Headlines reporting the mess we are in are stark. As I write this, the war in Ukraine endures, six months after the Russian invasion, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and displacing eight million Ukrainians. The effects of climate change are wreaking havoc across the UK, with unprecedentedly high temperatures causing catastrophic damage.
Wildfires have destroyed homes and habitats, and at least 13 lives had been lost through attempts to cool off in open waters. There’s ongoing uncertainty in Government, following the resignation of more than 50 MPs and of the PM himself. We must wait until September to discover whether Sunak or Truss will be our next Prime Minister and what they will do about the cost-of-living crisis, the brutal effects of which have left households managing soaring fuel and food prices. Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in all age groups, across all four nations of the UK. Cases of monkeypox are rising too, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM), and there’s a polio outbreak in Greater London. Mental health services remain underfunded and understaffed, meaning that demand outweighs supply.
The lived experiences of many children and young people, their families, our friends, colleagues and ourselves, as we segue out of the long, hot summer and into autumn, are as stark as the headlines suggest. As counsellors and psychotherapists, we help our clients to make sense of mess, be that internal or environmental, literal or symbolic. In September’s featured article, Sarah Haywood invites us to examine our relationship with mess and to make sense of mess in therapy by posing the question, When is a mess not (just) a mess? She posits the assertion that, when thought about as a form of communication and an act of creativity, mess-making becomes something to be encouraged, rather than avoided.
September’s issue is a particularly creative one. Peter Rawling shares his use of music in therapy, to both understand his clients’ unexpressed emotions and communicate empathy. His piece, Music begins where words fail, is creative and beautifully poignant. Chris Pickard explores the new and exciting ways that gaming and virtual reality can aid counselling, in the fabulously creative Me, myself and my avatar. Anthony Kessel questions the reality behind the alarming headlines about young people’s mental health and suggests that children’s fiction might provide a way forward, in It’s time to get creative.
There’s an eclectic mix of contributors in this issue, which, rather than feeling messy, enhances its creativity. Author biographies include an NHS clinical director and health adviser to the Football Association, a threat intelligence analyst, a human resources executive and a therapist with a lively interest in the music of Kate Bush. The singer’s inimitable sound and haunting lyrics have been (re)discovered by a younger generation this summer, courtesy of Stranger Things.1 I’ll borrow from Kate Bush to sign off with this sentiment, "Like the sun coming out/ I just know that something good is gonna happen/ I don't know when/ But just saying it could even make it happen."2 Let’s try to hold onto the hope of something good amid the mess.
1 Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers. Netflix; 2016 to present.
2 Cloudbusting. www.youtube.com/watch?v=pllRW9wETzw (accessed August 2022).
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