I spent the Christmas holiday period, from December 20 until today, January 6, covering for my colleagues. This means that I had many days at the hospital catching up on paperwork and doing some therapy work with patients that I would not usually have time for.
Such days are valuable for trying out new techniques. I have many techniques to help patients develop a mindfulness practice but I have been looking for some that support behavioural activation – one of the practices that addresses depression and helps patients to think about their life and treatment goals. I always have lots of ideas for new groups, but I rarely have enough time to see whether patients will find them to be beneficial – or effective.
Another activity that I have been trying to include in therapy work is artistic expression. Many people, including youth, are natural artists. You can find them doodling in groups or even drawing and painting in their journals instead of writing. Some of what they produce can be very powerful, and their art can help them to recover from their mental illnesses. The problem is that it can be difficult to truly explore with patients how to use the tool of art when you’re a terrible artist yourself.
Then I found the website Scriberia. On this website, the observer is told: “Everything we do at Scriberia is underpinned by the fundamental belief that pictures make thinking, working and communicating easier for everyone.” This website encourages people to “think visually”, something that I think many people are already using, although perhaps not as powerfully as they might.
Reading Scriberia’s posts, and following their tweets, I became intrigued by the idea of using drawing in therapy. Reading Scriberia’s posts, I became convinced that being a “terrible artist” should not be a drawback to thinking visually. Considering this, I began to read more about art therapy and to consider how I could work it into the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that I already use in my work with patients.
As the New Year approached, the youth on the inpatient unit began to think about “New Year’s Resolutions”. As weight loss and harm reduction loomed on goal sheets, I thought that, since I had some extra time, we might sit down together for a group on Values – a key aspect of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – and look at getting at New Year’s Resolutions from a completely different angle and with artwork.
As I drew up a basic values exercise, I went to the internet (What else?) for ideas on art and New Year’s Resolutions. I found a great worksheet called “Draw Your New Year’s Resolution”, on a website for Ink Factory Studio and decided to use it for a Values Group to consider resolutions and goals for the New Year. I was hoping to help my patients find a tool that would open their minds to the possibility of a year in which their resolutions show them their best selves. I’ve copied the worksheet below so that you can see how it looks. Doing something artistic often seems intimidating to me but I found this worksheet inviting. So did my patients. Their immediate feedback was positive and the goals that emerged for these youth was far-reaching and hopeful.
I cannot say enough about Ink Factory and Scriberia for opening this artistic door for me. Why not take a half hour mini-retreat and explore your New Year’s resolutions in pictures instead of words?
And don’t focus on weight or changing bad habits – focus on goals to change the world!