Ellie Blatchley is an art therapist in SE London

What attracted you to become a therapist?

I used to work in the human rights field, but always felt so removed. Therapy has felt like a natural way to connect with people and help make real change in people’s lives in a far more tangible way which I am so grateful for.

Where did you train?

The Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education

Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?

Art therapy has nothing to do with technical ability. It's about getting to know yourself in new ways and tapping into your creativity, whatever form that make take in the moment. It looks different for everyone. I use painting, drawing, clay, play-doh, sand, objects and metaphor to encourage curiosity and compassionate enquiry.

I decided to train as an art therapist because of an experience I had in group supervision when I was working as an ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advocate) for Rape Crisis. We had been exploring some relational difficulties in the team, and we were all tiptoeing around the issue. Our supervisor used an art experiment with us and suddenly, there it was in front of us – we had finally said what was difficult without even realising it and we were finally able to confront it, and move on. The arts offer us so much; a way to say something without having to; a way of seeing how you feel reflected back to you; a way of letting go; having fun… the possibilities are endless!

How does art therapy help with symptoms of trauma?

The arts can be such a holding container for trauma. Being able to put something outside of yourself in an image, and have that held by the frame of the page can be incredibly containing. 

Another way the arts can help if creating art feels too much is by using postcard images, as a way of keeping some level of separation from traumatic memories or experiences and this can make it feel safer to explore when you don’t feel ready to put it in your own words. The image can speak for you.

What sort of people do you usually see? 

I work with all people over 18. One area I am particularly passionate about is supporting parents, as it feels like an area where people often feel they should somehow know how to do it “instinctively”, and it is such a hard job. I find the arts really help with this, as they can often be a way of tapping into our own inner child, and to confront issues we had in childhood that might be coming up for us in relationship with our child/ren.

Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?

I feel really encouraged to see how much more open people are being about their mental health; how normal it seems to be becoming to be in therapy and having that stigma broken down. There is still a way to go though.

What do you like about being a therapist?

I feel so honoured to walk alongside people on their journey to recovery – for however long. It is always such a privilege to meet and connect with people.

What is less pleasant?

Tax returns!

How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us?

I am fairly new to Welldoing but am really looking forward to the community events and support that are on offer.

Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?

Only very rarely have I recommended books, it would always be quite specific to an individual situation.

I do sometimes recommend the mindfulness app Insight Timer, as it is a free tool.

What you do for your own mental health?

I love painting and journaling as well as my own therapy and trying to maintain a daily yoga practice. Cake helps too.

You are a therapist in South London. What can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?

South London is such a diverse place to live and work and I think the clients I see reflects that.

What’s your consultation room like?

I have a lovely spacious room in the attic room of a Victorian building opposite West Norwood station – there is a lovely view from the window, lovely light and it’s (usually) nice and warm.

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

That there’s no right way of doing it.

What did you learn about yourself in therapy?

SO many things, but the biggest so far is understanding where my inner critic comes from, and how acknowledging that voice as a part of me who wants the best for me, rather than needing to ignore and push that voice away, has eventually allowed it to quieten down.

Contact Ellie here

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