We have been deeply moved by the passion and enthusiasm for the project. We are honoured to have Samia Nelson, Roni Greenberger, Pretish Raja-Helm, Shanit Marshall-Strang, Jamie Crabb, Shammi Kohli, Shoshi Asheri and Rupa Lal be part of our current and Emma Bull and Hannah El-Sayed past members of our invaluable Aashna + therapist team.
“Aashna” is an Indian word meaning ‘devoted to love.’ Pretish Raja-Helm and Shammi Kohli set up Aashna recognising the struggle that diverse groups face in finding therapy that meets their needs and the challenge practitioners from diverse backgrounds face in reaching and supporting their communities.
As second-generation British Asians with rich intersectional identities, 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, a unique therapeutic space, offering individuals from diverse experiences 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 its 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 in mind.
The journey of Aashna+ began in 2019, following a lived experiment of a 'home group' in which an intimate group of psychotherapists who felt deeply inspired by the ethos of Aashna, attempted to embody the talk and question the notion that:
“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 (Shoshi Asheri).”
Holding in mind both the challenge and the transformative power of communal holding, the Aashna+ service was conceived with the aim of developing an accessible communal approach to individual therapy, where differences are embraced and interconnectedness is affirmed. At its heart, Aashna+ is a social justice project offering an accessible longer-term service for people from marginalised communities diverse in race, culture, social background, religion, sexuality, age, gender, disability, care experience and other intersectionalities; who may otherwise struggle to seek therapy.
All involved; clients, therapists, supervisors and the Aashna creative team are participants in a bigger social experiment. By co-creating a pot of ‘communal resources’, we contribute our presence, our commitment to the wider project, our time, creative energy and financial support according to our individual means. In essence, the pot of communal resources enables us to offer accessible, inclusive and in-depth psychotherapy. Moreover, it offers all of us a sense of belonging to a growing community informed by our ethos that difference in all its forms has to be recognised and resources can be shared.
Intertwined in this vision, is an intention to support therapists to develop a practice that is sensitive to the complexity of intersectionality and to the implications of existing power structure within the psychotherapy field and beyond.
The Aashna + therapist community encourages and facilitates our individual and collective growth by hosting regular reflective gatherings, where we collaboratively explore our clinical work through an intersectional, relational and embodied lens. We expand this work by supporting the wider therapist community who work at Aashna through co-created seminars which challenge our existing thinking and praxis. This emergent process emphasises our belief that collective and collaborative community is intrinsic in supporting both our own and our client's growth.
Our community has supported over fifteen clients since its inception and developed outreach programmes for several organisations, including the British Asian Women's Association (BAWA, London) and the South Asian Gallery (Manchester).
Sustaining Aashna+ is paramount to ensure we can continue to support our vision to provide culturally sensitive accessible therapy. Initial funding was raised through the home group, alongside funding through the Let's Get Uncomfortable project donations and the Aashna+ GoFundMe page has helped sustain Aashna+ into a second year.
Furthermore, all involved; clients, therapists, supervisors contribute to a ‘communal pot’ reflecting the following Tiers:
Clients are invited to contribute between £1 - £40 and therapists and supervisors earn up to £10. Each contributes according to their means and desire to contribute to the Aashna+ vision.
Clients pay from £50+ upwards. Therapists donate up to 50% to Aashna+ with the client's knowledge. Each contributes according to their means and desire to contribute to the Aashna+ vision with the knowledge that 50% of their payment will go to the communal pot to enable those who can’t afford it to have access to long term therapy.
If an Aashna+ therapist is approached in their private practice by a client they would like to work with under Aashna+, they are invited to donate up to 50% upwards to Aashna + service.
Our Mission is to:
Creatively question and queer existing power structures within the field
Welcome the empowerment of all participants involved clients and therapists alike
Develop a sense of belonging to a shared, communal project
Live the vision that individual psychotherapy needs to be held by a community and can no longer be separate from the urgent need for social change
To inquire about accessing the Aashna+ service email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We invite our friends, family and Aashna community to donate Aashna+ via our GoFundMe page to support therapy to be accessible to our communities.