Holistic arts-based social work

Authored by: Diana Coholic

The Routledge Handbook of Religion, Spirituality and Social Work

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  April  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138931220
eBook ISBN: 9781315679853
Adobe ISBN:


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While art therapy is usually conducted by graduate-trained professionals with a degree in art therapy, arts-based methods denote the application of art therapy techniques, and are accessible and used by a more diverse group of helping professionals such as social workers. Arts-based methods can include activities such as drawing, painting, creative writing, working with clay and more. I have been studying the benefits of arts-based methods in holistic social group work for almost 10 years. Along with members of my research team, I developed an arts-based mindfulness group programme that facilitates the learning of mindfulness using experiential and arts-based methods such as drawing, painting, making collages, creating with sand, using music, practicing Tai Chi movements, sculpting with clay, listening to guided imageries and creative writing (Coholic 2010). This research was primarily focused on the needs of marginalised children and youth (children involved with child welfare or mental health systems), but we also explored our programme with indigenous women (Coholic et al. 2013) and with adults experiencing mental health challenges (Coholic et al. 2014). At the beginning of my research career, when I first started exploring the processes and benefits of holistic social group work, our group work was facilitated and studied with women, and teenage girl participants involved with child welfare. Since spirituality and other existential topics are often difficult to articulate in words, it made sense to utilise arts-based methods to explore and express these topics.

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