6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Berkshire & Buckinghamshire Life today click here

The art therapy helping people with mental health issues

PUBLISHED: 11:40 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:47 25 May 2018

With art you don’t have to have eye to eye contact so it’s good for those on the spectrum, or who are traumatised (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With art you don’t have to have eye to eye contact so it’s good for those on the spectrum, or who are traumatised (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Oleg Rogkov

In some cases a child’s ‘work of art’ can be the perfect therapy to help them cope with life’s difficulties and build healthy relationships

Fighting your way out of an emotional crisis or trauma can be challenging for the most resolute adult. So consider how much more difficult disturbing situations are for children. Youngsters need care and support yet a loving environment is, sadly, not always a reality. Then there are those with behavioural issues grappling to make sense of their surroundings in a daily battle in which internal struggles may escalate to external conflict or distress.

Mental health is something we all have in common. For a minority, however, mental ill health, if left untreated, negatively affects their attitude, relationships, even the ability to function.

The annual campaign, Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May), has prompted me to explore ways in which help is available for the vulnerable. As a result, I’ve headed to the north of the county to meet Cathy McCartney, a personable, engaging art therapist, some of whose clients are just four years of age.

She says: “Many children can’t verbalise, but through art you don’t have to have eye to eye contact so it’s good for those on the spectrum, or who are traumatised. It’s like having a third person in the room with an interesting triangle: the child has a relationship with the art, the therapist with the child, the therapist with the art; they all work together.”

Cathy’s purpose-built studio is light and informal. There’s a small sofa in one corner and at the opposite end a table with inviting containers of coloured pens and reams of paper.

Having always been interested in art, and then training as a primary school teacher, Cathy understood the benefit of delivering art in a therapeutic way. As a result, she took a Masters in Art Psychotherapy, and concentrated on a role which she finds enriching.

“Art therapy is a serious mental health intervention,” she explains. “I am trying to rebuild something that has been lacking in a relationship. Take an extreme example: if a child has suffered neglect such as not being fed when it wanted to be, the attachment with mum isn’t there. A therapist can start forming that attachment so the child can see the possibility of a healthy attachment in a healthy environment. You start from scratch. Once someone has had one healthy relationship, they can build others. It’s like a Russian doll, you’re dealing with the smallest layers on the inside.”

One obvious question for me concerns creative skills – are they necessary for this form of therapy to be effective? But I soon learn the process isn’t about producing appealing artwork. Cathy shows me several images. Even without professional training, the angst and torment is easy to see. “Help, no one loves me,” one states.

“I have children who won’t take stuff home. When parents don’t appreciate what they’ve done, it chips away at their self worth so it’s important they know I respect their image. Attachment issues and deep traumas can go on for many years. I’m helping them get through the next day, keeping them stable.”

Interpreting the product, I’m assured, doesn’t necessarily give the complete story. Cathy absorbs every detail of her clients, from their mood when they first arrive to whether they rush a drawing. The complexities of human behaviour means there is no easy answer, but as a therapist Cathy enables each client to process what has, or is, happening to them, and to express themselves.

Although children are her speciality, Cathy’s training encompasses all ages, including teenagers and those with dementia. On average, clients need a dozen sessions, during which she may use mindfulness techniques.

“We are all permeable,” she smiles. “If you can cultivate the ability to step outside yourself and observe, that can be a healing experience. Relationships are the root.”

As part of her professional commitment, Cathy has been instrumental in organising Milton Keynes Group of Art Therapists which meets monthly in Kingston Library and provides an opportunity for therapists to share experiences and promote themselves. She is also involved with Ivinghoe’s 3b Arts Alliance.

Their Creativity and Wellingbeing Afternoon takes place in Ivinghoe Community Hub on 5 June 2018 with calming, healing and uplifting activities available. Art skills aren’t necessary, just a willingness to engage with materials. The aim is to provide a vehicle for self expression though taking part in arts activities is known to reduce stress as well as increase social interaction.

Given the harrowing experiences that Cathy sometimes hears about in detail, she is remarkably upbeat. Rather than overwhelmed, she appreciates combining her people and artistic skills to breathe life, hope, into others. But she also finds time to paint for herself, every other Tuesday being her dedicated days. In her courtyard studio she shows me a mixed media self portrait. This intriguingly intense composition is just one style at which Cathy excels. Back inside her house there are fantasy like images which showcase the Mische technique plus a captivating painting of her dog, Hector. Meanwhile a dragonfly commission is in the pipeline and she’s also keen to complete another portrait of her daughter.

Having admired her paintings, we sit in the kitchen where Cathy talks about her instincts.

“If I warm to a child, they have a good relationship with their mother. I might gently ask open ended questions. Then they can make a connection to how they are feeling. I do everything at their pace.”

Our discussion continues, taking in self harming, confidentiality (“You have to have trust”) and the appeal of working with clay. Ever smiling as she is, I marvel at how this likeable woman copes with the knowledge of, quite frankly, distressing situations.

“When you have finished a session that’s not the end. You have to hold that person in your mind, thinking about what to say or do next. I have an ability to respond and it’s a great privilege. I’ve found my thing.”

Continual nurturing of our mental health is vital to everyone’s wellbeing. No matter our age, life changing situations sometimes knock us off balance. If you feel that you, or someone you know, are in this situation, get in touch with Cathy McCartney. Her gentle, supportive manner and art therapy skills could well result in a new start.

www.artplus.org.uk

More…

Mimi Harker and her pride in being a patron for The South Bucks Community Hospice - Mimi Harker OBE, the former Mayor of Amersham and immediate-past Chairman of Chiltern District Council, tells why she is so proud to be a patron of The South Bucks Community Hospice – and calls on readers to back her by volunteering to help patients with life-limiting conditions

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

We’ve chosen the visits marked on our calendar, but you can plot your own creative path through the work of some 500 artists and makers in 200 studios this month

Read more
Friday, May 25, 2018

In some cases a child’s ‘work of art’ can be the perfect therapy to help them cope with life’s difficulties and build healthy relationships

Read more
Monday, May 21, 2018

Claire Pitcher takes a tour of the Valley of the Racehorse, starting at Seven Barrows with trainer Nicky Henderson

Read more
Monday, May 14, 2018

Are you off to the University of Reading soon? Or did you study there back in the day? We’ve rounded up a few former students who went on to find fame in the future. Some slightly more left field than others…

Read more
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mimi Harker OBE, the former Mayor of Amersham and immediate-past Chairman of Chiltern District Council, tells why she is so proud to be a patron of The South Bucks Community Hospice – and calls on readers to back her by volunteering to help patients with life-limiting conditions

Read more
Thursday, April 5, 2018

Five A Day project provides a welcome boost for healthy eating and those who lovingly grow the produce and flowers

Read more
Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tom Kerridge is going ‘on tour’ but his fabulous celebrations naturally begin with a not-to-be missed long weekend in Marlow

Read more
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

From being the youngest winner of MasterChef: The Professionals to a menu for the French President, it’s all in a day’s work for easy-going Craig Johnston

Read more
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Women in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire mean business! We turn the spotlight on some of our most successful - and discover what it is that makes them tick

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

Rural communities throughout the UK could be eligible to receive funding via the Calor Rural Community Fund from energy provider Calor

Read more
Thursday, March 1, 2018

Do your eyes glaze over when it comes to taxes, pensions and estate planning? You could be forgiven: change has been thick and fast in recent years, and the resulting regime is far from straightforward

Read more
Monday, February 26, 2018

Ross Gunn says he drives ‘like a granny’ when sharing roads with us – but it’s a different story on the racing circuit, as Sandra Smith discovers

Read more
Monday, January 29, 2018

We meet Wycombe Wanderers Ladies FC and find plenty to cheer about beyond the final score

Read more
Monday, January 29, 2018

Maureen McLean meets Alan Carr MBE and Co-Founder Susan Osborne MSc FRSA to discover more about the War Horse Memorial project

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Local Business Directory

Berkshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search