The Albany Centre Annual Conference

Wednesday 28th March 2018

‘Belonging & Connectivity in a Digital Age’


….a creative day of insights into how our digital dependency is impacting on our lifestyle…




William Allen, CEO of Signpost, discusses: What makes a revolution?

ALICE REEVES – summary

Alice Reeves, CEO of BelongCon, looks at BelongCon’s conversation-based events, how our online and offline presence can work in harmony instead of being at odds, and how allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can transform our communication and connection with one another.

PIPPA MOYLE – summary

Pippa Moyle, CEO of City Girl Network, focuses on helping young women safely met each other when they move to a new city. In her talk, she shares her experiences of going against a ‘traditional career path’ and how you really can build the life that you envision.

CATHY WARREN – summary

Cathy Warren, 38 Degrees Co-ordinator and Campaigner, outlines how a 17 year-old successfully campaigned to shut down an online app used for bullying.


Krystal Woodbridge, Psychosexual and Relationship psychotherapist, discusses how the use of pornography can impact on our relationships, and how a psychosexual therapist would work with a client to overcome any issues that arise from porn use.

MARK ASHLEY – summary

Mark Ashley, Autism Specialist, explores how face-to-face communication is often difficult for autistic individuals due to the pressures and expectations, and the sheer amount of information, involved in communication. Technology offers new ways of communicating which solve some of these problems, but also presents challenges of its own.


Keely Siddiqui Charlick, CEO of Sunnyside Rural Trust, explains how the Trust finds innovative ways of helping disabled young people who can easily hide in a digital world and overcome barriers to participating in mainstream life.


Marilyn Hawes, CEO and Founder of Enough Abuse UK, will explain how grooming online is remarkably easy, and that the impact of cyber harm is now proven.

JON COOPER – summary

Jon Cooper, Founder of The Albany Centre, summarises the day.


The Albany Centre Annual Conference

Saturday 25th March 2017

‘Being and Belonging’ – the challenges of inclusion


Jon opened the conference with reference to the concept of exclusivity, and to the basic human need to belong together in groups. Those within the confines of a safe and warm environment have a tendency to exclude people who are perceived to be different and therefore not ‘one of us’. Such is the strength of the need to belong, some people try to fit in by pretending to be someone they are not and believing who they really are needs to be hidden so they are not ‘found out’ as a fraud. Jon likened this to creating their own internal civil war.

He highlighted that some young people will not approach groups such as Signpost because they fear rejection and may instead form their own groups which may expose them to dangers e.g. drugs. They need to be invited to a safe place where they receive unconditional love and acceptance rather than the fear of being moved into a hostel without their friends. He said it is important not to overwhelm them initially with too much love and used the metaphor of a re-feeding program where a slow drip feed is introduced before richer food is given and can be tolerated. What is needed is to build a fundamental relationship and to provide consistency so young people choose to return.

Finally, Jon proposed that all staff coming into contact with vulnerable young people receive training in difference and diversity so they fully understand the issues they face.

Review: Sue Roden (Senior Trainee Counsellor)

Watch the video here:-



“He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it…” – George Orwell

“My husband never cooks, but he does the gardening”

“George and I went to the cinema last night, finally had a date night from the kids”

Both phrases denote a gender pronoun that is consciously thought of when heard or spoken. Both are said, and received, devoid of embarrassment or fear of an adverse reaction. This is the state of a heterosexist society.

Sue states that LGBTQ are members of this society and the formulation of everyday phrases like this become a problematic issue. These are everyday sources of anxiety, depression and stigmatism in the life of someone whose manifestation of love is at odds with the consensus.

Homosexuality was only declassified as a mental health disorder 25 years ago, rendering generations of the LGBTQ community with depleted self-esteem, stigma and dogma. The legacy remains, however, with the term “gay” being prevalent in youth speech without sufficient awareness.

The impact of unchallenged homophobia speaks volumes in its figures: in the UK 72,000 LGBT Children and Young People receive homophobic (verbal and physical) bullying, 46% experience depression and 21,000 under the age of 20 attempt suicide.

As members of the LGBTQ community Children and Young People in schools make a conscious decision to repress their identity or are caught between a need to belong, and a need to embrace their unique identity.

Review: Aurelie Coz (Trainee Counsellor)

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In a presentation called ‘Beyond Counselling’, William Allen, CEO of Signpost spoke movingly about the charity’s work with young people, highlighting how important it is to consider where the boundaries can be appropriately blurred in order to reach more people in need of support. He explained how Signpost as an organisation aims to be part of each client’s week, not just for one hour of counselling, but by providing space in which youngsters can have fun together and be calm, while quietly expressing themselves in a non-intensive way. This, he explained, is achieved through Signpost’s offering of social groups, outdoor activities where clients can take risks and challenge themselves, fundraising activities, drama programmes and much more.

William went on to explain that as their clients are offered these opportunities, their isolation and poor self-esteem changes as they are included. They start to understand that they’re not alone and that there is no such thing as ‘normal’. They have somewhere to go, to belong and start to recognise that they have a value to others too.

His presentation was an inspiring call to arms to everyone, particularly those working in the helping professions, to step outside of our boundaried boxes and help people to feel involved and included, whatever their situation.

Review: Emily Sugarman (Psychotherapist)

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Intersectionality describes the way in which an individual’s multiple diverse aspects of themselves amount to multiple threats of discrimination of the individual. For example, a Latina lesbian woman will face multiple threats due to her race, her sexuality and her gender.  Kirstie’s delivery of her talk was delivered with wonderful sensitivity, and really conveyed the increased vulnerability of individuals whose differences present multiple opportunities for discrimination, oppression and withholding of privileges.

Kirstie repeated a remark from a male colleague with regards to her transition, ‘Why would you want to become a second-class citizen?’  For me, this statement did not only highlight the unabashed sexism and privilege of Kirstie’s colleague, but also the daily struggle that Intersectionality presents.  The lived experience of diverse individuals is constantly coming up against prejudices from society, which society often holds blindly.   Kirstie’s talk really helped illustrate the way multiple threats can build up to a burden that is hard to carry.

We were presented with so many challenges: services for clients with multiple needs (for example, disabled trans people), working with clients with complexities that don’t affect you, and managed to keep the presentation hopeful.  I loved the reminder that hierarchies of discrimination are not helpful!  I felt encouraged to own my privilege, and ask the client what it is I need to understand about their experience.  As with all the guest speakers, I want to hear more from Kirstie.  Her generosity in sharing both her personal experience and professional expertise is invaluable.

Review: Abi Spong (Trainee Counsellor)

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Autistic individuals experience a bombardment of information and sensory overload and as they spend time deciphering and processing information, social behaviours get missed.  Autistic individuals have little understanding of social rules, nuances of communication and therefore appear to be insensitive. Building relationships is extremely difficult as autistic individuals are hyper-sensitive and can become over stimulated very quickly, resulting in the need to retreat to desensitise.

It is a misconception that autistic individuals do not want to interact; social situations are frightening (fear of being misunderstood, misunderstanding others, behaving inappropriately).  Combine this with the narrative of continually being told that they are doing it wrong, not accepted, and unwelcomed into the neuro-typical bubble, results in withdrawal, isolation, social anxiety, depression, OCD, self-harm and suicide.

The fundamental problem for autistic individuals is interfacing due to a lack of understanding between neuro-typical and autistic individuals.  The neuro-typical needs to be understanding and accepting of difference, which may need further exploration when interfacing is taking place.  They may also feel like they are doing all the accommodating, however, it is important to remember that the autistic individual is having to work so much harder in a bid to be able to fit in, to change.

Social inclusion is geared towards a neuro-typical ideal; it is not until society works to co-create a society that is inclusive of autism in the same way it is accepting of diverse characteristics that autistic individuals will be included.  However, with mutual understanding inclusion could be achieved because of who they are and not despite of it. Bridging the gap between the neuro-typical and those with autism: accepting diversity: co-creating an embracing society.

Review: Fiona Gratte (Trainee Counsellor)

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In the space of twenty minutes Jennifer Rees was able to succinctly demystify some of the myths we may have believed about cults.  For one, it’s a much greater problem than we may have anticipated; currently there are 500-1000 cults active in the UK.

People often associate cults with horrific physical or sexual violence which can be the case, however, for the vast majority it’s a lot more innocuous.  An individual joining the cult will gradually be encouraged to work long shifts, day in day out, with most of their earnings going towards furthering the cause of the cult (i.e. funding a particular lifestyle of the cult leader).

The other key misconception about those that join the cult is that you are more vulnerable to being recruited if you have a lower IQ.  Research suggests otherwise, cults normally draw in people with higher IQs as they can justify the inevitable contradictions that occur in their cult.

Jennifer’s passion for helping cult survivors is driven by her belief that life is precious and that cult survivors are good people who have been taken advantage of.  After all, cults answer two universal human needs – purpose and a sense of belonging.

The person who is being recruited into a cult is encouraged to withdraw from their family and friends, making their life insular and cut off from normal reality.

Psychological and practical issues of the cult members trying to leave the cult are similar to those leaving domestic violence situations.

Cult psychology is applicable to so many other areas of society and it is crucial that we find the means to educate people so that they are able to protect themselves from getting damaged, used and abused.  As Jennifer says, “Life is precious”.

I found Jennifer’s talk incredibly interesting and actually very relevant to the work I do as a trainee therapist.  For me there is certainly a greater awareness around the subject. In a wider context the culture we live in is a cult in itself, I can think of many people I encounter who are stuck in a 9-5 job who are depressed and are taken advantage of.  Just because its a fantastic organisation (on paper) with all the added incentives does not take away the soul destroying aspects of it.

Review: Marina Ziff (Trainee Counsellor)

Watch the video here:-



Rayna is a child psychotherapy specialist and she outlined the pros and cons of long term and short term therapy. Short term usually appears to have the most pros as it is cost affects and makes it easier for the counsellor to see more people. Short term counselling is usually goal driven for both the counsellor and client which means that it can appear to be effective when the goal is achieved.

These pros are efficient for the business of counselling however they can be unbeneficial for the client. The cons of short term counselling is that only one or two issues are usually addressed which are usually the most prevalent for the client. This means that it doesn’t get down to underlying issues or what maybe causing the more obvious symptoms. This can result in the client having to reapply in order to get more sessions when other issues appear or even reappear.

The cons of short term therapy appear to be tackled by long term therapy as long term therapy can actually work out to be more cost effective as clients should not need to return once the issues have been looked at from the sources. As long term counselling allows for more time to deal with more if not all issues and can help the client to resolve or deal with what causes them.

The cons of long term clients are that less clients can been seen and there are longer waiting times for people who need counselling. Long term counselling can result in good relationships between the client and their counsellor however this can also result in dependency from the client. This can also lead to it being hard to determine when to let the client go as it is also harder to track progress.

These are the many pros and cons that Rayna discussed and she didn’t say whether one is better than the other. It is dependent on the client, this should mean that the type of therapy a client receives should be based on what they need.

I learnt that the type of counselling given to a client should be dependant their needs as everyone is different. There is no right type of therapy short or long.

Review: Mollie Brand (Trainee Counsellor)

Watch the video here:-


NSG Performing Arts

NSG Performing Arts was set up by Nick and Sophie Green in January 2017 – we were delighted to have them at the conference!

Nick started in a crew called “Flava” (which appeared on Britain’s Got Talent) and since then he has had a successful career, touring the world performing and teaching.

Sophie trained at dance college, and obtained all the required teaching qualifications.  She has professionally performed on cruise ships, in Disneyland, Wembley Arena and many other esteemed locations.

Nick & Sophie decided to focus on setting up a place for young people to learn dance, and to have fun.  They worked together for 5 years before starting up NSG, with the aim of passing on their knowledge, experience and passion for the performing arts.  They are eager for all young people to be able to follow their dreams – irrespective of circumstances – as they learn new talents and push their boundaries.  NSG is all about creating individuality; being part of a performing family – and generally having fun!

NSG Performing Arts is a school for ages 4-18+ years, based in Hertfordshire; it runs weekly classes in street dance, contemporary and musical theatre.  The company also runs after-school clubs and classes.  They hold Easter and summer holiday camps for all ages (-at the end of the camp the young people get to perform in front of an audience in a professional theatre).  The NSG street dance crews are competing at world-famous competitions in 2017 and have taken part in public performances.  The “Being and Belonging Conference” was one of their first official performances as a crew and they loved being part of such an incredible day, which reflected their holistic respect for all young people.

The ethos of NSG is for each to help the other – so they have organised fund-raising events, such as bag-packing days in supermarkets, to subsidise the costs of attending a performing-arts school, for those who may find it more difficult.

For more info on classes, setting up a club in your school, or our holiday camps please contact Nick or Sophie on:

07453 281552

Watch the video here:-

This year’s conference 28th March 2018 (put it into your diary now?)

All profits to support