I'm counsellor and now an author working in private practice in Stockton on Tees, and I've been running my practice for around six years. Over the years I've found I often work in creative ways.  

When I started out as a counsellor, I'd carry a box of assorted buttons with me to every school I worked in. As a keen sewer these were something that I had to hand, and I found beautiful and very useful. The children I worked with loved to dig around in the buttons as they were all different shapes and colours. I used them in lots of different ways, for example, in my initial assessments I'd often ask children to pick buttons that represented them and different people in or out of their lives. Each time a button was picked we would describe the person and discuss what they liked or disliked about them, placing them onto a piece of paper or sand tray that we named: this is my world.

We'd discuss which buttons were placed close or further away from one another and who maybe wasn’t in their world, or if they'd like their world to look differently. This was a great way of getting to know young people while keeping some distance from feelings as we were talking about the buttons and just getting to know one another.

During COVID-19 my creative work was challenged as it was hard to work creatively over the phone or on Zoom calls. However, I always seem to manage to work creatively in some way or form. This can be via metaphor, drawing pictures, chair work, working with stones and shells or storytelling. 

When working with children I often read and discuss books, drawing pictures relating to the book and sometimes I'll tell my own story. I find story telling a great way to invoke conversations about worries and feelings. I often tell a story about the Brain Bully and Brain Bestie which can help children identify their emotional thinking and rational thinking. In sessions we'll draw them and give them names. 

We'll make lists of what the Brain Bully says and then respond from the Brain Bestie. I'll sometimes introduce role play to practice this. I find it helps children share their thoughts because they can use the Brain Bully, for example, "My Brain Bully was saying that I'm rubbish at maths". It also helps them challenge these thoughts as we talk about the unhelpful thinking styles the Brain Bully uses, such as mindreading and telling the future. We can then use the Brain Bestie as a way of leaning positive self-talk, for example, "My Brain Bestie thinks we don’t have to be good at everything". During our discussions I'll explain that the Brain Bully isn’t really a bully but just a scared part of us and when we use self-care, we can help our Brain Bully by helping our Brain Bestie have a louder voice and when that happens the Brain Bully listens. This can lead into a session in which we create a list of all the things we can do for self-care.   

I believe it's so important for children to be able to express their emotions, worries and muddles. Reading books to them that can help them learn a language like the Brain Bestie and Brain Bully really does help. 


1 CDC https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html#:~:text=A%20report%20from%20the%20National,considered%20to%20be%20socially%20isolated