‘The paradox of living with the unknown’. The MBS: an exploration of how a therapeutic approach to looking after emotionally traumatised children affects their capacity to develop relationships, and to understand and regulate their feelings and behaviour.

Brief Description – The aim of this case study research was to determine how the therapeutic approach of the Mulberry Bush School affected the children, and how the school’s group-work model related to children’s ability to develop relationships. This qualitative case study drew on twenty-eight semi-structured interviews with children (10 interviews), parents and carers (8 interviews) and staff focus groups (8 groups) plus informal observations and analysis of documentation. 

Key Findings 

  • The therapeutic environment enabled children to develop an understanding of their feelings, which led to stronger relationships and improvements in behaviour. 
  • Many families felt at breaking point when their child was placed at the Mulberry Bush, having exhausted all support and local resources. Often feeling their child’s future was bleak, they wrestled with feelings of relief and guilt. 
  • Despite having been told about the work of the school, parents and carers were often unclear about the therapeutic nature of the school. 
  • Children recognised improvements in their behaviour but were unclear how the school’s work enabled these changes. 
  • The model of group-work was central to the school’s work yet the understanding of this aspect appeared limited. 
  • The emotional impact of children’s early life trauma was significant on children, families and staff giving rise to high levels of defensive responses. 

For a copy of the full report please email Caryn Onions [email protected]

Dave Roberts

Time span

The Mulberry Bush Organisation

Read more at Growkudos