HONORING MEMORIES WITH ART THERAPY
“Can I keep this?” “This looks great!” “She drew that for you?” “I didn’t know he could still draw.” “I will treasure this forever.” “I never knew that about them.”
These are just some of the reactions I hear when I use art therapy in my practice as an Advanced Aging Life Care Professional™ with Beck Care Managers LLC.
A Safe Place to Heal
Art therapy is based on the belief that the creative process of art is both healing and life-enhancing. The benefits of art therapy begin when the individual picks out the art medium they want to use and ends when it is given to the family as a treasured keepsake. Art therapy, among many things, helps clients and families grieve, reconcile, dream, strengthen self-esteem, cope, reminisce, and reconnect. It creates a safe place for clients and their families to heal, share, laugh, and cry when feelings cannot be communicated by words alone.
After using art therapy as a reflective exercise for myself, I became empowered to use it in my business – Beck Care Managers LLC. I drew Insatiable Cancer as a personal way to express my feelings towards cancer. At the time, I saw cancer as an organism that grows in many areas of my client’s life, not just their physical body. Once cancer takes hold, it affects all aspects of a person’s life as they once knew it – friends, sparkle, energy, weight, sex, hair, life, activity, vibrancy, optimism, family, faith, work, finances.
Expression Through Art
Similarly, clients and family members have created profound drawings in art therapy sessions. They choose from watercolors, colored pencils, hard pastels, markers or twistable crayons from my “bag of tricks.” It is not about the drawing and being an “artist,” but rather their expression through art. I have had clients and family members from 7 to 92 years old participate in art therapy sessions.
One gentleman and his wife drew together as they talked about memories of being at their home together, and the good times they had. He talked about his wishes for her and she expressed her desires for him. They laughed and cried as they drew together. As families share their drawings with each other, they are no longer aware of my presence. They bond and for a moment forget about their difficulties.
The art therapy sessions begin with a warm-up: a free-flow drawing, name drawing, a mandala, or an anything they want to draw. The rest of the session is client-centered and client-driven. I had a child draw three things he remembered doing with his dad. A couple drew about their 67-year marriage. An elderly woman drew her earliest memory. An elderly man drew a home. A family drew their favorite vacation and what family means to them. Family members have drawn their feelings about a terminal diagnosis and how it changed their lives.
Another Tool for Your Clients
Art therapy is another tool that enhances the quality of life for my clients and their families. When you have time, instead of thinking about it … draw it. For more information contact Mary Beck at Beck Care Managers LLC, BeckCareManagers@gmail.com or visit her website at www.BeckCareManagers.com.
This article was originally posted on August 7, 2015, and updated on August 26, 2018.