Supporting Employee Wellbeing through Creativity
Supporting Employee Wellbeing through Creativity
Right now art therapists the world over are probably celebrating the Duchess of Cambridge’s decision to support The Art Room as one of her charitable causes. It is an impressive looking organization, conducts research and appears to have a strong management committee, but with one small exception – there are no art therapists on staff.
As a profession art therapy struggles. It is experiential, so it can be difficult to explain exactly how it works; research is still in the early stages and is typically qualitative rather than quantitative. Many art therapists come from a wide variety of approaches (phenomenological, humanistic, psychodynamic, positive psychology the list goes on), some focus on product some on process and there are hundreds of ways of making art. But art therapy works…
To practice as an Art Therapist, in fact to call oneself an Art Therapist requires graduate level study at an HPC (Health Professions Council) recognized institution – in the UK there are currently 9. Like it or not, having a lovely combination of counselling diplomas and art classes does not make you an Art Therapist any more than having a stethoscope and a white coat makes you a doctor.
Art, although prevalent in our society, is a powerful communication tool that is capable of accessing a myriad of unconscious material. It functions symbolically, metaphorically and very often what is not included in the image is as important as what is – all subtle aspects of the healing and communication process that art therapists are trained (over years) to see.
So to the Duchess of Cambridge I say thank you, your visit to the art therapy suite at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine University Hospital this past summer must have had a very powerful impact. However, it is essential that the Art Room, which I also applaud, hires an HPC registered Art Therapist because this profession needs this public voice and it needs to be represented appropriately.
A press release is a PR tool for communicating with journalists and promoting your programme or event. It answers the questions who, what, why, when, where and how and is typically spit into 4-5 short paragraphs which will also include 2 relevant quotes.
Headline: one sentence that peaks interest
Paragraph 1. Arrange the information in order of importance. What is the most important aspect of the message that you are trying to get across? Is it the who, the what, the why, the where or the how? Ideally the first paragraph will answer as many of these questions as possible. Journalists are busy people and they often won’t read to the end.
The easiest way to start is simply write down each of these questions and then answer them; it will help you prioritize your message.
Paragraph 2. A quote from a person relevant to the story strategically thought out to communicate as much about your message as possible. No, it doesn’t have to be something they actually said, they just have to agree with it and ‘ok’ it before you send out your release. Make sure you add credibility by saying say who the person is, what they do and/or where they work.
Paragraph 3. Additional information regarding other interesting aspects of the story (but not a new story) this may be embellishments of the who, what, why, where, how questions – but make sure it is pertinent and use your words wisely.
Paragraph 4. A second quote that illuminates more about the story. Can be from the same person or someone new, but again say who they are, where they work and what they do.
Paragraph 5. A concluding paragraph that contains the least significant material you want to communicate. Sometime the dates and times of the event are put here or ‘who to contact’ in regards to the programme or event.
As a whole, a good press release will almost function as a mini article, you know you have done well when a paper prints it verbatim.
Make sure you include addresses, dates, times, ensure there are no typos or spelling mistakes, have someone else proof read it before you send it out. Edit until your release flows beautifully.
Send your press release to the attention of journalist(s) you think may be interested in your topic or addressed to the editor of the subsection you are submitting to, ie. the lifestyle editor, the Body and Soul section etc. Be sure to use their name and spell it correctly.
Ensure your own contact details are included. (see example below and lay it out in this fashion on a piece of organisational letterhead if possible.)
CONTACT: Julia Ruppert
07711 938 921
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(or the date for when it is to be released)
Catchy headline in bold font and larger type centred
In answering your who, what, why, when and where you will hone your message. Through this exercise you may also find that what you thought was the most important thing, is in fact not.
“Writing a press release is a art, but your goal is to communicate with your journalist and let them use their craft,” (get any more how’s or whys into your quote – use it strategically) says Julia Ruppert, Founder of Collective Arts, a non-profit arts organization that delivers creative programming to a wide range of communities in Richmond Borough (see how I snuck more information in here).
In the second paragraph you can provide more information that sounds paraphrased, but is not a quote. Ruppert goes on to add how it is also important to write in the language of the people you are trying to communicate with and avoid any jargon.
In a press release, the more you can condense your language down the better. You are not looking to impress anyone with your florid terms, that’s the journalists’ job. If they have any more questions they will call you.
“Once you have sent out your release you will need to call the journalist(s) to confirm that they have received it. This is essential,” adds Ruppert. “If you can, develop a relationship, invite them in to see where you work, ask if they have any more questions. You may also want to include images or invite them to bring a photographer down.”
Finish off with any dates or times of your event and/or details of people who can be contacted for more information.
In North America finish the release with -30- and in the UK ENDS, this lets the journalist know there are no missing pages.
It would seem clear that a royal visit to the art therapy suite at Montreal’s Sainte Justine Hospital this summer has had a deep impact on Kate Middleton. Yesterday, it was announced that among her chosen charitable causes, our new royal star has selected The Art Room, an Oxford based charity that offers art therapy to children.
For many art therapy professionals this is a moment for celebration and will provide the well-needed PR exposure that the field finds so challenging to self-generate.
Part of the issue is that art therapy is experiential. Yes, you can describe it, but words alone are incapable of illustrating the profound that art therapy is and that Kate Middleton very likely saw.
Art Therapy however, is an extremely flexible tool that can equally be harnessed to support employee mental wellbeing; clarifying roles, setting objectives, enhancing communication and generating awareness through an activity that is not only memorable, but also empowering and enjoyable.
Furthermore, unlike current employee well-being trends such as CBT or mindfulness techniques, with art therapy there is no need for time consuming training or learned practice skills.
So, to Kate Middleton’s choice I say ‘hurrah!’ I applaud, I cheer – because one day soon some very innovative and forward thinking PR Directors will be enabling their staff to find out just how incredible this tool can be.
Yesterday we had a new car delivered, not on a large flatbed, like I had expected, but driven to our door by a 75 year old man. When he arrived I asked him how he was getting home, to which he happily replied,
“Oh, I’ll just get on the train.”
I insisted he come in and have a cup of tea and that rather than walk, once my partner returned he could drop him off at the nearest station.
As we chatted he told me he had driven down from Devon where he currently lives.
“Do you like it there?” I asked.
“Yes, its lovely,” he said, “we used to live in the Lake District, but in Devon it’s much easier to get around.”
One topic led to another, until he lighted upon ‘the accident’.
“I used to be about 3 inches taller, but I had to have my discs fused together, so I’m quite a bit shorter than I was,” he told me.
As it turned out 15 years ago, Trevor, a Prison Warden, was held hostage during an outbreak, his spine smashed by rioting inmates.
“But I’m fine now” he added, “still smiling” and he flashed me a grin.
And he was.
Beyond the mind-bogglingly, horrific nature of his experience, the thing that caught my interest was not only Trevor’s positive attitude, but his use of the term ‘the’ accident to describe his experience; not ‘my’ accident, but a distanced ‘the’. The notoriety of the incident could have easily become self-defining (also known as a secondary gain), but clearly it hadn’t.
In contrast, I recently met a woman whose diagnosis of a vertigo producing illness had the same effect on her as being star of a reality TV show. Similarly, I listened to her use of language and it soon became apparent that no self-respecting illness would ever abandon such a welcoming home.
How we choose to perceive our experiences is at the cornerstone of their impact and crucial to our wellbeing. Each of us has within ourselves the ability to re-frame, either verbally or visually, the negative impact of personal challenges and to subsequently diffuse their power. That is…if we can evade the seductive notoriety of ‘being ill’ or ‘mistreated’.
Asking ourselves ‘what is our relationship with personal negative experiences’ and listening to our own use of language can be both interesting and enlightening. I’m certainly not advocating denial but it seems clear that the simple use of the term ‘my cancer’ versus ‘the cancer’ for example, establishes our sense of empowerment, ownership and position in relation to the disease.
Where we catch ourselves embracing negative experiences, a simple visual exercise can also be used to re-frame habitual language. Rendering a symbol of an issue, anything from an illness to a challenge in the workplace and drawing smaller and smaller versions of it (until it diffuses to nothingness) can have a deep and profound impact on our perception; dictating to our unconscious mind how we choose to view our relationships with personal challenges.
It is an empowering visual strategy.
Everything we have learned about mental wellbeing teaches us that what works is proactivity and positive redirection. So why, in relation to the youth riots are we so keen to embrace an illness model and attribute cause? Sure, we can surmise and perhaps that might even help us circumnavigate these types of problems in the future, but I would hazard a guess that even the youth themselves don’t know ‘what’s wrong’ only that ‘something is’.
From a slightly different perspective it seems clear that, although expressed pathologically, the riots represent an uncontrollable urge to feel a part of something, a physical sense of community, which as a human response is not so very different from the uncontrollable urge that drew adults in their hundreds to clean up the mess. So is it, in fact, possible that we have all been busy expressing the same social need?
So no, I don’t condone it, I don’t excuse it, but beyond this, if we are to be proactive and forward thinking we need to provide a vehicle that will ensure that hundreds of angry, disenfranchised youth, who have clearly demonstrated their ability to ‘pack’, don’t turn into angry, disenfranchised adults.
Young people need guidance, they need boundaries, they need positive mentors and they need industry. This is our long term solution. It is fundamental, it is the responsibility of our society to provide it and in doing so we may, in fact, find ourselves reconnecting with the same positive, social urge that had us picking up our brooms in the first place.
Over the past several months I have been workings with women contending with the many challenges of breast cancer at the Haven in Fulham. The Haven offers a unique environment with a wide variety of supportive and life enhancing programming from Qui Gong to nutritional advice and belly dancing. As my relationship and experience of this remarkable venue has developed, I have begun to see how, for many women, the experience of breast cancer is such a life changing event – and one that is not always entirely negative. There is the fear, of course, there is no denying that. The not knowing, the lack of control, the re-defining of who we are (all themes we have explored metaphorically in our art workshops), but this is where for many women the transformative qualities of breast cancer come into play. The opportunity to take stock, to look at our lives and say ‘I’ve been living this all wrong, I need to change, my life is precious’. Amid the fear, many of the women I have met have seen their cancer as a strange door opened to possibility. We all need to take stock, personal stock and find ways to create moments to celebrate, to refuel and to nurture our own well-being. Mental well-being is not something that someone can give us, it can only be facilitated, the ultimate responsible lies with us and far from being frightening, that knowledge is empowering.
Research typically gets caught up in a game of Chinese whispers once it reaches the media and then takes on a life of its own. Less interesting than the actual research which seems narrow, is the heated debate that surrounds the topic of ‘the relationship between creativity and leadership.’ If the question is whether or not creative people are capable of rising to leadership roles, it is important to consider the context of that role. Creative people are ground breakers and innovators, they are not followers which is probably the main reason why they are not often found in corporate or government ranks (where right wing views tell us leaders congeal), but rather out in the world starting entrepreneurial ventures. I think creative people are difficult to harness, less because they are ‘quirky’ and more because they are visionaries who are reluctant to tow somebody else’s party line. If creative aren’t rising to the top of corporations…I doubt it is so much a case of ‘not being able to lead’, as ‘not being drawn to environments that have not yet learned the skill of how to nurture, celebrate and reap the benefits of creativity’. I somehow think we create types aren’t the ones missing the opportunity….
Yesterday I received assessor feedback on my dissertation recommending that I publish my results on my recent thesis. It’s interesting to consider the impact that positive feedback can have on us. Today I am at my computer, reconnecting with this project when yesterday I was quite happy to prep my bedroom for painting. While doing my research one of the studies that stood out in my mind looked at the impact of a vacation on the mental well-being of workers. It suggested that for three weeks post-vacation workers were on a productive/ positive wave, yet after those three weeks they returned to baseline. Today on Radio 4, I also listened to two women authors who spoke of their sense of dejection rather than elation when a novel was finally finished – a project vacuum emptiness of ‘well…now what do I do?’ Together these thoughts made me think about ‘well-being at work programmes’, the overall costs of running programmes, the potential dis-elation when they finish. It seems to me that ‘booster session’ (as evidence by my own renewed interest and focus as a result of external feed-back) to re-energise our engagement may be all we need, not a daily rah-rah- rah, but just a slow, regular drip from the positive re-enforcement intravenous…
Although money doesn’t make us happy, research suggests that status does, opening an interesting debate as to what status actually means. At first glance status appears to be a ‘reactive’ response where our sense of it is based largely upon the feedback of others. So then where does our opinion of ourselves play into this dynamic? How plausible is an intrinsically rather than extrinsically defined sense of status? In essence I suppose intrinsically defined status’ is what we refer to as ‘mental wellbeing’; a sense of our own worth that comes from within and does not require a huge public profile or a large home to be realised. Instead, what true status appears to come down to, – the status that makes us happy, is the outward manifestation of the impact we have made on the world, our world. It’s about feeling we have made a positive contribution, no matter how big nor how small and feeling that that contribution – has been heard.
Government ‘to measure happiness’
If the tone of the posts in relation to the government’s recent announcement that they would be measuring happiness on a national level are to be believed, they are clearly being mislead by the journalistic dictum of ‘titles inverted commas’. Mental well-being in the workplace – which is essentially what this study is tied to – is a serious issue that costs the UK government and business over £28 billion each year. I applaud a move to ‘measure’ happiness. The government already knows there is a problem and until you know its scope you cannot begin to devise a solution.
Mental well-being in the workplace is an issue of increasing government, organisational and business interest as the social and economic costs of challenges to mental well-being are increasingly recognised. Supporting mental well-being in the workplace is, however, a complex intervention challenge. In contrast to the illness-model approach of previous stress-based interventions, new research suggests that proactive, wellness modelled interventions provide a more appropriate solution for the support and enhancement of employee mental well-being.
In response to the need to identify intervention approaches which can proactively and successfully respond to this multi-faceted issue, the objective of this research was to identify what evidence supports art therapy as an effective mental well-being in the workplace intervention.
To achieve this objective, this study employed a thematic analysis of primary research on mental well-being in the workplace and art therapy interventions with adult, non-clinical populations. The research captured evidence from a wide range of both qualitative and quantitative studies to reflect the ‘meaningfulness’ that is criticised for being lost by traditional systematic reviews. By synthesising themes between studies, this research identified the characteristics that support and challenge both employee mental well-being and intervention success.
A logic model was also designed and used to illustrate the findings of the research.
The first hypothesis, that art therapy is a sufficiently flexible intervention to respond to the complex mental-wellbeing needs of work-place populations was partially supported by the findings of the study. The second hypothesis, that art therapy is a sufficiently flexible technique to approach well-being from a proactive-wellness model of intervention was supported by the findings.
The findings indicate a high level of cross-over between the characteristics of both art therapy interventions and successful individual-level mental well-being in the workplace interventions. These characteristics included providing interventions which are meaningful, empowering and enjoyable.
The findings of this research indicate support for art therapy as an effective individual-level, mental-well-being in the workplace intervention; highlighting areas of both efficacy and challenge. Although the results are promising, more field research is needed to explore the use of art therapy with workplace populations.
A Sample of feedback from our Exploring Creativity Workshop participants:
“Thanks to all of you for a most stimulating and enjoyable day. The setting was great as were all those involved. Hope to see more of you.”
“Thank you very much for enabling me to participate in these sessions; and to share them with others whom I found unfailingly interesting. It was a great pleasure and a valuable experience.”
“I was amazed at how far we could go in so little time.”
“The mix of creative forms worked beautifully.”
“I genuinely thought the whole day, the structure, the content and the thought that had gone into organising it was fantastic.”
“This will spur me to find some time for myself and my creativity.”
“I approached it an open (but fundamentally cynical way..) and was pleasantly surprised by every session, they all can be applied to my life.”
“The rooms, the arrangements and the organisations were all supurb.”
~A one day workshop and symposium~
Create time for a stimulating day of writing, sculpture, drawing
and engaging group discussion
in the beautiful setting of Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham
Saturday, March 21st, 2009.
10:00 – 5:00
Programme of events:
“Inventing Confidence” – an introductory talk examining the role of self-belief in creativity
“The Organic Process of Writing” – in this hands-on workshop Novelist and Writing Coach Jacqui Lofthouse dispels the myths around planning in advance.
“Drawing from Within” – a practical drawing workshop suitable for all levels with Artist and Life Coach, Lee Campbell
“Creating Visual Goals” – focus your aspirations using sculpture and metaphor with Conceptual Artist, Julia Ruppert
“Ornament and Perception” – explore the impact sculpture has had through history on our experience of the landscape with Antiquarian, Sharon Powell
£75.00 per person including materials, refreshments and lunch.
Please call 07711 938 921 for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org