Art Therapy is by its nature a flexible and adaptive therapy. It feels very poignant that over the course of the corona virus pandemic, we have risen to the challenge and found new and creative ways of working with our clients to meet their needs.
What became apparent as we began this work was that many of the individuals we were working with had previously experienced significant trauma in their lives. The lock down restrictions appeared to have a re-traumatising effect, often causing the individuals we were working with to feel like their power and control had been taken away. This was compounded by face to face contact with their usual support networks such as mental health teams, and community groups, being stopped with little or no notice.
Feelings of isolation, grief and loss led to an increase in the negative symptoms associated with trauma such as panic, terror, and flashbacks. It felt very important as therapists that we recognised the need for creating a safe therapeutic space with our clients, which offered a release from the difficulties they were experiencing.
Art Therapy and Appletree
Appletree Garden formed an integral part of this work. Often clients would arrive early or stay after their session to enjoy the peace and calm of the natural landscape. This was particularly beneficial for clients who lived in flats, or houses with no garden access. Art Therapy became a safe space, within the natural sanctuary of the garden. The art materials and supportive relationship appeared to offer a relief from the difficult emotions and experiences evoked through lockdown and allowed our clients to find a sense of safety and peace within themselves.
We were so pleased to receive funding from Creative Wakefield and the Resilience Fund in order to support this work. Over the course of the two funds we have supported 20 individuals. The feedback received from our clients so far has been inspiring and humbling. It is a true testament to the healing nature of the arts and nature in therapy.
“Before Art Therapy I felt like I had a constant black hole inside me that I couldn’t escape. Leanne threw me a rope and helped me out of that hole. Now I can sit with it, sit with my anger, and know that it won’t overwhelm me”
Male, 30’s in recovery from addiction
“When I first started Art Therapy, I was very anxious and fearful, I thought nothing could help. But being able to express my experiences in a safe place with a therapist who has been kind and supportive has been incredibly healing. I used to feel constantly on edge, but now I feel calm and happy within myself. It has saved my life.” Woman, 50’s, who has experienced traumatic bereavement
“The art has helped massively, as often I can’t put how I am feeling into words. Art Therapy has helped me to look into myself and to come to terms with a lot of things that have happened”
Male, 30’s, with a diagnosis of PTSD
Leanne and Kayleigh – the Art Therapy team – at Appletree