Art Therapy, when used properly, is an excellent tool for recovery and discussion. At Hower Lodge, we provide several different art therapy groups. A few examples of our art therapy classes include: a vision board, needle point, crochet, cross stitching, jewelry making and a decorative box.
The purpose of the vision board group is to promote a different way of thinking for the resident while also helping the resident to define dreams and goals that are relevant to her. Clients are encouraged to envision their goals in several categories such as: financial, health, travel, spirituality, family, personal growth and career in addition to several other questions given to the group for reflection while completing the visions board. Residents are then encouraged to share their goals with the group. Giving these goals a voice by speaking them out loud to the group makes them tangible and real, and together with the physical vision board drives home the point that these are all achievable through hard work and dedication.
Needle point and crochet concentrate on the resident’s ability to remain in the moment and focus while learning something new. Residents are encouraged to monitor their thoughts while completing their projects in order to share her thoughts with peers at the end of the group. Participation in this group also challenges the resident to follow instructions even in the face of frustration or lack of esteem in their own work. Each resident’s reaction to the project serves as a discussion point for future group sessions encouraging the resident to observe emotions, impulses and thoughts. From there, the resident can discuss and reflect on how emotions, impulses and thoughts influence our actions.
There are several other art therapy groups we offer, including: decorative boxes, jewelry making and rock painting. All of these activities hone the resident’s ability to remain mindful and present in the moment. Sometimes, the application of new learned coping skills are required for residents to achieve the appropriate level of mindful awareness. This creates further opportunity for residents to practice being with themselves and enjoying the moment.
Skeffington and Brown write that, “creative therapies, such as art therapy, can provide a unique framework in which the possibility of working with uncomfortable (internal and external) experiences through imagery is attainable.” They go on to explain that when an image is created the resident is able to engage with the image in ways that allow them to interact with previously slippery or elusive emotions they may not have wanted to deal with before. “Images allow unspeakable traumatic experiences to be acknowledged and explored; this can facilitate change by moving clients towards thresholds and edges within themselves” (Skeffington & Brown). Working with art frees the mind to explore avenues that may have been inaccessible before. This is crucial in helping residents to resolve any issues that may be driving their compulsions. “The medium of art therapy appears to bring a richness to therapy that may allow access to hidden parts of the self quickly, where talk therapy cannot."
Part of art therapy’s value is its ability to be a great compliment to the rest of the primary treatment methods being used. For example, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a very common practice used to help residents understand how their thoughts and emotions affect their behavior. “These same strategies can be integrated with art therapy methods, allowing for a treatment package powerfully streamlined to increase emotional expression, regulation and help enhance interpersonal and healthy coping skill development” (Matto 2001)
In addition to helping the residents address thoughts and feelings they may not have been aware of; Art Therapy has value to the counselors and therapists treating residents. Observing the way residents interact with their various art projects can alert the helper to modes of thinking or perceptions that would not have otherwise come up in traditional talk therapy. This allows the therapist or counselor to circle back to the ideas observed and process or discuss it further.