How Drawing and Talking can help support the emotional needs of those with PDA - Pathological Demand Avoidance

Part of being human is our fundamental need to feel accepted, connected and loved. The importance of relationships, connections and feeling understood play a key role in the success of our survival and leading a fulfilled life. 

Many children and young people do not feel safely connected to others. This can have a significant impact on their choices and lives going forward. This is particularly true of children and young people who are diagnosed, or self-identify, as having Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDAers). Schools can be a particularly challenging environment for PDAers. 

The struggles of knowing you have PDA and having to face the fear of being asked to do something, at which point your heart and body begins to scream with anxiety, oftens forces a breakdown in relationships and connection as the demand is avoided. Understanding triggers and what constitutes a ‘demand’ for each individual with PDA provides insight on how to engage proactively. 

As professionals we often feel rejected, disconnected, and experience a sense of helplessness and frustration, as we aim to support the escalated displays of anxieties and behaviours of pupils with PDA in a school setting. 

Mental health and wellbeing support in a school setting 

Children with PDA are likely to need specialist input from clinicians who understand PDA and have the expertise to modify standard CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Unfortunately, many of the CBT interventions used in schools to support with anxiety can trigger PDA responses. CBT in schools is often solution-focused and requires a staff member to be directing practical solutions to SEMH needs. These directed approaches will, of course, feed into the need for a pupil with PDA to resist and avoid at all costs any suggestions, requests and demands to alter their perspectives and actions. 

As a non-directive person-centred approach, firmly based in attachment theory, Drawing and Talking is a simple and safe method of starting to build secure and positive relationships with pupils who may be displaying PDA. Intending purely to allow the psyche to process emotional pain attached to trauma, PDAers often respond well and engage with this approach. During training, practitioners will learn the theory and content that underpins this person-centred work. This enables professionals to let go of ‘an objective led’ approach and give space for emotional pain to be processed at the young person's own pace. Drawing and Talking is an opportunity for schools to offer cost effective support whilst children with PDA are waiting for diagnosis or waiting to be seen by other specialists.   

Drawing and Talking Ltd are proud to be supporting the PDA Society, working with them to increase knowledge and guidance around working inside and outside the classroom environment. 


PDA Society  

For valuable information, support and insights into the world of PDA please click here: