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Benefits of art therapy for children with muscle wasting conditions

For mental health awareness month, we sat down with Catriona from The Teapot Trust, to chat about how art therapy can help children with long term conditions, and the sessions we’ve been running with The Teapot Trust.

A girl draws with crayons a hospital room

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is about using different forms of art-making to explore your feelings and express yourself. An alternative to talking therapy, it can be great when people, especially children, find it hard to put their feelings into words. Art therapy can help improve physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

What does The Teapot Trust do?

We offer art therapy to children and young people with chronic and long-term health conditions. We’ve several ways in which we offer this. We run open groups in hospital outpatient clinics where children are having appointments or procedures. Using art therapy in waiting areas is a great way to distract and support children during their hospital visits. It can really help if they’re nervous or worried about what’s happening.

We also offer group sessions for children with a similar condition, giving them a chance to explore how they’re feeling and coping over a set number of sessions. The groups can be life-changing for children. Simply hearing people that are the same age as them with similar conditions share their feelings, worries or experiences can help other children understand they are not alone. One of the things we hear a lot about is isolation, loneliness or not feeling the same as their friends, so seeing that others are feeling the same can reduce those thoughts.

One-to-one referrals are another type of support we offer. These allow children to go a little deeper with some of the issues they might be dealing with. They can set their own goals with a therapist and work towards them together.

What kind of benefits can children experience from art therapy?

We get feedback about a wide variety of positive changes families see in their child. Sometimes it’s that they’re sleeping better. Or the family will find their child drawing at times when they wouldn’t usually.

“A lot of the time it’s about making the child feel less anxious, more seen and giving them back some control over their emotions.”

It can also give children the confidence to share things with their family they feel too nervous to talk about. Young people with chronic conditions often tell us they feel they have to put on a front, so it’s about showing them they’re allowed to express their emotions.

What have the sessions for children in the muscle wasting community involved?

We’ve worked closely with Muscular Dystrophy UK to gain insight into issues that are unique to children with muscle wasting conditions. We developed a programme to help these children explore themes such as coping with feeling different, changes in their condition, managing friendships and dealing with anxiety. But we’re led by what the children want to do and it’s all about them getting the most out of the sessions.

Before the programmes start, we have introductory sessions with each child and their family to explain how art therapy works and discuss any questions they might have. This is to help the child feel comfortable and to know they can choose how much to share. We don’t want therapy to seem like a scary thing. We also want to make sure children know they don’t need to be good at art – something a lot of children worry about. All our therapy is confidential, but sometimes a child will feel empowered to share something that came up in a group or a 1:1 with their families or doctors which can be helpful.

What would you say to our community this mental health awareness month?

It’s important we all think about the impact a chronic or life-long health condition can have on a child’s emotional and mental health. It’s important not to underestimate the impact art therapy can have for children. Not just in childhood, but throughout their adult life. Services like this can give you a set of tools you can draw on throughout life.

“Children with long term conditions can experience a lot of change and uncertainty, so it’s even more important they have a space to go to to explore and share their worries.”

To find out more about The Teapot Trust, go to

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