My beautiful Essence – An illustrated story
Group art therapy for Caregivers
Case Study: Summary
- Problem: Caregivers face various health risks, including depression and burnout.
- Approach: An art therapy group intervention consisting of 6 sessions, guided by the metaphor of a story about a character representing one’s beautiful essence.
- Goals: Utilize art as a tool to activate self-care behavior and resilience, strengthen self-esteem, and promote self-knowledge.
- Clients: Female family and formal caregivers of elderly individuals with Alzheimer’s associated to a mental health day clinic in Bogotá.
- My role: Art therapist (design and facilitation of art therapy sessions)
- Outcome: Stress reduction, increased self-esteem, heightened empathy towards oneself, recognition of the importance of self-care.
My beautiful Essence: An illustrated story for self-care
The administrators of a day clinic in Bogotá observed indicators of mental health strain among family caregivers and nurses of elderly individuals with Alzheimer’s and wanted to offer art therapy sessions to support them.
In brief group therapy interventions, it is highly effective to employ a metaphor that guides, inspires, and connects individual sessions. The chosen metaphor for this intervention was an illustrated story detailing the adventures of a main character symbolizing “one’s beautiful essence.” The overarching goal was to foster empathy towards oneself and develop strategies to navigate challenges in order to support self-care and resilience.
- The Main Character: During the initial session, each participant crafted a character representing their beautiful essence –things they admired and liked about themselves – using mixed-media collage.
- Finding meaning: The aim of the second session was to explore making sense of things beyond one’s control. Participants began by creating random blots with liquid watercolor. Subsequently, they searched for meaning in these blots and could modify them if they wanted to.
- A challenge and help: In the third session, participants used magical paint to let a current challenge emerge out of white paper. Then they used a magical black scratchpad to visualize something to help them overcome that challenge.
- Strengthcatcher: The forth session was dedicated to building a “strengthcatcher”, a magic wand in the form of a dreamcatcher that would allow them to conjure up their strengths and resources whenever they needed them.
- The treasure chest (book cover): The mission of the fifth session was to craft a treasure chest for the previously created artworks, symbolizing the book cover of one’s own story. This step facilitated the integration of prior work and encouraged participants to continue their self-work beyond the art therapy sessions.
- Encounter and celebration: During the last session, participants envisioned an encounter between the diverse characters created in the first session. They collectively decided to let their characters have a party around a tree, appreciating and celebrating their achievements both as a group and as individuals. The gathering served as an opportunity to express gratitude for mutual support and shared learnings.
All participants found the art therapy sessions very helpful, with observed effects including:
- Stress reduction
- Increased self-knowledge
- Elevated self-esteem
- Feeling of being understood and supported
- Recognition of the importance of prioritizing one’s own needs