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. My 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 group specific (g women only) or mixed situations. Children and adults are not mixed, unless this is specifically a family group therapy.
Here are a few ways I 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 6-10 people) make a 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 my 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 confidential 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. 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 to take away to your own settings, within a defined 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 beneficial for people who experience attachment issues (including diagnoses or presentations called 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. I Would usually expect to have a co-facilitator and liaise closely with the group member's wider support circles as required. There may be concurrent one-to-one therapy being offered to the group members from other clinicians. In essence these groups are an amended version of the Art Therapy studio style group mentioned below.
Short-term goal-oriented groups
These Art Therapy groups may be around specific issues such as:
self-worth and confidence improvement
bereavement and loss
Coping with caring
Dealing with difficult emotions
Communication and social skills
Being with others etc.
These are usually designed for the needs of the group members, or sometimes I will set something up around an issue and advertise this for you to sign up to.
ALL THERAPY GROUP MEMBERSHIP REQUIRES COMPLETION OF AN APPLICATION FORM (SHARING SOME KEY INFORMATION) AND CONTACT WITH ME PRIOR TO THE GROUP STARTING. TRAINING OR EXPERIENTIAL WELL-BEING GROUPS MAY HAVE LOOSER REQUIREMENTS/BE DROP-IN.
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 significant 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 reflective groups may be of benefit 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. Adoption and looked-after child services might use this as well as individual therapy format.
Art Therapy Studio Art Therapy Groups
I have run many of these over the years and know they are effective and very inclusive. They are a specific style of Art Therapy group that particularly benefits people experiencing significant social anxiety and/or social isolation for physical, emotional, psychological, mental health or cultural reasons. They usually run weekly for at leat 2 hours, for between 4-12 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 defined goals, as the aim is to engage, encourage and empower the members to find 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. I have done this on numerous occasions in the past, in collaboration with both Kettle's Yard and The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and am always seeking to develop connections with local galleries and museums.
Therapeutic & Well-being Art Groups (e.g.. residential care homes, prisons, wards, hospices, Learning Disabilities services etc)
Context is everything. As an experienced Art Therapist, community artist and artist, I bring all of these skills, ways of thinking and working to any intervention created. In these settings, I 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 specific to the 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 benefit from a closed confidential group therapy space for personal clinical reflection, expression and exploration. Burnout and overload resulting in depression and other mental and physical ailments are prevalent in these pressured industries. You may also wish to learn about the use of creative techniques and art-therapeutic thinking to benefit your own work. Bespoke groups can be designed and arranged.