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X said her daughter was too tired to go to school that day. It was the last day of term. She asked
me if I wanted a drink, and she made drinks for the three of us. I took care not to spill my drink
on her beautiful new linen table cloth. She had given me a mat. Whilst we were drinking, the
little girl talked incessantly about school. We talked about painting, and I felt it was the right
moment to show the client what art materials I had brought. Then we talked about art work. The
client's eldest son came in and he wanted join in the 'painting'. He went upstairs to get his
school art folder and we made space for him.

It was awkward, setting things out, using materials I had brought. There were soft pastels, and
X's daughter started to use the pastels on the table cloth. I apologised to my client who was upset
about this, and made a note to bring plastic sheeting next time.

Her daughter and I did some art work on the floor, to enable X to get started. Slowly, slowly X's
work began to emerge. She worked sporadically, oil pastel on black paper. She drew two trees
with branches and leaves, then a hammock suspended between the trees, and a person in the
hammock and put a smile on the person's face. Then she drew stars and the moon. Meanwhile,
her son and I were talking about his school art project on Picasso. Client X finally finished her

She can only peep at her unconscious from afar. She is unemployed. She has a diagnosed mental
illness. She has to cope with four children on her own in a small house with many racist
neighbours, and the problem of drugs in the neighbourhood.

As she talked about her feelings, she drew something else on her picture, and I asked her what it
was. She said it was a rat. Was she frightened by it? asked her son. Yes, she was frightened by it.
Was she going to do anything about it? I asked. No, she said. She was in the picture. She was
going to relax in her hammock, and she was enjoying herself. In her picture it was night time,
and it was the only time she had to be on her own, and she would sort out the rat later.

By that time it was 12 noon and I had started to pack my bags, when X offered to make me a
sandwich and drink before I left. I accepted this hospitality, because of its cultural significance.
The offering of food, and the acceptance of food. I left at 12.30.

For home visits, I allow myself three hours. Not everyone can have home visits, but it is
important that those clients who can't manage to come must have home visits as an option. As I
left, X told me that her psychiatrist had reduced her medication. We shared a moment of
triumph, and I was gone.

With home visits, I have to work beyond my training. The frame of the therapeutic space has to
be flexible enough to cope with family, neighbours and telephone calls. The boundary for
therapy is no longer provided by the 'secluded space' but by the therapist herself.

Of the clients I worked with in a 'normal' art-therapeutic session, several features were quite
common. Many issues emerged around the fragmentation of self, the loss of self-esteem, the
importance of religion and religious life, suicide as the ultimate destruction of the fragmented
self, the rejection of the mother, particularly the skin colour of the mother. There was also the
struggle between 'being God and seeing the Devil in others'.

But there is another, deeper issue around the issue of skin which is not merely political. Black
people who have entered the mental health services are surrounded by whites. We are a
minority, in society and in institutions. One of my clients at Rampton said to me, 'I have been in
here so long, I've almost forgotten that I am black.'