Prairie Post (East Edition)
SaskAbilities in Swift Current has new program for enhancing mental health
The workshop participants are individuals who have already been receiving support through SaskAbilities programs and some of them are also SaskAbilities employees. The drop-in format of the workshop sessions means the number of participants will vary from week to week.
“The nice thing about the virtual is there can be as many as are available,” she said. “They do have to let us know ahead of time so that we can provide those activity kits for them for the art therapy component.”
Swift Current based Brunswick Creek Psychology Services was responsible for creating the format and content of these interactive virtual workshops, which started in December and will continue until the end of March.
Dr. Conor Barker is the clinical director and founder of Brunswick Creek Psychology Services. He is a practicing psychologist and also assistant professor in inclusive education at St. Francis Xavier University.
Members of his team of psychologists are delivering the program during the online workshop sessions, which take place twice a week.
“We do a combination of psychoeducation, some group talk and activity games with the goal being supporting individual mental health, building some coping skills, but also building some regular connection between the participants, who typically would be able to get together in group activities, but now cannot,” he said.
The themes during these workshop sessions include self-care, change your attitude with gratitude, identifying and labeling emotions, identifying purpose of emotions, personal identity, self-love, and self-soothing. Art therapy is used as part of the format and there are different art projects each week.
The art therapy is used to assist participants with the expression of their feelings and thoughts.
“Sometimes it’s really helpful to be doing something with your hands when you’re having difficulty particularly in expressing an idea or expressing your understanding of a certain concept that you’re going through, and being able to express that in a different way through an artistic means,” he explained.
He noted that the use of art therapy has changed since the workshops initially started in December.
“What’s interesting is the art was an icebreaker, but now we’re seeing more the participants just wanting to talk, because they’ve moved past needing something with their hands to fiddle with,” he said. “They want to actually engage with the topics more than the art project and that’s totally fine, and that’s an actual positive outcome, particularly when you’re working with individuals who may have difficulty expressing themselves.”
According to Dr. Barker the workshops have become an activity that participants are looking forward to.
“It’s a nice break in the week,” he said. “We’ve also been able to help process emotions and thoughts in session as we talk about the different themes that come up within the sessions. I think the biggest goal of this is just increasing human connection. We’re in a really difficult time with COVID-19 and people are feeling isolated and even though the light is at the end of the tunnel we still don’t know how far yet we have to go, and so having these types of things can help us get through this time together.”
Watson has also received positive feedback from workshop participants about the benefits of these sessions.
“They’ve shared that they have enjoyed learning more about themselves and how they experience different situations,” she said. “They’ve also stated that they have found it fun. They’ve enjoyed the interactive sessions, the group discussions and learning more about themselves and the coping skills that they’re learning as well that they’re able to implement in their day to day.”
These workshop sessions will come to an end, but the program has been designed to provide participants with information that they can still continue to use afterwards.
“As we design any sort of psychological program, the goal of the program is never to maintain it permanently,” Dr. Barker said. “The goal always is to provide the individuals the skills they need for the challenges they’re facing in the moment and hopefully that they can generalize those skills to new opportunities down the line. … While this program will come to an end, other programs will come up to meet the needs and we certainly look forward to working with the United Way and with SaskAbilities as the needs shift and change. I think short-term programs really have that benefit to let you develop that one thing, you do that well and then you see what’s the need now, because that need should have shifted and changed as a result of our program.”