York's new Community Wellbeing Centre has opened. MAXINE GORDON calls in to see what's on offer

Pictures: Frank Dwyer

THERE are lots of comings and goings at York's new Community Wellbeing Centre.

In one room, art psychotherapist Samantha Stubbs is finishing off a therapy session with a young, primary-school-aged child.

Next door, half a dozen people are preparing for their weekly Pilates class, including one women in her eighties.

And volunteer Denise Boothman has just arrived to relieve June Tranmer, the centre's boss, of reception duty.

June is now free to show us around the centre, which opened two months ago, in the former Saville's offices on the corner of Merchantgate and Piccadilly.

The centre incorporates The Healing Clinic and Briar House Resources, two long-established facilities that June used to run from a grand Victorian building in Museum Street.

"This is much better," says June, smiling with pride. "There is better access – people can just walk in. And we are near all the buses too!"

The centre has a mix of therapy rooms where a range of practitioners offer a selection of complementary therapies – everything from massage and hypnotherapy to reiki and reflexology. There are some more unusual offerings too, such as crystal healing and emotional freedom technique.

June is an experienced therapist too and practises acupuncture and kinesiology among others.

But the centre is also a community space, where different organisations can hire rooms for a myriad of activities. Besides regular Pilates classes (including seated Pilates for people with mobility problems), also on offer are Tai Chi sessions, and workshops in mindfulness, meditation, writing and acting.

There are weekly and monthly support groups for people with mental health problems too.

A new singing group will start later this month – on Tuesday, January 30, from 10am to noon. It will cost £55 to cover the seven week block, but a free taster session will run the week before, Tuesday January 23 from 10am-noon. It is billed as a way to "learn to sing your heart out" and "meet new friends".

Classes and therapies at the centre are all priced individually. Both businesses – The Healing Clinic and Briar House Resources – are run as social enterprises, where any profits are ploughed back into the ventures.

The Healing Clinic team also do outreach work in the community – where therapists can offer group sessions for up to 30 people, running taster sessions of what is available at the centre, for a set fee.

"We can either go to places of work, or people can come here," says June, adding that many complementary treatments are a great way to beat stress.

The clinic has funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Community Fund to provide mini massages for various good causes in York, including Refugee Action York, people affected by flooding in Navigation Road and York Carers Forum.

The move into the Merchantgate site has been expensive and June has spearheaded a number of fundraising drives. The next – Healing Rocks – will take place this Friday evening, January 19, at the Tramways Club, York, from 6pm to 10.30pm. On the bill will be live music as well as an auction for treatments and therapy taster sessions. Entry is free, but donations are welcome.

Back at the centre, art therapist Samantha Stubbs invites us into her room. She is part of the Arts Barge team that provides support to children who have been adopted.

There is a doll's house, shelves of toys and a cupboard of art supplies all at hand for each session. Samantha says it is great to have a regular base for art therapy – not only is it useful to be able to store all the resources, but it helps the child feel more secure if they can come to the same place each week.

She adds the project is a new one, funded by the council, and says such therapies are vital. "Even if you are adopted, there can be trauma. That trauma can be pre-verbal and art can be a really helpful way to express that trauma."

Children start therapy with a range of problems from struggling to form attachments to behaviour management issues, says Samantha. The aim, in therapy, is to create a "safe and free" space where the child can "really explore and be curious about what is going on with them". She adds: "It's very effective. I've been working with looked-after children for most of my 13-year career and it works."

Next door, Pilates tutor Jo Stewart is about to begin her hour-long class. Eight blue mats are laid out on the floor, ready for the participants who range in age from 20 to 83. "This is a nice cosy space, " says Jo. "It is accessible for everybody."

June is especially proud that the centre now has easy disabled access and loos.

Volunteers like Denise help run the place – and the centre needs more of them, says June, including people to take on director-level duties such as treasurer and secretary, but also to help with reception, producing the newsletter and even cleaning.

The Community Wellbeing Centre is open daily from 8am to 8pm. The wall space will be used to display work by artists – and is currently showing colourful paintings by Michele Damiano. June says: "It is truly for the benefit of the community."

To find out more visit: thehealingclinic.co.uk and briarhouseresources.co.uk