Self care. Whether you are a client, healthcare practioner, child, adult, man or woman, you need self care. Self care refers to those things that we do for ourselves that keep us healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually. The problem with self care is that some fall into the trap that caring for ourselves makes us selfish. It is no selfish to provide for ourselves that which we provide for others on a daily and sometimes moment-to-moment basis.
My clients have heard this metaphor time and time again, but think of self care in this way:
When the air pressure of an aircraft drops and the oxygen masks drop, the passengers are instructed to first put the masks on themselves first before proceeding to put the mask on another who may not be able to do so for themselves. Is it selfish of the person to put the oxygen mask on themselves first?
The purpose of placing the mask on ourselves first is so that we are able to put the mask on others. If we do not take care of ourself first we will not be able to help the others who may need our help. In the same way, providing ourselves with self care is helping others.
Self care is not a selfish act, but a necessity. While working in hospice, I learned the importance of providing myself and my colleagues with self care opportunities. Sometimes it came in the form of group counseling, individual therapy, prayer, a painting class, meeting after work for dinner, and so on. We did that because of the stress level of our jobs. On a daily basis we talked illness, palliative care, and death. Many times we experienced first hand our clients graduating to the other side. Occasionally we were able to discharge patients because they got better. The roller coaster of emotions we experienced on a daily basis proves why working in hospice is such a high burnout career.
High burnout professions (not an exhaustive list by any means):
* Healthcare – Physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, counselors
* Emergency response professions – EMT’s, Paramedics, Police, Fire Fighters
* Armed Services – Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserves
* Law – lawyers
* Teaching – Teachers, Principals, Professors
* Parenting – special needs children, single parenting, mental illness in families
If you are in any one of the professions listed above, then you need to be practicing self care. In the next blog post I will discuss the three areas of self care:
* Physical self care
* Emotional Self Care
* Spiritual self care
Until then, remember the importance of placing the oxygen mask on yourself first before placing it on others. What areas of your life do you attempt to place the mask on others first? Do you then find that you are unable to help because you don’t have the oxygen (or energy) you need to help them?
“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”
Responsive art making is one way that therapists can establish a routine of self-care without sacrificing a great deal of time and money. The benefits of responsive art making to the therapist, and to their clients is limitless.
Responsive art making is a term that refers to creating a visual art-based response to something that just occurred. It is a visual response to an event, a conversation, or unspoken emotions, etc. that can clearly document the perspective of the artist. Responsive art making is a means of communicating that which one may not have the words to explain. When we create art, we are sharing a perspective; our perspective, (Leavy, 2015, p. 224). Leavy (2015) continues, “Visual art inherently opens up multiple meanings that are determined not only by the artist but also the viewer and the context of viewing.”
Moon (1998) began the discussion of responsive art making with his case study showcased in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, “The Tears Make Me Paint.” The success of the study described in this article is what sparked the researchers interest in responsive art making in the therapy session. That, along with her own trauma-related recovery and responsive art making in therapy inspired her to seek further knowledge on this subject.
In the above mentioned article, Moon created response art and recorded the powerful responses he received from the adolescents he worked with. Many trauma-related disorders keep the client locked in the age in which the trauma occurred, especially dissociative disorders which are primary in the presentation of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), (Chefetz, 2015). Rubin (2006) states that “trauma often involves and resides in the body… it can occur before a child has language, or can render the victim psychically speechless… For these reasons, and because of the frequent injunction by abusers not to tell, memories of traumatic experiences are often difficult, if not impossible to access with verbal therapy alone, (p. 10).” Responsive art making can be a unique way to communicate and relate to clients of trauma while working in the age locked parts. Because the arts help to express and contain overwhelming emotions due to the shock of the trauma, (Rubin, 2006) it is not a far jump to hypothesize that the arts will aid in the treatment of clients who have experienced trauma.
Responsive art making in session as well as out of session can be an invaluable tool to foster a deeper therapeutic relationship, especially in the treatment of CSA clients. Responsive art making allows for distance between the therapist’s reactions and response to the clients ongoing journey through the trauma. Art making in and of itself can become a mode of communication when words just are not available to the client, (Fish, 2008; Pifalo, 2007) and could serve as a reflective mirror of the therapists validating, non-judgmental response to the client.
Chefetz, R. A. (2014). Intensive Psychotherapy for Persistent Dissociative Processes: The Fear of Feeling Real (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Kindle Edition. ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Fish, B. (2008). Formative Evaluation Research of Art-Based Supervision in Art Therapy Training. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 25(2), pp. 70-77.
Leavy, P. (2015). Method Meets Art, Second Edition: Arts-Based Research Practice. Guilford Publications. Kindle Edition.
Moon, B. (1998). The Tears Make Me Paint: The Role of Responsive Artmaking in Adolescent Art Therapy. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 16(2), pp. 78-82.
Pifalo, T. (2002). Pulling Out the Thorns: Art Therapy with Sexually Abused Children and Adolescents. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 19(1), 12-22.
Rubin, J. (2006) Foreword. In Carey, L. (Ed.), Expressive and creative arts methods for trauma survivors (p. 9), (Kindle Edition. ed.). New York, NY: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Copyright 2016 Childers