Using Art in Grief Expression:
Art Techniques From the “Inside Out”
Teri Echtenkamp, MS
Ted E. Bear Hollow
Omaha, NE
[email protected]
18th Annual NAGC Symposium
June 20, 2014
Objectives
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Identify important tenets of adolescent grief
group work using art techniques
List and practice art techniques to utilize in
adolescent grief groups
Participate in sharing of ideas and
experiences with colleagues
Meet and Greet 
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Dyad and Tryad Sharing
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A fact about your journey here this morning
A quirky fact about yourself
Your favorite artist, painting, or museum
One helpful and one unhelpful grief experience
What do you hope to gain from this training?
A Metaphor by Milton Erickson
(Frey, 1984)
You might be interest in knowing that there once was a
horse that ran away from his home. A boy, not knowing where
the horse was from, mounted the horse and allowed the horse
to lead him, being careful, however, not to allow the horse to
go into a ditch or a barbed wire fence.
Eventually, the horse turned up a lane to a farm. The
owners came running from their house, very surprised and
happy to see their horse. They asked the boy how he ever
discovered where the horse belonged. The boy said he just
let the horse lead, while he gently guided him away from
excessive danger.
Eleven Tenets of Companioning the Bereaved
(Wolfelt, 2001)
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Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away
the pain.
Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is
not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or
directing these struggles.
Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading or being led.
Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every
moment with words.
Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order
and logic.
Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
Companioning is about compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise
Adolescent Grief
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Worden’s (1996) four tasks
 Accepting reality of the loss
 Experiencing the pain of grief
 Adjusting to an environment without the deceased
 Emotionally repositioning the deceased in order to move ahead with life
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Wolfelt’s (2001) six tasks
 Acknowledge the reality of the death
 Move toward the pain
 Remember the deceased
 Develop a new self-identity
 Search for meaning
 Let others support you now and in the future
Adolescent Group Work
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Group Healing Attributes (Malekoff,1997; Murthy &
Smith, 2005)
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Providing a supportive and cohesive environment
Creating a sense of community
Encouraging development of in-depth relationships
Reducing isolation
Rediscovering feelings of hope
Encouraging peer support
Educating on healthy coping skills
Providing a safe environment for discussion and release of
unexpressed emotions
Offering structure, limits, and consistency
Opportunity to practice new roles and responsibilities
Creative Expression
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Play, art, activity, music, ritual
Malchiodi (2005) affirms the talking cure can be
enhanced by utilizing “expressive action that
engages emotions in a direct and physical way-an
ability to generate creative energy as a healing force
for mind, body, and spirit” (p. ix)
Veach and Gladding (2007) purport creative group
expression “centers on stimulating affect within the
adolescents while simultaneously offering them
cognitive insight and behavioral observation” (p. 72)
Usefulness of Group Art Therapy In Grief:
Contributing Factors
(Hill, n.d.)
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Hastens Grief Process and Promotes Coping Skills
Remember and Commemorate the Deceased
Creation of Healing Rituals
Helps to Organize and Regain Sense of Containment
Promotes Exploration and Expression of Feelings
Facilitates Cathartic Effect and Kinesthetic Release
Encourages Communication and Discussion
Encourages Self Awareness, Growth and Healing
Pleasurable and Relaxing Activity
Art is Symbolic
Final Product and Permanence
Goals/Purpose of Art Activity
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Important to identify the grief needs of the group/individual, first.
Then choose an appropriate art activity to companion with those
needs.
Suggested goals/purpose/objectives
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Rapport and relationship building
Explore personal beliefs around death
Increase sense of self or self understanding
Containment, boundary work
Making new connections
Problem solving
Recognition, understanding, and/or appropriate expression of feeling
Increase sense of empowerment/validate strength
Identify personal changes
Enriching social skills/social supports
Blessing to Start An Activity
Candle Fairy burning bright,
Come and share with us your light.
May we always learn to share
With the children everywhere.
Candle Fairy burning bright,
Come and share with us your light.
-Dearborn, 1999
Invitation to Companion Together:
Let’s Explore “Inside out”
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Brain Art
The River (Buchalter, 2004)
Hands-Inside/Out (Dollinger, Kazmierczak, & Storkerson, 2011)
A Cloud (Buchalter, 2004)
The Rosebush (Oaklander, 1978)
J. Doe
Mandala
Feeling Maps (Malchiodi, 2006)
The Moon Balloon (Drescher, 2005)
http://www.expressivetherapist.com/group-activities.html
Holding the Space for Others
(Rogers, 2007)
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Don’t interpret, evaluate, or diagnose
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In the context of grief, art is designed as a tool to allow expression of grief,
healing the wounds of loss.
The primary work is done in the nonverbal expression not in the verbal
processing
IT’S OKAY TO PASS!!
Listen and observe
Non directive
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Tell me your title.
“I wonder”, “Tell me more about”, “I’m curious about”
“What might it be like to live in this art?”
“Are you in there?”
“What happened next…?” “What happened before this?”
“What might be the most important thing about this art?”
“I wonder what this…would say to this…?”
“Is there anything else you would like to share?”
Respectful Approaches to Talking
About the Art
(Berlingo, 2011)
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Active observation
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Reflect back only what you see with the art
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No decoding of symbols
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Your interpretation is just that-yours! Let the artist unfold their art story.
Describe what you see
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Stay objective
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After the artist identifies items, stay within the metaphor
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“I wonder what this tree would say to the bird?”
Sublimation through art
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“What do you see?”
“I see this brown area” NOT “I see the ground here”
Dialog with art
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“I see these lines at the top” “You have many colors and shapes”
“Try to curb your own inclinations to change, brighten, or smooth over content that may seem angry or violent
or negative — art is a safe playground. Art provides an opportunity for working with of the darker side of
being human.”
Withholding opinions
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No criticism or praise!
Facilitating Discovery
(Mitchell, 2014)
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Refer to handouts
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“How to respond to the client’s art in a way that
facilitates discovery”
“It’s about the PROCESS, not the PRODUCT:
Some basics on how to talk about the artwork that
our child makes in therapy”
http://www.innercanvas.com/artfix/
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On line creative workshop for healers
Guidelines for Doing Good Grief Work
Kevin Henry
http://www.wpahs.org/frh/donor/documents/GuidelinesforDoingGoodGrief_000.pdf
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Be faithful to your healing task – don’t run away or arrange too many
distractions; trust yourself to be able to do your grief work well.
Allow and honor your feelings – your healing will be found at the heart of the
whole huge unspeakably intense and disorderly jumble of them all.
Be willing to give expression to your feelings – recall that as Mr. Rogers
said, “Anything human is mentionable, and anything mentionable is
manageable.”
Take particularly good care of yourself – grief is messy, confusing, and
exhausting, and you need and deserve your own best comfort, support and
patience as you move through it.
Seek the help of other people – the support of a few, trusted others can add
energy, strength and insight.
Be forgiving of those who don’t understand – others may need your help to
understand what you’re experiencing and what you need, and may
themselves be paralyzed by their powerlessness to diminish your pain.
Stay in touch with your strengths and your integrity – look to your deep and subtle
gifts as you redefine yourself, and be sensitive to the fact that an attitude of
victimization will just compound and complicate your distress.
Guidelines for Doing Good Grief Work (con’t)
Kevin Henry
http://www.wpahs.org/frh/donor/documents/GuidelinesforDoingGoodGrief_000.pdf
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Understand that your grief will have its own unique timing, rhythms and cycles –
working as best you can with “just right now,” rather than “what it should be” will help
you reclaim your grounding and wholeness.
Realize your own power in the face of trauma – an “I can” attitude to compliment your
flexibility can alert you to your real and invaluable internal resources and deepen your
sense of resilience, helping you to remember your power and personal choice can
never be taken from you.
Recall with compassion that grief is a universal human experience – while honoring
your own unique process. Know that loss is part of the shared mystery of all of our
lives, and that you are not now, or ever alone.
Be curious about what can be learned – facing the seemingly impossible can be a
source of deep healing and transformation; be prepared, in fact, to discover some
remarkably good things about yourself.
Look for opportunities to carry forth a fitting legacy – realize that death does not end a
relationship, and that what you treasure in your loved one can be supported,
nurtured, and celebrated such that your bond is continued in countless creative
ways.
Be willing to experience the reconciliation that is your healing – be mindful that,
though you don’t control life, you can work through this unimaginably tremendous
challenge and continue to learn, and to flourish, and to love living again.
Peace of Mind, Joy and Fulfillment
Barbara Karnes
https://bkbooks.com/
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Know self, then can help others (Kuebler-Ross)
Recognize own fears, preconceptions, culture, childhood. Examine the
patterns we’ve created, so we can clean house periodically. Change or
release what we have outgrown.
Everyone has hurts, fears, secrets, wounds, scars-that is life. Deal with
it instead of burying.
Keep own house as tidy as possible so have energy to help others.
Balance.
Know how to say no. Don’t overextend.
Can’t carry people’s physical or emotional pain.
Laugh and play in life, find joy.
Avoid the “gerbil wheel of living”. What is life about? What do you want
from living?
Gratitude and Purpose. What was good about today? What have I
traded a day of my life for?
Meta-sharing Your Experience
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Ripple Effects
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Personal
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What was the experience like for you?
What did you learn about yourself, others?
What was helpful, not helpful?
Professional
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How could you use art expression in your own practice?
What did I learn today I can use with individuals, small groups,
consulting with professionals and/or parents?
Identify a small, concrete step to implement.
Blessing to End An Activity
May the Circle be open,
But unbroken.
May the love of the Goddess
Be ever in our hearts.
Merry meet and merry part
And merry meet again.
-Dearborn, 1999
References
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Berlingo, J. (2011). http://www.jenberlingo.com/tag/talking-about-art/
Buchatler, S. (2004). A practical art therapy. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley
Publishers
Dearborn, S. (1999). A child’s book of blessings. New York: Scholastic.
Drescher, J. (2005). The moon balloon: A journey of hope and discovery for children
and families. Waltham, MA: Arvest Press.
Dollinger, S. J., Kazmierczak, E., & Storkerson, P. K.. (2011). Creativity and selfexploration in projective drawings of abused women: Evaluating the inside meoutside me workshop. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 6, 202-219.
Fitzsimmons, Michael (2006). Water flows over me (CD).
http://www.dancingmanmusic.com/
Hill, M. (n.d.) Healing grief through art: A literature review of art therapy bereavement
group workshops. Drawn Together. Retrieved April 9, 2014 from
http://www.agoodgroup.com/drawntogether/healing.htm
Kymissis, P., Christenson, E., Swanson, A. J., Orlowski, B. (1996). Group treatment
of adolescent inpatients: A pilot study using a structured therapy approach. Journal
of Child and Adolescent Group Therapy, 6, 45-52.
Lohr, C. K. (2001). J. Doe the artists-The project; Omaha, NE: Colonial Press.
Malchiodi, C. A. (2006). Art therapy sourcebook; New York: McGraw-Hill
References (con’t)
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Malchiodi, C. A. (2005). Expressive therapies: history, theory, and practice. In
Malchiodi, C. A. (Ed.), Expressive therapies (pp. 1-15). New York: Guilford Press
Malekoff, A. (1997). Group work with adolescents: Principles and practice. New
York: Guildford Press.
Mitchell, L. (April 3, 2014). The Secrets to Using Art as a Healing Process. Workshop.
Omaha, NE
Murthy, R. & Smith, L. (2005). Grieving, sharing and healing: A Guide for facilitating
early adolescent bereavement groups. Champaign, IL: Research Press.
Oaklander, V. (1978). Windows to our children: a gestalt therapy approach to children
and adolescents. Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press.
Oaklander, V. (1978). Windows to our children: a gestalt therapy approach to children
and adolescents. Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press.
Rogers, J.E. (2007). The art of grief: The use of expressive arts in a grief support
group. NY: Routledge.
Samite. (1999). Stars to Share (CD).
Veach, L. J., & Gladding, S. T. (2007). Using creative group techniques in high
schools. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 32, 71-81.
Wolfelt, A. D. (2001). Healing your grieving heart for teens. Fort Collins, CO:
Companion Press.
Worden, J. W. (1996). Children and grief. New York: Guilford Press.
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Using Art in Grief Expression A Survey of Three Art Techniques