Room and timetabling

1 The room

The room is part of the ’emotionally  containing’ environment that the group aims to provide. Ensure a suitable room is available for 1 hour at the same time every week for 10 weeks. Put a timetable on the door if there is not already one there and fill in your time. You might consider making an ‘engaged’ sign to put on the door when the sessions are running.

A room with a door is required – a corridor or a hall is not suitable – so that the session is not disturbed. It is important to be able to use the same room each week as familiarity with the learning space helps children with emotional difficulties to settle. A pleasant room that has space for a table around which 6 children and a teacher can be comfortably seated is required for groups and a smaller space for individual sessions. It is a bonus if there is enough spare floor space for activities such as relaxation or short games for ending the session. Arranging tables and laying out writing equipment in advance, shows the children on arrival that they have already been thought about.

2 Timing

Group sessions need to be between 45-60 minutes and should be time-tabled in such a way that the children go into a break-time or a new lesson rather than joining the tail-end of another lesson where they will not know what they are doing.

3 Duration

Ten weeks is a suitable length of time to run either a group or an individual programme. This allows time to establish the teacher-child relationship, to institute a routine of working and in the case of groups for a dynamic between the members to evolve. Consideration should be given to the ending of a course of sessions and this is discussed below.

4 Consistency and regularity

Consistency and regularity is of the utmost importance for these children, who may sometimes have felt forgotten, overlooked or abandoned in the past. Checking that they know which day and what time the group takes place, reminding them of any breaks due to holidays or school events and ensuring that they are given good notice of any changes, are all ways of helping them to feel thought about.

If it is necessary to cancel a session, the reason for this should be shared with the children and, when advance warning is not possible, a message can be sent to the children via their classteacher. Senior management need to be aware that session regularity is an important element when working with anxious children and take this into account when planning issues such as cover for absent colleagues.

5 Beginnings and Endings

Special consideration needs to be given to the beginning and ending of a course of sessions.

The beginning is addressed in the initial interview with pupils.

Pupils should be reminded of the ending of the group at least three weeks in advance. This will allow for the completion of any story in progress as well as to come to terms emotionally with the ending of the group.

Children can quickly come to appreciate the nurturing quality of the sessions and can also become distressed when they realise the sessions are going to end. Part of the emotional literacy aspect of this work is to encourage the children to verbalise and discuss such feelings. This can be modelled by the teacher expressing how she is feeling about the ending.

Some children may have previously experienced traumatic or sudden relationship endings through parental separation, bereavement or child protection proceedings. This previously experienced anxiety can often be unconsciously transferred onto other significant endings.

Read more …

Therapeutic Story Writing book coverTherapeutic Storywriting – A Practical Guide to Developing Emotional Literacy.

Read more…