CCE and PCA&D counseling collaborate to bring Art as Self-Care to educators

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Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

The profession of teaching has never been a low-stress career: Add in a pandemic (and its resulting toll on physical and mental health) and it’s been a rough few years for educators. 

Pennsylvania College of Art & Design’s Center for Creative Exploration and PCA&D Counselor Michael Hoober recently paired up to present Art as Self Care: Healing Arts for Secondary Trauma, to faculty and staff of the School District of Lancaster. The workshop guided participants through practical art-based strategies for self-care and regulation, recognition of secondary (vicarious) trauma experienced by K-12 educators and staff, and resources for continued exploration into creative care.

The goal? To help educators develop an understanding of the secondary trauma that comes from dealing with stressed-out students and colleagues, identify symptoms, and review the basics of working with trauma, prevention, and grounding.

A bonus is that many of these self-care strategies also can be implemented with students. Still, CCE’s focus was on the frontline educators themselves, those whose jobs often entail dealing not only with their own stress, but that of students, too. 

“As much as we try, trauma presents itself in even the most subtle ways that affect us and the students,” said one teacher who attended Art as Self

“This was for (educators) to learn to regulate in those moments” of stress or trauma, says Natalie Lascek, CCE Director. “Moments of making, plus Mike (Hoober) giving context, and building some good, simple vocabulary around the practice.”

The Center for Creative Exploration also kept some of these tactics in mind when designing its upcoming Summer curriculum for artists of all ages. Classes which can fit the theme of art-based self-care include Bilingual Mindful Painting, Exploring Short Poetic Forms, Mindful Drawing, and Watercolor Exploration at Garden Spot Village – and educators can use the code WELOVETEACHERS when registering for a 15% discount. CCE’s full slate of upcoming offerings can be found here

“The magic is that it was all three of us,” Lascek said of herself, Hoober, and Salina Almanzar-Oree, CCE’s Program Coordinator. “It allowed us to share different perspectives, different voices, (and share), ‘This is what’s happening in your brain, and this is what you can do about it.’”

Added Lascek: “I love teachers – I am an art teacher – and I liked the variety (of teachers and staff) at the workshop. There are tons of people who hold space for children in many ways, and sometimes we forget how useful art can be.”

Art as self-care

Together, Lascek, Almanzar-Oree, and Hoober used their specialized training and understanding of trauma to develop the Art as Self Care workshop. Hoober, of Connect Counseling in Lancaster, works regularly with a student population. Lascek has completed healing arts training through Penn State Health and Center Stage Arts, and Almanzar-Oree’s art-based Seed Project, with Josh Graupera, has worked with artist and trauma-informed educator Candy Gonzalez to develop specialized trauma-informed practices for artists

Some art-based tactics covered in Art as Self included spiral poetry, art-based grounding practices, and name-drawing exercises. 

Workshop attendees learned ways to use those tactics to push back against waves of trauma that keep coming, preparing themselves for the waves, and staying “upright” when the wave hits.

The workshop with SDoL provided “excellent ideas of ways to destress,” reported one attendee. It was “very relevant to the ongoing daily comings/goings in the classroom.”

“This session gave me simple self-reflection techniques I can use as a check-in for my own self-care as well as activities for my students,” wrote another. 

Others said the workshop provided techniques for identifying trauma more accurately, information on using art to ground and regulate emotions, and quick, immediate tactics that can be used without taking up much time — but still prove effective. 

“Teachers are absorbing stress and trauma every day,” says Almanzar-Oree. “You can’t ‘fix’ it, but there are ways to cope” that use a person’s creative urge to reorient when they’re feeling the symptoms of that stress.