The Value of Community Care in Difficult Times

We are all familiar with concepts of self-care as an important practice to take time for attending to our emotional, psychological, and physical health,  wellbeing, and needs.  Engaging in self care has often been highlighted throughout this pandemic to bring attention to strategies connected to managing our stress, isolation, and extreme changes associated with COVID-19’s impact.

Beyond self-care however, is the value of community care and its importance in taking responsibility and accountability to collectively care for one another, especially showing up in the hard times of distress and struggle.  Community care is also examining how we can use our privilege to be present and of help for another person or a group of people in ways that activates support and commitment not just on an individual level, but as a collective consciousness dedicated to caring for others in our communities and world. For example, people have been hand sewing and making masks for healthcare workers, loved ones, and community members to help protect everyone from COVID-19 infection. Our mask wearing, physical distancing, and handwashing hygiene to mitigate COVID-19 is a responsibility we can all practice for the health & well-being of those around us.

We have also witnessed a form of community care throughout US cities and beyond in other countries coming together to collectively support Black Lives Matter in unprecedented ways to denounce the murdering of African Americans at the hands of the police, shed light on the realities of systemic racism, and through acts of demonstrating, protesting, creating public & street art in response, as well as the use of digital activism through social media to amplify messages of support, solidarity, and anti-racism.

Community care has been an important component of taking care of each other during these difficult times. Read this recent post from YES! Magazine to learn more about how community care is showing up in this “next normal” we are trying to make sense of for ourselves and more importantly, others.

If you are interested in exploring the concept of community care with art therapists, below is an artist trading card exchange focusing around this theme that you are invited to participated in– what does community care look like to you?

Related Posts:

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

Creative Action Link Round-Up: Racial Justice, Anti-Racism, & Social Change

Finding Calm Through Creativity In Uncertain Times

Creative Action Link Round-Up: Racial Justice, Anti-Racism, & Social Change

This creative action link round up shares some art therapy and art-based resources to learn more about racial trauma, ways that art therapists can practice anti-racism, as well as how the arts are providing a voice to pain, loss, suffering, and bring communities together in protest, meaningful change, hope, solidarity, & advocacy.  This post also honors the contributions of African American pioneers in the field of art therapy.

  • Creative Healing Spaces: Healing From Racial Wounds: Three lessons art therapist Lindsey D. Vance has learned about changing the framework of therapy in her practice with clients of color to respond to racial trauma, engage in community based practice, and bring communities together through art.  Lindsey also participated last week in a Creative Justice FB Live with Sharon @ Spark Your Creative to discuss the intensity of what we are seeing and hearing, how it can deeply affect our ability to create , what we do create, and how we can heal ourselves and others affected by violence in our communities.
  • Cultural Humility in Art Therapy– In this book published early in 2020, art therapist Dr. Louvenia Jackson writes about cultural humility in art therapy, as a lens to address power differentials and encourage art therapists to examine privilege within social constructs, become mindful of our own bias, assumptions and beliefs.
  • Anti-racist Approach to Art Therapy: Re-examining Core Concepts– Three strategies from art therapist Dr. Jordan Potash for art therapists to confront race-based injustices & power differentials in our practice and with systems. Learn more about how art therapists can develop an anti-racist perspective, re-examine art therapy concepts through anti-racist paradigms, and advocate for system change.
  • Framing Race in the Context of Art Therapy: Art therapist Dr. Cheryl Doby-Copeland frames race in the context of art therapy through defining racism, racial trauma, & bringing awareness to the impact of societal discrimination & oppression with clients & families of color.

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  • Honoring African-American Art Therapy Pioneers : Learn about the contributions of Georgette Seabrooke Powell, Charles Anderson, Dr. Sarah McGee, Dr. Lucille Venture, and Cliff Joseph to the profession of art therapy as leaders, clinicians, educators, researchers, authors, artists, and advocates.

 

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My Own Call to Action: 

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Related Posts:

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

20 Creative Quotes on Courage, Hope, & Possibility

Creative Resilience Link Round Up

COVID-19 Material Management and Best Practices for Art Therapy

This week I started to cautiously ease into providing in-person art therapy groups at one the sites I am at that has re-mobilized face to face group therapy programming for clients.  A lot of consideration has been made organizationally to create a physical environment that will be safe for clients needing services.  This starts with mandatory healthcare screening measures and clearance upon entering the overall facility such as temperature checks, self report questions about potential COVID-19 symptoms and risk, lots of signage and visual cues for physical distancing in common spaces, and being provided a mask to wear if you do not already have one.

Within the program space in which I provide services, every group member is required to physically distance at least 6 feet from other members and the facilitator, which also includes limiting the maximum number of clients allowed in the group space depending on the required amount of space needed for physical distancing.  Everyone on-site (group leaders, staff, and clients) wear masks throughout the day’s programming.

As an art therapist facilitating primarily group work, I want to keep clients, their families, staff, and myself as safe as possible during this transition of navigating to this next normal of gathering together again, even if it is 6 feet apart.  The usual use of art therapy materials that are commonly available to the group or used in a session (often shared or handled by multiple people and as a community), as well as the way materials are managed or distributed in the art therapy space required serious reconsideration.  In an effort to make sense of this new, developing practice for myself and help educate or reassure those coming into the art therapy space, I drafted this COVID-19 Material Management and Best Practices in Art Therapy two pager. 

The two pager provides practices on three areas: Hand Washing/Sanitizing,  Material Management, and Disinfection of Art Materials to help promote infection control and decrease the spread of germs and illness.  I also provided examples of media that I use in my art therapy space to help distinguish between supplies that would be considered single use or could be used multiple times if properly disinfected.  I also started to individually put art materials into ziploc bags that could be given to clients to use (and clean before putting back into the bag) or if not possible to clean (such as oil pastels) to keep for their own use at home or discard.  Obviously in a group setting, where the amount of clients and number of groups throughout the week can be several, there may not be the necessary budget to sustain giving materials away or throwing them out.

As this evolving situation with COVID-19 continues to emerge, additional practices and approaches will certainly also surface within the art therapy community.  Medical art therapists who regularly work with immune comprised patients have instituted infection control procedures with their materials and their way of working as a common form of practice.  Considerations are made for providing meaningful and therapeutic art interventions that not only emotionally support a patient they are working with and appropriate treatment goals, but also the necessary use of handling, prepping, and using materials in the physical space to ensure this is a safe practice and will do no harm to ones health and wellbeing.   Art therapists’ knowledge and understanding of materials are a primary foundation to our practice, expertise, and training.

The two pager I created was informed by the valuable experiences of the medical art therapy community, as well as art educators working in classrooms with lots of students who are trying to figure out how to teach and make art together safely as a group when they are finally able to return to some form of in-person learning.  This American Art Therapy Association (AATA) COVID-19 related resource and recent journal publication, as well as AATA webinars that were hosted in March and May also provided helpful information about working in this new environment.

I am curious if you have any suggestions for practices you’ve started to use or consider for face to face art material use in this time of COVID-19, especially related to work with groups or more than one individual at once?  We can definitely keep learning from eachother as we face unfamiliar situations and working because of this pandemic.

Finding Calm Through Creativity In Uncertain Times

We have all been experiencing and navigating an uncertain terrain of intense change & loss during this worldwide pandemic.   The impact of this public health crisis has been overwhelming.  For me, it has been comforting to find some refuge and calmness in connecting to my own creativity and the creativity of others during this time of isolation.   This has taken the form of mindful doodling, working on artist trading cards that I will be sending out as mail art, gathering for virtual art making on Zoom, and enjoying the art & creative expressions filling my social media feeds.

Every year, April 15-21 is designated as World Creativity & Innovation Week which is celebrated to recognize the important value of creativity on our lives and around the world.  This year I believe WCIW shines a bigger, brighter spotlight on the role of creativity on these dark times, as our lives, workplaces, relationships, and well-being have collectively experienced great stress and disruption.

When fellow creative, artist, poet, friend, and Spark Your Creative creativity coach Sharon Burton reached out to me to spend some time talking with her on World Creativity & Innovation Day about creating calm through creativity, I was honored to help inform this discussion. It is always a pleasure to chat with Sharon and I appreciate when her creative acts and inspiration pop up in my social media feeds.

Finding Calm through Creativity in Uncertain Times | Creativity in Motion

Some of the topics we touched on were creativity as self-care, ways to activate creativity as a family in these times of staying at home, tips for jumpstarting your creativity if you think “I’m not creative” or if you are experiencing a creative block or feeling stuck.  You can catch the replay here.

In addition to our discussion, I also wanted to share some resources and content that also addresses some of the topics we covered:

How have you used creativity during this time of COVID-19?

The Art of Relationships in Trauma Informed Work

This week Dr. Bruce Perry was here in Cleveland again (!) and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend his all day training focusing on the Six Core Strengths for Healthy Childhood Development. Inspiring, as always! Much of what he spoke about reinforced the immense power relationships have in trauma informed care. I compiled the notes I took from Dr. Perry’s lecture into some art with a few of (the many!) takeaways I wanted to remember about this topic:

Notes inspired by Dr. Bruce Perry, Cleveland 5/15/2018
  1. Relationships are more important than any adversity. Multiple adverse circumstances or experiences can be buffered by the healthy, positive relational connection in our lives.
  2. We live a relational driven life- our relationships with others impact us the most.
  3. The nature and number of healthy, positive relationships we have is key to our resilience, healing and recovery.
  4. Human beings are relational creatures and our behaviors, actions, feelings, and experiences are contagious to others.
  5. A trauma informed community and relational milieu is a healing community.
  6. Relational health = the degree of our internetwork of connectedness (Relational Poverty vs. Relational Wealth)
  7. Communication is all about rupture + repair, disconnection + connection — it is essential to explicitly acknowledge our differences, assumptions, implicit biases to build relationships.
  8. Therapeutic dosing and therapeutic spacing is important to provide tiny, repetitive doses of engagement, distancing, then re-engagement to support change.

Check out this Child Trauma Academy Resource of many of the slides and content presented during this training.

As an art therapist, I also reflected on how art-making, the creative process, and trauma intervention through art therapy supports relational considerations presented by Dr. Perry.  Art therapy “effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals” (The American Art Therapy Association) through:

  • Creating and/or re-establishing a safe space to explore feelings, responses, and experiences through active engagement in “bottom up” sensory-based intervention that supports lower parts of the brain where trauma resides;
  • Making art together in groups, families, and communities can foster healthy interactions, connectedness, and a sense of belonging that transcends language;
  • Art therapy creates opportunities to explore themes of deconstruction and reconstruction through the art making process and offer insight into internal and external communication, conflict, biases, and relational restoration;
  • The nature of art making with an art therapist offers repetitive, patterned, and parallel action while safely regulating and managing traumatic stress and triggers that could activate ones response system
  • An opportunity to build and strengthen resilience through meaningful art-based interactions and interventions that explore safety, change, vulnerability, and regulation.

Thank you Dr. Perry for returning to Cleveland and another great day of trauma informed learning!

 

Related Posts

Reflections on Art Therapy, Trauma, & Group Work

Top Ten Takeaways : PEP Symposium Dr. Bruce Perry in Cleveland (2013)

Top 10: Impact of Trauma and Neglect on the Developing Child with Dr. Bruce Perry (2012)

Ecopsychology, Self Care, and Creative Practice

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

The Joy of Bob Ross

Last week the classic PBS TV show The Joy of Painting with host and artist Bob Ross celebrated its 35th Anniversary!  The appeal and love of Bob Ross is stronger than ever for old fans and new, with opportunities to binge watch past episodes on Netflix, attend Bob Ross Paint-Along events, and new Bob Ross inspired products and artisan wears to get your daily dose of positivity and determination.

The joys of Bob Ross are many for me:  his calming voice, his words of encouragement and validation as he not only empowers the viewer with how to paint, but with language and experiences inspired by his creative process about life, making mistakes, choices, and enjoying the moment. Bob’s soothing tone, love of nature, and storytelling creates a safe and comforting space of acceptance.  As an art therapist, I find myself sometimes channeling the spirit and referencing the words of Bob Ross with my clients, as an example of how to reframe mistakes, create our world, and be kind to ourselves and others.  Read some of Bob Ross’ inspiring quotes here or watch this fun PBS remix capturing some of his iconic phrases and life lessons while painting on his show.

And…. how perfect it was to be gifted the 2018 Bob Ross calendar over the holidays to be reminded throughout the year of his wisdom and share it with others!  🙂  An inspiring way to launch 2018!

Enjoy more Bob Ross with these related links:

The Life and Story of Bob Ross

Random Joy of Painting with Bob Ross

A Statistical Analysis of the Work of Bob Ross

The Soothing Sounds of Bob Ross

Watch Bob Ross for an Uplifting and Therapeutic Experience

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting. Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative; these things, to me, are truly the windows to your soul.” ~Bob Ross

2017 Creative Inspiration in Art Therapy, Advocacy, and the Arts

In this post I want to offer some of the silver linings I’ve tweeted or retweeted this year, with attention to the arts, creativity, advocacy, and art therapy.  There have been several positive moments, messages, and accomplishments that I have found hopeful and encouraging… some light among the events and challenges 2017 has seen.

  • The American Art Therapy Association recently published this 2017 review of art therapy achievements in public awareness, advocacy, organizational statements, campaigns, and professional development seen this year on state and federal levels and within the Association;
  • This early 2017 article Creative Collaboration is What Humans Do Best speaks to the power of creativity and imagination to help us proactively and collectively work together on the challenges we experience. This piece encourages us to use our interconnectedness for constructively solving problems and activate successful solutions.  These empowering words were a great read and reminder to help counteract experiences of division and sense of powerlessness or helplessness we may face;
  • This summer I blogged about the US Department of Arts and Culture’s Guide to Artistic Response to Natural Disasters and Social Emergencies as a creative action resource. Also worth bringing attention to are other opportunities on the USDAC site available for art citizens who want to make a social impact with their creative expression.  The next event happening is the People’s State of the Union, an annual civic ritual and participatory art project if you are interested in getting involved!
  • Throughout this year, the Americans for the Arts has blogged on many current topics impacting the arts, artists, and communities, as well as ways for arts advocates to get involved in, support, and how to reach out policy makers and legislators about matters involving social change, leadership, community engagement, arts business, and more. A really valuable presentation I attended at the 2017 American Art Therapy Association conference in November was a legislative advocacy and lobbying information session led by Senior Director of State and Local Government Affairs at Americans for the Arts Jay Dick. This session presented positive ways art therapists can leverage legislator relationships to meet licensure and advocacy goals;

  • Also in November the Americans for the Arts reported that $150 million has been proposed for National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities funding in 2018.  This news was a huge win for arts advocacy efforts, as it was recommended by the current administration that funding for these vital government programs be completely eliminated. These monies will also continue to fund NEA’s Creative Forces, a military healing arts network, which includes art therapy services for veterans and service members;
  • Art Therapist Lani Gerity’s 2017 blog posts (#157-#171) Out of A Thousand Ways to Have a Happy Artist’s Life series has also highlighted much needed reminders about how the arts, creativity, and imagination can be used to help us be more resilient, kinder, and peaceful when facing dark and unsettling times.

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I wish you a 2018 full of artful abundance and creative spirit…. Happy New Year to you and yours!

Gratitude Round-Up: Creativity, Resilience, & Well-being

I thought today would be a nice time to re-share some of my favorite archived blog posts about gratitude, creativity, resilience, and well-being. I enjoyed re-visiting these and I hope you will enjoy this round-up too:

These posts continue to guide me about the importance of having a gratitude practice and the role of creativity in helping support and express what we are thankful for– especially in times of uncertainty, stress, or conflict. Not just today or when times are tough, but beneficial for our well-being everyday.  A wonderful opportunity for us to activate daily creative practices with an attention to gratitude.  🙂

Perseverance and Arts Advocacy

This week the White House unveiled its budget proposal, which included completely defunding and eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts.  This distressing news about the NEA and other programs that champion culture & humanities in the United States have increased art advocacy efforts into high gear to save the arts.

The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) issued this statement about how defunding the NEA will effect clients who receive art therapy services from NEA sponsored programs and includes ways art therapists and art therapy supporters can take action.  Contact legislators and let the US Congress (who approves the budget) to reject this proposed elimination of the NEA.  This action alert from the Americans for the Arts includes an easy way to contact officials and you can also sign their petition to support the arts in America. The Atlantic, in its news piece The Real Cost of Abolishing the National Endowments for the Arts, states that “this kind of work can and should be bipartisanand cites Second Lady Karen Pence’s interest in raising awareness for art therapy as her official cause as an example.

Art Advocacy Day in DC (tomorrow and Tuesday, March 20 & 21) will be an important opportunity for art communities, organizations, and advocates to come together to share and showcase the critical role the arts has in everyone’s lives. The AATA is again one of the partnering organizations supporting these efforts.

 Learn more about the arts wide reaching impact in this NEA video:

Here in my home state, the Ohio Arts Council released this statement from Executive Director Donna S. Collins which offered hopeful considerations to keep in mind during these challenging times, including these words:

“We are nowhere near the end of the road for the NEA or public support of the arts… Stay calm, remain strong, and be confident. The NEA has weathered these types of debates before, and together, the arts community will persevere.”

Additional Reading:

NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu | NEA on Facebook

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