Interview with Matt Howard-Jones
Tell us a bit about your background before you started CTF role
I had been working as an Occupational Therapist in adult mental health since 1999. I enjoyed using group work and activity as a form of treatment but usually most of the groups had very little budget for equipment or facilities. My role previous to starting with CTF involved being a Care Coordinator in a community mental health team. A lot of my role was generic and involved
trying to engage service users with treatment and build a therapeutic relationship. It was not very often that I could engage with service users in an activity that was not about their mental health or medication.
What attracted you to the Coping Through Football project?
Firstly I love watching and playing football which combined with my passion for group work seemed a perfect opportunity. I had heard of the project through working at NELFT and could tell it had excellent links,
resources and funding. I thought it was a really exciting and innovative project and from my experience of trying to engage service users in treatment or a therapeutic relationship could tell it would be a great idea and service.
How has the project changed over the last five years since it inception?
When I came into post the group had been running once a week on Thursday in Leyton. The project initially targeted service users from the Assertive Outreach Team who were collected and transported to the group by their Care Coordinators.
We started another session on a Tuesday in the north of the borough near the Inpatient unit. Initially attendance at this session was low and but through promotion of the project to potential referrers and establishing links with other clinicians the numbers steadily grew.
To enable new members to get to the session the project
hired a minibus and I would collect them from set points and drop them off. This was useful to engage people who found it hard to get to the venues on their own. Funding for the minibus has subsequently stopped but as the group is well established the attendance has not been affected.
Other regular social activities such as tickets to watch
Leyton Orient FC, trips to Top Golf or ten pin bowling have helped clients build up their social networks.
The client group that attend has also changed, we now have clients attending from all services across NELFT including drug and alcohol, primary care, Early Intervention in Psychosis, Older people and Community Mental Health Team. The links with the Early Intervention team have been really successful and the staff assist a large number of their clients to attend.
What has been your
biggest achievement during your time with CTF?
One of them was probably the first 5-a-side tournament that we held as I had never organised one before and felt it was a great success on the day.
After my last session with the project I felt my biggest
achievement has been to establish the project with great attendance figures with a welcoming, friendly atmosphere at the session that enables all abilities to participate.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Getting to play football with the clients and witnessing
their recovery. It’s very rare as a clinician that I get to have fun with clients, see them so animated and laughing. In terms of their recovery I have seen them become more confident, talkative, improve their fitness and form social networks. Also to see some of them move onto paid employment, become football coaches etc has been so rewarding.
What are your most memorable moments?
There have been many but the 5-a-side tournament at Chelsea FC is probably number one, the clients who came said it was the most memorable moment of their lives.
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