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Program: Creative Expression Sessions
Demographic: Disadvantaged and ‘at risk’ 14- 18 yrs. old girls
Objective: Art therapy aimed to address mental health issues
Schedule: Weekly sessions throughout the year
The Creative Expression Sessions are designed to assist young girls suffering from mental health issues such as anorexia, anxiety disorder and depression. These sessions seek to enrich and strengthen the identity, social functioning and development of these at-risk young girls through engaging their unique creativity and release their anxiety by expressing themselves and their pains in art forms and thereby increasing their capacity to confront their fears and improve recovery.
Creative enrichment programs and initiatives have been shown to have a positive impact on youth development, especially young people suffering from mental health issues, such as anorexia and severe anxiety disorder.
“Art therapy used with, adolescents, and people with chronic health issues to assess and treat the following: anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems; substance abuse and addictions; family and relationship issues; abuse and domestic violence; social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness; trauma and loss; physical, cognitive, and neurological problems; and psychosocial difficulties related to medical illness.” (American Art Therapy Association, 2012)
Research shows art therapy has positive impacts on persons with depression, anxiety, low mood, trauma, distress, poor quality of life, inability to cope and low self-esteem. Art therapy benefits patients by reducing anxiety levels, improving recovery times, improving communication and social function. Art therapy has been used quite successfully to help adolescents learn to effectively communicate, improved concentration, improved behaviours and develop closer relationships. It has been shown to improve moods, promote relaxation, and decrease disruptive behaviours and attitudes, helping with coping strategies. It is capable of promoting a sense of personal independence, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency.
Our Program and Facilitators
Our Creative Expression Sessions are run by Esther Page. Esther has qualifications and teaching experience within the Special Education, Youth Social work fields and Art Therapy. Esther is registered as a teacher in New Zealand. She has attained a Bachelor of Visual Communications, Honours in Photography and has received training for youth work, non-violent crisis intervention, behaviour management, youth leadership and ‘Rites of Passage’ with Dr. Rubinstein. Esther’s understanding of the transformational stage of adolescence, her enthusiasm towards inspiring and supporting girls and young women with this journey, creates an enlightened, safe space.
Throughout the year, various professional creatives join the sessions who teach the girls to utilise a particular medium or technique. Mediums include painting, drawing, clay modelling, photography and textiles. Each session has 12-16 girls.
Girls are encouraged to listen to themselves and their emotions, using the medium to express their feelings and ideas that they might not be able to say in words. The guest professional creative will then begin workshopping the techniques and the girls will have time to practice and create. During this time [our facilitators] moves around the room, encouraging the girls in their creativity and discussing their designs with them. This is done with a non-judgemental, inquisitive attitude and often leads to the girls sharing about current difficulties in their lives and occasionally in the past. If appropriate, the girls may share in small groups about their artwork.
Throughout these Creative Expression Sessions, at risk young girls are given the opportunity to be engaged, transformed and strengthened by expressing ‘self’ through art therapy. Further, these young girls have the ability to communicate their feelings in a constructive manner while inspiring self-motivation, independence and communication.
Staff have seen considerable improvement amongst the girls who participate in the art therapy sessions, particularly in their areas of self-confidence and willingness to communicate. Over time, we have noticed lower levels of anxiety and social isolation, and less self-destructive behaviour. Having this creative outlet gives these girls a place to channel their emotions, both positive and negative, and is especially helpful when dealing with traumatic events or ongoing issues that are difficult to talk about. The professional creatives provide a fun way to engage in art therapy as well as being positive role models to the girls. Some girls who once struggled from severe low self-esteem and engaged in self-destructive behaviours now display a sense of confidence through the joy of creating art.