Children and adolescents need to express their feelings, to be heard without interruption, and to try to make sense of the world. Often young people need help in understanding why and how things have happened. They may need guidance and support in growing up. They may need specific strategies to cope with bullies or divorce or injustice or grief or they may need quiet reflective time to process conflict and confusion.
As adults, we tend to forget that seemingly small problems (or one’s that we have overcome) can appear to be very big problems for young people eg.
Moreover many young people will feel the impact of:
This can sometimes lead to quite severe and complex disorders.
Art therapy provides the time and space to give appropriate emotional support when parents and carers are unable to do so; even the ‘best’ parent cannot always be the ‘best’ therapist for their child. Most young people enjoy painting and drawing in a relaxed atmosphere where there is no competition or expectation to produce a ‘pretty picture’. In this environment young people can talk spontaneously about their lives and can benefit from having their own special and private place to do this.
My approach is client-led and is pitched at the appropriate emotional and cognitive level of the young person. In the work we try to find a balance between creative freedom and reflection, autonomy and boundaries, tension and relaxation, sadness and happiness, confidence and humility as the young person learns to self-regulate his or her feelings. As much as possible I will encourage the young person to be autonomous about the art therapy – thinking together about when s/he wants to attend and to develop the creative process as a lifelong useful resource.
Adolescents are more independent and yet they often need extra help over difficult periods or crises. Sadly parents can be the last people adolescents feel they can confide in, and the internet has become a toxic as well as resourceful tool for us all. Many relationships are now conducted via the keyboard leading to a different type of social isolation and low confidence. If social skills are unpractised, do we subtly change our values and goalposts to adapt to new social codes, and in doing so is society colluding with a type of fragmentation that is affecting our young people? The generation gaps are perplexing as parents can confuse what is ‘normal’ with what is ‘acceptable’ within their own value system. This creates conflicts that may be explored in the work.
Other clients might be young people who have a specific learning difficulty e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, ASD, health issues. They can benefit from art therapy when there are associated problems of low self-esteem or self-assurance. I have a particular interest in autism and early diagnosis of this condition.
We will have an initial conversation about your child on the phone. If there is a complex back history I will need to meet one or both parents or carers to hear more about what has been going on. We will then book an initial session with your child. We will talk briefly at the end of the session and if the young person expresses interest in continuing, and I think art therapy could be helpful, you will be invited to make a short-term commitment for 6 sessions. We will then review and discuss if ongoing work would be useful and possible. Short-term interventions are preferred – approximately 12-24 sessions, though occasionally medium to long-term work is required. This will be reviewed on a regular basis. Please note that art therapy is not an extra-curricular activity therefore if you know you are going away ie school holidays, please let me know at the earliest.
Everything that happens in the session is confidential unless I have concerns about your child’s safety, or the safety of others. If requested I will give some generic feedback or parenting pointers when appropriate. The artwork is stored safely in my consulting room and belongs to your child who may choose to take some or all of it away when the art therapy is finished. I will give you guidance on how to respond to the artworks and sessions when we meet.
You do not need a referral to make an appointment, I will coordinate with other professionals, eg school teachers, the medical profession and educational psychologists and will write full reports, where appropriate.