Creative Arts Group Takes on a New Look

fracisco-and-claudiaAHP’s Creative Arts Group has a whole new look thanks to a winter season experiment. Knowing that the holidays can be a difficult time for AHP clients, Creative Arts Group facilitators, Claudia Figallo and Francisco Nanclares, mixed things up at the end of 2013.

For clients who are estranged from family, feel isolated, or are enrolled in residential programs, the holidays bring cancelled programs and a loss of the structure that supports their recovery. In response, Figallo and Nanclares created AHP’s Winter Series of Creative Arts Workshops with each workshop centering on a seasonal theme and running for three hours instead of two, allowing participants to engage in more in-depth work

In December, eight clients explored themes of family, intimate relationships, and holidays through art. These clients expressed their discomfort with the holidays, reminisced about past times when they felt content to celebrate, and discussed societal pressures and expectations surrounding the holiday season. Group members also shared ideas about how to cope with difficult feelings and avoid relapsing or making poor choices about their drug use.

In January, seven participants focused on setting goals and envisioning change for the new year. They created images portraying their lives in the present and their lives in the future, pictures that illustrated the journey that each would have to take to reach their goals. These clients shared their thoughts and feelings about these images and encouraged each other to succeed in their plans.

Both workshop sessions included stretching and relaxation exercise after the creative projects. Group members also feasted on delicious food donated by a generous community member, a touch that added a celebratory feeling to the welcoming and comfortable environment.

Positive feedback from winter workshop participants has encouraged Figallo and Nanclares to expand the experiment into a yearlong series. Each monthly workshop will coalesce around a particular theme—triggers, cravings, communication, relationships, and emotions, to name a few.

Working with, and through, art allows Creative Arts Group members who actively use drugs to explore their substance use concerns in a non-verbal manner. The group’s informal environment can be less intimidating than one-on-one therapy and allows clients more freedom to safely express their concerns.

Several participants have reported that the workshops have led to significant changes to their drug use. And Figallo and Nanclares’s concern that a three-hour session might be too long for clients, was not simply proven wrong by the active engagement of participants throughout the sessions, it was overruled. As one member commented, “If this group was all day, I would attend.”

Figallo sums it up: “As facilitators, we get to witness changes in our clients both in their lives and in their art. Members increase their confidence and self-esteem. They feel more competent when creating their artworks, and this experience often extends into the way they communicate with others outside the group and to their lives in general.”

The Creative Arts Workshop Series meets on the 4th Wednesday of each month from 4:00 to 7:00 pm.