Our Therapeutic Approach

When children come to us - We begin by helping children who think they are “bad” understand that this is not so, but that bad things have happened to them.  They can then begin to experience good things and hence make choices about how they choose to feel about themselves and live/behave. They learn to understand their own and others’ feelings and how to cope with positive and negative emotions.  They gain a sense of family/community and learn to care about others as well as themselves.

All of our children have experienced trauma and often neglect and physical, emotional and / or sexual abuse.  They all need individual weekly therapy from qualified clinicians.  All our children engage in individual therapy, most continue throughout their stay with us. As our children’s trauma has been pre-verbal we use creative therapists, art, play, drama and music to help the children make sense of what has happened to them.

 Social worker said - “The psychological input from therapists has been great.

It hasn’t been superficial like some homes, it has added great value to the development of X”

Our Therapeutic Approach - We believe in the following principles 

The importance of safe, warm, comfortable surroundings - Having a lovely place to live and go to school makes our children feel valued and deserving of good things in life.  They get to choose how their bedroom will be decorated before they come to us and a special teddy is put on their bed.  This shows them that their voice is importance to us and they will be listened to and respected. We make sure that they have clothes that fit and express their personalities and we provide a smart school uniform.  We fill the homes with photographs and the classroom walls with their work so that they are reminded of fun times and their school achievements.  This helps them to begin to feel good about themselves.  We also help them to feel physically and emotionally safe.  We have clear routines, rules and boundaries which are explained and lovingly reinforced.  We help the children understand that everybody has a right to be safe and respected.  We also let them know that we will not reject them but will help them to move towards living in a family and going to a day school.  Whatever they do, we let them know that will still love them and will help them to learn how to cope with life and school.

Living a healthy life - We want our children to enjoy life and thrive.  It is very important that they have tasty healthy food and lots of fun physical activities.  We involve them in choosing meals and activities which re-inforces how their views are valued.  We physically take care of the children when they join us, we wash and brush their hair and teeth this begins to help them feel loved and looked after.  Many of them have been neglected or have been expected to take care of siblings or parents.  Having a grown-up take care of them helps them to begin to feel good about themselves.  When they are cared for and about, the children look better, their skin and hair improves and they begin to take pride in themselves and their appearance.  As time goes on we help them to learn to wash and take care of themselves and this develops their belief that they are capable. 

Experiencing life-changing relationships - At the heart of our therapeutic approach and our success are our relationships with the children.  These help the children to feel loved and respected.  They need to experience stable, nurturing and thoughtful adults on whom they can rely.  The children have not experienced the intimate and enduring bond usually established between a baby and their mother.  Without this, no child can develop healthily.  We want every child at Appletree to have the experience of a relationship with an adult who will put them and their needs first.  Our professional parenting approach is restorative so provides lots of love and care alongside lots of predictable routines and responses.  It gives them the early years’ experiences which they have missed and helps them to begin to develop socially, emotionally and educationally.  It provides warmth and unconditional positive regard.  The children also benefit from their relationships with each other.  The children who have been with us longer often provide role models for the newer children.  The children support and learn from each other as they have had similar experiences.   They often develop special friendships which last long after they leave Appletree.  If the children’s actions cause a rupture in their relationship with an adult or another child, or the whole community, it is up to the grown-ups to help them to repair this relationship.  The child can choose how they do this but the relationships have to be restored and it is the responsibility of the grown-ups to ensure this happens.

Learning to recognise and manage feelings - Our children have had traumatic experiences which result in strong negative and confusing feelings about themselves and others.  We help them to firstly recognise and name different feelings.  Often beneath their anger is a deep and intense sadness.  Some of our children have cut themselves off from their feelings altogether and some have learnt to ignore their own feelings and needs and seek only to please others.  We help them to connect with their feelings and understand that their needs are important.  We teach them that all feelings are valid and that there are safe ways to express them.  Our children are amazingly resilient but can be very sensitive to perceived setbacks.  A small mistake can feel overwhelming for them as it triggers feelings of helplessness and being made to feel bad.  They can feel overwhelming shame.  We help them to learn how to manage such feelings and realise that we all make mistakes and this is how we learn.  Feeling sorry can be a spur, not to hating yourself, but to re-building a relationship and moving on.

Feeling part of the Appletree/ Fell House/ Willow Bank “family” - Children very quickly feel claimed and emotionally contained by the grown-ups in our homes and schools.  We give them a new model of family where the grown-ups are safe, loving and dependable and everyone has a right to be treated with respect.  Sometimes it is only when they experience this that a child realises that their previous experiences were neglectful, abusive or traumatising.  We can support them through this realisation and help them to make sense of what has happened to them.  As they grow to believe in themselves and understand healthy relationships, the children become able to genuinely care for others around them.  They join in our local community through clubs, part-time attendance and/or joint activities with our local mainstream schools. They even start to think about our global community and raise money for charity.  Once they have experienced a healthy family model they become ready and able to move to live with their family/foster family permanently and to attend day schools.

How our Clinical team help this process - At Appletree Treatment Centre Our clinical team helps this process in three ways. Firstly they provide direct therapeutic intervention with our children and, where appropriate, their families.  Secondly they provide clinical input for each child's programme.  Finally our qualified, experienced psychologists and therapists provide clinical consultation and training for our care, education and facilities teams.

The therapists work closely with the teams so that actions can be planned and recorded to support the therapeutic process.  This provides a safe space to address adult concerns/needs and ensure these have attention so that the children’s needs remain the focus of our practice. Consultation assists all the teams to ensure their interactions with our children facilitate positive change.  Every team member has an important part to play in helping our children, and every interaction adds to the building blocks that give our children their foundation to move forward.


We don't offer Therapy in a vacuum, we believe in Therapy in action.

 With clinical support we are able to help our children manage their feelings & behaviour.

By standing in the child’s shoes we can support them to:

Feel effective - Build self esteem - Enjoy success and cope with setbacks

Gain the confidence to explore the world around them - Minimise the sense of difference


Therapy attendance rates - It is rare for children to refuse therapy and they all access individual therapy at some stage during their time with us, over 90% stay in individual therapy for the whole of the time with us.  The clinicians continue to provide consultation for the very few children who may need to take a break

Our Aims

We aim to help our children establish a secure safe base in the world, by helping them to:  

Feel physically healthy and deserving of a safe, warm and comfortable place to live and learn

Gain a sense of belonging and feel valued for who they are

Build healthy attachments with dependable adults

Experience good, close, warm and safe friendships