Recently, I set up a volunteer activity for my supervision group, pointing out that in the ATCB Code of Professional Practice: 126.96.36.199 Art therapists are encouraged, whenever possible, to recognize a responsibility to participate in activities that contribute to a better community and society, including devoting a portion of their professional activity to services for which there is little or no financial return. I contacted the local Chamber of Commerce who were sponsoring a street fair and asked them if we could volunteer and provide free arts and crafts for kids. They provided us a space, free of charge, and we brought art supplies to make Halloween decorations. We had kids of many ages participate and they all seemed to enjoy the opportunity to do something creative and fun.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Today I printed out some crime stories from a major newspaper and gave one to each of the members of my Empathy group. I asked them to read the story and choose a person in the story to empathize with, and create an image about that. This activity helps promote more victim empathy and also helps the client practice seeing a situation from someone else's perspective. It is interesting to observe who the client chooses to empathize with. In a following session, you could ask them to create an image about empathizing with a different person in the same news story. Or, I sometimes combine the two into the same session and after they talk about their image, I will ask them to empathize with the other people involved in the news story. Sometimes they will do this on their own. This directive can be a good way to address victim empathy without the client having to talk about his own victim. The above example was done by a colleague to a news story about a car crashing into a house. I used this directive with staff in a couple of my workshop-presentations about empathy.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I like to use this directive in a manner similar to the "Pick an Apple from the Tree" directive, as an assessment. The directive is to draw a mountain climber (or draw yourself climbing a mountain). I then like to notice how each client equips his climber to make it up the mountain. It is also interesting to observe the structure of the mountain--is it high, steep, dangerous, etc? I also take note of the placement of the climber on the mountain. Is he at the bottom, half way up, close to the top? Based on the client's drawing, the therapist can explore how the client copes with problems, what tools he has to face difficulties, how he views his challenges, etc. I've had patients who drew themselves rappelling in a mountain crevice with a rope, helmet and light, one who drew only his hands scrabbling in the dirt, and another just walking up the straight incline. Some were able to relate their drawing to how they handle obstacles, others not. It might be interesting to have a client do this directive before dealing with a particular challenge and again afterwards.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
One of the Art Therapists that I supervise suggested that everyone in the Supervision group bring in her thesis to present to the group, since almost everyone was a recent graduate. This turned out to be a great idea since each person could share her specialty and everyone got to know each other better. Each therapist had a very different thesis from a creative gardening project, to an art show of response art, to a personal process thesis, to a study of body movement and Art Therapy, among others. It also helped me learn about the different approaches and styles of different Art Therapy programs.
I have been facilitating a group using Art Therapy to help promote emotional awareness, expression, and empathy in sex offenders. My recent presentations have been on this topic. I use the Interpersonal Reactivity Index which is an instrument given to the patients at the beginning of the 12 week group and then at the end. There are 28 items to the instrument and the items cover 4 subgroups. The most promising results are in the area of Personal Distress. High levels of personal distress indicate that a person may be so focused on their own distress, that they can't attend to another's distress. So, a decrease in personal distress is positive. Each group session, the patients are asked to create art work on a different topic. Some of them have a hard time even identifying feelings and some do not understand what empathy is. The directives include topics that cover accessing their feelings and feeling empathy for others. I usually start off with a directive like, "Create an image about what empathy means to you," or "Make an image about a time you felt empathy for someone." Sometimes they are asked to do a directive on victim empathy. This group and these directives can also be used with juvenile sex offenders, inmates, or any other population that might benefit from increased empathy.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
The facility where I work is actively seeking new staff for the Rehabilitation Therapy Department. The starting salary is about $58k/year due to current furlough program. Duties include facilitating groups, participating in treatment planning, completing Rehab assessments, organizing parties and activities, as well as other paper work. The facility treats sex offenders in a long term setting. Please contact me for more info or see the DMH link for a copy of the application. Also recruiting psychologists, social workers, and nurses.
During one group supervision meeting, I cut out small circles of various colors, enough so there was one color per person and as many circles of one color as the number of the group. I asked each person to choose a color. I then asked each person to write 3 positive attributes for each person in the group, using that person's chosen color circle to write the words on. Then, each person collected their circles and glued these "petals" around a slightly larger colored circle to create a flower which listed some of their characteristics that others admired. Each person was encouraged to put their flower near their desk, so they could be reminded of all their good qualities, especially if they were having a bad day! This directive also works with clients and I used this with a group on Self-Esteem. The flower can be modified to any object that suits the group.
Recently, a colleague and I offered a self care workshop for other staff. We asked them to create a Mandala that represented who they are, and asked them to think about their strengths, what they like, what is important to them, what makes them happy, etc. They were each encouraged to talk about their Mandala if they wanted to. Then, we asked them to make another Mandala, this time thinking of one of their difficult clients or an interaction with a challenging client. They were encouraged to use their non-dominant hand when creating this Mandala. Again, they were allowed to share their process if they felt like it. We asked them to notice any similarities between their 2 Mandalas, any differences, and how they could incorporate what they saw in their first Mandala to deal with what they saw in their second Mandala. We also asked them to keep in mind the things that would help them take care of themselves after having a difficult interaction with a client. The participants had positive feedback and felt the workshop was interesting and helpful. They mentioned that it was a bit unsettling to end on the Mandala of the challenging client, so you may want to reverse the order of the drawings. You may also want to narrow the directive for the self-Mandala to just strengths. This may help the person see how his/her strengths can be used to manage the difficult client. This workshop also helped non-Art Therapists understand Art Therapy better, and they were able to talk about feeling nervous about doing art and feeling uncomfortable sharing personal information that came up through the art work.
Friday, October 24, 2008
This blog was started with the intention of promoting Art Therapy and strengthening dialog, support, and idea sharing with those interested in Art Therapy. I work in a setting that is very stressful at times, so using art for self care is important for me. I feel that adequate supervision is sometimes lacking, and am always looking for new ways to help the Art Therapists that I supervise. The challenging work is not without rewards and I have developed many Art Therapy groups and used many great directives. I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can help others and receive feedback that will make me a better therapist.