Earlier this month the Department of Health and Social Care advised: “Young people have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic and lockdown, with NHS research suggesting 1 in 6 may now have a mental health problem, up from 1 in 9 in 2017.”

With well over three million children in England needing emotional support, and the increased pressure to protect and intervene with vulnerable children and young people, it falls at the feet of school staff to act and carry the weight.

Addressing mental wellbeing at an early stage is crucial in being able to support the pressures on NHS services (CAMHS) which currently have a waiting list that in some areas extends beyond two years.

Schools are well placed to identify and intervene early, thus potentially stopping the progression of slight to moderate mental health issues becoming more serious, and needing to be referred.

It is vital that pupils on waiting lists for CAMHS, Mental Health Support Teams and other specialist mental health professionals, get access to help before problems become entrenched and develop into more-serious mental health issues.

Why Drawing and Talking?

What distinguishes our intervention from other services is that as a person-centred approach, Drawing and Talking is not designed to ‘address or confront’ the actual trauma, or reveal the ‘why’. Its intention is to focus and process the ‘how I feel’.

But why is it important to have these approaches in your school? How many times have pupils engaged in Solution Focused, behaviour modification or direct talking approaches to address Emotional Regulation (ER) only to find a week, month or term later, that any skill or progress made has evaporated?

Emotional regulation is a vital skill to learn, and I wholeheartedly agree with implementing it and facilitating these skills to children and staff. When a child struggles to regulate, it is overwhelming and stressful for them and others around them.

This really isn’t a case of either/or. Both Drawing and Talking and ER techniques have different qualities and benefits to their implementation and all professionals need to accept that one size does not fit all.

It would be like saying: “I don’t care that this child has dyslexia, they need to be reading the same book and complete it at the same pace, without getting distressed”.

We simply would not do that to a child. We would put additional resources in place, so they were supported and growing academically.

Money well spent

Upon completing Drawing and Talking, many children do not display their previous behaviours and are better able to regulate, so it may feel as if ER facilitators are ‘not needed’. This simply isn’t true.

If a child who was unable to emotionally regulate due to internal pain and trauma needing to be expressed, completes Drawing and Talking and is now ‘coping’; this is exactly the time when ER techniques should be offered.

They will hear them better, be able to implement the tools quicker and hopefully really experience a life of freedom and joy instead of reverting to old habits when triggered.

By first providing an opportunity to symbolically express the internal world where pain and feelings are acknowledged, processed and not being ‘pushed down and ignored’ it allows the ego to not be flooded with destructive emotions.

ER demands that someone is able to bring logic to the scenario and is able to ‘recall’ the techniques that have been taught. ER is solely designed to work at a cognitive and physiological level, providing resilience to navigate the external world.

If provided after, or alongside each other, any ER that is offered will be able to be retained in the ego and conscious brain because there will be ‘space’.

At a time when mental health is so high on the agenda and the current need for therapeutic intervention so extensive, the roles of school-based practitioners who have been trained in a variety of techniques will enable children to flourish and therefore progress academically.

We are being pressured to have pupils ‘catch up’ academically – well let us have their hearts, mind and soul do the same.

The Foundation to Drawing and Talking Therapy Training reliably teaches practitioners how to facilitate the intervention within your setting. The technique is not designed to replace the work of CAMHS or other external professionals.

The Foundation to Drawing and Talking Therapy Training is certified and accredited as meeting the CPD Guidance and Principles Framework. This course is worth 5.5 hours of CPD.

For more information about how Drawing and Talking Therapy can support a whole-school approach or to view our training dates, please visit drawingandtalking.com for training dates or email info@drawingandtalking.com.