Talking Mats and Mental Health


A Child and Adolescent Mental Health team specialising in learning disability reflect on how using Talking Mats has impacted their clinical work.

Laura, our North West Associate, met up with Carla Innes, Lead Clinical Psychologist, and Clare Royle, Family Support Worker, 6 months after they attended our 1 day Talking Mats training course in Stockport. Nine members of the NHS Pennine Care Healthy Young Minds Team were trained with a view to introducing Talking Mats as part of their “challenging behaviour pathway”

Carla and Claire said that the staff team are very positive about the impact of Talking Mats. The overall impression is that Talking Mats has enabled staff to gain an individualised sense of the child or young person they are working with, as well as empowering the children and young people to share their views and opinions. Carla also notes that using Talking Mats has helped her to focus on the child/young person’s abilities/potential – their ‘zone of proximal development’ – and to ensure that everyone is working within that.
Some of the other positive features of using Talking Mats include:
– Providing ‘headspace’ for the child/young person to process their thoughts and to really consider what is important to them.
– Giving a holistic, child/YP centred account and narrative of their feelings and behaviour.
– Helping to inform and direct clinical decision making e.g. introduction of an approach such as CBT.
– Enabling children/young people who have previously refused, or been very reluctant, to share their views and opinions about topics which have been troubling them for example, school attendance and issues with sleep.
– Providing of a communication framework which is neutral and non-threatening – much less intense than direct verbal questioning or conversation.
– Helping to make abstract concepts more concrete for the listener to understand.
– Being a safe, flexible and quick method of finding practical solutions and determining direct actions.
– Enabling the listener to gain a better understanding of the thinker’s level of knowledge and understanding about a particular topic such as healthy eating. This can help inform capacity assessments e.g. in terms of medical consent or the use of medication. The mental capacity act states that appropriate support should be given to young people to make informed decisions and to communicate those decisions.being_involved_in_decisions
In addition, from a wider team perspective, Carla and Clare report that they have all noticed benefits in terms of consistency of Talking Mats use by all members of the multi-disciplinary team. Each team member using the Talking Mats tool is working from a slightly different perspective; using Talking Mats ensures that the child/young person is kept at the centre of the process. This results in a truly holistic view of the child/young person’s feelings, views and opinions.

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