That month was ridiculously fast. See you in June.
Over the last week I have experienced A&E from a patient perspective after accompanying a close friend to a London branch. I was alarmed to find that we seem to have lost the service between the doctor surgeries and Accident and Emergency, as patients are shifted between the two. If not enough of an emergency, they get sent back to their GP, who sends them back to A&E again, until it is an emergency. Each time a patient returns to A&E they wait for hours to be seen. This was what I witnessed anyway. I really don't know how the staff manage to remain so cheerful and effective. Our doctors and nurses in the NHS are becoming heroes.
Right next to this, is a new private ward. Having sat with people in A&E, some waiting for hours in pain on hard plastic chairs, I took a wrong turn and found myself in what looked like a luxury hotel lobby, but it was the private hospital wing. This was newly built next-door to the struggling A&E!
Many public health services, particularly psychological provision, are being reduced to a shadow of what they were. Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) seemed to be protected due to knowledge that we need to invest in children. Therapy is effective and fast with young people - preventing a myriad of longer term issues.
Sadly those services are now now also being severely affected by the cuts. Beth Hoyes who has been working with a London CAMHS Schools service has written about her recent experiences, 'Finding Ground in Shifting Sands: The importance of self-care amidst dismantling of services and in relation to self, systems and client groups.'
This is relevant to the self care section on this site. It is now included in the research section where I have used writing to log processes behind various social art and therapy projects I have been part of, intending to share learning and methodology.
When writing from within large organisations there is often a lengthy editing process that you go through before being able to share an essay, perhaps seeking approval of three tiers of management prior to achieving permission to send a text to the publication editors. In many situations I have not attempted to write things up knowing that reflective pieces could risk turning into adverts by the time they are released. It is a pleasure to be able to offer SA&T as a platform for this writing, with editing only to help make it accessible, rather than to fit overarching criteria.
Regarding self care for practitioners in front line services, Doctors Of The World are now holding monthly workshops for their staff and those at allied organisations. I am helping develop these through SA&T, and with Jen Hall, as a three way partnership for the rest of the year.
You can find Beth’s essay here: socialarttherapy.com/camhs-2016
After a chilly few months clients whom have been working through winter have started arriving and leaving without being top to toe in coats and scarves. I can open the studio window, and the riverside is feeling quite friendly.
Friday to Sunday 3-5th June is open studios at the site. You can visit our neighbours whom include a wide array of artists, designers, crafts people - and the cafe! Rosie-Lee have opened a second space just along the corridor.
The SA&T space in Woolwich is suitable for groups, but so far group work and team sessions are at the location of the commissioning organisation, or in a space the organisers choose to hire themselves.
Individual session work has been quite consistent, in the studio art psychotherapy, talking therapy and EMDR sessions take place. Now I can use clinics in a central areas too, though Woolwich remains the main base. Most sessions are one hour, to allow 50 minutes of therapy with five minutes on either side. EMDR sessions tend to be 90 minutes. With children sessions are usually shorter. Young children usually have twenty to thirty minutes, agreed case-by-case.
Schools and councils with a particular case they would like support on, can include staff support, training and / or reports. Most schools have more than one child in need - if only delivery of therapy is required, booking a half day can provide individual therapy for up to four children. It is generally not workable to hire SA&T for one session per day.
Unpaid work is agreed in advance, currently limited to volunteers who are helping meet urgent need.
This blog post will discuss one subject, rather than a rundown of what SA&T is up to generally.
I'm going to describe using a collective looking exercise. This can be helpful if you are working without art materials / lack time and space for setting them up, or with a group whom might not take to art making; whilst still using the power of art and externalisation.
On 6th Feb, I contributed to another Doctors of the World training, for new volunteers on the theme of Vicarious Trauma (VT). This time it was a short 30 minute session slotted in with their established training for new recruits.
After discussing what people knew of Vicarious Trauma, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout, I placed a painting in front of the group and without giving an insight to the work asked them what they saw.
Untitled, Omar Ibrahim, ink on canvas, 20x20cm, 2015. Made in Paris, France.
It was said that there was a face, and a bird that was lonely and isolated. The bulk of the image felt overwhelming, with bullet holes in the middle.
We then discussed resilience and self care, then looked again at the painting. A smile was detected, and soft white socks on the horse. This was a piece by Omar Ibrahim, whom I later described as a resilient Syrian artist, with a serious and long standing art practice. His painting has specific meaning, of the city fallen down, and of hope, symbolised by the bird. I only described this after the workshop, for the purpose of the exercise.
Continuing on the subject of resilience and VT, I asked the group to look at a painting from the seaside in Brasil (below). It was said that the houses appear to be hugging, there is a sense of community and the wall looks like it is to stop people going over the edge. There was also a suggestion of the sun rising and setting - there will be another day.
Untitled, Mark Chaffin, acrylic on canvas, 30x30cm,2015. Made in Buzios, Brazil,
Last summer I also used this painting in a looking exercise with artists I was working with on the subject of burnout and resilience, in art studios on the outskirts of London (Second Floor Studios and Arts). There we had discussed the empty space in the painting, that we related the studio complex to. It can feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, but you are in a capital city. The house windows were compared to eyes, prompting comment that we were not in a busy scene, nor invisible. Again, the painting was not made for this purpose, and really any abstract piece could be worked with, for the group to discuss and project their own thoughts onto.
This exercise is one that I first learned at the British Association of Art Therapists training for working with organisations and teams. It was convened by Val Huet in Islington, London.
Feel free to get in touch for more information. Notes from the DOTW workshop are here as a PDF.
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Happy New Year.
Groups of three or more volunteers working with refugees are welcome to a free workshop at the SA&T studio, do get in touch to enquire.
Our beloved cafe is closing! But, The Reach climbing gym (next door) has a great cafe, so I guess that will be the waiting room from February onwards. It's a friendly and motivating spot.
I was going to have comments open from 1st January onwards, but after opening comments on my artwork site over the Christmas break, I don't think it's a good use of time. Some people have written nonsense! I can only request clarification, and fear that will also be quite bizarre. I will reply to tweets, and emails.
SA&T has a twitter account at socialarttherap
You can tweet, or email email@example.com with comments, questions, suggestions.
SA&T's Social Art & Therapy initiatives have existed since 2012 via Lee Simmons.