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

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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?

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

Artist Dates, Creative Field Trips, and Artful Adventures: 18 Ideas for 2018

Last week I was scrolling my social media feed and stumbled upon a daily dose of creative goodness from Sharon Burton.  I always look forward to seeing Sharon’s posts pop up- they are full of inspiring ideas, people, quotes, and images to nurture our creative spirit.  Sharon recently founded Spark Your Creative to help others discover and strengthen their creative gifts.  Sharon posted an encouraging invitation to think about scheduling Artist Dates for the new year, something she already practices and shares weekly. I thought to myself, “I want to do this!” and make a 2018 commitment to taking creative field trips and going on artful adventures- on my own and with others on and offline. I started to brainstorm some ideas….. with regular creative activities and practices I want to do more of, as well as new possibilities and experiences that I would like to do/try/enjoy over the next 12 months:

1. Art exhibits: In 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to experience Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room- The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away at The Broad when I was visiting Los Angeles.  This summer, six of Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms are coming to the Cleveland Museum of Art. This is definitely a must do local creative field trip in 2018! Is there an exhibit or artist you want to see this year?

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrored Room @ The Broad, Los Angeles (2017)

2. Visit studio spaces.

3. Saturday Art Nights- with one of nights dedicated to playing with alcohol inks and watercolor on Yupo paper.

4. Take an art class.

5. Have an art movie night.

6. Organize my creative space and art materials, supplies- I realllly need to do this.

7. Blog more- One of my social media goals for this year is to begin regularly blogging more again! I’m trying out this editorial blogging journal to help support content, planning, and scheduling.

8. Replenish my magazine photo collage stash- I always find the process relaxing and inspiring! Made some progress on taking time to do this already! Doing another paper stash swap this year would also be fun!

9. Take a visit to Michael’s with my new giftcard. I would like to venture out for a visit to Blick this year too!

10. Take $5 to spend on items to use for an art project at a dollar store.  See how far you can stretch it. (#81 of Julia Cameron’s 101 Artist Date Ideas)

11. Bob Ross Art of Chill Board Game Playing- We recently played this during a Saturday art night and once we got all the rules and concept figured out, it was a fun time….

 

12. Follow, connect to, and be inspired by more art, artists, creatives, and art communities/organizations on social media.

13. Learn a new art technique or media.

14. Discover new artist blogs and revisit my favorites.

15. Organize a local art therapist meet up to hang out, make some art, and have fun together!

16. Create a new creative offering online.

17. Remain socially engaged in arts and art therapy advocacy through reaching out to, visiting with, and building relationships with legislators, policy makers, and stakeholders.

18. Invite spontaneous opportunities for creative connection and mindful moments of creativity!

What kind of artist dates, creative field trips, and artful adventures do you want to take in 2018?

 

Trauma Informed Self-Care Tips for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us: at home, in the workplace, in our communities, classrooms, and far and wide in the media, online, and in neighborhood stores.

This time of year can inspire festive gatherings and activities of joy, togetherness, and heartfelt memories with family and friends. For some, though, the holidays can be a challenging time of stress, adversity, and a difficult trigger of strong emotions, pressures, or traumatic experiences. This topic is the focus of my new guest post for The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children’s (TLC) blog, helping to provide a trauma informed considerations for the holidays and additional resources to learn more.  Read more here.

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.  🙂

Mission Statement Crafting

Recently I attended a retreat where part of the day introduced a closer look at the meaning behind mission statements. A mission statement offers intention and guidance towards ones goals and potential, often empowered by important values and beliefs.  A common practice in organizations and companies is to have a mission statement that helps define and offer focus about what the organization does, its purpose, and values.

Also introduced as a component of self-care during this retreat, mission statements can also be created as a personal declaration that helps define meaning, intentional living, and our own values that guide and empower our work, life, and goals.  It also helps strengthen resilience and compassion satisfaction, especially important for combatting compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization, and burnout. After reflecting on this practice more, I was inspired to create a mission statement collage to explore this idea deeper.

Before crafting the collage I used a provided template inspired by the work of Covey, Merrill, & Merrill (1997) that offered a series of “it is my mission to” prompts. I also discovered there are a lot of mission statement generators and builders online if you want additional help!

Creating this collage also will serve as a visual reminder to continue reflect on and refine.

It is my mission to

Live mindfully with intention and courage

Work creatively to help others

Continue growing and learning

Love unconditionally

Be grateful, calm, and present

Become open to what unfolds

Believe in humanity and the greater good

Promote hope and possibility

Strive for grace and presence

Seek understanding with integrity

Make & Do Show & Tell

I wanted to offer a quick show & tell of some images from my Make & Do 365 journal.

I have found that this daily creative practice has taken on a new level for activating self-care and creating an opportunity of creative refuge. I’ve worked my way through filling the journal’s pages for plans and wishes… and currently finishing pages dedicated to the section on dreams. I use the valuable creative time I have committed to this journal and to myself as a way to connect to a sense of mindfulness, hope, and peace of mind – a process and act that I continue to have much gratitude for and hold sacred.

Make and Do Show & Tell | creativity in motion

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3 Good Things Takeaway: Creative, Messy, Contained Workshop

I had a great time at Lani Gerity‘s workshop this past week-end at the Mid Atlantic Play Therapy Institute: Visual Art Journaling for Teens and Adults in Treatment: Creative, Messy, and Contained.

creativity in motion

The day was an artful exploration of resilience building, flourishing, intention setting, strength reflection, and lots of creative goodness to fill our handmade art journals that we made from hanging file folders, basic manila file folders for the signature pages inside, and a simple pamphlet stitch to bind it all together.

3 Good Things Takeaway: Creative, Messy, Contained Workshop | creativity in motion

I really enjoyed using the various supplies I brought in my mobile art stash– as well as sharing them with my tablemates so they could experiment with them in different ways. It was very inspiring to work in this community. We even did a table exchange of mini art in the form of artist trading cards, index cards, and craft tags to honor the concept of art as a gift, one of Lani’s prompts to explore practicing kindness and sharing joy with others through our art.  I was lucky to be gifted this art from Mary during our table exchange:

creativity in motion
Art as a Gift

 Upon returning home, as I was unpacking my supplies, handouts, and art from the workshop, I reflected on Lani’s teachings from the day prior and the power of art making to help us cope in distressing and challenging times.

This reflection also prompted me to summarize a list of 3 good things (so many to choose from!) from content introduced during the workshop- and ways to help instill hope, gratitude, and self-care into our lives:

  • Three Blessings Exercise– Dr. Martin Seligman suggests this practice as a way to foster well-being and decrease depression.  This exercise encourages us to make note of three things (for one week) what went well throughout our day and to reflect on why they went well (i.e. “why did this happen?”). According to the research of Dr. Seligman, focusing (and dwelling) on our blessings (what is good, going right with life) helps increase our well-being and decreases anxiety, depression that dwelling on bad events can actually make a lot worse. Lani puts an art-based spin to this exercise by suggesting to create art about three good things (collectively in one image or in separate images).  In one of Lani’s Happy Artist’s Life Workshops a few years ago for 6 Degrees of Creativity I even made a Pinterest board to collect images and content inspired by things that made me happy.  Re-visiting this board made me thankful that I created it— and maybe it is a good time to start adding to it again.
  • Daily Creative Practice– Citing the work and practice of art therapy pioneer Edith Kramer, Lani shared that creating art everyday helps guide skillfulness (mastery). This type of practice has a direct connection to nurturing our resilience, regulation, and inspiring us to be and do the best that we can.  I love that this reminder was included as part of the day’s offerings- and very much agree with these findings!
  • Sensory Relief Art- This prompt (originally to create an image representing a mini vacation and to incorporate the senses) inspired a collage that was connected to the importance of self-care, focusing on the here & now, and finding refuge & breathe in this space. I used a photograph of an old collage I created, pieces of torn (blue) magazine pages, distressed ink, and paint pens. Lots of relief in this image!
3 Good Things Takeaway: Creative, Messy, Contained Workshop | creativity in motion
Self-Care © 2016 gretchen miller

Thanks to the Lani, all the participants I met at the workshop, and the small group of fellow art journalers that I worked with throughout the day.  I look forward to incorporating content we learned into my groupwork and adding it to my art journaling ideas and inspiration.

Related Posts:

Happy Artist’s Life Art Journaling (VIDEO)

The Art of Emotional Resilience

Journey to Resilience: Takeaways and Creative Offerings

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