Some Guidelines for Leading An Arts Based Group

So you have a hospitable spirit, a love for the hurting and an interest in art. Now what? Here are some things to think about when leading an arts-based group:

  • We are not therapists, we are witnesses. That means that we can receive people where they are without analyzing or fixing them.
  • We want to release people from worrying about making art or from striving to perform so that they can concentrate on what is happening internally. We can support that by praising or commenting on process rather than artwork.
  • Questions and comments should always address the process. Some examples might include: “Tell me about your piece,” “How did you notice your breath?”
  • Invite participants to share instead of assuming that everyone will share. We want everyone to feel in control of their own involvement.  
  • Offer simple food, and drink. Regularly invite people to examine themselves and determine if they are hungry, thirsty or need to go to the bathroom. Remind them that they always have permission to take care of themselves. Self-care is a value that trauma survivors need to claim as normal.

And remember to have fun. Making art with others is vulnerable and challenging, but it is also fun!