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Meet the woman changing the mental health sector one brick at a time

Posted: 12pm 15 Jul 2022

A Ningi woman who launched her own business less than a year ago has been recognised for her contributions to the mental health and disability sector by being nominated for several prestigious business awards.

Janelle Ford is the Director and Clinical Nurse Consult at Progressive Play, which provides educational services to health professionals, educators, parents and caregivers to deliver alternative therapeutic interventions using Lego bricks.

“I have worked in the mental health and disability sectors for 20 years, and after speaking with several participants what I found was that many were not happy with the limited therapy options that were on offer in the sector,” Janelle says.

“Many other therapies involve a component of additional homework, and for some people, it can be a real struggle to find the motivation to get through tasks of everyday living without them doing all the extra work they need to do with the other therapeutic options.

“When I first came across Lego Based Therapy, it was not a therapeutic activity that was readily available to service users within the mental health and disability sectors, and while some services offered Lego Based Therapy for children, there were none that were offering it within the adult sector.

“There were also no CPD (Continuing Professional Development) accredited providers in the region who were delivering specific training for health professionals either.

“I undertook advanced training in the methodologies, introduced the therapy to a few participants and what they had reported was phenomenal.

“The Lego based intervention provided them with the intrinsic motivation they were searching for and provided them with hours upon hours of mindfulness techniques that helped to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“It was an activity that they could undertake as a group and also alone at home, and was an activity that didn’t feel like homework and one that they actually enjoyed.

“The beneficial effect this therapy intervention has had for participants is amazing.

“That was my Aha moment - I knew then that this therapeutic intervention needed to be in every health professional and educator’s professional toolbox.”

Janelle then began writing, researching and developing training programs to teach others.

“I’m not the original inventor of Lego Based Therapy interventions – I share the knowledge with others in my online facilitator training programs, which includes additional training specific to mental health and disability."

Since launching Progressive Play 10 months ago, Janelle says she has seen significant improvements in people. 

“For example, it’s a great intervention for people with anxiety because it allows them to engage in a mindfulness activity that helps them to get away from the negative thoughts and allows them to live in the moment and be in a better headspace” Janelle explains.

“Lego Based Therapy interventions can also help people with mental health issues acknowledge their own feelings and share that with others, when delivered in a facilitated group setting.”

Janelle has also seen major changes in kids with neurodevelopmental disorders.

“When children participate in a therapeutic Lego group, the Lego bricks become the tool that helps with social skills and communication skills and gets them to work together towards the same goal,” she says.

“With smaller Lego sets being so affordable, and with lots of cool kits available, it’s having a positive change for mental health and disability service users and that’s worth getting excited about.”

Turning heads in the industry

When Janelle launched Progressive Play 10 months ago, she was not expecting to be nominated for three business awards in one year.

Janelle has been announced as a finalist in the Australian Small Business Champion Awards, Roar Success Awards and the Ausmumpreneur Awards.

“I was nominated by my customers,” Janelle says.

“I was speechless and excited when I found out.

“I didn’t realise just how much of a positive impact I was creating just by providing affordable, flexible, evidenced based training and when I put it into perspective, I am helping to improve the mental health and wellbeing of participants across the nation.

“The more professionals that are trained in this modality, the more programs will be available for participants and service users to access.

“My training programs have been well received with hundreds of professionals having already completed the training, which is very encouraging, I am really proud of what I have achieved so far.”

More information

If you would like to know more about Progressive Play, you can log onto the website or follow on Facebook.

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