Express yourself with art therapy

Express yourself with art therapy

Do you sometimes feel its difficult to really explain how you are feeling in words? There are other ways you can express how you feel…

Sometimes it’s a sound, like a sigh or a scream. Or an action that helps people understand how you are feeling, like when you cry or tense up.

Being able to express yourself using art materials can be another way to help you and others understand your feelings.

Like splashing some paint around to show you are confused or excited.

Or stamping your hands into some clay to vent your anger.

Or making marks with pens or pencils to express your frustration with something.

Or making a drawing to help you work something through which is making you anxious or sad.

Art can be a great way to express yourself; it can be a mindful experience to calm your anxiety, it can be an expressive activity to work through your problems and share with people you feel safe with.

You could see an art therapist and use art materials and making as part of the therapeutic process. Art therapy can redirect attention away from worrying thoughts which in turn can help regulate the nervous system. If this is something you are interested in for either your self or your child, please contact the Retreat Clinics.

Group Therapy for 11- 14 year olds at our Manchester Clinic

Low Self Esteem

Self-esteem is a critical aspect of our mental health and overall well-being. It’s the foundation of our self-perception, influencing how we see ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we navigate the world around us. High self-esteem can lead to a more positive outlook on life, increased resilience in the face of challenges, and better relationships. On the other hand, low self-esteem can limit our potential, causing us to miss out on opportunities and experiences. Therefore, learning how to improve self-esteem is a vital step towards personal growth and development.

The importance of self-esteem cannot be overstated. It is closely linked to our happiness, success, and satisfaction in life. When we have healthy self-esteem, we are more likely to pursue our goals with confidence, take care of our physical, emotional, and mental health, and maintain strong, fulfilling relationships. Furthermore, improving self-esteem can help combat issues like anxiety and depression. Here are some practical tips and strategies to boost your self-esteem, supporting you on your journey to a more confident and empowered self.

What is Low Self-Esteem?

Low self-esteem is characterised by a lack of confidence and feeling bad about oneself. People with low self-esteem often feel unlovable, awkward, or incompetent. Common symptoms of low self-esteem include heavy self-criticism and regularly comparing oneself to others. People with low self-esteem often have trouble accepting compliments and will frequently downplay their own achievements. They may exhibit social withdrawal or shyness, increased susceptibility to stress, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Understanding the Causes of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is often rooted in early life experiences, but various factors can contribute to its development. Understanding these causes is the first step towards addressing and improving low self-esteem.

Childhood Experiences: Negative experiences during childhood, such as persistent criticism, bullying, neglect, or abuse, can significantly impact a person’s self-esteem. Children who grow up without adequate validation and support from their parents or caregivers may struggle with feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy into adulthood.

Trauma and Abuse: Traumatic experiences at any stage of life, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, can cause a person to develop a negative self-image. Victims of trauma or abuse may blame themselves for what happened, leading to feelings of shame and a decreased sense of self-worth.

Societal Pressure and Comparisons: Society often imposes unrealistic standards related to appearance, success, and behaviour. Regular exposure to such standards, especially through media, can lead to comparisons, making individuals feel inferior if they do not measure up.

Mental Health Disorders: Certain mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, are closely linked with low self-esteem. These conditions can generate negative thoughts and feelings about oneself, further lowering self-esteem.

Failure or Setbacks: Experiencing failures or setbacks in significant areas of life, such as career or relationships, can cause a person to question their abilities and worth, leading to lower self-esteem.

Health Issues: Chronic physical health problems can also impact self-esteem, especially if they lead to changes in appearance or physical capabilities.

Recognising causes is a crucial step in the journey towards improving self-esteem. It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with self-esteem is unique, and different people might have different causes for their low self-esteem. By understanding these causes, individuals can start to challenge their negative self-perceptions and work towards building a healthier and more positive self-image.

The Connection Between Depression, Anxiety, and Low Self-Esteem

The relationship between depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem is complex and intertwined. Each can influence and exacerbate the other, creating a cycle that can be challenging to break.

Depression often involves feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and a negative outlook on life. These symptoms align closely with the characteristics of low self-esteem. Individuals with low self-esteem frequently have negative thoughts about themselves and their abilities, which can trigger depressive symptoms. Over time, these depressive symptoms can further lower their self-esteem, creating a vicious cycle.

Similarly, low self-esteem can also contribute to anxiety. People with low self-esteem may live in constant fear of making mistakes or not living up to their own or others’ expectations because they believe they are inadequate or inferior. This excessive worry and fear can manifest as anxiety. In turn, living with chronic anxiety can further erode self-esteem, as individuals may start to negatively judge themselves for their anxious feelings and behaviours.

Conversely, both depression and anxiety can lead to low self-esteem. Living with these mental health conditions can make individuals feel different, isolated, or less capable than others, leading to a decrease in self-esteem. They might blame themselves for their mental health issues, leading to feelings of shame and a further decline in self-worth.

In essence, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety are deeply connected, each one potentially leading to and reinforcing the others. This interconnection underscores the importance of addressing all three issues in treatment. Improving self-esteem can be a significant step in managing depression and anxiety, just as effectively treating depression and anxiety can boost self-esteem.

Strategies for Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

Overcoming low self-esteem requires a multi-faceted approach that focuses on both internal and external factors. Internally, it’s essential to engage in positive self-talk and affirmations. These involve regularly reminding yourself of your worth, achievements, and strengths. Also, practicing mindfulness and meditation can help in managing negative thoughts and emotions about oneself. Reading self-help books and seeking professional help from psychologists or therapists can provide techniques and strategies to improve self-esteem.

Externally, surrounding yourself with positive influences is crucial. This means associating with people who uplift you, believe in you, and inspire you to be the best version of yourself. Engaging in activities that make you happy and boost your confidence can also contribute significantly to improving self-esteem. Furthermore, physical exercise not only improves health but also promotes a positive body image and increases feel-good hormones, contributing to healthier self-esteem. Remember, overcoming low self-esteem is a journey and it’s okay to have ups and downs along the way.

The Role of Therapy in Improving Self-Esteem

At The Retreat Clinics, we understand that low self-esteem can be crippling, influencing every aspect of your life. That’s why our starting point for therapy is to offer an individual consultation to think with you about your worries or concerns and identify the approach to therapy that is most likely to help. We firmly believe in a personalised approach as each individual is unique and so are their struggles with self-esteem.

Among the therapeutic approaches we employ, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) could help you identify negative thought patterns that lead to low self-esteem and equips you with strategies to challenge and change these thoughts. It encourages a more realistic and positive outlook on oneself.

Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT), or another exploratory therapy could help you to identify and change patterns in relationships and behaviours that contribute to low self-esteem.

Integrative Therapy combines elements from different therapy styles like psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive-behavioural therapies. This blended approach allows us to tailor the therapy to your specific needs and circumstances, providing a holistic solution to low self-esteem. At The Retreat Clinics, we aim to empower you to regain control over your self-perception and lead a more fulfilling, confident life.

Perhaps put a final subheading here? We care about your self-esteem? Too cheesy?

Self-esteem is closely tethered to our overall happiness, success, and satisfaction. It’s a cornerstone for our mental health and well-being, playing an instrumental role in shaping our self-perception. From the way we view ourselves to how we engage with others and make sense of our environment, self-esteem has a profound impact. A healthy level of self-esteem not only fosters a positive life perspective, resilience, and enriching relationships but also propels us towards personal growth and development.

Should you find yourself struggling with low self-esteem, don’t hesitate to connect with The Retreat Clinics. We offer effective therapy, evaluation, and support for adults, children, and young people seeking to enhance their lives. Our services are accessible either from our clinics in York and Manchester or virtually. Start your journey towards improvement by filling out a self-referral form available at this link:

Limited Funding Available for Free Therapy for Children and Young People

Our Quaker led charity has provided mental health services for over 200 years. Our services are firmly based in our values of compassion, collaboration, and community building. We are passionate about helping people, giving hope, and building resilience. We’re aware that for many people it’s difficult to find the resources to fund therapy, especially now, and so we have dedicated a small fund to provide free therapy for children and young people whose family is in receipt of means tested welfare benefits. Our therapy services are now available in Manchester, York and online (depending on the clinical safety of online work).

 What are we offering?

We are offering a limited number of places for up to 10 free therapy sessions, to children and young people whose family is in receipt of means tested welfare benefits.

How do I know if my child needs this?

Your child may be struggling with difficulties around anxiety or low mood or patterns of behaviour. As this is only time limited therapy, we suggest that this therapy is most suitable for young people who have mild-moderate difficulties. Please note, therapy generally isn’t suitable for people who feel in crisis or who need urgent mental health support.

How will it work?

We will ask you to complete a brief form and provide some information about the welfare benefits you are receiving. We can go through this process on the phone with you or send you the form to complete if you prefer. One of our clinical team will then triage your referral and, if eligible, you will be offered an initial 50 minute appointment with a therapist. Following this session you may be offered up to 9 additional sessions, most likely with the therapist you have already met.

How can I find out more?

We would be happy to talk to you on the phone about the service and whether you might be eligible. Please call us on 0161 445 2099 (Manchester), 01904 412551 (York)  or email us on

How to care for someone following the loss of a child.

This blog contains emotionally sensitive information, please take care. If you feel that you need to talk to someone more urgently than therapy, please find a list of useful organisations who offer support below. If you feel that you need immediate support, please contact The Samaritans or your GP or other forms of crisis support.

The loss of a child profoundly impacts the lives of parents and their loved ones.  When someone you care about has lost a child, it can be hard to know how best to support them. Each person’s grief experience is unique, and finding the right words can be hard.  Often, we worry about saying the wrong thing or upsetting the person which can lead to us not saying anything at all or becoming distant from them.

Below are some ideas on how best to support someone who has been through the devastating loss of a child.

Here at The Retreat Clinics, we offer specialist support for bereavement, and for those who are supporting someone who is bereaved and want a space to talk and process their emotions. We offer open-ended, non-judgemental support at our clinics in Manchester, York and Online.

For more information on how we could help, please visit or email


Useful links:

Coping with losing a child – The Good Grief Trust

Child Bereavement UK

Sands    Stillbirth and neonatal support for families

SUDC UK             Support and information following Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood

Citizens Advice Bureau   What to do after a death

The Miscarriage Association        Support following miscarriage, molar or ectopic pregnancy

5 Top Tips For Dealing With Grief At Christmas

Linda Bower – Psychotherapist at The Retreat Clinics shares her tops tips with how to deal with grief.

  1. It is okay to feel sad and it’s okay to feel happy: Christmas is a hard time of year to grieve. Many people around us are laughing and swapping gifts and you might feel disconnected from it all. Or you might feel guilty that you are able to laugh too. Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel but don’t try to feel happy if you aren’t.
  2. Spend time with the people who care: Allow yourself to be surrounded by those who care for you and who want to help you cope with Christmas without your loved one. Let them help you.
  3. It is okay to talk about the deceased: Sharing stories of Christmases past with the deceased can help bring some comfort whilst also recognising that it might be painful. You have permission to share the love you shared.
  4. Do not expect too much from yourself: Be kind to yourself and remember that grief is exhausting and will affect you physically, cognitively and emotionally. Take time to rest.
  5. Remember grief is the price we pay for loving – don’t stop loving to avoid losing.

We offer therapy for bereavement and loss at both of our clinics in Manchester and York and also online. For more information please get in touch.




At times we all have anxious or suspicious thoughts, about ourselves or about other’s intentions, behaviour or feelings towards us. To some degree this is an important and healthy aspect of being able to look after ourselves and our safety.

For some people however, these thoughts can become exaggerated, fixed and distressing. Over time they may become part of a wider set of ideas or beliefs about the world around them, which might include worries about groups or organisations having a collective hostility towards them. This causes anxious and distrustful feelings and can have a negative impact on relationships, work and every day life, as people feel more defensive, hostile or aggressive.

For some people it can be difficult to know whether these thoughts and worries are realistic or paranoid. Where these thoughts become established and cause fear and upset which interferes with daily life, where there is no definite evidence for the suspicion or where few if any other people share your view, an important first step can be to talk to your GP.

People with a tendency towards paranoid thoughts experience this in different ways, but might struggle with:

Some things which might help are:

How we can help with Paranoia

If you feel that suspicious thoughts are happening often or are becoming more frequent; if these thoughts are upsetting you or those around you or are impacting on your ability to go about your day-to-day life, then you may find it helpful to reach out to a professional for support. You should contact your GP in the first instance who can advise you on treatment options, including whether talking therapy is likely to be helpful for you.

Our team of expert therapists can work with you to develop a clear plan to understand and address the symptoms and difficulties you are experiencing, to help you live your life with more happiness and freedom, and without paranoia controlling your life. For new clients who have current or recent experience of paranoia, we will discuss with you additional support options that may be helpful and your GP’s involvement in your care.

To access our service you will need to complete a self referral form by clicking this link.


Nurturing Compassion: Supporting Parents When Their Child Is Bullying Others

Discovering that your child is engaging in bullying behaviour can feel challenging and upsetting experience for any parent/carer. However, it’s crucial to approach this situation with empathy, understanding, and a commitment to fostering positive change.

In this blog, we’ll explore ways in which parents/guardians can support and guide their children if they discover that their child is bullying another.


Hearing that your child might be bulling another person can feel deeply upsetting. It is common for many parents to not want to think that there is a problem, and not take the accusations seriously. It takes courage to be open. So, take these concerns seriously, and identify that your child needs help. This will help them longer in the long run.

It is important to remember that everyone is capable of bulling behaviour. You are not the first parent/carer to face this, nor will you be the last. You have a key role in helping them learn, and change their behaviour.

Open Communication:

The first step is to create an environment of open communication. Approach your child without judgment, ensuring they feel comfortable discussing their actions. Ask open-ended questions to understand the motivations behind their behaviour and the dynamics involved. Spend time understanding from their perspective what has occurred. Sometimes children and young people can be pulled into bullying behaviour by friends or the wider peer group. It is also important to make sure that they are bullying in retaliation of bullying they have suffered. Make it clear that your goal is to support and guide them towards making better choices.

It is important that all children know what bullying is, and why it is wrong. It is also important that your child knows that they can talk to you about anything, so responding with compassion is important to maintaining conversations.

Remind them of their goodness.

People will often exhibit bullying behaviours as a coping mechanism when they are experiencing periods of stress or trauma, are being bullied themselves or potentially when they have low self-esteem and confidence. Remind your child of their goodness, and they are not defined by bullying behaviour. It is a behaviour (an unacceptable one) but not an identity.

Request support from School

If the incident has occurred in school environment and ask to speak with school for a meeting to get support. Request evidence if it is available (for example: if the alleged bullying is through the internet or phones).  Request a copy of the school anti-bullying and behaviour policy so you can ensure that you understand the agreed procedures.

Seek Professional Guidance:

Sometimes, the reasons behind a child’s bullying behaviour may be complex, and seeking professional guidance can be beneficial. A child psychologist or counsellor can provide insights into the underlying issues that may contribute to bullying. Working together with a professional can help parents develop strategies to address these issues effectively.

 Role model empathy:

Empathy is a crucial skill that can be cultivated. Encourage your child to consider the feelings of others and understand the impact of their actions. Engage in discussions about empathy, kindness, and the importance of treating others with respect. Share stories or examples that highlight the consequences and impact of bullying.

 Set Clear Expectations

Make it clear that bullying behaviour is unacceptable, and you do not tolerate such behaviour. Clearly communicate your expectations regarding their behaviour and the values you uphold as a family.

Encourage Positive Skills:

Help your child develop positive social skills and conflict resolution strategies. Role-playing scenarios can be an effective way to teach them alternative ways of responding to challenging situations. Encourage them to use words to express their feelings and concerns rather than resorting to bullying tactics. Young people can use bullying as a coping mechanism to stress, teach them how to recognise and manage stressors more effectively.

 Monitor Online Activity:

In today’s digital age, bullying can extend beyond physical interactions to online spaces. Monitor your child’s online activity and educate them about the importance of responsible and respectful behaviour on social media platforms and how to report online bullying. Establish guidelines for online conduct and foster a healthy online environment.

 Foster a Culture of Inclusivity:

Encourage a culture of inclusivity at home. Celebrate diversity, teach acceptance, and demonstrate through your actions the value of treating everyone with dignity and respect. A home environment that promotes inclusivity can positively influence your child’s behaviour outside the home.

Discovering that your child is engaging in bullying behaviour is undoubtedly a challenging situation. However, parents can play a crucial role in guiding their child towards more constructive and compassionate behaviour. By addressing the root causes of bullying, parents contribute not only to their child’s personal growth but also to the creation of a more empathetic and understanding society.

If you wish to speak with a member of our Children and Young People Therapy Team, email  Our services are delivered face to face from Manchester and York and available nationally online.

Group Psychotherapy Starts January 2024

Group psychotherapy is a longer term therapy, particularly helpful for people with difficulties in their relationships, their self-confidence or in communicating with others. This may be in all areas of life or particularly in work, home life or with friends and family. Group therapy can be help if you: • Feel isolated and alone and find it hard to trust others • Lack self confidence • Feel depressed and anxious • Always feel on the edge of things and that you don’t belong • Find yourself repeating the same patterns in relationships • Struggle with knowing who you are or understanding your feelings • Experienced difficulties in your early life that impact on you now • Get stuck in a particular role in the family or at work • Struggle with feelings such as guilt, shame or anger


Group psychotherapy provides a safe space so that you can talk about your difficulties with others. It increases self-understanding and improves relationships with others. Being able to express difficult thoughts and feelings, can make them feel less overwhelming and, in time, more manageable.


Our groups meet online Monday evenings 5.30pm-7.00pm. There are usually 8 group members who meet weekly for 90 minutes. This is a longer-term psychotherapy and you should join for at least six months or longer. New members join the group as spaces are available. The groups are facilitated by an experienced group psychotherapist who will help group members get the most from the group. They will meet with you on your own at first, to get to know you and so you can think about whether group therapy is suitable for you.


I can help with conditions and issues such as depression; anxiety; personality disorder; eating disorders; relationship problems; loss and bereavement; stress, trauma, and abuse. I have interests in LGBTQ+ mental health; older adult mental health; the mental health of professionals; medically unexplained symptoms; and living with long-term physical health conditions.

If you are interested in finding our more please email or call 0161 445 2099 and speak with one of our administrators.


Bonfire Night – Managing your child’s anxiety.

Top Tips for Managing Bonfire Night


For lots of families with children, Bonfire Night can bring anxiety and distress. Firework displays are noisy, unpredictable and, depending on where you live, can be relentless. This can be particularly tricky if you have a child who has a fear of fireworks, is neurodiverse, and/or has sensory differences.

Our team of child and young people therapists, in collaboration with families we work with, have put together some top tips for managing the Bonfire Celebrations.

If going to fireworks displays isn’t right for your family, trust your instincts. You can create your own traditions for Bonfire night. Perhaps you could watch a movie or do another favourite activity that will help distract from the noise outside. Maybe there is a playlist of music that is particularly calming for your child.

Explain to your child about the origin of Bonfire night, and safety around fireworks and bonfires. For some children, their anxiety is due to being worried about getting hurt or not understanding what is happening. There are lots of story books or information leaflets available that can support you to explain this in a child friendly way. For example; your local fire and rescue service website. Some people like to watch YouTube videos of firework displays to help prepare their child for what is going to happen. If you have a pet, consider including your child in helping the animal for Bonfire night. This could provide a great good opportunity to open conversations about anxiety or fear in a non-direct way and validate their experience.


Staying in or going out, involve your child/ren in creating a plan for the evening, encourage them to think about what they might be worried about, and what might help support them. If you are going to an event, try to find out as much information beforehand as possible to help inform your plan and consider in advance what your exit plan might be if things get too overwhelming.

Writing your plan out or use of a visual schedule is really helpful to help manage expectations and hopefully reduce anxiety.

Regardless of your plans, considering bringing objects that your child finds soothing, familiar or reduces anxiety. For example, certain items of clothing, weighted blankets, fidget toys or a comfort blanket can be helpful. Sometimes certain foods or drinks might bring a bit of extra comfort. For some families, just sticking to familiar routine as much as possible is the best way to reduce anxiety.

For children who find loud noises difficult, you might want to consider giving your child ear defenders. Ear defenders help to reduce noise, but you can still hear some noise, which can be helpful and reassuring. You could also consider noise cancelling headphones to play a soothing song or favourite audio book. Whatever headphones might work best for your child, it would be worth allowing your child to wear them ahead of Bonfire night so that they can get used to wearing them.

Do not under-estimate the importance of how reassuring it is to young people when you remain calm. The relationship you have with your child, and your presence will help them feel safe by just being close, relaxed, and present. You know your child best, and what will help provide them with additional reassurance.

If this is a tricky time for you family, it can be really tiring supporting and containing your child’s distress. If possible, get some additional support and integrate something into the day that will help recharge your batteries.