Where this is part of the child’s Placement Plan, Art Therapy will be arranged with Pete Russell, Art Therapist at Afon Goch. He employs a range of accredited techniques, depending on the needs and feelings of the child. The Art Therapy space offers a wide range of materials for the child to explore including 2D and 3D computer art workshops. All sessions are conducted in private, and material is kept confidential (except under established protocols where a child protection matter is concerned). Pete contributes to review reports and Placement Planning and assessments and treatment.
Pete Russell is registered with the Health Professions Council and is subject to supervision by Les Sloan, his psychoanalytical mentor at the University of Derby.
Art therapy is the use of art materials for self-expression and reflection in the presence of a trained art therapist. Young people who are referred to an art therapist need not have previous experience or skill in art; the art therapist is not primarily concerned with making an aesthetic or diagnostic assessment of the child’s image. The overall aim of its practitioners is to enable a child to effect change and growth on a personal level through the use of art materials in a safe and facilitating environment.
Through creating art and talking about art and the process of art making with an art therapist, one can increase awareness of self, cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences, enhance cognitive abilities, and work towards change.
The relationship between the therapist and the child is of central importance, but art therapy differs from other psychological therapies in that it is a three way process between the child, the therapist and the image. Thus it offers the opportunity for expression and communication and can be particularly helpful to people who find it hard to express their thoughts and feelings verbally. As relationships reflect patterns of attachment behaviours the art therapist has the role of enabling the child to build and form new, positive, safe attachment figures (which is essential for any child in care with an insecure attachment style). The therapist is seen as an emotional secure base through which the child can safely explore his or her past attachment relationships.
The therapist's approach is an eclectic child-centred approach so the child feels valued, seen and heard in a non-judgmental way. Much of the clinical thinking is from an attachment perspective working in a style that the child responds to best. Many young people who are in the care system have experienced some level of trauma in their past; many arrive with symptoms of P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). In these cases we find it helpful, for the child, to use a cognitive behavioural approach to help them to manage and break old cycles of thinking (cognitive distortions) and work towards re-creating new ones.
This approach is very useful for young people who self-harm; self-harm is a big issue for many adolescents in care, this is something that often manifests itself when a child attempts to manage un-manageable feelings without the help of others. Our staff team are trained in understanding and treating self-harm and can access regular clinical supervision when they are working with young people displaying these behaviours.
Assessment: A core psychological assessment is made over a period of three to six months and this informs clear direction in ways to meet the child’s needs and enable correct treatment.
Music Therapy can be provided with the child and therapist using state of the art computer software in the Mac studio. Music therapy allows the child to explore their life story through adding vocals. The background music is created with the guidance of the therapist (who is a keen musician familiar with all the latest sounds). This intervention often leads to personal discovery and a growth spurt in the child’s self-confidence. All the work is recorded and a personal CD is created to document the audio experience. The child can then reflect upon their journey in therapy via the music that they have created. Some young people enjoy the process so much that it can lead them to talking up music or singing lessons, developing their skills and increasing self-esteem. This creative intervention is one in which the child feels less defensive and does not feel overwhelmed by the word 'therapy'.
Throughout the child’s placement, photographs can be used to work with the child’s life story and attachment figures. Photographs are also taken throughout the child’s placement and a visual photographic journal is created for the child and given to the young people once they move on. This enables positive reflection and safe, secure memories at Afon Goch. This can be seen as a valuable tool to help the child in the future, as it should reflect stability and safety in their life.