Resilient Therapy: A box of ordinary magic tricks

A project which builds resilience in disadvantaged young people, youth and families

Local parents, young people, practitioners, graphic designers and academics have been brought together in this project, one of 42 that have been funded through the Community University Partnership Programme (Cupp) at the University of Brighton. Resilient Therapy is a new therapeutic methodology. It draws on resilience research to provide a framework within which practice with disadvantaged children, young people and families can be planned and delivered.

Mental ill health in children/young people is growing.  The costs of mental illness to our society are estimated at 93 billion every year (Mental Health Foundation, 2005). Yet the effectiveness of available therapies is limited. Many families with high mental health needs and wider disadvantage, are failed by approaches which are currently funded (Department for Education and Skills & Department of Health, 2004). Resilient Therapy (RT) concentrates on those families.

Masten termed resilience ?ordinary magic?. Her idea inspired our use of the magic metaphor to produce materials with parents/carers and young people. The artwork represents the box alongside illustrations of ideal type therapists. Resilient Therapy makes explicit the kind of ?ordinary magic? that needs to happen to foster resilience in disadvantaged children. The approach strategically focuses on ?scaffolding? resilience for these children through the imaginative and creative therapeutic work of resilient promoters such as mental health practitioners, social workers, teachers and parents. The box of tricks provides a strategic framework, together with more specific help and advice. Hence applying RT involves a relentless search for resilient actions that improve outcomes in situations of high disadvantage

There are hundreds of academic research studies on achieving resilience, but lessons have not been systematically embedded in practice with a whole systems approach. This project captures the critical success factors at play in RT and disseminates them widely. RT presents a set of evidenced based interventions (?potions?) in separate, but related arenas (?potion bottles?) within a systematic whole (?magic box?). The ?potion bottles? are: Basics, Belonging, Learning, Coping and Core Self. Potions within each of these categories are designed to increase resilient responses to overwhelming adversity. Through individual consultations, systems analyses, workshops, drama and mentorship, they use the box and its contents to plan and execute work with families and practitioners, and to effect organisational changes. Young people, parents and practitioners have helped academics and graphic designers to develop the box and its contents, and to design training and dissemination materials.

Who?s who in Resilient Therapy?

Resilient Therapy is being developed by a group of practitioners, parents and academics. The main people involved are:

Angie Hart, Professor of Child, Family and Community Health at the University of Brighton. Angie is also a child and family therapist in Sussex Partnerships NHS Trust. She is the adoptive parent of three children from care. She works in a specialist team supporting fostered and adopted children, and in a generic CAMHS clinic.

Derek Blincow who studied social philosophy before taking up medicine and psychiatry. He holds an NHS consultant post in child and adolescent psychiatry practising in a deprived area of Brighton and has developed services across the local area. He has acted as an external professional advisor to the UK Health Ombudsman and an expert witness to the Family Courts.

Helen Thomas, head of systemic psychotherapies at Brighton specialist CAMHS. She read psychology at University College London followed by applied social sciences. She has been a psychiatric social worker in London and the South of England for 25 years. She is from Wales and has three children.

What have they done?

  • Established a community of practice ? a shifting group of people interested in taking RT forward ? and tried out their ideas on them.
  • Written a book and articles about RT (Hart & Blincow, 2007; Hart, Blincow, & with Thomas, 2007)
    Applied for funding to develop the methodology.
  • Given seminars, lectures and put on training events in RT

What are they doing next?

  • Writing a handbook for parents interested in applying RT
  • Developing training materials, including a DVD
  • Developing a parent support course based on RT
  • Continuing to train people in the RT approach and to deliver seminars and lectures
  • Involving parents and young people in the continual development of RT.