Cassandra Batterby is a technical instructor at the therapeutic resource centre at Guild Lodge in Whittingham, near Preston. Cassandra, who has worked at the Trust for two years, provides creative interventions in artistic practices at the only medium secure NHS facility in the country which has the resources, space and dedicated, creative staff to do so. Art allows service users to express their inner thoughts, distract themselves from the challenges of their everyday situation, while helping them to better understand and make sense of their emotional wellbeing.

It increasing confidence, self-esteem, understanding of others and creates links to the community for voluntary and paid work opportunities. Patients use a range of practices, from traditional drawing and painting techniques, to lino and screen printing, collage, mixed media work, sculpture, creative writing, jewellery making and ceramic housewares.

Cassandra enjoys seeing the difference art makes to the lives of those involved:

“I get a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction seeing service users improve their skills and confidence creating artworks.”

After many years of teaching a range of people from different backgrounds, she decided she wanted to use her skills to help people in the mental health care system and work for the NHS.

Cassandra continued:

“Art has always been a passion of mine, even as a little girl, from those first experiences using ‘paint by numbers’.

I maintained an interest and a passion for it from a young age through to adulthood and have been lucky enough to be taught by some of the country’s leading art practitioners in traditional drawing and painting techniques. Once I gained the qualifications I went on to exhibit work in the UK and abroad, before deciding to go it alone with a business and I’ve never looked back.”

Art sessions at Guild Lodge have been ongoing for years in a mix of one-to-one and group sessions to support service users who have complex mental health conditions like bipolar, schizophrenia and acquired brain injuries, as well as depression, severe anxiety and personality disorders.

The staff make the creative session’s personcentred, planned and are reviewed on an individual basis. They take feedback from their service user students to constantly make improvements to their offering.

So, how does it work?

When a service user has agreed to partake in an art-led activity, there is an initial discussion based around their personal and occupational goals, which are captured in their session plan.

Areas of interest are identified and the individual has an opportunity to assess their understanding of where their ability and confidence levels are. These goals are then reviewed regularly. This gives the person something to work towards, at their own pace.

Celebrating success

The therapeutic centre has had some recent success in the last few years, including recently seeing seven service users be awarded certificates from The Koestler Awards, a national art competition open to users of mental health services.

The awards ranged from the outstanding creation of 2D and 3D artworks to a special award for poetry, including the publishing of the poem in a book and a public reading of the work at a prestigious event in London.

They are not stopping there, they also collaborate on pieces of work and are involved in planning and installing their artwork in dedicated spaces. They’ve also had artwork displayed at University of Central Lancashire and the Harris Open exhibitions.

From the ward to the wall

Recently, two keen artists who are patients presented four pieces of their artwork to our CEO, Chris Oliver. Their themes directly relate to the duo’s personal preferences, feelings and experiences.

The works of art now take pride of place on display at Trust headquarters.

What’s next?

The future looks exciting for the therapeutic centre at Guild Lodge, with plans in place to make the art resource self-funded and is to be exhibited across a range of platforms and facilities, in the hope it will reach a wide audience to demonstrate and promote the benefits of art on mental health.

Cassandra concluded:

“We would love to take what we do to other areas of the Trust. We are currently involved in looking at how to incorporate art into a new learning disability facility to engage and motivate service users to get creative.”

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