AN INNOVATIVE program is encouraging youths at Mount Gambier High School to focus on the therapeutic benefits of art to promote self-esteem and address mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
The partnership between the school and ac.care has involved a program facilitator, qualified in art therapy, working with a group of students to use creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, colouring and sculpting to encourage self-expression, while exploring emotions and personal development.
“Many techniques and activities can be taught using a variety of creative mediums to encourage self-help and coping skills during challenging times to assist with increasing mental and emotional wellbeing,” ac.care program facilitator Lynne Kain said.
“Art therapy is recognised as an effective and well respected form of therapy which helps children, adolescents and adults explore their emotions, improve self-esteem, manage addictions, relieve stress, improve symptoms of anxiety and depression and cope with a physical illness or disability.”
Ms Kain has worked with Mount Gambier High school youth worker Trudi Shelton to deliver the weekly sessions with a small group of students as a pilot program.
After strong results, the school has decided to continue the partnership to support the school’s wellness vision and encourage collaboration between the school and ac.care to support youth and families.
Sessions will cover everything from self-portraits to self-expression through music, poetry, drawing goals, sculpting, emotional representation, collage, symbolism and mindfulness.
Ms Kain developed the program after years of experience in helping people, with a focus on children, and now extending to youth, through her role at the Mount Gambier Family Relationship Centre, operated by ac.care.
“The mission of ac.care is we want all country people to have a safe home, enough money to live on and strong, positive relationships,” she said.
“This innovative program is another way in which our motto of country people helping country people is being put into practice in new ways to help people in our community and build resilience.”
Art therapy is used internationally in private counselling, schools, hospitals, wellness centres, correctional institutions, senior and aged care centres and community organisations with individuals, couples and groups.
“No artistic talent is necessary for art therapy to succeed, as the therapeutic process is not about the artistic value of the work, but rather finding associations between the creative choices made and a client's inner-life,” Ms Kain said.
She said artwork could be used as a springboard for reawakening memories and telling stories that may reveal messages and beliefs from the unconscious mind.
“If there are deeper issues that arise during a group session, follow up is provided with a one-on-one session to assist people to work through any issues in a supported way,” she said.
Ms Kain said the program provided a gentle way for people to explore, evaluate and communicate their needs and feelings in a non-confrontational space and was ideal for people who may not otherwise feel open or confident in seeking more traditional counselling or other support services.
“Mount Gambier High School takes pride in finding new and exciting ways to engage students in their learning and support their growth and development through creative and innovative ways that focus on student wellbeing,” Ms Shelton said.
“This collaboration gives our school an opportunity to tap into the resources on offer from a fantastic, professional and community-minded service such as ac.care.”
Founded in Mount Gambier in 1986, ac.care is a broad regional social welfare agency with a focus on foster care, homelessness, Aboriginal services, adult community education and family support through delivery of a diverse range of programs.