Our services


Too often carers don't look after themselves. We encourage carers to seek support from our wide range of free services. These are

Carer assessment: our Carer's assessment worker can help by talking with you about your caring situation. Once it has been completed then an Adult Carer Support Plan (ACSP) will be written. This gives details of your caring role and the level and type of support that has been agreed. 


Carer support: there are a number of informal support groups for Autism, Dementia, Mental Health and drop-in sessions in Lochgilphead, Tarbert, Campbeltown and Islay. Carers can benefit from socialising, building up a local network of friends in a similar position, share problems and find support. Our staff also spend a lot of time with individual carer to provide emotional and practical support.


Counselling service: it is for people over 16 and their families who are living with long-term/terminal illness or bereavement. Carers and non-carers can make a self-referral to the service or be referred by other professionals. Use of counselling is a process that helps people to make choices or reach decisions about how to handle their concerns. Dochas Centre is a member of Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland (COSCA). Our counselling team has 6 fully trained and qualified members plus 2 trainees in placement.


Circle of Friends: everyone can feel lonely now and again. But as you get older and relatives move away, health problems or other circumstances can make it hard to get out and about, in touch with people or form new friendships. If you are over the age of 65 or under the age of 65 with dementia, we can offer a befriending service where a volunteer will visit you in your home or take you out if able. 


Time for Me: this service offers carers 'Time Out' to do something for themselves. Having a break supports carers to continue caring allowing them some 'Me Time' knowing that their loved one is safe. Our service can provide some weekly support for a limited period of time. We can discuss individual options and needs with you to provide the quality time for you. You can have peace of mind knowing our staff can provide companionship at home for the person you care for. 


Information and guidance: knowing what to ask for, when and how, means that you and the person you care for can access what is available. We provide short sessions with a number of specialists in health, community services or government initiatives advising us of the latest news. 


Others: we also provide training for carers such as First Aid, Moving and Handling, Dementia Training or if you want to learn about anything particular, just let us know. Listening ear, Benefit advice, Emergency Planning, Playlist for Life, Signposting, Refer to other community services, Art Therapy and massage sessions.

Short Breaks Fund


The Short Breaks Fund is funded by the Scottish Government. As an unpaid carer, it can be difficult to spend time and money on yourself. By enabling you to take a short break either in the form of a brief holiday away, attending a family event or even going on a course to try something new, the short breaks fund can provide a break that can improve your physical or mental health, give you something to look forward to, give you time to recharge your batteries, give you a break from day-to-day routines or help you reconnect with old interests. If you are living in Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Isles (Islay, Jura and Gigha), then you are eligible to make an application. Speak with our staff in your local area for the application.

Meet the Counsellors

Alison Whitefield

I'm Alison Whitefield, Lead Counsellor for the dedicated Counselling Team at Dochas. I have volunteered at the Centre since 2011 and completed my Counselling Diploma at Strathclyde University. I aim to offer my clients a safe space to explore any issues and anyone who knows me will tell you how passionate I am about the benefits of counselling. I also work part time at Lochgilphead Medical Centre. Both roles demand strict confidentiality and I work hard to maintain my professionalism. I have lived in Lochgilphead for most of my life and am married with two grown up boys.

Donna Franceschild

I'm Donna Franceschild. I have lived in Tarbert since 1996. I'm a BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) registered counsellor with a Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling with Distinction from the University of Abertay and, since qualification, has specialised in trauma, working with survivors of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. I have worked for Open Secret, Wellbeing Scotland and Women's Aid in addition to my work for the Dochas Centre. I'm currently working towards a post qualification certificate in counselling for children and Young People at the University of Strathclyde and have started client work with the Mid Argyll Youth Development Services. 

Stephen Raikes

I'm Stephen Raikes. I have spent most of my working life in education and my current role is Principal Teacher of Learning Support. Although I no longer live in Lochgilphead I continue to work as a counsellor volunteer at the Dochas Centre using the phone and different online platforms. I have been volunteering at Dochas for two years. I practise Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). I have four children (all grown up now) and four grandchildren. My other interests include walking and singing.  

Gemma Stewart

I'm Gemma Stewart. I have always been curious about what it means to be human and exploring the complicated nature of life and relationships. I'm committed to helping people create a better understanding of their experiences and to navigate life's inevitable challenges, in a non-judgmental, safe space. This led me to become a social worker and then into the world of counselling. I'm a dynamic and passionate counsellor. I'm proud to be part of the Dochas Counsellng Service and to serve our local community in such an important way. I also love, being a mum, wild swimming, music and yoga.

John Titterton

I'm John Titterton. My first experience of counselling was working as Argyll Tutor for the Scottish  Council on Alcohol; training and supporting counsellors throughout Argyll. I subsequently trained as a Family Therapist with the Scottish Institute of Human Relations. I have worked in adult mental health and child and adolescent mental health in local authority, education and health settings. As a manager of a Child guidance Centre I completed a masters degree in Solution Focussed Therapy with Birmingham University. More recently I have trained as a trauma therapist, using the Comprehensive Resource Model which was developed in the USA.

Rob Smith

I'm Rob Smith. I was trained to be a counsellor 20 years ago in Edinburgh and I have worked for various counselling agencies across Scotland plus privately. I have also worked in high schools. My training covered many different models of therapy and I have experience working with people suffering from grief, depression, anxiety, anger, relationship difficulties, and the many other issues which stop us from leading happy, content lives. I moved to Argyll recently and started working for Dochas in July 2021. I love working as a counsellor and I look forward to working with you.