Little girl with a fringe and bunches holding the palm of her hands showing with lots of paint on them. The Girl is smiling.


Understanding Therapeutic Services

29 Dec 2020

At the core of our work is relationship building and having the communications of the child or the young person understood. We need to understand what makes them tick and what they are trying to tell us.

Break's Therapeutic Services is made up of a team of social workers, therapists, therapeutic practitioners and emotional wellbeing practitioners, providing one-to-one support for children, young people, their caregivers and families. Working together, we provide a spectrum of emotional support to children who have experienced past trauma, abuse, neglect and are sometimes unable to live within their own families. 

Jo Shepherd, Break's Head of Community Services, gives an insight into the support we provide:


"We work from a relationship-based perspective; seeking to strengthen the key relationships that will support the longer term emotional well-being of our children and young people. The young people often present with challenging behaviours and struggle to engage with opportunities or education. We can work together for anything from 12 weeks to 3 or 4 years. The help and support we provide is very much about meeting the needs of the child or young person – not fitting the child into a ‘one size fits all’ service, and seeking to support their relationships with their main care givers.

Sessions are typically one hour per week, providing consistency and predictability. For younger children we will use a range of creative approaches- play, sensory work, using sand trays, art or ‘small world’ play to explore directly and indirectly what the child understands about relationships, their feelings and experiences. Some of our care leavers might prefer going for a walk, in order to feel safe and start building trust. Flexibility and creativity is a must.

It’s amazing how a child innately knows what they need to process – they describe how they do things, or what is going on in their own world by making up stories, reflecting on their experiences and what sense they make of it. These unconscious processes provide information to us so that we can work on in overcoming any past trauma and experiences.

One young chap in foster care we worked with had experienced unimaginable trauma throughout his early years. We worked with him over a period of a couple of years. He would create worlds and stories – no one fed it to him, but his imagination would go wild. Over time we would review the stories and ‘worlds’, reflecting with and talking to his parents. The work we did helped to strengthen the relationship at home with his foster carers and helped him to work through his experiences. 

For me it's a form of alchemy. Something magical happens.

We see behaviours as a communication. So often the desire of society is to stop a behaviour, but we very much are asking ‘what are they trying to communicate with that behaviour?’ - Are they scared?  Unsafe? Possibly on hyper alert a lot of the time, waiting for something bad to happen to them?

Many children are referred to us with the school communicating that the child can’t access school work or is disruptive. From school referrals to the most traumatized young people in our homes, it is the same story across the board regardless of the label. For us their behaviour is a communication: the young person is completely full of past, or current, experiences and they live in a constant fight or flight state as they never feel safe. 

Break's Therapeutic Services is about helping these young people to process and make sense of their experiences. Our work is informed by an understanding of the importance of early experiences on brain development, even from as early as 12-14 weeks of life, which can have a lasting impact on the individual.

We have to ask the question through our work – is it that the young person won’t or that they can’t.  This absolutely shifts the dynamic – what do they know and what is unconscious, played out as behaviours."

To read about how you can help support this service click here.

Read more about our Therapeutic Services