It could be said that the therapeutic relationship or Working Alliance within a Dramatherapy context is both Humanistic and one that engages with the ‘free child’ ego state http://mcpt.co.uk/transactional-analysis-and-ego-states. My original training in Sesame Drama and Movement Therapy (http://www.sesame-institute.org/the-sesame-approach) is underpinned by a Jungian psychology and therefore holds an assumption that within us all is a self-healing psyche is waiting to be facilitated. We do not aim primarily to ‘fix’ or cure but to facilitate growth by encouraging play and symbolic expression.
Last year our third sector, schools based service, NESSie, became members of the London and South East Learning CYP IAPT Collaborative and embarked on a process of whole service transformation encouraging amongst other things access, participation and evaluation . One of the principles that sat well with our therapeutic approach was participation and in the following example I narrate one of the ways in which I would engage a less verbal young person in a goal setting process.
‘Bob’ was 8. He was referred because he was selectively mute and tended to have little eye contact or involvement in school learning and the school worried that he might be depressed. He had some cognitive difficulties and Children’s Services were supporting the family for an allegation of physical abuse.
When ‘Bob’ came into the room and we met for the first time it became obvious from the way he played with my box of toys and art equipment that like most children, he liked to play. So, I told him a story:
Once upon a time there was an Angel and when he was flying around Earth he realised that he was very tired. As he was flying and floating around he noticed a beautiful green field below him with a huge tree and a little river flowing through it. It was a sunny day and the Angel was hot so he landed in the field, took his wings off, hung them in the tree and walked towards the river where he sat dunking his feet!
While the Angel was enjoying the cool water an old man was walking through the fields and (you guessed it), he came to the tree with the Angel wings hanging in the branches. The old man couldn’t believe his eyes and he couldn’t resist putting on the Angel’s wings.
The Angel turned around and saw the man and went over to him gently explaining that they were his wings and that he needed them back. He said to the old man “please give me back my wings and I will grant you a wish”.
The old man gave the wings back to the Angel and whispered his wish into the Angel’s ear.
I asked Bob “What do you think the old man wished for?”
Bob said with gusto “to be a famous footballer!”
I asked Bob “how do you think the old man would feel if he was a famous footballer?”
“Proud” said Bob.
“Do you think that being proud could be our goal of working together?” I said………..
The story provided distance – an oblique, symbolic way – for us to begin to arrive at and set up a Working Alliance that was collaborative, enabling goal setting and participation.
Rachel Lambie has been practicing as a Dramatherapist for 20 years in a range of settings including NHS secure units, Eating Disorder services and schools. She is a supervisor and a trainer and currently runs NESSIe – North Herts Emotional Support in schools service. Rachel tweets @LambieRachel
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