We have been working with the Robert Fergusson National Brain Injury Unit for an extended period of time. This is a specialist clinic for the treatment of patients from across Scotland who have suffered psychiatric or behavioural problems after a head injury. The unit has a multi disciplinary team which includes nursing staff, neuropsychiatrists, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, art therapy and social work. No two patients’ needs are the same and the team work together to create bespoke care plans around each patient.
Artist Anne Elliot has been working with Lynda Girvan, art therapist and also the OT team, especially Alice Landrock. They have been working on generating ideas for an artwork that celebrates the patients and the work of the unit. It takes time to establish ways of working and at a certain stage we brought in a new artist, Tom Krasny, to take the project onto a new level and develop a series of workshops with patients and staff. Tom worked on four workshops to further test approaches that would have meaning to the patients. Working with a lightweight foam material, Tom constructed pieces that could be deconstructed and reconstructed by the patients – a bit like arty, colourful, oddly shaped, building bricks.
We were amazed at how well some patients took to this process, happy to take the pieces apart and reconstruct them in whatever way appealed to them. For some people reconstructing was about colour combinations; for others it was about putting different shapes together. The activity captured patients’ attention for up to an hour and a half, which is a mark of success on the Robert Fergusson Unit! We knew that we had hit on something that was of meaning to patients on the unit.