Swede’s unveils Expressive Arts Therapies Program

• Share Chair Project on display for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Staff Report

SwedishAmerican Health System has introduced an innovative new Expressive Arts Therapies Program for patients, providing them with a non-verbal means of expressing their emotions.

Patients do not need to be artists to participate in the program, which includes drawing, creative writing, poetry, journaling and other art forms.

Program benefits

SwedishAmerican’s program is led by Expressive Arts Therapist Deb Schwarze, LCPC, who holds master’s degrees in counseling and art therapy. According to Schwarze, expressive therapies are beneficial for a number of reasons.

Creative expression allows unspoken thoughts to emerge,” she said. “What’s important is the process; the completed products do not have to be great art to be helpful. Things like creative writing, poetry and journaling allow us to express thoughts and feelings that we think might be too ‘dangerous’ to talk about.”

According to Schwarze, the left half of our brain is known for analytical strengths, while the right half of the brain is known for creativity. Expressive therapy activities help patients use the creative right brain.

When we are anxious or depressed, we can get ‘stuck’ in the left brain,” she said. “We think too much. Accessing the creative right brain can open up new possibilities and new ways of thinking about a problem or situation.”

How the program works

SwedishAmerican’s Expressive Arts Therapies Program is focused on outpatient chemotherapy patients at the health system’s Ninth Street Center and ACT locations. After introducing herself to patients, the therapist talks with them before introducing the concept of expressive therapies. Activities are then designed to meet the unique needs of patients, and all infection prevention procedures are strictly followed. Examples include the following:

• Chains of beads that are used to mark the number of treatments that have been given and ones yet to be received;

• “Power cords” — braided cords made to show the number of support people in their life;

• Expressive journaling;

• Drawing and painting, both with “real” media and with apps on an Apple iPad;

• Collage; and

• Sculpture.

The hope is to provide patients with a way to express their thoughts and feelings, as well as a way to pass the time while receiving their treatment,” Schwarze said.

Share Chair Project

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Expressive Arts Therapy Program has launched The Share Chair Project. Individuals are encouraged to write a brief tribute to honor those who have faced or are facing breast cancer. These tributes will then be decoupaged on a pink chair. The completed project will be displayed at SwedishAmerican’s annual Seeds of Hope breast cancer event Oct. 1 at Giovanni’s, and will then be on display in the SwedishAmerican Center For Women throughout October.

SwedishAmerican Health System

SwedishAmerican is a not-for-profit, locally governed health care system, with headquarters in Rockford. The health system is composed of two hospitals, 30 clinics, a home health care agency, a foundation and has an exclusive affiliation with UW Health in northern Illinois.

From the Oct. 3-9, 2012, issue

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