Rhythmix - Staff

Sarah's story

Written by Rebecca Hempe, Targeted Youth Support Emotional Wellbeing Team worker for East Sussex Child and Adolecent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

Sarah was fifteen years old when she began to attend the music group.

Sarah had been treated by CAMHS approximately three years earlier for anorexia and anxiety. Sarah had been working with myself on a one-to-one basis since February 2014 and was on the waiting list to return to CAMHS for needs around anxiety, low mood, and “rigid” routines and structures. She had struggled with the school environment and academic pressure, but is a highly academically-able young person and is also exceptionally talented in the creative arts. Whilst Sarah found that being home educated was better for her, it did mean that she had become socially isolated. Due to this, I suggested the music group as a potential option to support Sarah to meet other young people, gain new experiences, and to build her confidence and self-esteem.

Sarah was initially hesitant to try attending the music group, but equally could recognise that she could benefit from increasing her social activities alongside trying things outside of her usual routines to build her confidence and a degree of flexibility. During the initial session, Sarah noted to me in our weekly one-to-one following this that she had found it difficult to be in a new environment with new people, had wanted to leave, and was unsure about continuing. Sarah and I discussed some potential solutions and coping strategies and she continued to attend: part of this was around Sarah increasing her distress tolerance.

Within the first five sessions, Sarah was starting to talk to other young people more and had begun to take on a lead role in the group developing an original song. This included contributing lyrics, negotiating with others about those lyrics and choosing to sing on their original song. There was a marked difference in Sarah’s presentation at group sessions, including Sarah making a point of talking to new attendees to support them (Sarah had been happy to take on a role of informally supporting new young people attending). Sarah also displayed an increased ability to deal with some small changes to plans: for example, one session when other young people were not able to attend for varying reasons and we delivered a one-to-one music lesson instead.

One of the key aspects of supporting Sarah was in later supporting her to engage with the local LGBTQ young people’s group. It is my view that having attended the music group already and been able to manage her feelings of anxiety in a group situation such as this helped Sarah a great deal in being able to join another group which she has since said she has found the most helpful thing for her (given the types of support available around an area she had previously been unable to discuss outside of family).

From my perspective, through Sarah having the music group, we have been able to increase and enhance our support by having a meaningful social situation to focus on in terms of reflection, learning and increasing exposure to some of her anxiety inducing situations. I have seen Sarah progress more through her engagement with groups then I have during one-to-ones.

Sarah has also displayed pride in her achievements at the music group, for example getting in touch with her former school music teacher and letting her know that she had sung on the group’s track. Sarah also now takes a lead role in sharing ideas for the development of the music group and has also resumed writing in her free time linking to her enjoyment of writing lyrics for the music group.

“Sarah has grown in confidence from the start of these sessions last year. She was extremely quiet at first and although often speaks in a very quiet mumbled voice when in a decision making/collaborative group situation, she will now share her opinions, compose and sing her own parts to original music we make and often lead musical direction.”
Zoe Konez, Rhythmix tutor

(*Name changed to protect confidentiality)