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Art therapy for mental health

PUBLISHED: 17:24 18 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:34 24 August 2010

by Nadia Sam-Daliri London s first arts therapies centre combining treatment for people with severe mental health problems has opened in the borough. The new service, in Willesden Hospital, Harlesden Road, Willesden offers music, art, dra

by Nadia Sam-Daliri

London's first arts therapies centre combining treatment for people with severe mental health problems has opened in the borough.

The new service, in Willesden Hospital, Harlesden Road, Willesden offers music, art, drama and dance therapy under one roof.

It has made Brent the first London borough to provide a centre that offers patients a choice of therapies on one site and also one of the first to allow any outside agencies to refer people for treatment.

Dominic Havsteen-Franklin, the centre's arts therapies occupational manager, said: "We treat the severe end of the scale like schizophrenia and personality disorders so the work we do can change people's lives. Just talking it through doesn't work for some people. We come in where medication isn't doing all the work. Before, only specific people in the borough could refer patients to us but now any agency can. The feedback from our users has been immensely positive. Many are now back in the community."

Most of the patients treated at the centre will have limited verbal communication skills.

The workshops aim to link psychological treatments with the vocational aspirations of the patient, helping them to enter the workplace.

Arts therapies were first introduced by the NHS in the 1940s but only got widespread recognition about 20 years ago.

They now make up part of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

There are around ten outpatient arts therapies services in Brent which can refer people they think would benefit from one-on-one classes.

Nine therapists are employed by the centre, covering dance, music, art and drama workshops.

Nine arts therapists are employed by the centre, covering dance, music, art and drama therapies.

Mario Eugster, a music therapist, said: "Mental health patients often experience very powerful emotions that they cannot contain. Music therapy can help them have a dialogue in sound without using words. It awakens their creative potential and helps calm them."

All arts therapists must have a degree in their subject and also a Masters in the treatment of therapies to practice.

All the therapists are artists, musicians and performers themselves but stress their role is to help the patients find their own creative path rather be led by experts.

Jane Landes, one of the centre's art therapists, said: "When people are making art without a therapist, it can be dangerous. Tapping into their creative energies can change people's lives. I've seen that happen."

nadia.sam-daliri@archant.co.uk


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