Social prescription: GP-recommended art therapy offers ‘breakthrough’ for children with chronic conditions

The Musselburgh-based Teapot Trust operates across the UK, working in hospitals and communities.

The charity has started providing art-based psychotherapy to children through referrals from 38 GP practices across Edinburgh, enabling those facing long waits for children’s mental health services and adolescents (CAMHS) to access support.

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Children take part in eight- to 12-week individual therapy programs, which can often be a “breakthrough” for them, said Teapot Trust CEO Sarah Randell, because in many cases talk therapies are ineffective. .

Image: The Teapot Trust

Working with GPs has enabled the charity to increase its reach in the most deprived communities, she added.

“What we wanted to do was expand our reach and impact,” she said.

“Under the banner of social prescribing, working with GPs seemed like a logical extension of what we were doing anyway and being in communities.

“The trigger is really that we have become more and more aware that there is a correlation between chronic diseases in children and social deprivation.

Image: The Teapot Trust

“So it makes sense to be in deprived areas, and that’s where most of our hospitals are also.

“So we reached a wider group of people than we would otherwise by being in the communities.”

Families can approach the Teapot Trust directly or be referred by GPs, social workers or other children’s charities.

Some children have already been referred to CAMHS, Ms Randell said, and faced long waiting lists.

“The children we serve have a chronic physical illness, and that causes mental health issues…anxiety, depression.

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“A lot of times people have been referred to CAMHS or a similar place for talk therapy, where they have a long wait time.

“But we don’t have waiting lists because we put everything in place according to need.

“It’s almost a way of bypassing getting help, they can just come straight to the website and start the process.”

She added: “A very large number of the children we help, talk therapies have failed spectacularly for them.

“The problem is that because their physical condition often doesn’t have any outward sign, people don’t realize they’re sick.

“It carries its own stigma, and often people say there doesn’t seem to be a problem.

“So there is a whole anxiety built up about their condition and not being able to talk about it.

“That’s why art therapy is particularly useful for them. It’s really a breakthrough when people find out about it.

Teapot Trust’s work with GPs has been funded by a £10,000 grant from property investment firm Primary Health Properties (PHP), managed by community foundation Foundation Scotland.

Jennifer McPhail, Fund Advisor at Foundation Scotland, said: “The Community Impact Fund was launched at a critical time after the height of the pandemic.

“As our NHS continues to come under immense pressure, this is a fantastic initiative by PHP to help improve patient wellbeing outcomes, quality of life and emotional wellbeing.”

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