For ten years, Teapot Trust’s art therapists have worked in children’s hospitals around the UK. They provide one-to-one art psychotherapy prescribed by paediatric clinicians as well as group art therapy on wards and in outpatient clinics. The majority of our art therapy in hospital settings meet the needs of children and young people with rheumatic conditions such as Lupus and Juvenile Arthritis (JIA) as well as other chronic conditions such as Diabetes.

At the outbreak of the pandemic, we took the decision to withdraw from hospitals temporarily, given the weakened immunity of the children and young people we support and the risk of cross-infection. All art therapy services were moved online with the full support of partner hospitals and funders – and in consultation with clinicians, art therapists and families. After rigorous risk assessments, once the first lockdown eased, we resumed in-person art therapy (with art therapists in full PPE) in three hospitals where we support young in-patients. Every effort was made to make the PPE child-friendly.

Online work was piloted and refined, meeting needs in 3 distinct ways, which are being scaled up for wider reach and impact.

  1. One-to-one art psychotherapy typically supports children affected by trauma, those with profound needs and those struggling with medicine adherence due to its unpleasant side effects – common amongst children living with Juvenile Arthritis.
  1. Small peer group work supports those with similar conditions in common, through tiered support to meet escalating needs, enabling participants to see beyond themselves. These groups have a maximum of 7 participants so the art therapist can ‘hold and contain’ each child’s emotions appropriately.
  2. Family art therapy supports parents and siblings as well as the child who is ill, together as a family unit, so they better understand the journey they are navigating together. This has been hugely important to many families who felt they were already in ‘survival mode’ before the pandemic exacerbated the situation.