"You are teaching me that I need to try to understand what my daughter is feeling and to concentrate on what she trying to communicate to me about her feelings in the play sessions."
When most people think about what we do here at ellenor, they will think of the symptom management and the end-of-life nursing we offer patients. But we also know that it’s essential to work to support the mental health of those they leave behind.
For children especially, grief can be a massive, bewildering issue. Fail to help them deal with it, and the implications for those children and young people, not to mention the NHS’s already overburdened CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service), can be enormous.
ellenor has a multi-disciplinary approach to working within our local community, using our limited charitable funds as prudently as possible to support a range of children’s bereavement services, always remembering that everyone experiences grief differently.
Play therapist, Jolanta, talks about her work with children.
“I’ve worked as a play therapist at ellenor for over five years. As a psychologist, I specialise with working with children aged from two to 12 – it’s the period of their lives during which this sort of therapy will have the biggest impact because, at this stage, they often use play as an expression of what they’re feeling. Children are referred to us through a variety of routes: via their own families if we’re looking after their relatives, via GPs or local hospitals, and via local schools. Schools can also access our support in helping their staff understand bereavement better through our outreach programmes.”
“We offer as standard 12 play sessions, each lasting for 30-45 min. – but we can and do extend that time frame if the child has more complex issues. Around each activity-based session, a multi-disciplinary approach involving parents, family, schoolteachers, counsellors – even social workers if appropriate – is designed to give each child the best, most helpful support given their individual circumstances. Safe-guarding issues are of course always at the forefront of anything we do involving children, too.”
What happens at a play session?
“First and foremost, the child has a safe space in which to express, through play, what’s going on in their emotional lives. We work one-on-one and, though I will interact with the child, absolutely it is him or her who sets the agenda. I want to see, through play, where the child will take me, with a range of activities helping them to express anything they might be feeling, any worries they might have. It’s all about finding the best method for each child to explore, process and cope with grief and the stresses it brings. In play therapy, children use a variety of means to express themselves including figures and toys, art materials or creative writing. In my experience play is the free expression of a child’s innermost feelings and they will engage in activities that’s best expresses these feelings.