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For Professionals Working with Carers

In 2009, Funded by Camden PCT, The Art Therapy Space worked with carers in the London borough of Camden, with particular emphasis on carers of people who have had strokes.  We provided individual and group Art Therapy at community settings across the borough, including Kingsgate Resource Centre, NW6.  Art Therapy for carers continues in partnership with the Princess Royal Trust for Carers.  Please see the Events page for more details.

Context

Carers who provide more than 20 hours per week of caring are at significant risk from psychological distress, therefore they have a disproportionate risk of experiencing health inequalities (JSNA, NHS Camden, 2010).

The National Carer's Strategy (Department of Health, June 2008) states that support services must enable a holistic assessment of health and wellbeing in order for carers to remain mentally and physically well .   It also reports that carers are twice as likely to suffer physical or mental ill health compared to a peer with no caring responsibilities.

The National Stroke Strategy (Department of Health, December 2007) states that carers must have access to further specialist emotional, practical and peer support (Quality Marker 3). Art Therapy is cited as an important service to be offered in order to support an individual's long-term mental health and psychological needs (Quality Marker 13).

Carers UK cite findings state that the impact of mental health problems for carers can be much greater than problems associated with physical health, particularly for women, and that they are  “more likely to report high levels of psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, loss of confidence and self-esteem, compared to non-carers." (Carer’s UK, 2004 pp5-6).  They also state that if carers do not get a break and if they do not have good social support, they are twice as likely to suffer from mental ill-health, and that financial stresses and isolation also have a substantial impact on a carer’s emotional state.

The National Service Framework for Older People (Department of Health, March 2001) emphasises the need to support the mental health needs of older people, including carers (Standard 7) and the need to improve the quality of life of older people and their carers (Standard 8).  It also highlights the importance of providing “evidence based complementary therapies that support emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being.” (pg 26) and the need “to anticipate, recognise and treat any psychological distress experienced by the older person, carer or their family.” (pg 26)

 How Art Therapy can help Carers  

The National Carer’s Strategy cites a statement by The National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which advocates the use of evidence-based psychological therapies as an alternative to anti-depressants for people with long-term depression and anxiety disorders (Department of Health, 2008).  Art Therapy, also know as Art Psychotherapy, is a NICE-compliant form of psychological therapy. 

In caring for someone with a terminal illness or enduring disability, the situation of the carer will worsen over time rather than improve. In caring for someone with a mental health condition, the situation of the carer may fluctuate dramatically over time.

In the confidential environment of Art Therapy, emotional aspects surrounding the shift in roles within relationships can be addressed.  The image making and discussion in Art Therapy enables the client to look at issues faced with as a carer in order to help provide an opportunity to articulate their emotional realities surrounding their experiences, such as: 

Stress

Exhaustion

Depression 

Anxiety

Guilt

Worries

Isolation

Self-esteem 

Confidence

Losses and Bereavements

Lifestyle changes

Anger

 

Art Therapy can provide a space away from caring, enabling the carer some time to focus on themselves; to relax and de-stress through the process of art-making.

Clients can begin to mourn losses, confront fears and address emotional distress.  This can enable carers to develop new coping strategies, celebrate positive resources and make more informed and appropriate choices.  Art Therapy can help increase a carer's social interaction through sharing their experiences, either through group or individual Art Therapy.

 

Art Therapy in Practice

Through referral we can provide either individual or group Art Therapy, on a weekly basis for a designated period of time.

Art Therapy can also be offered as sessions with both carer and the person they are caring for.        This intervention can help address issues of dependency and interpersonal relating. 

Individuals referred to an Art Therapist do not need to have had previous experience or skill in art.       The Art Therapist is not primarily concerned with making an aesthetic or diagnostic assessment of the art work.

Art Therapists can contribute to assessments into the needs of carers. Throughout the course of Art Therapy we will continue to liaise regularly with staff and key workers for any ongoing concerns.  

 

Please contact us if you would like to discuss any particular needs.

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Images © 2008 Nicky Sutton & Laura Butt