Over this lockdown period, as an additional support for creative practitioners with mental health concerns, BAPAM piloted offering a short online group therapy programme. Following these sessions, we spoke with Dr Tamara Karni Cohen, a GP and BAPAM Assessing Clinician, who had suggested exploring possibilities for group support after helping performers coming to her clinics with a range of similar mental health symptoms. She also felt there may be a benefit from bringing performers together in a unique opportunity to improve their condition. Chartered Clinical Psychologist Dr Sidrah Muntaha led the sessions, collaborating with Dr Karni Cohen and the team at BAPAM. 

Tamara told us: Common presentations in my performers’ clinics included performance anxiety, fear around ideas of ‘success’ and coping with life as a performer in general. Then COVID-19 graced us with its rude entrance and shook everything upside down. The people who suffered greatly are those who rely on being able to perform for a living. This meant that a lot of our performing artists who may have already had a baseline of uncertainty and anxiety from their career choice found this balance shaken further. The key aim of this pilot was to ensure that during lockdown there was a further means of supporting performers, especially those who may not be able to access one to one therapy or who the clinicians felt may benefit from the positive impact and unique approach of group therapy.”

The sessions had a base of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, mindfulness, talking therapy, musical therapy and psychodynamic elements. Due to the pandemic we moved from from the traditional in person approach of group therapy to hosted teleconferencing sessions. Participants were first clinically assessed at BAPAM by Dr Karni Cohen and then screened by Dr Muntaha to ensure this type of group therapy was likely to be helpful. Five performers from a wide range of professional backgrounds joined the group for a six week pilot programme. 

Dr Cohen feels the approach proved very successful during the course of sessions. “The group showed their vulnerabilities, opened about issues and were able to connect with each other very well. Overall, participants reflected that the most useful aspect of the group was being together, not feeing alone and feeling a sense of validation from others. 

Feedback from the group was unanimously positive, with all saying they found the sessions useful. One limitation was the short duration of the programme, and all participants said they wished it could have lasted longer. 

We hope that the approach trialled in this successful pilot can be explored further in future.