July 22nd, 2024

Art therapy program does wonders for Hatter

By Gillian Slade on July 26, 2017.


An expressive arts program has helped a local women face the future with confidence.

In February, Eva Biskup, 56, would have rated her confidence level at one. Now, she says, it is 10.

After many years as the primary caregiver for her mother, Biskup was exhausted. The situation became very strained with her mother and her extended family when she said she could no longer cope.

“I was devastated. I didn’t know what I did so wrong,” said Biskup, whose family doctor refered her to a counsellor after a visit to her family doctor. The counsellor suggested participating in the expressive arts program through Alberta Health Services (AHS).

While Biskup had always had an interest in crafts she’d never tried painting before.

“I didn’t think I had the talent,” said Biskup.

A visit and assessment by Melissa Mack, therapist assistant, therapeutic recreation, AHS, determined a one-on-one approach in Biskup’s own home would be best. Social anxiety can make it more difficult for some to feel comfortable in a group environment, she explained.

Biskup smiles as she looks at the first piece of art she created with Mack —- a stained glass effect in watercolour that hangs on her livingroom wall.

Having Mack to talk to at weekly sessions was huge.

“She did a lot for my confidence,” said Biskup.

The art projects through the program are specially structured to help even the inexperienced achieve something they can feel proud of, said Lanna Herter, recreation therapist, therapeutic recreation, AHS.

Mack says art also helps people express their emotions. She looks at Biskup and says her transformation has been like night and day.

AHS’s expressive arts program has already been functioning for three or four years. There are two group programs each year in addition to the one-on-one program, said Herter.

“It’s given me hope,” said Biskup, who entered four of her paintings in the visual arts exhibition at the Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede this year.

Even having the courage to submit those paintings takes confidence, said Herter.

It was more than just the creative outlet that Mack helped Biskup with. She helped her learn to use the public transit system and accompanied her on the bus until she felt sufficiently confident to ride on her own. Biskup has also joined the AHS walking to wellness program.

It has all helped to reduce her anxiety level, said Biskup.

If you or someone you know is interested in these programs you can self-refer or work through your family physician’s office. Telephone 403-502-8648 extension 1068. You will be screened and assessed to find the most appropriate program for you, said Herter.

For those who joined one of the group sessions that lasts 10 weeks there is a fee of $30 to cover the cost of supplies and the venue. For those who need one-on-one assistance there is no fee.

“I don’t know where I would have been without it,” said Biskup.

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