This week I am looking forward to speaking to Group Process students in Ursuline College’s Art Therapy and Counseling program about facilitating trauma focused art therapy groups. As I work on preparing the content I’ll be sharing about my work, I am inspired to share what I have come to love about doing groups- especially as an art therapist and trauma consultant, the benefits, and how this format is valuable when doing trauma informed work.
Group Work Loves:
- I definitely admit that group work has its challenges and complexities associated with meeting each member’s needs and creating a safe, cohesive, & therapeutic space for expression of emotions, thoughts, & experiences. However, groups are a really amazing setting for individual members who are managing a common experience related to trauma or a loss to come together in support of one another and provide validation they are not alone. The support that peers provide can be so nurturing and empowering related to coping, acceptance, and a sense of belonging.
- Creating art together, sharing materials, the creative space, and created art expressions further strengthens opportunities to explore interpersonal skills, boundaries, and nurture the importance of relational enrichment.
- My favorite part of group (other than the art-making!) is to introduce (and practice!) techniques related to supporting regulation and relaxation through deep breathing, focusing, guided imagery, movement, and more. When I first introduce this to new members it is sometimes met with anxious laughter or hesitation, but often it’s something that pretty much everyone ends up really enjoying. It’s awesome when that shift from a heightened state of arousal starts to give way to being in a calmer and safer moment. I love the times where I can witness everyone breathing in unison while we take 10 minutes to calm our minds and bodies before engaging in the group’s art directive.
- Most of the trauma focused groups that I offer to youth or adults have a structure of predictability and consistency built into its format. This helps with decreasing feelings of anxiety and empowers the group member with a general awareness about what to expect.
- One of the resources I recommend for learning more about the practice of art therapy in group work is Art-Based Group Therapy by Dr. Bruce Moon. Moon’s “Therapeutic Essentials of Art-Based Therapy Groups” often anchors my trauma work and intention when facilitating groups. These considerations speak to the act of art-making in groups to support safety, hope, community, relationships, empowerment, and working in the here and now with opportunities for satisfaction, purpose, and acceptance.
If you are interested in exploring more about group work with traumatized children and adolescents, my online continuing education course (6 CEUs!) with the National Institute for Trauma and Loss (TLC) continues to accept ongoing enrollment and introduces participants to themes, sensory based activities, therapeutic books, games, and creative interventions to implement in the group setting.
This month I am excited to share that I also joined TLC’s amazing blogging team as a guest contributor and kindly invite you to check out my first post, “The Value of Art Expression in Trauma-Informed Work” and stay tuned for more posts in 2015! 🙂
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