Ecopsychology, Self Care, and Creative Practice

February 25, 2018

Last week was the opening of Tending the Flames: Burnout and Resilience in Helping Professions exhibit, sponsored by Tri-C Gallery East, Tri-C’s Creative Arts and Art Therapy Program, Ursuline College’s Counseling and Art Therapy Department, and the Buckeye Art Therapy Association. The theme of this year’s exhibit is dedicated to how caregivers and helpers use art and the creative process to manage the stress and experiences related to this role, as well as nurture and strengthen resilience.

Part of the exhibit’s opening included a community lecture by local environmental philosopher and Lake Erie Institute Director Dr. Elizabeth Meacham, who spoke to attendees about the role of nature and ecopsychology in helping restore wellbeing, health, and recover from challenging circumstances or pressures associated with taking care of others. Dr. Meacham provided simple strategies to invite a daily nature practice in our lives and work, such as but not limited to:

  • Remembering to take outdoor breaks – go for a walk, visit your favorite nature spot;
  • Find a favorite tree in your environment that you can visit daily and feel, interact with;
  • If you are unable to get outside, have nature objects such as rocks and leaves indoors- pause and take in their sensory based qualities through touch and smell;
  • Tune into and engage your senses through imagery, breath, sound, and smell

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Meacham’s teachings, check out these resources:

If you are interested in learn more about the role of ecopsychology in art therapy and burnout, check out this True Calling podcast, Art Therapy, Ecopsychology, & Curing Chronic Burnout with Registered Art Therapist Lanie Smith or her post, Nature as a Portal to Self: How Eco Art Therapy Can Help You Reconnect and Heal.

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For this exhibit, my supervision group created a mandala inspired by this year’s theme, working on what we titled a “Self Care Compass”.  Our image included a contribution from each of us about what helps guide our work and self care as art therapists.  Themes of interacting with nature, practicing mindfulness, flexibility, and grounding ourselves in hope and growth were explored in our collective dialogue and expressed in the art we created together.  Self care is an important, ongoing discussion in supervision, whether it is activating ways to take better care of ourselves, balance our daily lives and relationships with our work responsibilities and commitments, stay present and connected, or cultivate compassion satisfaction instead of compassion fatigue.

Self care compass- oil pastels, paint sticks, markers on craft paper | Leah, Skyla, Jessi, Lacey, Gretchen, 2018

My 2013 art journal about self care as an art therapist and trauma practitioner was also on display at the exhibit, focusing on themes related to gratitude, affirmation, strengths, and mindfulness in connection to facilitating trauma informed care. It was so inspiring to see all the works of art and creative expressions that filled the gallery in the spirit of the exhibit’s focus.

Self care through creative practice project | gretchen miller, 2013

If you are in the area and interested in checking out the exhibit, it is on display until March 22 and located on the Eastern Campus of Tri-C in Highland Hills, Ohio. Gallery East is in room 135 of the Education Center and open daily. Call 1-216-987-2475 for more information.

Related Links

Self-Care through Creative Practice & Intention: Affirmation

Creative Action Link Round Up: Self-Care, Responsibility, Community

Exploring Covenant Based Caregiving with a Creative Twist

Journey to Resilience: Takeaways & Creative Offerings

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