For children, drama and art therapy offer a play-based model of exploration. This can be non-verbal and is particularly helpful for children whose abstract and cognitive abilities are not yet fully developed or who have not internalised a sense of right and wrong. It is also appropriate to exploring highly charged and traumatic incidents which cannot be addressed directly, but the effect of which is impacting on behaviour and emotional well-being.
Through play, intervention can be both child-centred and non-threatening. Feelings of fear, pain, self-doubt, loss, anger and confusion can be encountered in a way not possible by other professionals from a non-therapeutic background. Other professionals may share and understanding of the child’s point but do not work directly on this emotional and psychological level to effect change.
Therapy is used in school to address emotional distress, often expressed as behavioural difficulties. This can include:
- Lack of motivation
- Low self-esteem
- Poor resilience
- Attachment and social difficulties
Therapists can also work with children who may have been traumatised by:
- Domestic violence
- Drug and alcohol misuse in the family
- Physical and sexual abuse
- Bereavement and loss
- Parental ill health, physical and mental
Therapy offers a unique approach to determining the voice of the child or family. This understanding can then be used, not only to make progress for the individual child, but also to inform discussion and action planning. It can also be used, through consultation, to effect changes in the classroom and family.
Arts Therapy is often highly effective when children feel powerless in the face of their own emotions or experiences in their family or school life. By allowing them to determine both the nature, pace and outcomes of the work it intrinsically increases the child’s sense of self-efficacy which is acknowledged as a key component of resilience.
Therapy can be delivered through half or full days. It is generally possible to see five children in a school day. Therapists also offer group work where appropriate. The therapy is not time-limited but is responsive to need. Length of an intervention can vary considerably and is negotiated between the therapists, young people and school-based staff.