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Recovery blog

Virtual Workshops for Alumni: Reconnecting with Art Therapy

By: Sondra Rosenberg, ATR-BC, Creative Arts Therapies Supervisor

Posted on October 22, 2020

In September 2020, Renfrew offered what was hopefully the first of many virtual "Reconnecting with Art Therapy" workshops for alumni. We had a great turnout, and it was wonderful to see some familiar faces from our Philadelphia Residential site, as well as meet many former patients who had benefitted from art therapy groups at the non-residential level of care.

I began the session by inviting participants to share a piece of art they had created in treatment. It was heartening to see this work continued to hold meaning after many years. One woman shared a recovery box she had made over 20 years ago and still uses! Many people endorsed a deep appreciation for having had the opportunity to engage in creative self-expression at a critical point in their lives.

Following this period of reflection, I asked the group to think about what their life was like when they first entered treatment and where they are now in relation to their recovery. We spent a stretch of time working quietly on the art and then used the breakout room feature on zoom so small groups could share their work with one another. While it required some vulnerability to share personal reflections and imagery with a group of strangers, a number of people reported feeling a sense of connection through their shared experience at Renfrew and willingness to be open. In addition, several participants even shared what they created with the larger group.

As someone who has worked primarily at the residential level of care when people are often at their lowest, it was really a treat to see so much growth and positive change in the artwork that was shared. One of the gifts of creating and showing art is it gives us a window into other peoples' experiences that are difficult to convey through words. I told the group how moved I was by what they had shared and invited them to send me pictures of their art, along with written statements to bring these stories of recovery to the larger Renfrew community.

In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing here on the Recovery Blog a three-part series of these alumni artworks - take some time to look deeply at these and honor all who have walked these paths.

If you are an alumni who is interested in attending a "Reconnecting with Art Therapy" workshop, the next one will be on Tuesday, November 17, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. EST. Click here to register.

Sondra Rosenberg, ATR-BC, Creative Arts Therapies Supervisor at The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia, leads groups which address body image, emotional expression, media literacy and mindful eating. She received her Bachelor's degree in Visual Art from Oberlin College and her Master's degree in Art Therapy from New York University. Ms. Rosenberg has presented regionally on the use of art therapy in the treatment of eating disorders, self-injury and trauma. A collection of patient artwork that she curated has been exhibited at conferences, universities and galleries throughout the Philadelphia area. Ms. Rosenberg brings a deep passion for art and a strong commitment to empowering women through creativity. She maintains a small private practice in her home studio in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
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