Michelle is a service user at the Haringey Recovery Service. She first engaged in Haringey support services in 2013 when she self-referred herself to the HAGA alcohol service. She had heard about it via St Anne’s Hospital where she had been admitted several times because her drinking was getting out of control.
By May 2014 Michelle was doing really well, and when she began at the Recovery Service she decided to start an art group for other service users. Michelle has a huge amount of experience in the arts having studied painting, graphic design, and history of art at the School of Art, Ballet, Drama and Music in Johannesburg where she grew up. She ended up specialising in fine art for a further two years before moving to London where she worked as a graphic designer for ten years.
Despite her exhaustive experience, Michelle says her group is not primarily about art, but rather “creating a safe environment and a place that everyone can enjoy”. Michelle runs a whole range of different sessions where she shares her experiences and techniques, but says that for her,
“It isn’t about what is on the paper or canvas, but that you leave the session feeling good.”
The primary feedback from participants is that her group is a “space for mindfulness”, “the only time in the week I get for myself” and that people “leave on a Friday feeling positive”. All in all, there is a definite positivity about her weekly groups and a dedicated following of service users and staff.
Since October 2014, Michelle has been earning Time Credits for all her hard work running the art group. She stresses that she has never felt undervalued, but that it is still really nice that now there is a physical recognition for her efforts that translates into trips to the cinema and enjoyable days out. Earning Time Credits also makes her feel more connected and a part of the service, and it has attracted an external art volunteer who is helping to co-facilitate her group and give her some much needed time off.
Michelle has also been getting involved and earning Time Credits as the designer for the service user magazine The Worm where Time Credits are being used to develop the magazine by renting meeting space, reviewing spend trips, and charging Time Credits for advertising other internal spend opportunities.
In the future Michelle would like to complete some training on Art Therapy, and sees her experience at the Recovery Service as “a great stepping stone” to make this a reality. Before coming to the Recovery Service, Michelle had a lot of social anxiety and has really surprised herself by how confident she has become when running sessions.
To sum up what Time Credits have achieved so far, Michelle explains that they are
“creating excitement, motivation, and inspiration throughout the service.”