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Transformation: The Rite of Spring—Utilizing the Fine Arts in Treating Severe Mental Illness

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Length: 1 hour 7 minutes

Diana Semmelhack, PsyD and Emma Wood, MA

CLINICAL APPROACHES:  This workshop focuses on utilizing the fine arts in combination with analytic group work in the treatment of severely mentally ill adults in institutional settings.  These individuals are underserved with few treatment options other than medication management.

ABSTRACT:  This paper presentation highlights an innovation in group-as-a-whole work (from the Tavistock Institute) in the treatment of severely mentally ill institutionalized adults that integrates the creative arts into the model.  Studies consistently confirm a 50-80% prevalence rate of physical and sexual abuse among individuals who later acquire a diagnosis of mental illness (Stefan, 1996). Little emphasis is given to addressing the impact of these histories on their emotional health other than medication management.  In response to the need for alternative treatments we have developed a 16-week module utilizing the fine arts in combination with the aforementioned psychodynamic model.  Gaining access to their creative selves benefits severely mentally ill, institutionalized consumers. There are many reasons why.  Winnicott (1971) suggests that creativity is the root of being, an expression of the self. He states that "it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self (p. 54)."  Carl Jung states, "from the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; hence the unconscious is not merely conditioned by history, but is the very source of the creative impulse. Lecture, discussion and demonstration will provide participants with an understanding of how the model facilitates healing in this underserved population.  The paper presentation includes a 26-minute video presentation of, Transformation: The Rite of Spring (video not included in this audio recording).  The twenty-two resident performers (all of whom were participants in the creative development group) engaged in costume design, makeup application, set construction, choreography, music composition and many other endeavors.  To commemorate and showcase the unique, rewarding and collaborative nature of this production a 26-minute documentary was produced.  This documentary recounts the entire production-from events leading up to the live performance to the psychological theories which underlie the creative development group.  This video highlights the value of the fine arts in facilitating the healing process in an underserved population. 


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