Therapy for Children
I offer art therapy for children in English in Bologna. Individual sessions are normally one hour weekly.
I offer an introductory package that includes: a preliminary meeting with the parents (and child if appropriate); four one-hour sessions with the child; a follow up meeting with the parents for feedback.
Art Therapy for Every Child
Children's Art Therapy creates a space that promotes healthy development, where emotions can be given a name and processed. It offers the child a safe place, which the outside world cannot always guarantee. As such, it helps the child to gain confidence in life. It aims to plant a seed that can grow with the child in the years to come: everything will be OK.
What matters is not so much that the favourite toy has been broken, but that the breakage becomes tolerable. Art Therapy aims to make the frustrations of life bearable. Anger is not necessarily a source of anxiety. It can become a constructive emotion when it is channeled into creativity.
The sensations created by artistic materials respond to important developmental needs. Here are some examples:
*the tactile stimulation of the skin is important for the creation of the 'skin ego' (Anzieu) or psychic envelope - a sense of wholeness and security whereby an awareness of our skin's ability to safely contain our physical body extends this function also to the psychic body.
*when a child fills their hands with sand and chooses when to let it run through their fingers, they elaborate their anxiety of separation because they have the illusion of controlling the sand's movement.
*when the paper-towel disintegrates in the bucket of water, the child copes with their fears of fragility.
* when they pour water on the floor, they feel strengthened against the unpredictability of life, because the creator of chaos has the power to dispel it.
These actions take on a symbolic value when performed within a therapy session and offer the child a transformational moment precisely because they occur within a setting that is separate from everyday life and witnessed by an adult whose sole purpose at that moment is to bear testimony to their experience. The action has no function other than to transform: the child soon learns they do not need to perform to please the therapist. There is no right or wrong; no failure, no reward and no expectations.
A course of Art Therapy aims to integrate the three main developmental phases of the child, as indicated by Ogden and Della Cagnoletta:
1) the ability to feel alive and present in the world, focusing on the physical qualities of the materials together with the bodily sensations and psychological states and emotions they evoke.
2) the ability to feel powerful and to control chaos through organization and method, creating emotional and psychological distance when physical sensations become overwhelming.
3) the ability to create meaning through symbolization, linking events and images to create a temporal narration.
Art Therapy in English for Third Culture Kids
As a British and Irish Citizen who has lived in Italy since the age of 20, I am especially sensitive to issues concerning multi-cultural and multi-national identity. A deep understanding of our own identity is fundamental to an individual's personal sense of security, integrity, self-esteem and self-confidence. It affects how we see ourselves, how we think others see us and therefore our ability to represent ourselves, to ask for things, to stand up for ourselves and the right to say 'no'. I have particular experience working with Third Culture Kids and easing transitions, whether your child has recently arrived in Italy, or is about to move to another country.
Art Therapy in English for Children with a Diagnosis
Art Therapy in English for children in the Autistic Spectrum
The term ASD covers a range of diagnoses that include impairments in the following areas: social interaction, communication skills and restrictive, repetitive behaviour. It is not a disease to be cured but a condition to live with and there are many therapies available that can help in many different areas. I have found that art therapy can be particularly helpful in the following areas: reducing anxiety caused by sensory stimulation, identifying and understanding emotions in oneself and others, the ability to relate to others. The autistic child can easily be overwhelmed by sensory stimuli and art therapy, by its nature of interaction with sensory materials, allows the child control over these sensations so that they can organise them, modulate and moderate them and gradually increase their exposure over time - sometimes years. I have witnessed how an autistic child may learn key social phrases such as 'sorry' or 'I didn't mean to' and may also learn when they are expected of him/her, deceiving the adult into believing they have understood their meaning. I am used to working together with the Child Psychiatrist and schools, at the parents' request, to help integrate appropriate strategies to allay confusion. Confusion seems to me a key word to remember when working with autistic children as they try to make sense of a world that makes no sense to them because everyone else's experience seems contradictory to their own. School trips, a birthday party, a trip to the cinema, things that everybody else seems to love, cause anxiety and fear. As the autistic child grows up they begin to realise they are different and it's important that they have opportunities in which this difference can become the source of something special. ANGSA is an important group in Bologna that offers help for parents of autistic children as well as running many activities. Art therapy is not enough on its own, but integrated with other social activities and therapies, it can offer the child a safe space which they can control and into which they can deposit their fears and anxieties.
Art Therapy in English for children with Learning Difficulties
Art therapy cannot help with the disability directly but it can help with many of the emotional problems and social stigmas that can accompany learning difficulties. Furthermore, learning difficulties are often aggravated by achievement anxiety and so the scholastic environment easily creates a vicious cycle that spirals into ever greater frustration and dejection. In my experience, art therapy can help in a couple of key ways. First of all, it offers the child a safe place where they can bring their anger, frustration and guilt. Children may feel guilty simply for having the diagnosis as on some level they are aware of the difficulty this has created for their parents. Guilt is debilitating and further damages their self-esteem. It is important to address these issues to prevent later expressions of guilt and self-hatred such as self-harming. Secondly, more severe learning difficulties may be accompanied by difficulties in understanding and identifying emotions. Through the creation of art within art therapy, emotions are triggered and the art therapist can help the child name them, express them and manage them appropriately.
Art Therapy in English for children who have lived Traumatic experiences
The extent and effect of trauma depends not only on the event itself but on the individual's ability to regulate their affect and distress. It is clear that children are especially vulnerable in this sense and severe trauma can potentially effect their psychological development and character formation. Trauma in its strictest meaning refers to life-threatening situations, extreme experiences of deprivation and severe sexual, physical or psychological abuse. However, even much littler events in the life of a child can cause them distress they find hard to deal with: divorce, changing schools, moving house, the loss of a friend or a family pet. Tell-tale signs that your child is having difficulty coping can include: bed wetting (when they were previously dry), starting stammering, fussier eating habits, temper tantrums (that they'd previously grown out of), bouts of aggression at school or with siblings.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to protect our children from potentially traumatic events but it is possible to make sure that the event impacts them as little as possible by providing them with a safe environment through therapy in which they can transform the experience into something tolerable. The work and research of Art Therapists such as Caroline Case, Tessa Dalley, Cathy Malchiodi and Judith Rubin testifies to the important contribution that Art Therapy can make to overcome obstacles in the child's development, especially where there have been traumatic experiences. Malchiodi writes (Creative Interventions with Traumatized Children): 'There is a growing consensus that psychotherapy intervention with children should not only use practices based on scientific evidence, but must also employ techniques that focus on the sensorial impact of trauma.' Case and Dalley (Working with Children in Art Therapy) confirm that children who have suffered abuse express it more easily by using materials in a messy way and not through the symbolic narration of the event itself: 'the art therapist has been trained to understand communications of great sensitivity through the processes of image creation and, above all, to wait, hold and contain the anxiety and uncertainty of the child who struggles with the unveiling of their deepest difficulties'.
I think my child could benefit from therapy, but I’m concerned about cost and time.
I like to think of therapy for children as a form of investment. In whatever way your child has acted out, they've done so for a reason. Problems that go unheeded can be become chronic, and the longer they are ignored, the harder it is to put them right. I like to think of childhood as the foundations of a house. By investing in strong foundations for our child, we're giving them a solid base on which they can go on to build their adult life. Cracks and weak-spots are much harder to fill in, once the floor is put on and the walls go up. Furthermore, the stronger the foundations, the more resilient your child will be for any storms they may encounter later in their adult life.
The group offers an important space for the child that allows them to explore their identity in a safe place where they may learn through imitation and explore their desire to be like others while also expressing their juxtaposing need to stand out of the crowd, be special and demonstrate their individuality.
Currently, I run art therapy groups for children of different age groups at the International School of Bologna. I am available to run children's groups privately in my studio when parents have organised them. If you are interested, do contact me to find out what groups are currently available.
What a parent said about their experience with art therapy for their two children:
"I met Rebecca Hetherington thanks to the school attended by my children who had organized a course of art therapy. I did not know this type of activity, so I did not expect anything from this course apart from simply entertaining my children.
At the end of the year I went to talk with Rebecca and she opened up a world for me. She had fully understood all the problems of my daughter. I therefore decided to continue this path privately, to direct the "therapy" on the specific problems that had emerged.
Rebecca not only enthused my children who were always eager to come to her sessions but in a few lessons she has managed, with great professionalism, commitment and dedication to bring out their problems and help my children face their insecurities. It was a totally positive experience I'm pleased to share.
Rebecca proved to be a trained, professional but above all an extremely capable person with small children. Thanks Rebecca for letting me discover your world. "