“Every opportunity should be a therapeutic opportunity”
Today, it’s a freezing cold day, but speaking with Kerry Robertson, Innovate Services Therapeutic Care Lead, soon warms the heart.
Kerry, who joins Innovate with over 16 years’ experience in supporting children in their recovery from trauma, shares her journey with us and her aspirations for Innovate therapeutic care.
Q. Could you tell us about your journey into therapeutic care?
A. Where do I start? Condensing everything is quite a challenge, but I remember clearly where my journey began.
I was studying for my BA in Psychology and Counselling Skills at Chester University when a friend of mine working at a children’s residential home suggested I apply for a role. She thought I could use my skills as a residential care worker, and she was right.
I loved the role. I was able to explore how attachments and trauma inform behaviour, responses, and relationships. It was a real lightbulb moment.
Everything fell into place, and I knew that this is what I wanted to do in my career. I wanted to spend more concentrated time with children to see their journey and be part of it.
At the home, there were many vulnerable children with complex needs. Some were self-harming. Yet, with the right therapeutic support, it was personally and professionally rewarding to see them stop self-harming and transition from institutional care into a home environment.
I had found my place, and it wasn’t long until I was promoted to the role of keyworker. As a keyworker, I undertook life story training, which I found incredibly interesting. I could see the benefits of how, as a team, we were supporting children.
Once I graduated with my BA, I applied for a therapist role at the Family Care Group. Working on a one-to-one basis with children, I thoroughly explored the benefits of play therapy and how it could address underlying issues that were otherwise too difficult to resolve. At the same time, I completed my Diploma in Play Therapy and then a MA in Practised Based Play Therapy, which complimented my learning and growth as a therapist.
During my employment with Family Care Group I also trained as a Filial Coach and I was seconded to work at a fostering and adoption service. Here, I worked with families and foster carers struggling to connect with children in their care. I introduced them to the world of play therapy, teaching them techniques to build attachments.
Whilst working at Family Care Group I held many play therapy sessions with children in residential care, and as the organisation changed their mindset to working more holistically, I also trained foster carers, education staff, and residential teams.
After all, a therapeutic model of care only works if everyone understands and takes the same approach.
As Family Care Group evolved, we invested in a therapeutic model that informed everything we did. It was hard changing culture and encouraging people to invest, but we did.
I progressed through several roles at the Family Care Group before joining Innovate Services in December 2020. My parting role was as Lead Therapeutic Practitioner. I was responsible for developing and overseeing therapeutic trauma-informed care across three services; fostering, education and residential and managing a team of therapists.
Q. You’re also a keen educator. Could you tell us more?
A. I am passionate about expanding my knowledge and using this to train others. In 2013, the Academy of Play and Child Psychotherapy (APAC) approached me to train as a Course Director. I jumped at the chance to share my knowledge with play therapy students completing the first year of their MA.
I loved seeing each student go on a professional and personal journey through my teaching. Witnessing how much their thinking changed and how they could reflect on themselves and their practice was a real privilege. It also widened my skills, knowledge, and understanding within the policy and procedural context.
Q. What made you decide to join Innovate Services?
A. I am at the point in my career where I want to be even more influential. At Innovate Services, I have the opportunity to help create a therapeutic culture.
What drew me to Innovate Services is how everyone works together. Although I am the lead, therapeutic care does not just sit with one person; we work as a team.
It’s a great time to join Innovate Services. My role is to support embedding therapeutic thinking into all the processes and structures that hold the service together. I have an excellent basis to work with.
Everyone at Innovate Services has a good understanding of trauma and shares the same values of wanting to make a big difference in children’s lives.
Q. What are your plans for therapeutic care at Innovate?
A. It’s a really exciting opportunity at Innovate. I will draw on my 16 years’ experience working within a therapeutic culture and use my understanding of new research and neuroscience. Working with Emma Blakemore and the team, we’ll establish a holistic approach to therapeutic care.
Together, we will create the best possible therapeutic care for children in care – a place for children to access therapy and feel empowered to seek support for themselves.
Children will be supported to work through their difficulties and past traumas and learn new ways of being and behaving.
My job is to make sure we’re thinking therapeutically and creating processes that reflect the therapeutic practice. Innovate Services therapeutic model will be integral to everything we do. It will run through every aspect of our being as a service, from senior management, HR, finance, and marketing, through to business support, and of course, our practitioners.
The best possible care children can get in terms of therapeutic experiences is to be healed through relationships and everyday interactions. We’re reframing their understanding and helping them to feel secure in relationships again.
Every opportunity should be a therapeutic opportunity, and our systems will reflect that. Part of this is also making sure we always look after each other to ensure every team member feels safe, secure, and respected and this in turn will support their emotional resilience.
I see my role as a nurturing one. I love gardening, planting seeds, tending to them, and watching them grow. I want to do this at Innovate!
Q. Could you tell us a little about your personal motivation?
A. Just like everyone, I pushed the boundaries as a teenager, but I always felt loved and had a sense of belonging. I know I was cared for and wanted. It’s healthy for teenagers to go through this and have time to risk-take under an umbrella of security.
Not every child has the opportunity, and so I wanted to find a way of helping children, families, and carers develop secure relationships. I want children to have the support and care I had, to help them make the right decisions.
Q. How do you switch off from such an involved role?
A. Self-care is important. I have a family who I love spending time with. My young son and daughter remind me how important my job is, and I enjoy being silly and creative with them! We all go out for walks together and enjoy time at home.
I’m a social bee! When I’m not with them, I’m with my mum or being sociable with my friends.
Oh, and my dog, I love going for a walk with my dog and switching off and taking in everything around me! He listens to me and doesn’t answer back; he just lets me clear my mind, he’s the best therapy.
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