Our History

History of the Maya Centre

The Islington Women’s Counselling Centre (IWCC), now the Maya Centre, was founded in 1984 with core funding from Islington Council.


Founder members

The founder members were a diverse group of local women, service users and professionals  who felt strongly that women’s mental health was not taken seriously enough within  mainstream services. Using a feminist approach to counselling and psychotherapy, they called themselves Islington Women and Mental Health, and were part of the larger anti-psychiatry movement active at the time. Their collaboration was crucial to the ethos and dynamism of this community inspired organisation.

The group wrote papers and spoke at conferences addressing key issues such as  the closure of the large psychiatric hospitals;  the passing of the Community Care Act; the reorganization of the NHS;  and the changes made to the Mental Health Act. The approach was two-pronged: a political critique of the psychiatric system alongside plans to provide alternative forms of intervention, including counselling.

We started with a helpline...

The group set up a helpline for local women which developed into free face-to-face psychoanalytic counselling, supporting engagement with therapy as a means to explore questions of  gender, race and sexuality.

By the early 90s, the Centre had charitable status, employing four part-time psychodynamic counsellors with different specialisms; working to support  Irish women, Black women, and women experiencing violence and domestic abuse. 

And responded to social change in mental health...

By the late 1990s, the Centre was developing and expanding to meet the needs of women in the community, creating projects to work with refugee women, with women as mothers and encouraging women from minoritised communities to train in mental health by delivering ‘Introduction to Counselling’ courses in partnership with Birkbeck College.

In 2001, we changed our name to the Maya Centre to indicate our broad-based, inclusive service for women. 

The Maya Centre today

At The Maya Centre, we are proud of our history and community focus as we continue to promote the mental health and wellbeing of all women within our community.  In keeping with our founding objectives:

All our services remain free, with priority given to women on low incomes, from minoritised or disadvantaged communities.

All our services are psychodynamically informed, flexing creatively to the needs of the diverse women who live in our community and need support on their own terms.

All our services are women-for-women, ensuring we offer a safe space for those women in need of sanctuary and sisterhood.