Moderator praises "inspirational" CrossReach counselling service for new parents

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church has praised CrossReach's Perinatal Services for providing "generous non-judgemental love."

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning spoke after meeting staff and service users at the Palmerston Place site during CrossReach Week, an annual celebration of the work of Church of Scotland's care arm.

Candles in Lampedusa church
The Moderator visited the crèche at the counselling service

The services, which support parents before and after the birth of their child work with around 140 families at a time at sites in Granton, the Southside and Edinburgh's West End. CrossReach also offers perinatal services in Glasgow.

"The CrossReach Perinatal Service in Edinburgh offers a therapeutic space and support for parents and their children", he said.

"At a time when some parents feel overwhelmed by the arrival of a new baby, finding a listening ear, and a safe space to talk about the times when parenting is tough is vital.

"What struck me was the sense of calm and peacefulness in the counselling rooms, the brightness of the well-stocked crèche, and the gentle but committed dedication of the staff and volunteers.

"When people feel fragile here is a wonderful Church of Scotland service that provides coping mechanisms, practical solutions, and generous non-judgemental love. Deeply moving, totally inspirational."

Vital support

During pregnancy and after birth new parents can experience anxiety and depression amongst other symptoms.

Clients are asked to make a donation based on what they can afford so that the service is open to all.

One new mother explained that when she was "swamped with feelings of despair" the sessions at Palmerston place had provided vital support to her and her family.

"I came to CrossReach for about six months. Mostly it was the counselling service and having the crèche facility that really helped me because I'd never left my baby with anybody and I think I had the worst anxiety about leaving him anywhere or with anybody else.

"I think leaving him here just for that hour each week knowing that I was in the building it opened me up to the idea of he's fine, there's no worries, he's not been a problem - and I survived without him too.

"It gave me a safe place that I could chat about things that you don't talk about on a day to day basis - your deepest darkest worries.

"I don't think my family would have known what to do - they would have wanted to help but wouldn't have known how to.

"It was having someone more impartial who was able to look at it with outsiders eyes and say do you know it's not right, no matter what you've been through you can't be feeling like that."

Therapeutic

Joyce Linklaker, who is the Perinatal Services Manager for CrossReach and has 17 years of counselling experience, explained that much of the support comes in the form of group sessions.

"We noticed that groups are very helpful in reducing anxiety. If you can reduce anxiety then people can think and if they can think they can start to process their experiences", she said.

"It's about normalising an experience - it's like saying no wonder you're experiencing this because of these things that have happened.

"We offer a variety of things, we offer therapy groups - counselling or art therapy - we offer relaxation groups which helps to bring down anxiety levels long enough for people to be able to access therapeutic work."

There's also "infant massage which helps with bonding between parent and child - fathers are encouraged in what we do."

Ms Linklaker described the "absolute privilege" of being able to provide support to families.

"It isn't just the dynamic of what happens when you become a new parent, it can also be due to traumatic births," she added.

To learn more about the Perinatal Services please go to www.crossreach.org.uk/crossreach-perinatal-service-lothians