A centre in Bantry, now in its second year, is providing vital counselling and support for young people, by encouraging expression through creativity and play, writes Jackie Keogh
Numerous referrals from West Cork to a therapeutic services centre in Cork were a strong indicator that such services were required in this area.
Art psychotherapist, Jane Carroll, was working in Ballincollig at the Music Art Play Psychotherapy centre – or MAPP for short – when she and play therapist, Caitríona Ní Liatháin, realised that a professional and dedicated MAPP centre could do good work in West Cork.
Twelve months ago, Jane and Caitríona started a centre at Newtown on the Glengarriff Road in Bantry and they are happy to report that the service is evolving all the time.
‘We are meeting a demand that is out there to provide emotional support for children, and their families, through music, art, play and psychotherapy,’ said Jane.
Caitríona described the service they provide for children and teenagers as being ‘an expressive and projective therapy because it allows them to express their thoughts and feelings non-verbally and symbolically through art and play.’
They say the service they provide is less direct than talking therapy, which some children and teenagers can find intimidating. ‘Sometimes young people simply don’t have the words to express their innermost and most difficult thoughts,’ said Jane.
‘A child can come in with the weight of the world on their shoulders because they might have internalised their personal circumstances. For example, a deep loss, or the fact that they have been bullied at school,’ said Jane. But at MAPP they learn to be lighter in themselves.
Caitríona said: ‘It gives them back their childhood and shows them the way back to happiness. Quite simply, it is all about being supportive and helping them to lift their burden.
‘It is not done in isolation. It is done with the support of the parents and the families so, in that respect, it is systemic therapy and can be transformative.’
Caitríona, who had been renting a room for play therapy from Dr Denis Cotter, decided to work with Jane and they were delighted when Denis provided them with a first-floor facility, which has a spacious and comfortable waiting room, an art therapy room and a play therapy room.
The centre, which is open four days a week, on an appointment basis, recently celebrated its first anniversary.
Both Jane and Caitríona are well known in the locality because they have been living in the area for years. People also respect the fact that they are not only committed to the centre, but to the services they provide, and the community at large.
It is a highly confidential service and the therapy sessions, in their all their forms, are personal and private to protect the children and their families.
Caitríona said they get referrals from GPs, the Kenmare Resource Centre, the Caha Resource Centre, the Mercy Cancer Support Centre in Cork, the West Cork Social Work Department, and West Cork schools.
Parents can also contact them directly on 087-7788425 and 086-1542755 and speak to them in confidence.
It should be pointed out that all of the therapists at both the MAPP centre in Bantry and Ballincollig are qualified, accredited, clinical practitioners and, as such, undertake extensive training and supervision.
‘Our initial instinct, which told us a service was needed in West Cork, has proven to be correct,’ said Jane, ‘and we are delighted to be here, offering a professional service that not only supports children, adolescents and their families, but also helps them work towards a brighter future.’
Jane gave one anonymous example of how the work they do can help young people who are struggling with emotional issues.
She said a young boy who had withdrawn into himself and was suffering from very bad stomach cramps was referred to them by his GP.
The boy arrived at the MAPP centre smiling and appeared happy throughout the verbal assessment. However, his artwork showed his emotional pain.
He created clay figures with injuries that needed bandaging and as the sessions progressed the boy opened up about being bullied at school.
Clearly, it was easier for the boy to allow the clay characters to speak for him rather than open up to the therapist, or his parents. But in his case, as in others, MAPPs was able to help.