In my role as the Administrative Fellow at Concordance, I work with our participants to schedule their individual one-on-one appointments, lead mindfulness groups, and assist in the facilitation of trauma-informed art groups. At Concordance, Fridays offer participants a creative space to process the week and prepare for what is to come through art therapy and experiential learning. In the morning, participants gather to watch and discuss films with themes of healing, sobriety, incarceration, family. Past movies have included Four Good Days, Inside Out, Fatherhood, among others. In the afternoons, participants use poetry, writing, painting, drawing, and collage to finish the week in a way that continues their work of healing, community building, and goal setting from a creative perspective.
Participants partner with their therapists, case managers, and career coaches to set goals while at Concordance. Staying sober, healing, continuing education, finding housing, and preparing for employment are just a few of the goals participants identify. Art therapy and experiential learning offer creative spaces for participants to process the work they do each day to move closer to reaching these goals. Art therapy sessions are led by Concordance therapist, Megan Barken. “I love facilitating different types of art therapy classes such as vision boarding or having participants paint their response to a discussion prompt,” said Megan. “You really get to see participants’ personalities shine through. A participant who you may not know very well will all of a sudden come out of their shell and show you a different side of themselves. Witnessing our participants’ walls come down as they engage a positive, creative outlet is really transformative”
In a recent afternoon art group, participants used the New York Times article “Draw the Year Ahead” as a launch point for engaging with creative practices to reflect on their goals. This exercise invited participants to create two lists using drawings, symbols, or pictures to outline what they wanted more of and less of in the coming year as they work toward accomplishing their goals. When asked to draw the year ahead, many of us might hesitate or get stuck, knowing the next day is not guaranteed. Our participants understand this reality all too well. How do we, as people who have felt the deep tragedy of loss, overdose, separation, and lives cut short, begin the work of envisioning what is to come?
Creativity has a meaningful place in this work of hoping, of putting pen to paper (or sometimes paint to canvas) to evoke a vision that has not yet come into being. Carving out safe spaces for artistic expression allows participants to dream what could be possible, visualize their goals, and try them on for size. Space for creativity allows time to process the week’s work – the vulnerability in group and 1:1 therapy; the learning in life skills and education classes; the comradery in morning and afternoon circles; and more. The Concordance holistic model encourages integration, and we use creativity to help bring together all that the week holds. Using art to process and reflect, we celebrate the work completed while preparing for the work to come.
Stepping outside one’s comfort zone to engage in a new craft is a practice of being uncomfortable. The willingness to take creative risks to try new ways of goal setting and processing is yet another way our participants show up each day to do the transforming work of rebuilding, healing, and moving forward. It is a gift to journey alongside our participants as they create masterpieces of their lives from their inner resources and the resources provided in our holistic model. Through art therapy and experiential learning, we have an alternative route to stand in awe of the stories our participants are writing, drawing, and painting for themselves.