A good termination can be an important final step in the therapeutic process. I find that creative arts can be a helpful part of termination, both to process the ending and because the art provides a transitional object that the client can take with them.
When a member leaves a therapy group, I want to help the whole group to be able to process change and saying goodbye, as well as honor the progress and contributions that the departing member has made. While this can be done with conversation in the group, I find that taking time for art and writing can open up space for more reflection and allow group members to be more open in what they share. In addition, there is value in the art as a concrete reminder of their experience in group.
I’d like to share an expressive art activity that I have been using lately in my teen group as we celebrate some transitions out of the group.
For the group members that will remain – Create a goodbye postcard for the group member who is leaving. On the front side of the card, create an image for them. On the back side, write them a brief message (say goodbye, let them know what positive impact they have had on you, remind them of anything that you hope they carry on from the group, etc.).
For the terminating group member – Create a card for yourself, with an image on one side and a message on the back, about what you have learned from the group or what you want to continue to remind yourself of after leaving.
Share your cards in group and take time to verbally express anything else that you want to share.
Cardstock or watercolor paper, cut down to the size of postcards or large cards
Assorted drawing, paint, collage, and embellishment materials
As I facilitate a group that is ongoing and has rolling admission, we only have one person leaving at any time. However, I’m sure that you could adapt this activity for a closed group that is all ending at the same time. One variation would be that everyone creates their own card with an image and writing about what they got out of group and what they need to be reminded of. These could then be taken home at the end of that final group or later mailed by the therapist. Another variation is to pass the cards around, with each group member adding a brief contribution to the art on one side and a brief message on the other. Then each person leaves the group with a card that everyone has contributed to.
I always love to hear your thoughts! What is your favorite creative activity for group therapy termination? Let me know in the comments below.
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Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR is an art therapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, teens, and families. For more information about individual therapy, child and teen counseling, family therapy, teen group therapy, and art therapy services, please visit: www.therapywithcarolyn.com.
This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. All directives, interventions, and ideas should be used by qualified individuals within the appropriate bounds of their education, training, and scope of practice. Information presented in this blog does not replace professional training in child and family therapy, art therapy, or play therapy. Art therapy requires a trained art therapist.
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