"Patients who have not engaged in traditional talk or process based groups have flourished in Kristen's group. She provides a safe, validating, and fun environment for them to express themselves - not an easy feat for this population. Kristen is an effective, highly skilled and caring group facilitator, qualities that are much appreciated by the patients and staff."
Gillian Rowney CYC
Milieu Therapist, Inpatient Eating Disorders Program, SickKids Hospital
Group art therapy is available in many institutions, hospitals, support groups and schools in Toronto. When done well, it is affirming, calming and esteem-building while offering opportunities for sharing and mutual support. I am pleased to offer group art therapy sessions onsite to a variety of organizations and groups. I have strong facilitations skills which incorporate positive energy, diplomacy and a calm, confident demeanour. I have had the privilege of designing and running group art therapy sessions over a number of years for both inpatients and outpatients at SickKids hospital. I have also run group sessions at youth crisis units and family shelters. I would be delighted to discuss how group art therapy can serve the population you work with.
When working with groups, particularly vulnerable populations such as children and youth, striking a balance between acknowledging the individual and building group cohesiveness is key to a fulfilling experience for all participants.
Benefits of group art therapy
Depending on the population you work with, group art therapy can offer both concrete and nuanced benefits. Here are a few:
- It provides a break from current stressors by offering a healthy distraction from challenges and accompanying worries
- It increases feelings of self worth as familiarity with art supplies and techniques are developed and perception skills nurtured
- It offers a safe, non-judgmental place to explore feelings and ideas in a non-verbal way
- It gives participants the powerful experience of transforming feelings into external images and objects
- It offers a valuable tool for individuals who are reluctant to express themselves verbally
- It presents an unique opportunity to develop trust when relating to others
- It is a place to witness cultural sensitivity in action and receive affirmation of individual difference
- It is a chance to use humour and experience its power diffuse difficult experiences and feelings
- It introduces a new tool (art-making) that participants may continue using outside of group time to diffuse stress or anxiety
Support provided by the art therapist
The art therapist plays many roles during group therapy including:
- Encouraging and reinforcing each client's creative and imaginative expression
- Supporting participants as they externalize and manage feelings in order to regulate them
- Modelling respect for each individual's autonomy, agency and unique strengths
- Demonstrating support from a strength-based, positive foundation, seeking to relieve rather than trigger or exacerbate trauma-based symptoms
- Providing instruction on use of materials, or techniques when appropriate, to empower participants and enhance their pleasure in exploring a variety art materials
You can read about the research that demonstrates the effectiveness of group art therapy here.