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Phil Jones, Lynn Cedar, Alyson Coleman, Deborah Haythorne, Daniel Mercieca, Emma Ramsden

Memory, beliefs, childhoods and the arts therapies: challenges and innovations

Childhoods are changing. Centuries old cultural traditions, held and passed on through the interconnections of memory and oppressive attitudes are being challenged. These have been seen as unquestioned norms and maintained in ways that range from our individual and collective unconscious to healthcare policies and practices. Memory and beliefs hold and keep alive negative stereotypes of a child as passive, unable to make decisions of worth and needing adults to make decisions or to act in their ‘best interests’ about children's bodies and minds.

This keynote is based on innovatory theory, research and practice that challenges the power of such cultural memory and attitude. It connects drama, art, music and dance movement therapy to recent developments in the new sociology of childhood (Corsaro, 2017) and children's rights (Jones and Welch 2020) to develop new ways of theorising, researching and practising arts therapy with children. It will draw on a range of perspectives, including those of child clients. The keynote will be driven by three questions:
• How do traditional cultural beliefs and our collective memories and associations with childhood impact negatively on therapy with children?
• How can recent concepts and practices rooted in child rights, child voice and child agency offer challenges to the influences of such memories and associations on the arts therapies?
• What do such innovative ideas and ways of working offer to children, arts therapy service provision, research and therapist education?

The six co-presenters came into contact through professional and research networks. They discovered shared concerns, issues and challenges within the field of child agency and rights in practice and research. They engaged with these concepts through discussions, exploratory workings and by conducting research projects which led to the co-writing of the publication on which this proposal is based.

Jones, P. (2021) The Arts Therapies: A Revolution in Healthcare, Second Edition,
London: Routledge.
Ramsden, E. & Landy, R. J. (2021) Role Theory and the Role Method of Drama Therapy explored through the case of Peter Pan. In Read Johnson, D., Current Approaches in Drama Therapy, USA, Charles Thomas.
Ecarte (2019) Shine a Light on Autism (SaLoA) - Feasibility study for a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) of Dramatherapy for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (autism) in schools: presentation of preliminary findings (Ramsden, Cedar, Haythorne, Barrachina, Lewis, Fontenille).

Mercieca, D. and Jones, P. (2018) ‘Use of a reference group in researching children’s views of psychotherapy in Malta’, Journal of Child Psychotherapy, Vol. 44, No. 2, 243–262.

Coleman, D. and Ramsden, E. (2017) Paper presentation ‘The voice of the membership: Dramatherapy in the UK today’, North American Association of Drama Therapy, Boston, USA.


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