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July 02, 2012

Art Group Therapy for Clients with Severe and Persistent Mental Illness

As a social work intern at Community Support and Treatment Services (CSTS), I run an art group for clients with severe and persistent mental illness. The group meets weekly for one hour, and typically five clients attend the group. This type of group is unique in that it is not a discussion-based group. At times, I have struggled with how much emphasis I should place on socializations, because some clients attend for social interaction. The group is currently structured in a manner that promotes indirect social interaction.

The group begins with five minutes of introductions which include names and an interesting fact or getting-to-know-you question posed by the leader. The leader also introduces the group, meeting times, and theme of the week. Examples of themes include healing, stigma, mood, and identity. The leader also has a couple project suggestions for clients who prefer to follow a model. Project ideas include: puzzles, print making, paper mache, painting, origami, mobiles, and picture frames. The group has 45 minutes to work on projects, and the leader engages in conversation with clients if they are interested in socializing. The final 10 minutes is a time for sharing projects with the group, and group members provide feedback to the client.

The group has proven to be effective as measured by feedback from members and high rate of attendance by current members. The group also utilizes Yalom’s approaches to group development. The key factors include: instilling hope through peer-peer interactions, imitating behavior, increasing social network, interpersonal learning, universality (reducing stigma), group cohesion, and altruism. The group is centered around art so there is little pressure to speak with other members, but many members choose to engage in peer-peer interactions. The leader is also able to model appropriate social interaction. Finally, members are able to increase confidence by creating unique projects which build self-esteem and reduce the stigma that they feel.

Posted by desolada at July 2, 2012 10:11 AM


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