Our first tentative steps

The day had arrived. After weeks of talking, planning and background checks we were at last about to begin our first creative workshop with a cohort of willing participants.

As we were stepping into the unknown I kept my expectations on the low side though couldn't help my excitement for the session and sense of anticipation getting the better of me. With this in mind we entered the room with a number of outcomes in mind.

The first was to make sure we created a safe and supportive environment in which the group would feel comfortable and relaxed so we could talk confidentially and openly, without fear of judgement. This we achieved with the help of our art therapist Mandy Bruce, a wonderfully warm person who set the tone beautifully with her naturally welcoming and easy going manner.

Next was to begin to slowly build trust. Our approach to this was to lead by example and share stories from our past to demonstrate that we were genuine, open, honest, were prepared to put ourselves in a vulnerable position and be more than willing to meet the participant half way. 

Then it was about engagement. Could we share an experience by getting everyone involved in a communal activity? We put this to the test and started off by conducting a series of light-hearted 1 minute drawing exercises based on a simple still life scene. The aim was to loosen up the joints, blow the cobwebs away and get the creative rivers flowing.

A 1 minute pen on paper study of autumn leaves

This wasn’t about creating master pieces or works of art, in fact quite the opposite. It was a case of saying there is no right and no wrong here, everything is valid, or invalid, you can say through this exercise as much or as little as you want.

After several other exercises the session was brought to a close in a positive mood, having achieved our three aims and kept the group engaged and present throughout. We’d established a pace and tone at which we could communicate and had begun to build some trust. I was delighted the session had gone so well, that the group had embraced the spirit of the piece and that we had bonded so well.

As far as new beginnings go this one was encouraging. The feedback we received reflected our take on things which was reassuring to know we hadn’t misread the room in some way.

A date was set for a second session and before we knew it we were, like a child hauling themselves to their feet and taking their first tentative steps, making stumbling forward progress.

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