AFT Conference 2015 – workshop report

This is a report about one of the workshops I went to at the AFT conference in Canterbury last September. It’ll be published in the Spring edition of “Context”.

Workshop report: Philippa Beale ‘Families in the Wild’

Having a great personal connection to wild places myself led me to choose this workshop, especially as I have usually seen ‘the wild’ as an escape from work, rather than part of it!

Philippa presented the ‘Families in the Wild’ project which she runs in partnership with Imayla, a local social enterprise offering ‘participatory arts and environmental activities within an intercultural context that seek to combine the traditional and the contemporary, and a rural, urban and global perspective’ and Westburghs City Farm, ‘a green oasis in the heart of Bristol’, for families whose children are in the local CAMHS in-patient unit.

Some of the influences on the project were ideas from Multi-Family Therapy, an Eia Asen workshop, Sure Start and an Eco therapy Conference in 2011.

Philippa explored her own connections to ‘the wild’ and gave us opportunities to do the same. The presentation looked at the evidence base for ‘ecotherapy’, the genesis and development of the project, which 39 families have now attended, the activities, evaluations and outcomes, including direct feedback from families.

Some key outcomes seemed to be helping to change patterns of relationships between parents and children, for families to be less isolated, helping families to work together and building richer narratives which offered a glimpse of what’s possible, to find new solutions.

We discussed the connections between ecotherapy ideas and ‘Family Therapy’ and whether the work of the project could be described as such.

Philippa also gave some useful tips on how to develop and sustain an approach which sits outside the usual CAMHS activities. I particularly liked her advice that calling it a ‘pilot’ lessened management anxieties, as it implied it could always come to an end!

I was interested in the multi agency collaboration which is at the heart of how the project works. It was heartening to hear of creative approaches like this in difficult times.

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