Kristy and Nina.

Creative arts therapy achieving amazing results for Kristy

Creative arts therapy is achieving fantastic results with Kristy, a non-verbal communicator who lives in Canberra who is making significant progress after a difficult time brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kristy is a participant with The Disability Trust who up until recently had not left Kambah House in the ACT for three years due to a combination of travel restrictions from the pandemic and ongoing severe self-harming tendencies.

She had been someone renowned for being very good at listening to instructions from staff members and following them by interacting with hand gestures.

But when a housemate left Kambah House during the pandemic, Kristy felt even more isolated during this difficult time, which led to her demeanour changing and she stopped going on community outings.

The Disability Trust Residential Team Leader Samana Srestha said creative arts therapy was recommended to the Kambah House staff as a way to help Kristy regain her friendly disposition.

“She lost her ability to pay attention to her surroundings,” Samana said. “Not wanting staff and family close to her, no affection.


Nina Mariette, a creative arts therapy specialist from Southside Physio, came on board last year to work with Kristy and by using storytelling, different textures, pictures, arts and craft, she has made remarkable progress.

Creative arts therapists are mental health professionals who use methods such as drawing, writing, drama, dance and movement to facilitate the exploration of feelings, improve self-awareness and reduce anxiety for their clients, particularly people who have difficulty expressing their feelings.

“I remember her first session where Kristy completely ignored the therapist, crying and self-harming to indicate asking Nina to go away but Nina kept going with her session,” Samana recalled. “Nina gradually got her to make eye contact and interact.  

“With the consistency of Nina’s therapy and staff consistently following the regime, Kristy has had an incredible increase in interaction and attention to her surroundings.

“It has brought a drastic change in her life and boosted her lifestyle. Now if someone knocks on the door, she tries to find out who is there. She high-fives staff again.”

Kristy also chews on a flavoured sensory device which helps ease her apprehension during unfamiliar situations.


She has also recently started returning to her family home for regular visits with the help of Disability Support Workers Munya Museka and Rajan Aryal, and Kristy’s mother, Simmy, could not be happier.

“I am immensely grateful to Samana for her relentless efforts and dedication during the challenging time. Her facilitating a way for Kristy to travel after being confined in Kambah House is truly heartening,” she said.

“Through thorough assessment and considerations of each staff’s skills and strengths, she ensures that Kristy receives the best possible service and support from a capable qualified team.

“The 2:1 assistance is undeniably having a positive impact on Kristy. My heart overflows with gratitude for Samana and the team for making this possible.

“Her leadership shines as a beacon of support, guiding her team through adversity and fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie within her team which leads to achieving Kristy’s needs and goals.”

Simmy said it was a special moment when Kristy was able to return home to visit.


“Whether Kristy was sitting on her favourite chair, daydreaming, rolling on her bed in a carefree abandon with her favourite musical bear, a spark of anticipation danced in her eyes with each familiar sight at all her belongings or swinging gently, basked in the lovely warmth of the autumn sun, lost in the rhythm of her own joy,” she added.

“Her laughter filled the air. Kristy was content like she was reminiscing about happy old memories.

“When it’s time to leave, Kristy was reluctant to depart, she lingered in the swing, her heart yearning to stay amidst the serenity. 

“I eagerly anticipate countless more visits in the future and each reunion becomes a timeless tradition filled with love and connection that grows richer.”

She has also started going shopping again for the first time in three years with Disability Support Workers Sajan Shrestha and Chinasa Bright.

The next step in Kristy’s progress will be weekly community outings with a participant from another support organisation to help her interact with someone new, which will hopefully lead to her becoming more open to meeting new people and being in different environments.

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