Group Art Therapy comes in may guises...
Art Therapy in a group offers you a different experience from one-to-one work because the group creates and offers its own unique dynamic. Group members have individual reactions, thoughts and comments that only arise in this setting. Alison's job is to hold and contain the space for everyone to feel safe and able to contribute fully. It can be a powerful experience. Group therapy aims to agree some core 'rules' of confidentiality and mutual respect etc, and meet regularly, in the same space, at the same time, with the same therapist.
They can be mixed - Men and women or single-sex. Children and adults are not mixed, unless this is specifically a family group therapy.
Here are a few ways Alison can offer Group Art Therapy:
Art Psychotherapy Groups:
These are classic 'closed' (this means no-one new can join once the group has begun), longer-term or open-ended groups where participants (usually between 6-12 people) make a deffined commitment to come regularly, to uphold each others confidentiality and to address and explore interactional and emotional worlds through art-making and verbal sharing. Irvin D Yalom's theories and Practice of Group Psychotherapy is relevant to Alison's thinking and design in this style of therapy. Sessions will be weekly for usually between 1-2 hours. All art work is kept within the group and remains conffidential until the end of therapy.
Art Therapy experiential groups:
These groups are more likely to be shorter-term and may be a little more directive: with themes, suggestions and directions coming from Alison much more. They may be closed once begun, or may enable a slow trickle of movement of people in and out. They still uphold verbal and art confidentiality and any safety rules agreed by the group. They are often a good style of group therapy for staff groups or students of counselling or other therapies to experience art therapy directly whilst learning some applicable skills within a deffined format. These will often be between 1-12 sessions and can be from 1.5 hours weekly to a whole day experience.
Mentalisation based Art Therapy groups (Attachment issues)
There is a body of evidence that Mentalisation-based interventions are benefficial for people who experience attachment issues (including borderline and other personality disorders) that are causing distress. These mentalisation based Art Therapy groups function in a speciffic way and will be tailored to the group of people and setting it is created and run within. Often this will be within other Service settings like NHS specialist units. Alison would usually expect to have a co-facilitator and liaise closely with the group member's wider support circles. There may be concurrent one-to-one therapy being offered to the group members from Alison and/or other clinicians. In essence these groups are an amended version of Alison's Art Therapy studio style group mentioned below.
Short-term goal-oriented groups
These Art Therapy groups may be around specific issues such as:
- Anxiety reduction
- self-worth and conffidence improvement
- bereavement and loss
- Coping with caring
- Dealing with difficult emotions
- Life transitions
- Communication and social skills
- Being with others etc.
These are usually designed for the needs of the group members, or sometimes Alison will set something up around an issue and advertise this for you to sign up to.
Systems, Teams or Family Art Therapy
Sometimes it is useful for groups of people who are strongly involved or attached to each other to work together therapeutically. This may be a whole family, siblings, a carer and the cared-for, couples or any other combination of other signifficant relationship. This can be a useful way to explore team dynamics and enable a safe expressive space to explore emotions and reactions that arise for and within these relationships. As people become more empowered within their own care and health provisions to employ their own support workers etc, these styles of refflective groups may be of beneffit for lone workers to come together with others to explore their experiences and validate their feelings, enabling continued energy and resilience for their caring work.
Art Therapy Studio Art Therapy Groups
Alison has run many of these over the years. They are a specific style of Art Therapy group that particularly beneffits people experiencing signifficant social anxiety and/or social isolation for physical, emotional, psychological, mental health or cultural reasons. They run weekly for at leat 2 hours, for between 8-18 months (longer for more entrenched issues and people with cognitive disabilities). They are designed to fundamentally offer a sense of reliability and engender a sense of safety whilst being facilitatory and respectful of a person's individuality. They are deliberately low in deffined goals as the aim is to engage, encourage and empower the members to ffind their inner artist and value themselves as an equal member of society. Often, but not always, it may conclude in a visit to a local Art Gallery or Museum and/or a group exhibition. Alison has done this on numerous occasions in collaboration with both Kettle's Yard and The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and is seeking to develop something with City Gallery in Peterborough Museum in 2016.
Therapeutic Service based Art Groups e.g.. residential care homes, dementia units or LD day services etc
As an experienced Art Therapist, community artist and artist, Alison brings all of these skills, ways of thinking and working to any intervention created. Sometimes 'pure' art therapy is not required or appropriate, and in these instances and settings, Alison can design something to respond to the over all context and goals.
All art making can be therapeutic but not all therapeutic art-making is art therapy! However, you only gain in these situations where you may be want more of an arts and craft group or teaching format, because Alison cannot switch off who she is and is therefore ever the art therapist in her thinking and interaction. This is a special way of using all her skills that Alison is excited about so please do get in touch!
Environmental art therapy
This is a growing aspect of Art Therapy where outdoor spaces are the space in which art therapy occurs, linking it with personal, local and global seasons, weather and change. Sometimes too a person's own Art Therapy process takes the therapy into wider situations and settings, but this is speciffic to there therapeutic needs of the person/group.
Clinical Training groups
Trainees and/or qualified clinicians of Arts Therapies, Psychotherapies, Counselling, Social work, Education, Healthcare, Charities, Prison/Probation Services etc etc, can beneffit from a closed confidential group therapy space for personal clinical refflection, expression and exploration. Burnout and overload resulting in depression and other mental and physical ailments are prevalent in these pressured industries. Bespoke groups can be designed and arranged.