Art therapy with adolescence; holding ambivalence
(2014) Art therapy with adolescence; holding ambivalence, no. 78.
This clinical project is a single case study of a fourteen year old girl undertaken whilst completing the final year of a two year art therapy placement in a UK educational setting. The setting in discussion is a classified under the umbrella term 'special education', a government term applicable to any school diverging from the mainstream system (Scottish Government 2007). A school can be categorized as such if its sole purpose is to provide tailored education to meet the varying needs of children and young people who are considered unable to manage a mainstream educational placement (Scottish Government 2007). The broad diversity of young people served by special education are those with learning difficulties, language difficulties, sensory needs, Autism, social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and individuals with Asperger's syndrome (Lewis & Norwich 2005). In this particular instance the school setting works with a mixed sex group of adolescents with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Using an art therapy intervention and the hermeneutic phenomenological research method I aimed to explore the lived world of fourteen year old girl attendee at the setting with presenting mental health issues. Through data analysis of the work generated I drew out five overlapping key themes; self harm, sexual identity, difficulty with sleep, insecure-ambivalent attachment and defiant behaviour. I discovered that individual art therapy with this client offered a safe space and relationship in which to voice and address her difficulties. Art therapy provided containment for my client to experiment, play and think differently about her self which may not have been available outwith the service. I found art therapy to be an effective way of working with this client and other service users at the setting as the presence of art materials offered a holding space in which this group of vulnerable young people appeared to find both solace (Winnicott 1971) and communication (Schaverien 1991) . The presence of the art materials offered a disarming start to a deeper engagement in the therapeutic relationship which I explore throughout this single case study.