Creative Futures

An Interview with Monika Jepcott

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(E.1 – Shown above, a bunch of nerds conduct an interview) 

On the research aspect of the project, we spent a lot of the semester chasing up lead after lead from child welfare professionals within the UK and Northern Ireland but despite the continuous conversations and polite email requests, we really struggled to get someone to speak to us about child play therapy.

After our previous contact had attained an infection that had plagued her for weeks on end, and the arrangement that Shelley had tried to organise fell through, I made the decision to become self-reliant and use my secretarial skills from placement year in order to reach out to people within the wider profession.

My first point of contact was with my old primary school, St. Matthews, as they had previously facilitated play therapy sessions for students during my time there. In fact, I was one of the students that benefitted from the therapy as I progressed through my early educational experience – using it as a coping mechanism as I came to terms with a family bereavement at a young age. Unfortunately, once I got a chance to speak to the current principal, she explained that the therapy had been cut due to budget restrictions.

Determined not to be put off by another blockade, I decided to turn my attention towards researching child therapy services within Northern Ireland, at which point I reached out to Play Therapy Ni, and Play Therapy United Kingdom.

Much to my own and the team’s relief, we received a response.

The correspondence between myself and Monika happened very quick after the initial point of contact, as I arranged to conduct a Skype meeting with her on Monday the 10th of December.

To prepare for the meeting, I conducted some independent research into the organisation that Monika works for, Play Therapy UK. I gathered the key points of information and gathered it within one document before supplying it to the rest of the team. The document can be viewed –>  ptuk_meeting_prep .

Myself, Katie and Rachel were in attendance when the Skype meeting occurred. The notes featured below are the key elements from the manuscript of the interview.

Monika Jepcott 

Children are not reaching academic potential due to emotion, behavioural and cognitive issues.

This comment was in response to identifying the need for child therapy to be accessable within educational facilities. According to Monika, their statistics indicate that only 80% of children in UK schools have ’emotional literacy.’ That percentage indicates that at least 20% of children are struggling to identify their emotional feelings, and as a result are inable to express themselves. Furthermore, at least half (10%) of those who are emotionally illeterate have been identified as suffering with a mental health condition, such as depression and anxiety. Through the process of playing, children learn how to problem solve – for 20% of the demographic age population, they are not developing an essential life skill.

Thirty years ago counselling did not exist in schools.

Monika has played a significant role in the expansion of child play therapy being introduced within educational facilities during her three decades of work in the profession. During my own research, I was able to identify that there is a significant lack of funding for child play therapy within local facilities. However, in other areas across the United Kingdom, there has been a steady increase of available services – a direct result of qualified therapists approaching schools during their internships, offering to work for free, and then presenting the school the  statistics that indicate a direct improvement during the interval that the councelling was available to students.

Children cannot express what they feel in words because their brain does not allow them to – near issues. Problems are locked in the unconscious, which cannot be reached through conversation…

X-ray of soul – cannot hide. Reach realisation at some stage.

Communicating emotions can be a very fundamental activitiy for those who do have emotional literacy. For the 20% that do not, self-expression is a very difficult task to perform. The children do not know how to verbally inform others of their thoughts and emotions, so they are often buried in the subconscious. Similar to Art Therapy, those memories are reached through the activity of ‘doing’ – In other words, scenarios reveal themselves naturally through the act of play, relieving the child from the feeling of containment.

Children between 4-12 is 7% talking during the sessions.

Talking is not the way to problem solve with children.

Instinctual behaviour – they don’t talk at all.

There is an expectation from adults that one should be able to communicate their emotions, and discuss what is bothering them. Children do not have the life experience that an adult would have, nor the capacity to understand that discussion would be an effective way to relieve them from their troubles. As I have mentioned above, the process of child play therapy facilitates the child to express themselves in an appropriate form. Therapists are trained to identify behavioural patterns, and associations that occur within the act of play in order to understand the child. It is through repetition and multiple sessions that the scenario becomes clear to the therapist – at which point, they formulate an plan action that should benefit the childs’ mental and physical wellbeing.

Boundaries are set by therapist – within that space, the child has full control.

Important that child has trust and support in the therapist in order to make the decision.

Within play therapy sessions, the therapist usually takes a secondary role, enabling the child to have full control of their environment – to an extent. Through the sessions, the child and therapist establish a mutual relationship built on trust. Whilst the child has free control over their session, the therapist does set the boundaries through which the child can explore that space – that could be a physical space, such as the circumference of a rug, or a metaphorical one. The boundaries are set on an individual basis to respond to the needs of the child.

‘I’m always here when you need me.’

Therapist does something in parallel so that the child can follow, rather than instructing the child to repeat actions. React to the child, do not intervene.

The key point of child play therapy sessions is that there is no intervention – the process of the councelling is so that the child can grow independantly and learn from their own experiences. If an adult were to intervene during the learning process, the child would be placed at a disadvantage.

There was a lot more covered within the period of the intervew, but these were the elements that particularly stood out. We were privledged to have been able to speak to someone with such a wealth of information regarding child therapy. It is to the benefit  of the project that we were able to attain this primary information, and ask specific questions that was targetted towards the nature of our project.

I am delighted that Monika was willing to share her time with us and talk about the work that Play Therapy UK has been performing in schools and other facilities around the country. Her leaving words were very rememorable – child therapy needs a public voice. The work that the organisation have been able to conduct so far has seen vast improvement in the quality of young life, but they have identified that they require a stronger presence in the daily life of society in order to make a difference to children everywhere. I hope that what we are producing with our animation can be a step towards achieving that goal.


Reference:

Playtherapy.org.uk. (2016). Home. [online] Available at: http://playtherapy.org.uk/ [Accessed 6 Dec. 2016].

*Note: If you wish to listen to the entire interview, I will attach a dropbox link below the cut.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/1oycn5elrd8i7ue/Monika%20Interview.mp3?dl=0

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