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
QA Manager
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Saffron Walden
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910873
About the role

Our client is seeking an experienced Quality Assurance Manager to join them on a permanent, full-time basis. This opportunity offers stability, longevity and professional development.

Reporting directly to the MD, the Quality Assurance Manager will be responsible for:

  • Maintaining and improving the Company's Quality Management System and ensure internal compliance
  • Working with all departments to ensure their procedures are being followed and to improve their internal and cross-functional processes and procedures
  • Ensure that the quality of current and newly introduced products is compliant and traceable
  • Coordinate Quality activities with all over departments
  • Develop and improve quality relationships with all customers of the Company
  • Responsible for all Quality activities and personnel in the Quality Department for the Company
  • Provide strong leadership in the day-to-day operations of the Quality department and mentor the members of the team
  • Establish performance goals for all departmental employees and monitor performance on a continual basis
  • Oversee all hiring, appraisal, training and discipline of Quality personnel
  • Member of the Company's Management team
  • Produce the Quality element of the company's annual Budget
  • Formulate the departmental strategy aligned to the overall Company strategy
  • Embed a Continuous Improvement culture within the Quality Dept and contribute to the Continuous Improvement programme across the site


  • HND or equivalent qualification in Engineering or a related technical field required
  • Minimum 5 years experience in a Manufacturing environment
  • Ability to articulate (verbally and in writing), defend and negotiate Quality expectations with internal and external customers at all levels of management
  • Good interpersonal skills with the ability to guide and educate/train at all levels
Read more
New job
Customer Service Administrator
Sector: Customer Service
Salary: £22,000 per annum
Location: Halstead
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910871
About the role

Just Recruitment is delighted to be supporting a well-regarded organisation at the forefront of its sector that is looking to add a Customer Service Administrator to its team, due to growth – based on the outskirts of Halstead.

The main purpose of the role is to service current and prospective customers by receiving and processing orders, enquiries and general information in a timely and courteous manner.

Key tasks include:

  • Answering incoming calls, giving product information, lead times, dealing with general enquiries and queries, redirecting calls to relevant departments
  • Raising and inputting orders and proforma invoices
  • Raising quotations
  • Amending orders, as required
  • Scanning documentation
  • Liaising with Areas Sales Managers and responding to their requests
  • Arranging couriers and/or carriers as required
  • Any general office associated duties

Key requirements for the role:

  • Excellent computer skills
  • Good eye for detail
  • The ability to work well under pressure
  • Courteous

Previous experience requirements:

  • Previous Customer Service Administrative experience gained within an office environment
  • Excellent telephone manner with the ability to communicate at all levels
  • High level of attention to detail and accuracy
  • Good working knowledge of Microsoft Office and experience of in-house systems
  • Ability to multi-task and prioritise own workload
  • Exceptional communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Understanding of the importance of data protection and adherence to the process

Offering free parking and an excellent working environment, this is a great opportunity to join a growing team.

Working Monday to Friday 37.5 hours per week - offering a competitive salary and company benefits.

Read more
New job
Production Operative
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: £8.91 per hour
Location: Needham Market
Role: Full Time
Contract: Temporary
Job ref: 910811
About the role

Want to work in a safe, clean environment?
And have the possibility of ongoing work?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Temporary Production Operative to be based in Needham Market.

Duties include:

  • Ensure all final and completed products are packed to the customer specifications                               
  • Informing Line Leaders of defects found in the products
  • Keep machines supplied with packing materials and labels
  • Assist the Line Leaders with handovers and changeovers
  • Responsible for general cleanliness of the production area and removal of production and general waste
  • Check products on the line for quality and defects
  • Basic production duties carried out in a fast-paced environment

Working hours:

8.30am - 5.00pm Monday to Friday

Read more
New job
Logistics Coordinator
Sector: Transport, Logistics and Shipping
Salary: £24,000 per annum
Location: Ipswich
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910869
About the role

Just Recruitment is delighted to be supporting, a well-regarded, family-run business on the outskirts of Ipswich.

You will be responsible for assisting with the loads out operation of the business by ensuring that the process from collection to arrival at the final destination is fully supported by the relevant goods in haulage documentation.

You will also be supporting the sales function of the business by dealing with customer queries in terms of both sales and operations as well as assisting with various ad-hoc marketing campaigns. This is a very varied role and requires flexibility, commitment and a substantial desire to learn and grow with the flourishing business.

Duties will include:

  • Process orders and oversees the order to completion of paperwork
  • Facilitate the shipping of products from one destination to another
  • Arrange transportation with outside hauliers
  • Receive paperwork from the Weighbridge department and check and complete the paperwork within the allocated time allowed
  • Answer calls and emails relating to customer queries and log them on the CRM system and resolve any outstanding issues raised
  • Keep CRM records up-to-date
  • Work with the sales and operations team to ensure that high customer service levels are achieved and delivered to all customers you are responsible for at all times

Skills required:

  • Good Microsoft skills including Word, Outlook & Excel
  • Ability to work proactively on an independent basis as well as be a good team player
  • You will have the interpersonal skills necessary to develop and sustain effective relationships with team members of other departments and with all customers
  • Good attention to detail and analytical skills
Read more
New job
Legal Secretary (Part-Time)
Sector: Law and Security
Salary: Up to £11.00 per hour
Location: Witham
Role: Part Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910868
About the role

Just Recruitment is delighted to be supporting an established business, based in Witham looking to add a highly-skilled secretary to their long-standing team.

The role will involve, audio typing, preparing documents, answering the phone, dealing with enquiries and assisting colleagues as well as directing queries as needed.

Key responsibilities to include:

  • Audio typing – dictation
  • Preparing letters and drafting documents
  • Handling diaries and booking appointments
  • Answering the phone and dealing with queries
  • General secretarial and office-based duties

As well as having experience in a secretarial position, you will have audio typing experience and excellent typing skills. The role requires you to have a good level of IT literacy, experience of Word (essential) and Excel would be useful. You will take pride in your work and have a caring and sympathetic nature.

Please note this role is part-time.

This is a great opportunity, offering a good pay rate and company benefits.

Read more