Andrea Chatten is the Managing Director & Lead Children’s Emotional & Behavioural Psychologist at Unravel. She is also the author of The Blinks novels supporting children’s well-being. Here, she discusses the work that psychology service Unravel does with children, their teachers and their families…
How long has Unravel been practising?
Unravel – a Children’s Emotional & Behavioural Psychology Service was borne in September 2014 and was quickly embraced by schools and parents who were in desperate need for bespoke intervention during highly emotional and challenging times. I knew that there was a service missing in Sheffield and the UK in order to translate and transform the behaviours that children present and to help recognise the needs to help each young person develop positively.
Working with ages 5-16 has given us a deep understanding of developmental psychology and the expertise to help children and their families when behaviours are becoming a problem. Unravel recently celebrated its 5th birthday. Over this period, we have grown into a team of 14 amazing staff who are passionate and committed to improving children’s emotional well-being.
Who needs Unravel?
Unravel is for any child, family or school whereby negative emotions are impacting on well-being and quality of life. Growing up is hard but unless we interrupt the emotional cycle, these issues gain momentum across the lifespan and transcend into cross-generational concerns. The issues children are presenting with now, are more apparent and due to increased awareness, and lack of available services, we are dutybound to help them and as soon as possible.
At Unravel we work with the whole child and help them to name and claim emotions, interrupt negative thinking patterns, gain invaluable insight and learn essential strategies to drive positive change. We work with any emotional issue that are causing problems to self-esteem and positive childhood experiences.
How do headteachers get in touch with Unravel?
Visit our website and have a look in more detail about the impact we have and what others have said about us. We pride ourselves on adapting to every school’s individual need so can create and tailor packages to meet logistical and financial restraints.
Once we have fully discussed the way we will work together, we can begin getting the practical things in place to ensure our time with the children and young people in your school runs as smoothly as possible. We will also provide an impact report at the end of each academic year or intervention which feeds into your evaluation of the service and into correlated data to provide to Ofsted.
Can anyone access Unravel?
We are moving slowly and steadily across the country. Although we are based in Sheffield, private clients have travelled from as far as Edinburgh and London to access our services. We have also worked with children and young people internationally via skype. We aim to have Unravel available to wherever needs us, so get in touch and we will see what we can do.
Mental health is becoming more widely understood by pupils, parents and teachers – but is there still more to be done?
We haven’t even started yet. Accessing services to support children’s emotional well-being shouldn’t take 18 months but it often does and that is being optimistic. We term this as societal child abuse. No child should feel distressed or suicidal for half an hour longer than they need too. We need to get to children whilst they are psychologically “ripe” in order to prevent greater problems arising on top of the original issues causing emotional imbalance.
What could school leaders do to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of pupils is really a priority in school?
School leaders know that mental health is a priority in school as it presents many challenges every day. The knock-on effect also impacts on staff well-being, learning outcomes, costly permanent exclusion penalties and ultimately exam results and future prospects. Often, the schools we work in not only feel a benefit because of the work we are doing with the children and young people, but they also are able to feel a sense of relief as someone is doing the work that they feel out of their depth with. Schools are educational organisations but the demands to become experts in such a complex and sensitive area often brings heightened stress and concern. Schools are in safe hands with Unravel we will take that burden and pressure of you.
Could you give a short case study of a pupil, their school and family who have been helped by Unravel?
I once worked with a Y9 pupil who tried to commit suicide in school. This person had over many years masked what he was really feeling and tried to be what he thought he should be. Luckily, I was able to work with him straight away. This young person was in severe emotional distress and had many undiagnosed conditions that complicated the situation further. We worked together every week, sometimes twice a week for just over two years. Over this time, he began developing possible psychosis and so I was able to contact CAMHS and explain what was happening and find out where he was in the referral system since his suicide attempt. He was still 6 months away from being seen but they understood my concern and fast-tracked him through.
Sadly, this young person’s parents did not want to accept the reality of the issues and so avoided appointments and he was consequently struck off. The young person and I were on our own, but we just kept going. Over time, he learned many strategies, which he tells me he still uses today. We challenged bias thinking patterns, engaged in mindfulness, relaxation. Applied neuroscience to help him understand his brain which also gave him the “why’s” which he needed to stick at things on more difficult days. By the time he left in Y11, he received the most outstanding pupil award. This intervention cost the school just over £4000 over two and a half years. A small price to pay for life, don’t you agree?
If you are interested in how Unravel can help your school you can email them today.