Saturday, November 29, 2008

Exploring Beliefs About Women

A few quarters ago, I started an Art Therapy group to help the sex offenders explore their beliefs about women. One high risk factor for sex offenders (both rapists and child molesters) is believing that women are deceptive. Through this group, the patients were able to share their beliefs about women and learn how their beliefs have influenced their crimes, their relationships, and their lives. The patients have been able to talk about not being able to trust women, how they objectify women, and how they have been hostile toward women, among other topics. Some of the directives we have used include "Create an image about a time you were embarrassed by a woman," "A time a woman treated you respectfully," and "A time you had a misunderstanding with a woman." We used the Hostility Toward Women scale pre and post the 12 week group, though we haven't run the statistics yet.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Self Care

It's definitely important to do self care activities, especially if you work with a challenging population. Being creative and artistic in your free time is a great way to relieve stress, have fun, and get in touch with your artist self. Ever since I learned how to knit while working at a Senior Center, I have come to enjoy this activity for it's relaxing and self-soothing quality. In recent years, I have participated in several craft fairs, and have sold my knitted scarves and other craft items. It's been fulfilling to have other people appreciate my work as well! You can check out my website A big thanks to all the Art Therapists who supported me at the Marketplace at the AATA conference this year!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Swap Drawings Directive

I've used this directive a few times in my Empathy group...I ask the group members to think of a time they felt a certain feeling (scared, angry, sad, anxious, etc.) I ask them to draw that situation or scene, adding as many details as possible, and using color and line to symbolize feelings. I also ask them to try to add facial expression, and ask them not to write words on the drawing. I usually give everyone a set amount of time to complete the drawing. After the art making time, I ask everyone to pass their drawing to the person on their left. I have everyone look at the drawing in front of them, and each person then explains what is happening in their peer's drawing. I emphasize that empathy involves being observant and sometimes trying to piece things together to get a better understanding of the whole picture. This exercise helps the client put himself in someone else's shoes and try to understand what that person was feeling, thinking, and going through. When we try to empathize with someone, we may not always know exactly what is going on, so we may have to imagine or make an informed guess about what the other person is experiencing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Continue-the-Story Directive

Another Art Therapist in my supervision group shared this group directive. Each member of the group gets a large piece of paper. Have each person fold the paper into as many sections as there are people in the group. For example, if there are 8 people, you would fold the paper in half, in half again, and once more. If there are an odd number off people, round up. Each person chooses a different color marker. Have each member number the sections, starting on the top left, as if you were reading. In the original directive, each person draws a memory in the first section. I have altered the directive and I ask everyone to draw a time they felt something ("Draw a time you felt scared," "nervous," "worried," etc.). I ask each person to add as much detail to the scene as possible and each person has 2 minutes. At the end of that time, everyone passes their paper to the person on his/her left. Each person looks at the drawing in front of him/her and then continues the story in section 2, again adding as much detail as possible in 2 minutes. This continues until everyone has drawn on each paper (if an odd number of people, you would end up with your own paper, drawing in the last section.) In the original directive, you may cut apart all the sections and each group member gets back all the drawings he/she did and can create another story based on those drawings, since this can be a projective exercise. I usually have each member keep the paper intact and each person can talk about why they continued someone's story as they did. Then the original artist can explain what really happened. I use this in my Empathy group to help show the patients that they may not know exactly what is going on, but it is important to pay attention to detail and think about what another person might be thinking or feeling. It's just another way for them to practice this, and is usually a pretty fun exercise.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mailboxes Activity

An Art Therapist in my supervision group shared a great idea and asked everyone in the group to create a "mailbox" representing some of her communication skills. We then all wrote a positive note to each member of the group and put it in that person's mailbox. We now all keep our mailboxes on a book shelf in the Art Center and I encourage everyone to leave a positive note for each other every once in a while, reminding that person what a good job they've been doing or thanking her for doing something nice. Of course, this is also a great directive for a group of clients!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Holiday Decorations Group

During the Fall Quarter at the hospital, we run a group called "Holiday Decorations." Many of the patients get into decorating their units, spending many hours on creative and intricate decorations. It helps them get into the holiday spirit and allows them to share their memories of past holidays. This year, one patient made Halloween jack-o-lanterns with different facial expressions and wrote down the corresponding feeling. Many of the patients have a difficult time identifying and accessing their feelings, so this was a creative way to practice that--and he came up with the idea on his own!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Book Review

Since working with the sex offender population can be challenging and stressful, it is important to learn about self care. Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization (Norton Professional Books) by Karen W. Saakvitne was recommended to me. It provided useful information about vicarious traumatization, how to recognize it, and ways to cope with it. There was a section that talked about various creative/expressive techniques that could be used to help manage the feelings that can come up when working with the abused or offender populations. There was even a self survey to rate how well you are taking care of yourself. I recommend this book if you would like to learn more about vicarious trauma and how to handle it, so you don't become overwhelmed or burnt out in your work.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

DVD or Book Directive

In my Empathy group, I read a passage from the book, "Little Children" by Tom Perrotta, and asked group members to create an image to show empathy for a character from the passage I read. The following week, I brought in the DVD by the same title and showed a scene from the movie. Again, I asked the group members to create an image to show empathy for one of the characters from the movie scene. This is another good way to address victim empathy that is "safer" for the client than talking about his own victim. You could also use the movie, "The Woodsman." This directive can be used with other populations as you could choose any movie to fit the topic you are trying to address.