Therapeutic Practice

At Hillcrest Shifnal School we recognise that emotional wellbeing is an essential pre-requisite for academic success, positive behaviour and positive mental health. As a team we work proactively to build esteem, self-image, aspiration and a sense of belonging. We also recognise that the work we do here doesn’t just impact upon the young person whilst they are with us, but lays the future foundations for a happy, meaningful and healthy lifestyle. We aim to equip our young people with the skills, belief systems and confidence to achieve in school, at home and in the world of lifelong learning and work.

Whole School Approach

Staff receive training in approaches and theories which inform and underpin their work with young people. Training is accessed via our in-house multi-disciplinary clinical team, led by Dr Katie Caddick-Eardley (Clinical Lead and Senior Specialist Educational Psychologist). Training approaches and topics include: ‘Emotional Coaching’, ‘Complex Trauma’, ‘Emotional Literacy’, ‘Therapeutic Parenting’ and ‘PACE’:

‘PACE’ stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy (an approach which is central to Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy). The PACE approach of-fers our staff a way of thinking, feeling, communicating and behaving that aims to make the young person feel safe and secure. Through PACE our staff are encour-aged to focus on the whole child, not simply their behaviour. It helps our young people to reflect upon themselves, their thoughts, feelings and behaviour, building the skills that are so necessary for maintaining a successful and satisfying life.

At Hillcrest, we use ‘Emotion Coaching’ as a complimentary approach to ‘PACE’. This uses moments of heightened emotion and resulting behaviour to guide and teach our young people about more effective responses. Through empathetic engagement the young person’s emotional state is verbally acknowledged and validated, promoting a sense of security and feeling ‘felt’.

Many of our young people have complex needs and diagnosed conditions. Many have experienced adverse backgrounds, involving childhood trauma and attachment difficulties. Their emotional wellbeing and development are often impacted negatively by such experiences. Training around related areas enable staff to make sense of the young person’s behaviours, in light of their experiences and conditions, thus enabling staff to respond in an informed and therapeutic manner. This, in turn, facilitates the development of positive staff and pupil relationships and the development of positive emotional and social wellbeing.

Research supports the link between emotional wellbeing and academic achievement. Out approaches at Hillcrest aim to meet the emotional, social and behavioural needs of pupils, thus enabling them to engage and achieve more successfully in ‘learning’ at school.

In addition to training, all staff receive regular ‘Reflective Practice’ sessions, in groups or individually, with a member of our in-house clinical team. As part of reflective practice, staff are encouraged to pay critical attention to their responses to situations in school, so as to gain greater insight into situations and engage in a process of continuous learning. This happens in an open and supportive environment.

In addition to whole school approaches, our school has Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (‘ELSA’s’): these members of staff have had training in topics such as: social skills, emotions, bereavement, social stories, anger management, self-esteem, counselling skills and friendship. Their role is to develop and deliver individualised support programmes to meet the emotional needs of children and teenagers in their care. It recognises that children learn better and are happier in school if their emotional needs are also addressed. ELSA’s receive regular supervision, via an Educational Psychologist, to support their role. Young people receive ELSA support either on an individual or group intervention basis.

Clinical Team Support

Strategic and direct therapeutic support within the school is led by Dr Katie Caddick-Eardley (Clinical Lead and Senior Specialist Educational Psychologist) and is delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians whom our education staff work closely with. The school is supported from a range of disciplines including: Psychotherapy, Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy. The team are able to undertake a full range of specialist assessments and, if indicated through the EHCP or clinical plans, offer therapeutic and psychological interventions to individuals and groups of young people.

Offering highly specialised screening, assessment, consultation, reflective practice supervision and bespoke training, the embedded clinical team work directly with the education team to develop a shared understanding of the young person’s presenting needs and difficulties which may act as barriers to their personal and educational development as well as identify areas of strength which can support them to achieve, enjoy and fulfil their aims and wishes. The clinical team support the education team in developing a pupil centred curriculum which proactively promotes the young people’s emotional, social and mental health. We aim to deliver the highest quality provision which maximises each person’s quality of life and personal achievements. Our evidence informed models are based on best practice guidance and are governed through the Outcomes First Group Governance Framework. As well as classroom-based interventions, the clinical team offer direct therapeutic work within the school’s designated therapy suite. This offers the children and young people a safe and private protected space within which to engage with a therapist.