Anna’s artwork so clearly delineated her experiences it is shocking no professional talked to her about them. I have to wonder if there were not any art therapists available at the time to help her.
The sad tale of her life seems so unnecessary. Certainly listening to her experience would have been critical to helping her find a better way to live. Symptoms in such cases seem to be coping mechanisms, however dangerous and attention seeking mechanisms to try and get help. What she was trying to say stood out in her art work, in her deterioration and finally in her death. That she was also kept silent while screaming for help with her behavior really should have been noticed.
The character I am using is from a book I just finished, Liane Moriarity’s Apples Never Fall (c. 2021 Pan MacMillan)
Savannah is a young woman who insinuates herself into the main characters’ lives proceeding to lie constantly, scam them in various ways, systematically attempting to ruin their marriage, harm their 4 children and blackmail them, all the while pretending to be their friend by endearing acts of kindness.
As the story proceeds, more is revealed about who she truly is, she turns out to have legitimate grievances from her childhood against these people. This character’s presentation is a perfect example of using coping mechanisms that derive from childhood incidents of neglect and abuse (her mother starved her so she could be a ballerina, so she developed an eating disorder, for example). Indeed this particular family she is now scamming on one given day in her distant past ignored her, abused her by refusing to give her food, yelled at her and by turning attention only to her brother, the star tennis champion of the story, totally annihilated her sense of self-worth.
A trauma informed person, indeed, any responsible adult, near this child or now, working with this troubled young adult, who would use an understanding and collaborative approach instead of punishing and confronting her, or convicting her, could have truly helped the chain of events that continued to engulf her way of living. Luckily, in the end, one of the main characters does show her compassion and it makes a difference to her so she can honestly feel love and care from a person she formerly wanted to continue harming in revenge scenarios.
How my agency utilizes these principles
PEER SUPPORT AND MUTUAL SELF-HELP; EMPOWERMENT;
INCLUSIVENESS AND SHARED PURPOSE
My work takes place in a setting using group therapy with DBT as the major modality employed. Within the group set up, however, each person participates in making an individual treatment plan and follows with an individual therapist at least once a week to assess progress with their individual goals. Time and time again as clients graduate at the end of their time they
mention peers in the group who have helped them, how they have helped them and how meaningful the mutual support has been. It is wonderful to be part of facilitating these exchanges and to be able to be the bones to support rather than didactically lecturing or pretending to be the “experts.”
SAFETY, TRUSTWORTHINESS AND TRANSPARENCY
The program uses a simple, consistent, predictable structure the clients can count on as they come for approximately six weeks with 3 groups a day DBT, Education and Psychotherapy. Various topics are covered during these sessions but a big focus is placed on art therapy and self-care through Yoga, gratitude lists and, in general, Positive Psychology approaches.
B) How my agency could improve
EMPOWERMENT and VOICE AND CHOICE
Our agency could better utilize individual strengths within the group – such as seeking opportunities for talents to be displayed. Once in awhile client’s ability or talent with music has been shown and the group always benefits from this. We have seen this utilized with art directives to great success. Expanding this to include other areas would be a good way to include more of what is good and positive in people.
I don’t know what category it would fit under but I know there is still too much repetition of information required from clients – such as when a therapist has to fill in for another person – unavoidable sometimes. Even if you read the chart or evaluations it seems that sometimes you have to cover ground they’ve had to go over before – this is frustrating for clients and definitely does not enhance the therapeutic relationship. At least starting with a disclaimer when talking with the client such as “I promise to only cover the bare minimum of what you’ve already told Ellen” would be affirming.