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01.06.15

Real-life stories from service users help to promote the statutory regulation of arts therapists

Source: NHE May/June 15

In the second of a two-part series, Rebekah Tailor from the Health and Care Professions Council draws on case studies collated as part of the WHAT? campaign to highlight how arts therapists have helped to improve the lives and wellbeing of service users.

The HCPC’s ‘Why Hire an Arts Therapist?’ (WHAT?) campaign has been well-received by the profession and employers alike. Officially launched on 15 April, the campaign promotes the statutory regulation of arts therapists, targeting organisations that employ the services of these registered health and care professionals, including the NHS. Chief executive officer of the British Association of Art Therapies (BAAT), Val Huet, commented: “I have had such a lot of positive feedback from members about this campaign, with some contacted by managers to discuss introducing art therapy provisions.” 

The first article in this two-part series (NHE March/April 2015) highlighted what the regulation of arts therapists means for service users: most importantly that they are required to meet national standards and are fully accountable to the HCPC, whose primary remit is public protection. Here, we look at some real-life examples of how the profession has helped to improve the lives and wellbeing of service users. 

The following case studies have been contributed by arts therapists. Names have been changed to protect the identity of service users. 

Louis’s story 

“Seven-year-old Louis is a young carer for his mother. He had been suffering from nightmares following a serious accident. Whilst he was smart and energetic, Louis exhibited high levels of anxiety, demonstrated by obsessive behaviour, sleeplessness and increased worry about everyday activities. 

“During his first art psychotherapy session he created an intensely colourful painting, dramatically covered by black paint. He stuck a tiny fish sticker at its centre. I was struck by the daunting black dominating the painting – amongst it all a surviving fish, struggling in the midst of darkness. 

“As time went on, Louis shared snippets of his nightmares, which seemed to reflect gripping feelings of responsibility, guilt and helplessness. 

“After 10 weeks, Louis said his nightmares had stopped. He could sleep more easily and felt less worried about the trials and tribulations of everyday life. He was content making his creations on his own; reinforcing a peace with himself which had previously been hard to reach.” 

Rachel’s story 

“Sixteen-year-old Rachel has profound learning disabilities and complex healthcare needs. She was referred for music therapy in the hope that sessions could provide her with an outlet for self-expression and an opportunity to interact and communicate non-verbally. 

“From the beginning of my work with Rachel, I used her breathing to set the tempo of my music. She realised this quickly, and soon showed how much she enjoyed the control and empowerment she experienced in her sessions. Rachel often vocalised with me, and the more she used her voice, the more confident she appeared to become. 

“Music therapy allows Rachel to experience the freedom to express herself. It impacts her interaction as people realise how cognitively aware she is, and how much she is able to interact when given the appropriate medium to do so. Rachel’s support worker has said that seeing Rachel in her sessions has allowed him to see a new side of her that he did not know existed.” 

Jyoti’s story 

“Admitted as an inpatient at least once a year for over three months at a time, 74-year-old Jyoti had a history of schizophrenia. She was referred to Dramatherapy to support her transition in moving to a residential home. 

“The Dramatherapy space was where Jyoti began to express her fears and losses. She was finding it increasingly difficult to feel heard in her new home, so we used the sessions to think about her relationship with the staff and environment. She would often use people in the sand tray to try out new discussions and ways in which she could communicate her needs. 

“She would often portray herself as a superhero figure – the opposite of how she actually felt, but her way of attempting to find a stronger voice. We would role play conversations, and explore what Jyoti wanted in this new chapter of her life. 

“Jyoti finished the Dramatherapy sessions confident and settled in her new home, participating in new activities and creating new relationships. She has not had another inpatient admission in over two and a half years.” 

Find out more 

HCPC will continue to promote the WHAT? campaign over the coming months, raising awareness about what the regulation of arts therapists means for service users. You can find out more and read additional case studies on our website, or search #WHAT? on social media.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

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