A child practitioner has quit her job as an emotional literacy support assistant in schools after finding herself struggling to give children the mental health care they needed. 

Fran Hanrahan is now delivering an unusual therapy method to Swindon children called 'Drawing and Talking' sessions to help children deal with their own trauma, anger or anxiety. 

The 41-one-year old from Liden and mother of two daughters aged 9 and 11 says she is the only person in Swindon offering this type of therapy, usually done in schools, privately.

It involves the child leading the session armed with a blank piece of paper and pencil.

"It's really, really different to normal 'just talking' therapy and there are lots of things behind it," Fran said. 

"What is really important is that the child is the one who does the drawing and the talking it's completely child-centred, it's essentially therapeutic playwork – the child draws and talks and asks questions around the drawing, you don’t sit and analyse things, you're playing with the picture they’ve drawn."

Swindon Advertiser: Fran Hanrahan, drawing and talking practionerFran Hanrahan, drawing and talking practioner

Fran, who has worked in several schools in Swindon, explained that although schools do have measures in place to address mental health it's not enough, which is why she has gone solo. 

"At one school the number of children I was supporting grew and grew. During Covid I was helping to support 21 children and their families and I felt I was being helpful during a really difficult time.

"But afterwards I found my time to help children with their mental health was becoming limited because schools were so pressured to make sure they were plugging those academic gaps caused by the lockdown."

She says she is already seeing the difference that 'drawing and talking', and regular therapy, is having on the children she sees.

"You will often see three stages appear over 12 sessions, initially the child will draw quite safely whilst they get to know me.

"Then an element of danger may come in the child could be testing me to see if I shock easily, the images may become darker as they process their inner world.

"Finally, you may see more calm pictures and can see they have processed what they are holding onto. The stages do not necessarily flow in this order and they may jump back and forth and you might not see all three."

Fran has also set up a well-being blog on Facebook to help parents. 

To find out more about Fran and drawing and talking sessions visit her page here.