Work with People with Mental Health Issues

Work with people mental health issues


Firstly it is important to say that this “group” involves us all – as well all have “mental health”, be it good, bad or indifferent. Even if someone has good mental health at the moment, one in four of us will have some sort of an experience of significant negative mental health experience at some point in our lives.
So our focus in this field is much about working to promote the skills – communication, empathy, and problem solving – that can maintain positive mental health as much as working with people currently experiencing mental health difficulties.

We therefore work across a wide range of settings, in hospitals, “halfway houses”, schools and through community and voluntary groups.

Projects can be sometimes purely creative – a therapy in itself, or geared towards promoting rehabilitation skills in communication and confidence building.

Wolf + Water also specialise in using drama and arts techniques to work alongside psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health care workers on expressly therapeutic programmes. Drama and arts are used to encourage clients to address old problems with new approaches in a safe & controlled environment.

Quite often people experiencing negative mental health can feel overwhelmed by the volume and strength of the emotions & intrusive thoughts that they are experiencing. The work Wolf + Water undertakes seeks to work with clients to create a new mythology of the mind, a new language with which participants can explore the internal rules they operate under and the “masks” or “fronts” of behaviour they use to try & cope with difficulties. This ultimately allows them to articulate and understand their behaviours & more importantly provides a framework with which to begin to change them.

Wolf + Water can provide

Past Projects

Some of our many past projects include:

“The Movement Project” – Ilfracombe, North Devon (UK)

This Peoples’ Health Lottery project developed in collaboration with the Ilfracombe Link Centre is a weekly group that brings together Link Centre members and other people from the wider community the explore the relationship between our bodies & movement, and our mental health.

The group recently went and delivered their own participatory workshop for professionals and fellow service users as part of the North Devon Mental Health Day.

It’s enjoyable and you have a laugh. I miss it when I don’t come. It’s helped me come out of myself more

It’s something to get up for, to look forward to. And it has helped me join a group, because for me, I don’t cope with groups of people, so it’s been a really big thing for me

Please also see – “Movement & Dance”)


“The Workplace Project” – Bideford & Barnstaple Link Centres, North Devon 2013

This was two weekly sessions running over a 6 month period working with men with Aspergers and autism who were involved in local mental health services. This group, which, as one participant described, was “a group for people who don’t do groups” explored with participants the idea of “work”. “Work” in its widest sense of meaningful activity. It looked at the many difficulties that participants experienced in both finding work, and even if they did so, the challenges the working environment presented to them in the light of their condition.

The drama and visual arts based sessions focussed on skills and self confidence development, and involved visits from representatives from the local Job Centre, and successful business people who also had Aspergers.


Mind Your Head – North Devon District Hospital Department of Psychiatry – 2007 – 2008

Was a one day a week, 18 month Lankelly Chase Foundation funded research project working with the two psychiatric wards at North Devon District Hospital. Being acute wards meant that this was a very changeable population both in terms of who was there, and also week to week how people were feeling.

So each Friday we would arrive as a group of artists ready to do six hours of virtually anything and everything for more or less anyone at any part of the day.

Visual arts – painting, mask making, stained glass painting and ceramics always proved popular whereby people could be in a group but also in their own space as they needed to be. But electronic music, creative writing and drama proved popular too.

One of the most unexpected successes was dance and movement. For people feeling really anxious is was a release, while for others who were feeling the physical side effects of heavy medication, or who had had suffered physical or sexual abuse, it enabled them to reconnect with their bodies in a positive way.

The other key aspect to this project was working with participants and staff to create a monthly video magazine – which showcased the activities and work people had done, either in the group or individually. Interviews with staff or doing tours of the unit that we filmed were used to introduce new admissions onto the wards in a non threatening way.

The project was also open to patients who had been discharged to keep coming back to by means of a way of continuity and so the process of recovery could be monitored. The project ran deliberately on Fridays, as a boost before the weekend, a period that often found most difficult to get through.

Another important element in the project was the use of the now sadly departed Company mascot, Intrepid the Dog, a very sensitive and loveable hound, who patients in a vulnerable state often found easier to relate to than any human being. He was regularly borrowed by staff to simply go and sit alongside patients who were on sucide watch.

The hospital report at the end of the project showed that “Mind Your Head” had overall reduced “Serious Incidents” (violence, self harm, absconding) by 76% on the days it was in.

I have electroconvulsive therapy on a Friday morning and the group is very helpful in getting me functioning again
Fun, built my confidence. I was able to talk to other patients from my ward in this setting, which I hadn’t been able to do before

It has given me hope that I will be able to function when I finally go home


Face Value – Exeter University 1997 -8 – Across Devon, Cornwall & London (UK)

“Face Value” was a performance and workshop package developed with Exeter University that basically took a cognitive behavioural therapy approach to issues of low self esteem and self harm and turned it into an audience interactive theatre performance. This toured to a variety of groups in hospital and youth service settings.

I found Face Value extremely powerful. It was incredible to realise the powerful impact that drama can carry and the positive results it can produce

Face Value changed the way in which I rationalise the problems I face on a day to day basis. The programme made difficult subject matter fun and you were able to absorb all the relevant information in an interesting way


Conferences, Consultancy & Training

Wolf + Water have contributed bespoke performances and workshops to conferences both nationally and locally, including the Mind Your Head, National Arts & Mental Health Conference (Birmingham, UK, 2000), the I Am Live Conference (Loughborough University 1999)

…great workshop…we all enjoyed it very much & appreciated not only what you did but your approach to the work & the group
Brilliant, very funny & astute – a great sum up & ending
Wolf + Water were the best possible choice for summarizing the weekend – entertaining, very funny, very serious, very understanding, very insightful
I haven’t laughed so much in ages – this performance was the best way to end the whole event – it summed it all up – fantastic. I wish could see it again! All events & conferences should be ended in this way

Wolf + Water have trained therapists and mental health workers world wide, including for the Little Star Centre, Chechnya, and FK Norway.