Some young people in residential care may have extremely complex needs and difficulties. Whether they may be social, emotional or mental health challenges, trauma, learning disability or difficulty – or indeed a combination of these factors, the care and support they receive must be carefully tailored and delivered in a joined up way.
One young person who benefitted from such an approach at Heysham House is Robbie*. An older teenager, Robbie has a learning disability which meant engagement in therapy could be a challenge for him. He previously attended a residential school, before moving to Heysham, a residential children’s home, as part of his transition to adulthood.
He struggled with emotional regulation and had a very complex and challenging family situation. This could cause real anxiety for Robbie which can cause behavioural challenges.
However, the Heysham House approach to support and therapy was of benefit to Robbie. The home takes a joined up approach to therapy and support, with the home’s Clinical Psychologist Dr Nicola Kennelly, working alongside the care team to ensure therapeutic practices are embedded at every level.
As well as supporting individual young people, Dr Kennelly works with the staff team at Team Leader and individual level to offer clinical supervision, emotional support and development. She has developed training packages which are delivered to smaller groups of staff, and also offers individual advice and support.
For Robbie, having an engaged and therapeutically informed and supported staff team around him was of great help. His key worker was invited to attend his psychological assessment session alongside Dr Kennelly and attends therapy sessions so both she, and Robbie, could learn how best to respond, react and move on.
Dr Kennelly said: “For Robbie, and his key worker, having everything joined up was of great benefit. As a team we would discuss an incident and how it made him feel, clearly making a distinction between the emotion and the behaviour.
“Often the emotion is completely justified and understandable, but it’s how Robbie responds to it that can cause the difficulty. We ask things like ‘what would have helped’ and then his key worker could hear directly what sort of things would help Robbie in those situations, and how he could ask for the things that might help – for example to ask for reassurance or a cuddle.
“For both of them, it gave them a framework and set of tools to work with – but the key worker heard it directly because she was in the session. What’s great is that Robbie has learned to ask for the things he needs or knows will help when he experiences more extreme emotions and that has helped him better regulate those, and how he responds.”