ve also worked within BACP, including serving on the Professional Ethics and Quality Standards Committee and the Ethics and Good Practice Steering Committee.

Why join the Board? To ensure that EDI is at the forefront of how the profession evolves. There can be a risk that EDI is seen as a tick-box exercise, but by embedding EDI into BACP’s systems and processes and by ensuring it is reviewed, essential adaptations can be made and equality, diversity and inclusion can be made real.

What you hope to bring: I hope to shine some light onto the reality of how inequality, discrimination and exclusion can be experienced. My fading sight has confronted me with ever more barriers to independence, some of which are proving to be insurmountable. It’s led me to become increasingly supportive of people and organisations focused on enablement and empowerment and it is this experience, at both a strategic and personal level, that I’ll be able to contribute to the group.

What might people be surprised to learn about you? I’ve always loved going to the theatre but, as my sight faded, I stopped going as it just didn’t feel the same not knowing what was happening on stage. That was until audio description went live. It gave me back one of my great loves as it explained what was happening on stage without talking over the actors. I also get to explore the stage and meet some of the cast before a performance. I’ve been on a stage at the National Theatre chatting with a scantily clad Benedict Cumberbatch!

Next in this issue