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The Family Practice and Counseling Network, Mindful Healing Through Creative Expression Groups

Family Practice and Counseling Network

The Family Practice and Counseling Network, Mindful Healing Through Creative Expression Groups Logo

Program Website
Year:
2017
State:
Pennsylvania
Winner Status:
Applicant
Program Type:
Counseling and Support
Target Population:
Women/Girls
Setting:
Community

Program Description

The Family Practice & Counseling Network is dedicated to providing integrative, holistic services to low income, inner city communities in Philadelphia. Creative arts, mindfulness-based therapy, and trauma groups are part of the Family Practice and Counseling Network’s behavioral health program. These groups provide powerful and effective ways for people to foster resilience and creatively cope with trauma, loss, depression, and stress. The Art and Expressions Group, held weekly and open to all ages, provides a safe space for members to transform their lived experiences and points of view into art work. Group begins with an overview of the art activity and the materials available. The facilitators encourage group members to interpret the project and express themselves in any way they choose. The model is peer-based, with members initiating ideas for projects. Participants share their creations and process with one another. The Trauma and Mindfulness group serves adult women with the goal of engaging and educating women about the effects and impact of trauma on their lives, families, and community. The group focuses on ways to utilize mindfulness to better manage stress and heal traumatic experiences. The women create a safe and nurturing environment that supports meaningful connections through shared experience.

Creativity

Creativity is at the heart of both groups: Art and Expression, and Trauma and Mindfulness. The group leaders recognized a community need for accessible mental health groups to provide participants with peer-to-peer contact through creative, mindfulness-based interventions. The intent of the groups is to support the participants in finding alternative methods to cope with stress, trauma, and loss, both through mindful meditations and/or art projects. These approaches are more available to people who don’t respond as well to traditional therapies. The groups have been successful in creating a warm, welcoming space that fosters safety to help members feel honored, heard, and inspired. Creative activities and group connections help members tap into their joy, compassion, power and courage to heal deep traumas and losses. Members can access, explore and express in creative ways challenges, pain, joys, and successes and connect as they build resilience and strength for themselves and others.

Leadership

The two groups, Art and Expression and Trauma and Mindfulness, were initiated by two therapists and a mind/body educator eager to bring alternative and accessible mental health care to the community. The psychotherapists are licensed clinical social workers who, with their many years of community mental health experience saw a specific need for accessible group support that could complement the goals of the more traditional therapies people were receiving. The groups are person-centered, and group leaders research each week the psychoeducation, mindfulness-based activities that will best benefit each member, such as learning to use new coping skills or alleviating distress through an art project or meditation. Flexibility to address clients’ needs is an essential component of the innovative programs and enables and encourages participants to explore their inner selves, their goals and dreams. Facilitators encourage feedback from members about their interests for future group topics and modify interventions accordingly.

Sustainability

The initial plan was for groups to meet for eight weeks; however the groups just celebrated their one year anniversary, as testimony to the positive impact of the program. The flexible model of “open groups” (meaning members can come whenever they choose, and new participants can join at any time) has allowed the groups to sustain themselves, as community members participate at any time. These groups are promoted by the Network, which provides an inviting, comfortable and spacious meeting area, as well as supplies and refreshments. The program is being initiated throughout the Network, utilizing creative and mindful approaches; women’s trauma and pain-management groups are now at other sites being led by an interdisciplinary team. Because group leaders include a licensed clinical social worker, Medicaid insurers reimburse this service. Through intensive negotiation with the Medicaid payer, CBH has agreed to begin to reimburse creative arts to further expand this model.

Replicability

These groups can be easily created by providing a comfortable space and minimal budget for art supplies and refreshments. Their replication should follow principles of psychoeducation, expression, and support, as well as have committed and competent leaders who are skilled in engaging the community. The original goal of both groups was to provide community mental health groups any time and any place, to reach members who may not have received support in the past or who cannot access or engage in traditional mental health therapy. The outcomes have been compelling, and the group experience is best described by one of the participants, Calvin, who said, “In art therapy, we come into the room, feel a certain way and draw it on paper. Then we all get a turn to express how we felt to each other. Life is too short to be sad and this makes you happy.”

Results/Outcomes

The growth of these groups proves their benefit to members and need for this service in the community. Growth has been primarily through word of mouth. Group participants report how supported they feel and look forward to attending. The strongest incentive for attendance and recruitment has been a member’s own growth in their journey to live a more holistic and healthy life. The group leaders use questionnaires for feedback from participants, such as: How has the group helped you? “I feel calmer and more relaxed”, “I do something positive with positive people”. How has the group affected your mood and mental health? “Keeps me calm, motivated, energized”, “Makes me want to tackle another project”, “Just lots of fun and creative folks in here”, “I like the laughter”. The Quality of Life Scale is now being given when a member starts and every quarter to assess personal and group progress.