The word “Aashna” is an Indian word meaning ‘devoted to love.’ Pretish Raja-Helm and Shammi Kohli set up Aashna in recognising the struggle diverse groups face in finding therapy that meets their needs, as well as the challenge practitioners from diverse backgrounds, face in trying to reach and support their communities. As second-generation British Asians, we are very much aware of the need to nurture and facilitate inclusion within the therapeutic field. Our aim is for Aashna to reflect the rich cultural and global society in which we live in, a unique therapeutic space, offering individuals from diverse backgrounds and experience the opportunity to come together, nurture our voices and support each other to facilitate change. Aashna’s ethos is “embracing difference and diversity in all it’s forms” by building a community that supports the counselling and psychotherapy field in proactively understanding and recognising the needs of diverse groups and working with intersectionality.
Aashna Home Group
In 2018 we began the Aashna home group, a collaboration with psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer Shoshi Asheri. The complexity of democratising the therapeutic relationship and the creative application of Embodied Relationality as a force of psycho-social change have been a central subject of enquiry in Shoshi’s teaching, writing and presentations. Together with an intimate group of twelve psychotherapists, we co-created a lived experience which invited us to feel into the mystery and complexity of the notion that “love is a transformational force.” We attempted to embody our talk and question the following assumption:
“In the space between our distinct difference and our shared humanity, there is a relational field that is both treacherous and charged with healing opportunities. If we learn to inhabit this field, we may create a home for our differences and a sense of belonging to our otherness (Asheri 2018).”
Throughout a whole year, we have been sitting with the discomfort of our own differences. We made our less told stories more visible, in the spirit of ‘deep democracy’ we paid attention to our unconscious communication, invited each other to give voice to the unspeakable and the politically incorrect, we grappled with the power inequality between us and looked for guidance from the emergent relational field that we co-created. We experimented with and experienced, individually and collectively, love as both a challenge and a force of change. Understanding the implication of this experiment on our therapeutic work in the consulting room and in the community is still in process.
Aashna provided the space and the hosting, the therapist-participants joined the group with the knowledge that half of their fees (£3000) would go towards a low-cost service, and Shoshi Asheri donated her earnings (£3000) to the project. Those who participated in the “Let’s Get Uncomfortable: Embedding Explorations of Race, Ethnicity, Culture and Power in Counselling & Psychotherapy Trainings” encounters also donated to the project.
Out of the seeds of our Aashna home group grew Aashna +. At its heart, Aashna+ is a social justice project. Our aim is to develop a communal approach to individual therapy, inspired by the ethos of Aashna and the spirit of the home group. Aashna+ will offer the possibility of a longer-term, low-cost service for people diverse in race, culture, social background, religion, sexuality, age, gender, disability and other diversity, who may otherwise struggle to access therapy. The therapists will be both trainees in placement and experienced therapists who are attracted to our ethos. Intertwined in this vision is supporting therapists to develop a practice that is sensitive to difference and the implications of existing power structures within the psychotherapy field and beyond.
All involved, clients, therapists and supervisors will become participants in a bigger social experiment. They will contribute to a ‘communal pot’. Clients are invited to contribute between £1-£30. Therapists and supervisors will earn between £1-£30, each according to their means and desire to contribute to this vision. Aashna will continue to offer its home, support and relevant training.
We invite our friends, family and Aashna community to donate to the service via our GoFundMe page to support therapy to be accessible to our community.
To offer a psychotherapy service that embraces difference and affirms interconnectedness, to creatively challenge existing power structures within the field, empower all participants involved, develop a sense of belonging to a shared project and inspire the vision that psychotherapy can no longer be separate from the urgent need for social change. It is in our hands!
To inquire about accessing the Aashna+ service email firstname.lastname@example.org
Aashna + Therapists
In March and September, we held the first round of meetings for potential therapists to join Aashna+. It was a wonderful meeting many exceptional individuals who are doing important work. We were deeply moved by the enthusiasm to the service and it was challenging not to have space for all. We are delighted to have Hannah El-Sayed, Samia Nelson, Emma Bull and Anna Patel join the Aashna + Team. Already their presence has been invaluable.Thank you for supporting this exciting social justice project.
Aashna + is developing a life of its own and is already taking us beyond our own expectations. We hope the ripples will continue. Thank you to all for your support and kind donations.