What happens when you invite the world of clinical psychology into London boxing gyms? It looks something like In Your Corner, a social enterprise created by Dr Kathy Adcock. Picking up where child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) struggle to intervene, In Your Corner gives vulnerable young people the chance to work through their difficulties in the ring while in the care of both psychologists and local boxers.
After completing a doctorate with the University of Plymouth in 2009, Adcock went on to work as a clinical psychologist with the NHS, specialising in the mental health of young people who had experienced trauma or were care experienced. “We used to have a lot of conversations about them – they’ve often got a large professional network and we all sit round and talk about how concerned we are,” the founder tells The Big Issue. “But young people in that bracket are often the ones who find clinic-based services the hardest to access. There’s an incorrect assumption that all people can sit down and talk. And many simply see themselves as a bit stressed or angry.”
The psychologist also happened to be training as an amateur boxer at the time. It’s a sport that has “got something to it”, she says, forcing participants to “be very present”. And as a sport that carries a touch of risk, boxing is of interest to impulsive teens.
“You’ve got this one-to-one thing going on with your coach,” Adcock explains. “And boxing’s always had a really good history of social change projects, but the narrative tends to be about keeping kids off the streets, just assuming that boxing teaches respect and confidence. I thought we could do something more powerful than that, specifically improving emotional wellbeing with tools from clinical psychology.”
In 2016 she got to work. Approaching her local club, Adcock set up a pilot group the following year with nine young people. It went “very positively” – so much so that it won the European Boxing Confederation’s Passion For Boxing Award for grassroots social-action projects.