When words run out: meet EACH’s art therapist

Sandra Smith has been an art therapist at EACH for six years. She tells Tim Gibson what working for the charity means to her

By Tim Gibson

Settle into a seat in the art therapy room at The Treehouse, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices’ (EACH) Ipswich hospice, and you’ll immediately be struck by something.

    "...It’s about using creative expression to find meaning, or letting the mind freewheel as it comes to terms with life’s challenges.”  

Despite the mass of art materials neatly stored around the room, there is little in the way of artwork on display.

The odd painting drying here, an occasional piece of crayoning tucked into a corner, some glitter pictures just peeking from a drawer.

But the walls are bare. Gleaming white in the pale autumn sunlight as we sip tea and chat about art therapist Sandra Smith’s vital work.

“We keep the walls unadorned because we want to create a space in which patients and their families come with absolute freedom to express themselves,” Sandra explains. “That’s a central tenet of art therapy. It’s about using creative expression to find meaning, or letting the mind freewheel as it comes to terms with life’s challenges.”

This all points to another crucial feature of Sandra’s work: it’s not about creating fantastic pictures or detailed drawings. For some patients, art therapy involves simply splatting paint against a blank sheet of paper or using handprints to create an image.

For those who struggle with verbal communication, it involves directing Sandra to paint something just by facial gestures or movements of the eyes.

“Art therapy is about getting the right brain and the left brain working together,” says Sandra. “It’s focused on integrating analysis with creativity, because that’s the way patients can process what’s going on in their lives.”

Of course, many of the people Sandra provides therapy for have little awareness of the psychological theory behind her practice. She’s studied for years to develop her expertise, leaving a job in the social services to complete an MA in art therapy and joining EACH in 2013.

That training ensures Sandra creates valuable experiences for patients and their families in the midst of difficult circumstances. For the end user, it’s all about having an encounter that is hopeful, life giving and creative.

“We work with people who have life-limiting and terminal conditions,” she explains. “We also work with their families, and art therapy can be especially helpful in processing some of the emotions associated with bereavement. When words run out, other forms of creativity often take over.”

    “By encouraging the creativity of the people in our care, we help them discern that hope, even when times are tough.”  

Sandra’s focus on the whole family is striking. It replicates EACH’s philosophy as a whole: care is extended to everyone affected by illness, not just the patients themselves.

“It’s all about establishing relationships of trust over time,” she says. “As with everyone at EACH, I am committed to building a sense of community. That’s how we work to make these tragic circumstances slightly easier to bear.”

This sense of community extends beyond the walls of EACH’s three hospices. As with the clinical staff, Sandra takes her work out into the community, offering therapy for patients and families in their homes and getting fully involved in special events such as Treefest, The Treehouse’s arts festival for patients and carers.

“As well as the therapeutic dimension of art, I can help families create mementoes and keepsakes, helping them hold onto positive memories of a loved one,” she says. These can include hand casts, portraits and paintings – objects that gesture beyond themselves and bring hope to the people left behind.

“I think of The Treehouse as a hope-filled place,” concludes Sandra. “By encouraging the creativity of the people in our care, we help them discern that hope, even when times are tough.”

Published: 21 October 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Just Recruitment is sponsoring EACH’s “Happy Christmas Ipswich” comedy evening, hosted by Griff Rhys Jones. To support the event or donate to EACH, please click here.

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Getting things into focus

You may also enjoy: Why Just Recruitment supports EACH

Jobs currently available

New job
Electrical Wireman
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Braintree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910175
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for an Electrical Wire person on behalf of a company based in Braintree, Essex.

The role will involve mechanical and electrical assembly, wire and electrically test distribution and MCCB boards, cabinets and cable harnesses. The role also has the potential for new product development by building prototype boards and testing boards before product launch.

Duties:

  • Build and test distribution and MCCB panels to the standards specified by the latest electrical regulations: BS EN 61439 and BS7671 including energy metering and surge suppression devices.
  • Read, understand and work from technical electrical CAD drawings and wiring diagrams.
  • To pick and check all component quantity and quality before each job.
  • To build and assemble wiring loom kits using a variety of cable crimp hand tools.
  • Electrical testing, fault finding and resolution.
  • Production of Test Certificates.
  • To work using own initiative with limited supervision.
  • Maintain manufacturing records including: copy test certification, wiring diagrams, layout drawings and production sheets.

Requirements:

  • Previous strong experience in Low Voltage panel building environment.
  • Knowledge of metering requirements and installation.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Flash Testing Certified.
Read more
Graphic Designer
Sector: Marketing, Advertising and PR
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910168
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Graphic Designer on behalf of a company based in Colchester, Essex.

They are looking for an enthusiastic and skilled Graphic Designer to join their team.

This is a fantastic opportunity to join an exciting company as they rapidly expand nationwide.

Duties will include:

  • Designing and producing marketing material for nine businesses across the UK
  • Each business has their own distinct brand identity, so you must be willing to adapt as the situation demands
  • Manage the production of their 300 page brochure
  • Design other promotional material; for example posters and flyers; for use in their sites
  • Liaising with 3rd parties to design and produce physical promotional materials
  • Negotiating prices
  • Experience with website design is preferable
  • Experience with running business social media accounts also preferable

Experience in a similar role or relevant qualification is a must for this opportunity

  • Relevant extensive experience in design programs - for example, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Dreamweaver - is required
Read more
Designer
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: discussed on application
Location: Chelmsford, South Woodham Ferrers
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910167
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Designer on behalf of a company based near South Woodham Ferrers.

This is a fantastic opportunity if you have a Product Design background and can offer Retail or POS Design experience.

Duties and responsibilities:

  • Create new products, including 3D designs, prototyping and testing
  • Execute robust design process and continuous improvement
  • Take client brief either from Account Manager or Client
  • Time management and planning workload with Head of Design
  • A ‘can do’ attitude

Qualifications:

  • Excellent level of knowledge using SolidWorks
  • Good level of knowledge using Adobe Suite
  • Experience with the POS sector would be advantageous
  • Product Design degree would be preferred
  • Good problems solving skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good Word & Excel skills
Read more
Administrator
Sector: Public Service and Administration
Salary: £16,500 - £17,000 per annum
Location: Needham Market
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910164
About the role

Just Recruitment is working with one of Suffolk’s most promising mortgage companies. Established in 2014, this company is looking to take on a skilled Administrator to support its rapid expansion.

Your duties will include:

  • Supporting the mortgage brokers in their day-to-day activities
  • Electronic Filing and record-keeping
  • Checking and submitting mortgage applications
  • Progressing cases
  • Speaking to members of the public, both in-person and over the phone

Ideally, you will:

  • Have experience in an administrative role
  • Possess an excellent telephone manner
  • Be diligent and detail-oriented
  • Be highly computer literate, including familiarity with Microsoft Packages
  • Have a great sense of humour

Working hours:

35 per week – Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm, with an hour off for lunch

Read more
Warehouse Operator
Sector: Transport, Logistics and Shipping
Salary: To be discussed on application
Location: Sudbury
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910163
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Warehouse Operative on behalf of a company based in Sudbury Suffolk.

Your daily duties will include:

  • Ensuring that the warehouse is kept tidy and organised
  • Unloading and checking of deliveries in
  • Checking in goods
  • Putting away products within the warehouse
  • Picking products as per customer orders
  • Checking orders, ensuring accuracy
  • Packing orders to ensure safety in delivery
  • Loading deliveries
  • On occasions take responsibility for the locking up procedure for the Warehouse/Site

Working hours:

Split shifts: 6.00am – 2.30pm / 2.00pm – 10.30pm

You will have the following skills and experience:

  • Suitable applicants will ideally have current Forklift licences for Counterbalance, Pallet Truck and Flexi
  • Good level of Numeracy and Literacy
  • Intermediate PC skills
  • Preferred NVQ Level 2 Warehousing or equivalent
  • Prior knowledge of Warehouse Management Systems
Read more