Art psychotherapist Katie O’Donoghue, who worked here at NELFT until last year, has had her own children’s book published. The book, The Little Squirrel Who Worried, was written and illustrated by Katie whilst she was working here at NELFT.
Katie worked as a multidisciplinary pathway worker in our EWMHS service in mid-Essex, part of her role involved her co-facilitating a group to support parents with managing anxiety in their children. The group received great feedback and was run several times. On the third or fourth run, Katie started to create small woodland animals as painted illustrations for her own wellbeing practice.
Katie developed these characters into a story that incorporates simplified coping methods including distraction techniques and CBT. The story is about a little squirrel that hasn’t left his nest in quite some time. He needs to gather nuts for the long winter to come but he’s too worried to leave his cosy nest. Luckily, Little Squirrel discovers he has lots of friends in the forest, from Wren to Snuffly Hedgehog, Grey Rabbit to Mister Fox, Old Badger to Great Stag. Will their encouragement and words of advice be enough to help Little Squirrel to venture out? With encouragement from his new friends, he journeys through the forest and meets lots of animals who teach him different ways to cope with his anxiety.
After a difficult 18 months, the story is one that many of us, both children and adults alike, may identify with. Several months of lockdowns and staying at home has meant that many of us are feeling very similar anxieties about getting back to ‘normal life’ and starting to go out in the world again, this story hopes to provide comfort and support to those that are feeling post lockdown anxiety.
The techniques Katie teaches through this story are not only incredibly helpful for children learning how to deal with their worries but also teaches them that their feelings are valid. We spoke to Katie and she told us: “The story can act as a springboard to help parents open up conversations with their children about their worries. It can also support parents to empower their children with tools to help them manage their anxiety, reassuring children is an important part of supporting them but it is also important to teach them ways in which they can support themselves as well. When I first wrote the story it was aimed at children but the finished book is definitely something that can appeal to adults too.”
Jodie Ramcharitar, team manager West Essex EWMHS and Katie’s line manager during her time at NELFT, said: “Our team is extremely proud of Katie’s accomplishment of bringing her imagination and delivering a beautifully illustrated book with her artistry to capture the young people she worked with in our service by listening to their thoughts and feelings and representing it in her book. I hope this helps other young children with their challenges and gives them an insight on how to overcome it. 5 stars is not enough.’’