During the last year, participants at St. John’s Community Care Adult Day Center have been receiving individual and group Art Therapy sessions with SIUE masters level practicum student, Ashley Ramm. Participants from both the Collinsville and the Edwardsville Adult Day locations meet once per week for different themed groups. A Ladies Art Therapy Group meets in Edwardsville to reminisce about past interests, make friends, and learn new art skills. The Ladies Art Therapy Group recently created their own scarves. The women learned how to dye fabric using shibori techniques, and experimented with surface design. After completing the scarves, the women showed off their master pieces at the Day Center.

An Eco-Art Therapy Group was led at the Collinsville location, where participants reconnected with the natural environment through engagement with nature. Eco-Art therapy techniques stimulate the mind and body through the five senses, to allow for deeper intellectual processing about the seasons of life. They used natural
objects such as fresh cut flowers, twigs, stones, bark, soil, and sand to create art. During the fall of 2016, participants established a new flower bed in the courtyard and planted flower bulbs to have spring tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. The flower bed is surrounded with stones the participants have painted.

To celebrate the five year anniversary of offering art therapy services at St. John’s Community Care, both locations are participating in a community arts project. Each location is creating a tree of life mixed media painting. Stay tuned for images of the finished art works in the next newsletter!

Working with older adults or adults with limited abilities can present quite a challenge for any anyone in the health field but particularly for art therapists.  Many participants have limited physical functioning and visual problems.  Often they are in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or have brain trauma injuries.

At St. John’s Community Care the art therapy program creates the art therapy intervention to the special needs of each participant.  Group and individual sessions are held weekly.   One of the participants, “C” was severely brain injured in an accident when he was only 9 years-old.  He needs a walker, has trouble speaking and is limited developmentally.  Because he was such a young age, his ability to reason and understand  was compromised.   This resulted in his focus on his hometown and back to the time before he was injured.

His constant repetition often left the staff frustrated and at a loss to help him with a new topic.  Sarah, the art therapist, at that time held individual sessions with him to allow him to express his frustration.  With art therapy they then created a whole town out of cardboard, paper and paint.  They included all of the landmarks he remembered and even added a park for sledding.  This resulted in a marked decrease in his repetition.   With his permission, the staff was able to look at his work of art and talk to him.  When he wanted to discuss his hometown, he and staff now had a visual forum to engage with him.

“M” is a participant whose husband was in Chicago and dying.  He was also suffering from Alzheimer’s and on her last visit did not recognize her.  She was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but had the capacity to fully understand what it meant for her prognosis.  She was very angry.  She often snapped at the other participants or was impatient with those who had some form of dementia.

Individual Art Therapy focused on helping her to express her anger and fears.  She started with painting huge swaths of color almost viciously on the easel paper.  As the weeks went by her art took on more form.  She started painting train tracks and discussing her life in the city.  “M” began to reminisce about the wonderful parts of her childhood and living with her parents.  Her anger appeared to dissolve along with the paint.

It was very important to “M” to be able to process her past and do a life review.  The paintings are now with her daughter so they can have her artwork as a window into “M’s”  history.   For those participants who are experience memory loss, being able to pull from their past is a way for them to engage with others and feel positive about themselves.

Art Therapy can be tailored to each specific participant to help them address the particular needs  of being in adult community care.

St. John’s Community Care Art Therapy Program is supported in part by a grant from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing St. Louis.  This fund is made up of employee-managed funds which are distributed by the local ECF board in accordance with the best interest of the community and membership. The Madison County Mental Board and donations fund the balance.

For more information about St. John’s Art Therapy Program, please contact Stacey at 344-5008.