Alternative and Complementary Therapy

Relaxation and Positive Touch

Children require tactile stimulation through a variety of sources in order to develop their body, mind and spirit. We know that many of the children at Hopedale may not be familiar with positive touch and that this has affected their development. That’s why we have a relaxation room dedicated to alternative therapy. A fully trained and enhanced CRB checked specialist is available to work with children (and a chaperone) using the following techniques: Indian head massage, reflexology, hand massage, aromatherapy, visualisation and meditation.

These techniques can be wonderful stress-busters for children, with many studies consistently showing benefits, including: reduction in stress and stress hormone levels, boosted immune system, improved sleep, and decrease in depression and anxiety. Children appear more relaxed, calm and often fall asleep during relaxation sessions!

Omega 3

With relevant permissions, we also encourage children at Hopedale to take a daily Omega 3 (DHA and EPA) supplement. Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found naturally in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines and in some plant crops such as rape seed, are important for the healthy functioning of many parts of the body. They are known to improve the condition of some people with depression and bipolar disorder, and can also have a significant effect on concentration and ability to learn.


Our experience has shown that music can be used to boost self-esteem, encourage group cooperation, alleviate stress, and improve communication. The music programme, offered to all children at Hopedale, does not focus on formal music training, but instead concentrates on the very aspects of music that can help children to develop socially and emotionally.

In a simple fashion, children learn how to play a choice of instruments including electric guitar, keyboard, bass guitar and drums, and DJ decks. Using simple, stream-lined methods, pupils can very quickly play recognizable songs/accompaniments, thus receiving a rapid self-esteem boost. At this stage, children can then play/operate their instrument as a means of stress-release. When ready, they begin to play their instrument as part of a duo with a carefully matched peer, and eventually as part of a four or five piece band! This has a positive impact on the ability of the children to effectively communicate and cooperate with each other.

The final step, is a Hopedale Performance. Performances, which are held at the end of the Christmas and Summer terms, are magnificent and very emotional events. Parents/carers, social workers and anyone significant to the children, are invited to celebrate success and progress. We have a lighting and sound system which enables the children to feel like they are giving a professional performance. Some children prefer to have a back stage role, while others play or sing their heart out to the audience. It is overwhelmingly heartwarming to watch children, who arrived with virtually no self-esteem, performing proudly to people that care deeply about them.

Sensory Ceramics

Many aspects of ceramics can provide a therapeutic and uplifting experience for children. Ceramics is something in which everyone can find a feeling of home. Not only can children benefit from the calming feeling of kneading and throwing clay, but they can watch something handmade form from very little in a short space of time. Clay is great for intense feelings, with children able to pound and kick the clay to release feelings and, in the end, be productive. The act of throwing pottery can also be beneficial for physical well-being. As with the feet, hands are connected to every part of the body, and when worked properly, such as on a potter’s wheel, pressure points in the hands can stimulate breathing, along with muscles in the knees, hips and hamstrings. Decorating unfired pottery can also be intensely relaxing, and we encourage children to make pieces that they can use in their everyday life.

Horticulture and Gardening

Through individually tailored programmes, and with caring and observant encouragement, children can benefit greatly from horticulture and gardening. It can be part of a child’s emotional rehabilitation process, to help them 'find their feet again' after a difficult time in their lives. Improved emotional health can be achieved through a sense of purpose and achievement, alongside exposure to the sensory stimulus gained from working with shape, form, colours, scents and tastes. Some children just feel better for being outside, in touch with nature and the ‘great outdoors’, while for others, a connection to others is facilitated, thereby reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion. Fruit and vegetables grown at Hopedale are skillfully interwoven into our menus, providing the self-esteem boosting opportunity to follow the process from ‘seed to plate’.