Art & Drama Therapy: Child Life Inservice Workshop

Eleanor C. Irwin, Ph.D., RDT, TEP; Judith A. Rubin, Ph.D., ATR-BC, HLM

This video shows excerpts from a workshop conducted by Judy Rubin, an art therapist, and Ellie Irwin, a drama therapist, with 9 Child Life Therapists and a Music Therapist at a Children’s Hospital. The group is led in art and drama activities, illustrating possible interventions with seriously ill children. In addition to the potential use of the specific exercises, instruction is offered throughout about basic principles for sensitivity and success in ways of incorporating art and drama more safely and effectively. Staff members are invited to raise questions during the training.

After a relaxation and warmup exercise, the participants are invited to “fool around” with unstructured art materials, specifically multicolored plasticine clay, creating three-dimensional sculptures which then “come alive” in improvisational dramatic play. After next engaging as dyads in a silent movement-drama, moving the sculptures around a shared paper space until finally settling on a space, they are then invited to create nonverbal “worlds” on paper using drawing materials. Following this, the members are invited to engage in shared dramatic play inventing voices for their characters.  Puppet play stories in larger groups follow, first with ready-made puppets, then with personalized puppets made from paper plates, paper bags and cups.

Interwoven throughout are discussions about elements of establishing a safe atmosphere for creative expression and reflection in both process and product. These include:  creating a safe and relaxed environment to enable the expression of thoughts and concerns; responding to inquiries of a personal nature; providing variety and choices in materials; and facilitating non-threatening expressions of feelings. This interplay of modalities, along with comments about theory and technique, can serve as a guide for all those who want to work with children in a deeper, more empathic way.

Although the workshop was followed by two members trying out what they had learned with children in their hospital rooms while observed and assisted by the art therapist, such follow-up activities under supervision over time would be the optimal way to help participants integrate what they can take from such a workshop experience.

Total Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes, 39 seconds



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