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Expressive Arts Bereavement Groups at Community Home Support – Lanark County

Posted Feb 15 2012 12:00am
Community Home Support-Lanark County is once again offering expressive arts bereavement groups for children, teens and adults beginning in March 2012.   These groups run for 8 weeks at the Perth office free of charge and are facilitated by Julie McIntyre, an experienced art therapist, and trained hospice volunteers who are also professionals. 

In the fall of 2011 three groups were successfully completed for bereaved children (7 to 12), teens (13-17) and adults using expressive arts modalities including visual arts, poetry, drama, movement, games, journaling, mask and doll making and storytelling.  Comments from teens included: “an amazing output of emotions”, “I never realized how I felt until I looked at my own art”, “everything in life is just another obstacle to overcome, another journey for our life and art helps us understand and made sense of it”, “so much better than I imagined it would be”, and “even though you are going through a tough time just remember you will always have someone to talk to and talking about it makes you feel better even though you may seem uneasy about it at first it makes you feel braver and ready to face the world”.  Participants indicated that being in a safe environment where they could share their own experience of loss and connect to others who understood was a great opportunity to feel supported.  One  new aspect of the program will be to use teens who have experienced this group to become co-facilitators and mentors in other groups. Expressive therapy, also known as creative arts therapy, uses creative arts such as music, dance, drama, and writing as a form of therapy. The most important concept behind the use of expressive therapy is that using the imagination to create art helps promote mental and physical healing. When this type of therapy is used as treatment, the act of creating is given more importance than producing a completed work of art. The creative arts are a powerful tool for us to restore, repair and renew.  Expressive arts therapy is also about experiencing the natural capacity of creative expression and creative community for healing.  Working in the arts allows expressions of feelings that there may be no words for or where there have already been too many words such as discussion of a loss.  It is the process of the art making that is the true healing experience. Children have always used art and play as a means of coping with events and emotions beyond their control. Adults may find it more difficult to engage in the creative process so freely. But when we do let go, we are assuming an active role rather than a passive one over our experience. When art is made in response to a grief experience, a person learns to practice control over the experience that may be otherwise difficult to accept. This active response is empowering as it increases a sense of control, hopefully providing a realization that you have a choice in how you relate to your experience. Having choices is empowering! This freedom of choice as well as the experience of sharing with others in a similar situation can boost self-esteem and self-confidence as well as form connections that help integrate the experience of loss as a journey that others are also sharing.
What are the benefits of expressive art therapy? Art can make the invisible (such as painful emotions and experiences) visible through external expression. Experiences in art creation validate our connection to the whole of life, which increases self-esteem, self-validation, and self-awareness. Encourages self-control through working with art materials. Metaphorical language and story can emerge through the art, giving voice to that which is often difficult to express. Emergent and re-occurring symbols bridge our conscious and unconscious awareness. Discovery of one’s strengths and authenticity. Learning the skill of self-observation through one’s art creations. Art making engages the whole brain and can stimulate integration of cognitive, feeling and sensory processes. Art and emotions are closely linked and therefore art-making can help to positively alter one's mood. Energy and vitality can be increased by a visible expression of suppressed thoughts and memories. Provides an experience of relaxation, reducing stress, anxiety and worry. Art therapy offers a hands-on, active, fun, and productive form of therapy. The use of expressive arts in grief and bereavement work has many beneficial effects and can promote healing, integration and connection in a group setting.  No artistic talent is required or expected and there is no judgement on the work completed.  Everyone is encouraged to use the art making within the group for their own healing and to continue the process at home after the completion of the group.
For more information or to register for an upcoming group, please contact Rebecca Bowie at  613-267-6400  or rebeccab@chslc.ca .  Community Home Support-Lanark County is supported by the South East LHIN, the United Way of Lanark County and community donations.
Rebecca Bowie
Coordinator, Volunteer Hospice Visiting Service
Community Home Support - Lanark County
40 Sunset Blvd., Suite 100
Perth, Ontario  K7H 2Y4
Phone:  613-267-6400 ext. 28  or Fax:  613-267-3497
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