Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Romania Still Needs You!

So much help poured into Romania after the fall of Ceaucescu and the Communist Dictatorship, 100s of NGOs were created within days in order to take money, food and clothes, after everyone witnessed the appalling photographs from the orphanages.  I have worked there consistently since 2001 to support projects in children's homes, psychiatric hospitals and residential centres for adults with profound learning needs.  We also have continuous programmes in Roma villages and with young people who sleep on the railway stations.  There is now a pioneering centre called 'Crystal Children' that provides education and support for children and teenagers who are on the autistic spectrum.

Generally, funds are decreasing, and sometimes I get the reaction of 'We have already given to Romania' or 'Look at the crimes committed here by Romanians'.  A nation tarred by the actions of a minority.  However most of the people I know are hard-working, desperate to provide for their families, and keen to develop higher education.  Nevertheless, unemployment is very high, 50% where I stay, living costs are rising with the proliferation of huge foreign stores, wages are being cut to try and stave off a crisis such as in Greece or Spain.

The Rowan Tree Trust, UK charity that supports our Romanian work has a new angle to raise funds.  By creating an International Summer School for professionals from all over the world to both study and have a holiday, it is doing several things: bringing much needed cash into the local economy, creating local jobs in guest houses, as well as raising funds for local projects in children's homes and the training of their staff.  It is a win-win situation!

Please join us for 'Water, Dreams and Attachments: the streams of living', 30 July - 13 August 2013.  More information next week!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Is There Life After Winston Churchill?

Having come to the end of my actual journeys to Malaysia, Czech Republic and Romania, there is a feeling of what now?  I have met all these people, given out some medals, seen some amazing arts work with elderly people, and people with dementia.  I have this huge knapsack full of experiences, and I am still in transition.

First there is the press release, then the long and illustrated report.  That is now putting it into some kind of perspective.  But the real work is in bringing it all home.  How does this experience translate into the needs of day centres and care homes in the UK?  How do I communicate with colleagues here?  Once I start I will not stop talking!  So I have decided to create some shared space and time.  Next week there is a seminar for carers from a dozen care homes in the South West.  In January I am holding a chocolate breakfast in London to talk about 'sensory integration' and I have just finished a coloured booklet called Creative Care to give to carers and others.

My answer to mooving on, is to find innovative ways of communicating what I have experienced, showing that indeed, the WCMT has not only helped me discover new experiences, but has also fired me to share them in unconventional ways, as well as the more usual!  

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Unthinking after Deep Loss

Everyone talks about 'coming to terms with...' after bereavement: being single after being paired, finding new interests or taking up old ones, having appropriate reminders and tributes without being maudlin.  For example, your loved one's ashes set in crystal jewellery is going a tad too far.  Perhaps we could market the idea of 'ashes in a snow storm', as a memento to place on your desk and shake occasionally for inspiration?

The 'unthinking' is my word for the process of having to unlearn routines and tasks that have somehow become embedded in our brains.  For example, just yesterday when out in the town, I automatically went to talk with a window cleaner, (increasingly hard to find), to clean the shop windows.  Just remembering in time that I sold the shop earlier this year when Peter died.  Similarly I have to keep unlearning not to buy strength 3 Arabica coffee, which was his coffee preference, whereas mine is 5 strength, or the New Scientist, his only magazine.

It is almost as we have to learn how to forget, rather than struggling to remember.  The sensory memories are ever present, but his routines and our routines, have to be unlearned, and unthought.  And it takes time

Thursday, 18 October 2012

For She's a Visiting Fellow...

What a day!  And the feeling of awe when everyone is talking about me and my work.  This was an extraordinary experience when the British Association of Dramatherapists and Leeds Metropolitan University hosted a Festschrift, or celebration, of my work and publications over the last 40 years.  Different academics and practitioners spoke on my anthropological research in the Malaysian rains forest, the pioneering work in Dramatherapy and Play Therapy, the development of Healing Rituals in  therapy and performance, and my bold statements in 1977 during times of unrest and turbulence...  And much more.

Attended by over 100 people: former students, colleagues, friends and family who listened to papers, anecdotes, letters and then watched DVDs from overseas contributors.  It is taking time for me to process it all.  The contributions will be published in a special edition of The Prompt (BADTh news), early in 2013.

At the end of the day it was announced that I have been awarded a Visiting Fellow at Leeds Metropolitan University.  More about this to come!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Creative Care Training

I am delighted to announce that the first training day of the new intake for the Creative Care Course is full with a waiting list!  Despite such times of hardship and lack of training budgets, 10 care homes in Somerset are sending carers and activity officers to learn more about Creative Care.

Across the country,artists and arts therapists are realising how much they have to offer to people with dementia or who are elderly and frail.  Brain cells need stimulation or they will atrophy, and everyone needs a little surprise every day.  Not a shock, but a pleasant surprise.  Repetitive cycles of institutionalised routine bring about the decrease of alertness and awareness, and ensuing greater dependency.  

I strongly recommend John Killick's (with Clare Craig) 'Creativity and Communication in Persons with Dementia.'  It is a highly practical book and shows how creativity can 'maintain and enhance' people's communication.  The book also draws attention to individual identity, their 'personhood'.  Published by Jessica Kingsly in 2012.  (See JKP's specialist list in the area of dementia and elderly care).

And more soon on my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust activities. I have just completed my journeys to Malaysia, Romania and Czech Republic to study 'Arts and Older People'. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Fresh Air

Why do we succumb to the pressure of advertisers and spray our houses with air-fresheners?  This fear that our house or loo or car will smell is very powerful, so we try to improve on nature and make it smell 'natural'.

I had a ride in a cab that had an oil freshener, and the driver, by way of conversations, said to me, 'Human bodies don't smell very nice, do they?'  I was streaming at the eyes, but was asked not to open the window because of pollutants outside!

We are unaware of the dangers of phthalates, a highly dangerous chemical, that is in most air-fresheners and long-life candles.  It can damage our lungs and cause allergies, see http://www.drbenkim.com/commondangers-air-fresheners.html for an interesting article, (a useful and informative site about lots of health matters).  Allergies and respiratory conditions are increasing in children, and of course they are the passive inhalants of these toxins.

However the chemical firms are a big lobby in this area, (the same with their formula milk for babies), and have an extraordinary psychological impact on our vulnerability.  So lets fill up the house with fresh lavender, rosemary and only buy the pure essential oils, if we really want sweet smells!  Just allow everything to come up smelling of roses!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Supervision? Super - Vision?

Another 'phone call, 'please could I talk to you about a difficult client who...  ' and I ask whether it is an emergency or can it wait for our usual appointment in 10 days time.  The voice agrees that it is not a crisis but it feels urgent.  Finally we agree to bring forward her appointment by a week.  When we meet, there is a feeling of urgency; not for her client, but for herself as she has begun to feel inept as a therapist in a very difficult situation.  

She accepts referrals from a local authority, of children and young teenagers who are deemed to be 'out of control', and the schools want something to be done or there will be permanent exclusion.  However they have started to say, 'We only have money for 10 sessions of play therapy, can you do something?'  There may well be children who can be helped with 10 sessions of therapeutic counselling, which often can be addressed within the school itself.  However the children and young people who are referred, have very deep-seated issues of attachment, neglect or abuse that have not responded to the usual lines of support or discipline or sanction.

As a supervisor, whose task it is to show empathy but to remain objective, I am also experiencing the feelings of frustration and ineptness in a situation where the grass roots have to fundamentally change.  I can enable my supervisee to ventilate her feelings, to support her in her work and to empower her to write yet another letter to both education and health.  BUT, there is lip-service being paid to real investment in children and teenagers, who are, after all, the citizens of tomorrow.  Despairing children will not be able to turn their lives around without support from appropriate therapists; and despairing therapists need support and supervision to enable them to bring about the alchemy of deep-seated change.