This week, we talk to Dramatherapist Grace Linstead about her experiences working in child and adolescent physical and mental health. Grace is skilled in educational, pastoral, and intimate care for young people, and her patient bedside activities create space for self-awareness and emotional development. As an actor trained in Movement and Theatre in Education, Grace has been heavily involved in delivering our Virtual Connections programme. Grace is a recent addition to the CW+ Participatory Arts programme, and we look forward to seeing her return to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital when appropriate.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
I predominantly work in mental and physical health, and also in bereavement. Dramatherapy is an indirect, playful, and creative form of therapy. We might explore topics and feelings through story, role-play, art, play, and objects. I have a background in acting as well as dance and movement. I started acting classes when I suffered a bereavement myself during my childhood, and the classes really helped me in a variety of ways. I think this unique and personal experience helps me to run my sessions.
I also enjoy yoga, drawing, and painting.
What kind of programme do you run with CW+?
I began working at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital one week before the COVID-19 pandemic became severe and we entered the national lockdown. During that first week, I ran Dramatherapy sessions (using drawing, story cards, postcards, and play) on two of the children’s wards at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I am now involved in the CW+ Virtual Connections programme, which was set up due to COVID-19.
Why are you running your programme with CW+ / within hospitals more generally?
I think CW+ is a fantastic charity as they champion the great benefit the arts have on wellbeing and health. You only need to walk a few steps into the entrance of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to see the beautiful artwork, concerts, and installations inside! Also, generally, I really believe in Dramatherapy having a positive impact on hospital patients. It can be miserable to be in a hospital bed all day, and Dramatherapy sessions can help the patients to express and explore this creatively, and also have some fun in the process! Human connection is also, of course, extremely important when you’re in hospital, as it may sometimes get lonely.
What is it like working with patients? What kind of impact do you think your work has on them?
Working with patients is incredibly rewarding and insightful. I believe they teach me just as much as I teach them (if not more)! I hope my work allows them to play, feel, connect, and forget that they are in hospital – the session may transport them to a different, imaginary world which may provide some relief and excitement. I also believe my sessions can promote confidence within the patients and creatively aid their recovery.
What has it been like working on the CW+ Virtual Connections programme?
Working on the CW+ Virtual Connections programme has been positive – I am really glad that I am still able to reach patients in hospitals with my virtual sessions. It is a shame we cannot be in the hospital at the moment, but the virtual sessions have enabled me to think outside the box, and I think the experience will develop my practice when I am able to once more work face-to-face with patients.
Why do you believe it’s important to run creative programmes in a hospital environment and with hospital patients?
Creative programmes promote autonomy, build confidence, and allow for social and human interaction. They could improve a patient’s wellbeing and mood, as being in hospital can feel like a very negative experience sometimes, especially if the patient is there for a long amount of time. I think all hospitals need to develop some sort of programme like this to help their patients! There is a lot of research showing how the arts can improve wellbeing.
What advice would you give to other artists and organisations who might want to do similar work?
Read the room and talk to the patient about what they might like to do – some patients might want to have a playful and energetic session, and some might want to remain calm and more thoughtful. It usually works best to go with their needs and feed off their energy.
Where can we find you on social media?