TIC+ Counsellor Morgan Koronis discusses the use of creativity in counselling and the power storytelling can have on young people’s mental health in this piece for International Children’s Book Day.
An Alternative Means to Expression
With a background in dramatherapy, I bring a lot of my own passion for the intentional healing power of creativity into my counselling work with TIC+. When understanding children and young people’s mental health, and in supporting them to grow, we first have to understand the world of the child. Children and young people may be experiencing a whole variety of difficulties affecting their internal world that have largely been influenced by the external world around them. Many may have suffered challenges or trauma in the past or present. It is important to reflect that these adverse challenges experienced during their crucial developmental years, may have not yet been addressed.
Within the therapy room, many of the children and young people I work with may have minimal coping strategies or resources at hand. This can often leave them feeling stuck in destructive cycles of thought. There is often a sense of hopelessness that enters the room. Many children such as those with learning difficulties, or on the Autistic Spectrum, or those who have suffered significant trauma may not have the words to verbalise how they are feeling. Not everyone has the vocabulary to voice the challenges they have faced. This can be an obstacle for moving forwards.
Historically, the arts, theatre, music, writing, poetry and dance are universal methods. The arts are for the most part inclusive and intersectional, as a practice, it is not new and has been around for thousands of years. It is known for its cathartic and healing properties. Even the ancient Greeks used theatre for its mental and spiritual healing process, not forgetting that your favourite singer or songwriter will often use the medium of song to explore and express their own struggles and hopes.
Although I am writing from a therapeutic perspective, the arts and its importance for children and young people is not reserved to therapy alone. Through young people finding theatre groups, dance or art classes, choirs, and gaining connection through meeting similar people can be healing in itself. This can lead to increased resilience and improved self-esteem.
Children and young people are multi-faceted, the invitation of creativity within the therapy room offers children and young people alternative ways of expression. Creativity, such as art and play does not solely rely on spoken language. This has allowed many to find alternative means to express their internal world. Through intentional creative means, children can re-develop their sense of self. They may be able to gain understanding of their own sense of identity or begin to express their feelings in an alternative way. Creativity can also allow children and young people to think about their thoughts and feelings, and to be open to unexplored parts of the self.
Creativity within counselling is both a right and left hemisphere process, it offers an alternative language; it is safe and can provide distance from difficult past events. It can be a voice for our deepest hopes and fears in a safe supportive environment. The distancing effects of projective work such as using story, dolls, puppets and image work can be a safe way for children and young people to explore powerful emotions, understand relationships, explore inner conflicts and face anxieties or frustrations.
The power of storytelling
Stories are central to helping us develop our sense of identity; they are the oldest form of human connection through their ability to communicate important themes and messages.
Everyone has a story, when working with children and young people I want to make sure their story is not just listened to but also heard. Therapy allows children and young people to feel safe as they begin to explore their personal story, whether cognitively, through art making, bringing in photos, or through play. Through character work, children can face their difficulties directly from a safe psychological distance that may otherwise have been too threatening and painful to discuss. They can explore multiple roles that may lie dormant in themselves. Perhaps for a long-time a child may have felt disempowered, however, by exploring the role of a superhero, their self-esteem is enhanced as they overcome the ‘monsters’ in their own stories. Story sharing or story making, affects behavioural change, generates alternative coping actions, improves problem-solving skills, and empowers the young person to face their own obstacles.
As a therapist, I am humbled at the courage of children within sessions as they begin to explore their own journey. As therapists, parents, teachers, guardians, listeners, all we can do is be open, and be present. The ability to feel heard may be healing in itself. Stories can lead to discoveries which can lead to therapeutic change. I hope that this will be something the young person can take outside of therapy, and that they will continue to express themselves through the arts. Through nurturing creative avenues, and the intentional use of creativity, children and young people can connect to their sense of joy and fluidity, empowering those who have felt disempowered to better navigate and overcome any present and future difficulties they may face.
By Morgan Koronis – Counsellor at TIC+
If you live in Gloucestershire and are aged 9-21, you can get support from our TIC+ counsellors. TIC+ works hard at raising funds so they can arrange for a counsellor to see you for free, all you need to do is call us on 01594 372777 or text us on 07520 634063 to arrange an appointment. We know it can be hard to take that first step but, like the other young people we’ve helped, you’ll be so glad you did.
If you need to speak to someone urgently, call NHS 111 (on 111) or the Samaritans on 116 123. There’s always someone there to help, and any conversations you have with them are confidential.
TIC+ also offers a Parent Support & Advice Line. If your child lives in Gloucestershire and is between the ages of 0 and 25 and you, as a parent or carer, would like support, please get in touch. To make it easier to reach out for help we offer a choice of ways to contact us on Freephone 0800 6525675 or web-chat. Whichever option you choose, there is no need to make an appointment, drop-in anytime during our open hours.
Alternatively, if you are a parent and would like to arrange counselling for a young person who lives in Gloucestershire and is aged 9-21, they can get support from our TIC+ counsellors. All they, or someone they trust, needs to do is call us on 01594 372777 or text us on 07520 634063 to give us some details so we can arrange an appointment.
For more advice check out our SUPPORT RESOURCES page!