Head Space - Information for partner organisations

Head Space is a programme of three seven-week courses that give learners tools to manage their mental health and make positive lifestyle changes. The sessions use ideas from adult education, peer-support groups and cognitive behavioural therapy, particularly behavioural activation.


Who Head Space is for

Head Space is for any adults who feel that they will benefit from increasing their emotional resilience. A broad range of people have benefited form our courses, including: parents using intensive support services; women’s groups; unemployed people; blind people; mental health service users; refugees and asylum seekers; social housing tenants.


Outcomes for participants

Head Space aims to enable people to make positive and sustainable changes in their habits of thinking and acting, improving:

• Their ability to manage their mood
• Self-care – looking after health and home
• Relationships and communication
• Identity and self-esteem
• Their ability to move towards work, goals and ambitions

Head Space has also helped participants to make positive and sustainable lifestyle changes, for example:

• joining a social a recreational club or society
• taking up a volunteering opportunity
• taking regular exercise or improving diet
• increasing time spent doing rewarding activities (hobbies, socialising, etc)
• taking up paid employment, training or education opportunities
• accessing support for issues that affect their mental health, eg. debt, addiction, domestic violence
• improving relationships or beginning new friendships with family or friends


Monitoring and evaluation

Head Space users the Webwms well being scale to monitor progress during the course and takes feedback from participants. Partners organisations give feedback when courses end and are contacted several weeks or months later to give feedback on long-term impact. Monitoring is evaluated by an external evaluator and fed back to commissioners.



Head Space uses approaches from adult education, peer-support groups and cognitive behavioural therapy, particularly behavioural activation. There is a strong emphasis on taking action - participants choose 'homework,' every week, selecting activities that will be beneficial to them and reflecting on what they did and how it affected their mood at the start of the following session. We aim to enable participants to create changes in their habits or thinking and acting through a weekly cycle:

learning and discussing new techniques - choosing activities - activities during week - reflection on week's activities and mood

Session leaders act not as counsellors or therapists, but as facilitators and members of the group, presenting ideas but also participating in activities as equals and sharing their own progress if they feel it is appropriate. The role of the session leader is not to analyse or advise participants on the most helpful course of action or way of thinking for them, it is to explain ideas and techniques and guide participants towards finding their own ways of applying them through questioning.

Sessions are tightly structured. A typical session consists of: welcome and introduction to topic and outcomes; reflection from the previous week and homework; presentation of ideas for discussion; exercises and discussions on topic; choosing activities for the coming week; reflection on session and sharing of commitments to action.

Participants discuss how techniques might be applied to situations which occur in their own lives. Exploration and sharing of stories and solutions is central to each session. Disclosure is optional - participants do not have to share personal or emotional matters, although many choose to.

There is a strong emphasis on putting techniques into action. Every session, participants complete activity sheets, planning their application of techniques over the following week. Participants are encouraged to repeat successful activities, with activity sheets adding a new topic for activity every session.



Courses cover a selection of the following topics, depending on the needs of the participants:

• Stress and keeping physically active. Discussing what stress and anxiety are, including the fight or flight response. We use games to demonstrate how getting active effects mood and the ‘stress bucket’ (stress/vulnerability model) as a way of identifying opportunities for dealing with stress with physical activities. Participants chose activities for the following week.

• Stress and avoidance. Identifying stressful situations that participants avoid; wall and hammer exercise (identifying barriers to tackling avoided situations); motivation and acceptance. Choosing first step to overcoming avoidance issue.

• Stress and thinking positively. Unhelpful thinking styles; putting situations in perspective - the helicopter view; choosing solutions.

• Stress and problem-solving . Identifying sources of stress, the best outcomes and UFO method; setting personal problem-solving first steps.

• Assertiveness. Passive, aggressive and assertive definitions; basic human rights; assertiveness methods; putting it into practice. Learning to say no; assertiveness methods; dealing with aggression; assertiveness role-play. This topic may be covered in one to three sessions.

• Feeling good about yourself. The roots of self-esteem self-care questionnaire; building self-esteem: brochure about myself; setting self-care tasks.

• Making plans for the future. The purpose of goal-setting; what makes a good goal; letter from the future exercise; breaking goals into steps; identifying the 'fuel' for your journey.

• Getting better sleep. What to do during the day to encourage good sleep; preparing for sleep; what to do when you can't sleep.

• Relaxation. Breathing exercises; progressive muscle relaxation; visualisation. Participants get a CD to take home.

• Keeping it going. Review of the sessions and homework; identifying what works; making personal reminder cards; completing the recovery star.

Each participant is given a folder to keep handouts and their weekly activity planning sheets. Participants leave the course with a credit card-sized reminder of their personal 3 or 4 most helpful thoughts or actions. Tutors also aim to find suitable exit strategies for clients, for example: accessing support from other voluntary sector organisations: continuing to get support from friends or family; membership or sporting or creative groups; following a plan to meet personal goals.