A sheet of paper, a watercolour palette, and paint brush don’t exactly look like life-saving equipment, but for one CAMH patient, a recent collaboration with The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery brought joy, colour, and fun during a dark time.
“The workshops have been a life saver for me and have helped lift my spirits during one of the lowest points in my life. Spending time with others in a similar situation helped tremendously with the loneliness I was battling and the art class itself was beautifully facilitated so it gave me something to look forward to in my week,” said a participant who wished to remain anonymous.
Thanks to funding from Ontario Trillium Foundation, CAMH and The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery delivered more than 50 art workshops to inpatients over the last two years.
“The workshops came at a crucial time when many felt disconnected, lonely, and had little to do. Our patients craved an outlet for creative expressions. The workshops not only allowed participants to develop and improve their art skills but also gave an opportunity to socialize and connect with others,” said CAMH recreation therapist Regina Wasalinska.
Therapeutic recreation services, like the art workshops hosted with The Power Plant, help participants build confidence in their creative skills, encourage conversation about visual art, and help combat feelings of isolation. What’s more, the structured nature of the workshops help prepare inpatients for life at home.
“Patients can find it challenging to reintegrate back into the community after leaving a highly structured environment, like an inpatient unit. These art workshops simulate programs offered in the community, giving our patients a familiar form of structure, for a smoother transition back into the community when they are discharged,” explained recreation therapist Carmen Leung.
Led by Toronto-based artist and The Power Plant Teaching Artist, Niloufar Salimi, participants explored their creative skills through drawing, watercolour and clay. The benefits were two-fold. Not only did the program help patients, but the recreation therapists facilitating the workshop welcomed the opportunity to diversify the recreational opportunities for patients at CAMH.
“The Power Plant workshops offered artistic opportunities outside of my knowledge, which gave my patients more opportunities to try new things,” said Megan Duquette, a recreation therapist who works with youth patients.
New programming opportunities are a useful tool for helping inpatients achieve flow, a state of concentration and engagement that can be achieved when completing a task that challenges one’s skills, and one of the basic guiding principles of recreation therapy.
“When we find a perfect balance of skill and challenge, through the art workshops, we help inpatients reach moments of self-actualization. This state allows us to target other areas of improvement for the purpose of successful integration back into the community,” explained Carmen.
Some of these other areas include growth in frustration tolerance when met with a challenge, stress management, self-efficacy, independence, and community inclusion. So while Niloufar led the workshops, CAMH’s recreation therapists focused on adapting the programming to meet each patient’s unique needs and abilities, and setting them up for long-term success.
Developed with the CAMH Corporate Volunteer Program in 2017, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery workshop series has supported hundreds of CAMH patients, and is currently running weekly virtual art groups for patients admitted to CAMH. The team plans to continue the program this year once funding is secured. If you are interested in learning more about The Power Plant, visit their website here. For more details on how to get involved in one of the art sessions, please contact Jim Davey, CAMH Corporate Volunteer Program, Jim.Davey@camh.ca, ext. 36238.
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