Thursday, June 27, 2013

Personal Coat of Arms

Heidi Bolster, CTRS created this activity for an art therapy group at our facility.



·         Copies of blank “coat of Arms” paper
·         Markers, colored pencils, crayons
·         Examples of coat of arms for reference and ideas


·         To get patients thinking about what things represent who they are
·         What is most important to the patient?
·         To even get patients thinking about their history, their family, and their legacy


·         Show examples of various coat of arms and ask patients what the coat of arms are/were for in the past?
·         Ask patients about the symbols in the coat of arms and the meanings behind the symbols.
·         Discuss with patients how people have used symbols throughout history to represent who they are, where they are from, and what their ambitions are in life.
·         Talk to patient about what things they might include in their own coat of arms.
·         Talk about what symbols might represent those things
·         Allow patients to begin working on their personal coat of arms.
·         Process what the patients included in their coat of arms and why
·         Talk about the benefit of knowing what you stand for and matters most to you in this life

·         Have the patients give examples of ways in which their personal coat of arms has made them more confident and inspired, and discuss how this will help them in the hospital and during future struggles.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Anchor Art

Here's an activity I created last week for a lower functioning, geriatric art therapy group.


Talk about the importance and functions of anchors.  Give patients a copy of an anchor like the one above.  Have patients decorate the anchor.  Talk about the importance of support systems and ways that our support system can help us overcome difficulties in life.  Instruct patients to write down the names of people in their support system and specific ways they can be helped.  Have patients share their anchors.  Talk about how patients can communicate their needs to their support system to get the help they need.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Starry Starry Night

Here's another art therapy idea submitted by Heidi Bolster, CTRS.  We use this at our facility and they turn out so cool!!


Give each patient a half a sheet of black paper and a pack of oil pastels. Show them Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting and talk about the history of the painting. Discuss with patients the following discussion questions. Give Pt. time to complete their artwork, and process what they included in their picture.

Van Gogh painted this during a difficult time in his life. For hope and inspiration he looked to the stars. What do you look to for help in difficult times? What is helping you in your current situation? –Talk about the symbolism of the color on the black paper and relate the color they choose to their hope and inspiration during a dark time.

Note for the CTRS:

As the Pt. completes their pastel have them think about these questions and allow them to add pictures, symbols, or words to their starry night to represent the things that give them hope.

History of the Painting:
In September 1888, before his December breakdown that resulted in his hospitalization in Arles, he painted Starry Night Over the Rhone. Van Gogh wrote about this painting:[4]
"... it does me good to do what’s difficult. That doesn’t stop me having a tremendous need for, shall I say the word – for religion – so I go outside at night to paint the stars.'"
The painting depicts the view outside his sanitarium room window at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (located in southern France) at night, although it was painted from memory during the day.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dimensions of Health Analysis

Dimensions of Health Analysis
Review the 6 Dimensions of Health with patients.  Talk about each area and how we can achieve health in each area.  

Give each patient a copy of the worksheet entitled “Dimensions of Health.”  Have them write down different activities they do each day that contribute to health and wellness in each category.

Discuss the lists with the group.  Consider the following questions:
·       What specific ways do you maintain physical health? Emotional health? Spritual health? Etc.
·       Which dimension is most healthy for you?
·       In which dimension are you the least healthy?
·       How can you improve wellness in the environmental dimension? Social dimension? Etc.
·       How is each area connected to another dimension (for example, how does emotional health relate to physical health or mental health to environmental health?

Conclude by having patients set specific goals to improve one or more dimensions of health.

**This activity could also be done in conjunction with the Leisure Time Clocks activity.  If so, have patients separate the items they listed on their clocks into the Dimensions of Health Worksheet, and analyze these.**

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mountains and Valleys (Low Functioning)

Here's a version of the Mountains and Valleys activity that Heidi Bolster, CTRS, adapted to a lower functioning population.


This activity is to assist patients in problem solving, and to help them create a plan and hope for their future.


·         Paper
·         Markers, crayons, colored pencils


·         Give patient a copy of the mountain and valley picture
·         Allow patients to color the picture
·         Underneath the picture, instruct patients to write a short description of a time when they were in a valley (a hard time) and how they were able to overcome it (climb the mountain) and how they felt once they overcame that trial.
·         Discuss what coping skills patients used to make it through that hard time, and talk about how they can use those same healthy coping skills now.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Face I Wear for the World

Another activity submitted by Heidi Bolster, CTRS.



·         Paper
·         Markers, crayons, colored pencils
·         Blank face page outline


·         Have a discussion with patients regarding what they openly portray about themselves to the world, and what they might hide from others.
·         Talk about why some things are guarded while others are left open for others to see
·         Give the patients the page and have them complete the following:
o   What is most important to you (use pictures and words)
o   Are you guarded around others or open (use colors to portray this)
o   How do you see life (decorate the eyes according to how they see the world)
o   What do you listen to, what words effect you? (decorate ears according to this)
o   What do you express (opinions, beliefs, etc.)- decorate mouth according to this
o   The, on the back of the mask, have the patients write down what they hide from the world/ what they don’t want others to see
·         Process what the patients put down on their masks and talk about why we guard some things and are open about others
·         Talk about the benefit of sharing with those we trust, but the importance of boundaries in doing so

·         Ask if there is anything the patients would like to change about their “mask”, and if so, ask how they can take steps toward those changes now

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nature Collage

Thanks Heidi Bolster, CTRS for submitting this activity!


Materials Needed: Construction paper, national geographic magazines, glue, markers, Scissors (if appropriate for the group)

Description: Have patients create a motivational collage using images from nature. Talk with patients about how nature can inspire, uplift, and help us with our physical, mental, spiritual, emotional etc. health. Talk about what images the patients chose and why, and discuss how nature can help them through hard times in their life.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Watercolor Trees

Thanks Heidi Bolster for this awesome activity!  It works great with some of our lower functioning geriatric patients.


Give each Pt. a copy of a silhouetted tree. Instruct the pts. to water color the different sections of the tree (as divided by the branches), into different colors. Allow the Pts. to use whatever colors and styles of painting that they want in order to foster creativity and expression. If a Pt. wants to add more detail, show them how to add texture to their painting through different strokes and styles of painting. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013


We've done Mosaics at our facility for such a long time!  It's always so fun to see what the patients come up with!

Give Pt. a coloring page of a more simplistic picture. Give Pt. a stack of colored construction paper. Instruct Pt. to tear construction paper into tiny pieces (no more than an inch long). Have Pt. glue small pieces of paper one at a time to the coloring page to give the picture color.

·        How does this relate to how small and simple things can build up to create something positive in our lives?
·        Do you have examples in your life of when you were able to find “beauty from chaos” or something positive from a seemingly negative situation?

·        What are simple things that you can do while here in the hospital to make positive changes in your life?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mountains and Valleys (High Functioning)

Thanks Heidi Bolster for submitting another great art therapy activity!  See here for a version adapted to a lower functioning group!


This activity is to assist patients in problem solving, and to help them create a plan and hope for their future.


·         Paper
·         Markers, crayons, colored pencils


·         Instruct patients to draw a mountain and a valley
·         Discuss with patients how we have mountains and valleys in our lives
·         Have patients think of the valley they are in and the mountain they are climbing
·         Have patients write or draw pictures on their drawing to describe this mountain and valley they are currently dealing with
·         Above the mountain instruct patients to write down coping skills, names of people who can help them, and beliefs they have that will help them climb their mountain
·         *Extra: instruct patients to draw a path from the valley floor to the top of the mountain and along the path have them write down steps they plan to take to reach the top.

·         Discuss drawings with patients throughout this activity (step by step) and help patients to see options where they may feel effort is useless.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tissue Paper Trees

Heidi Bolster, CTRS submitted this art therapy activity.  It's a lot of fun and great for fine motor skills.


Give each patient a blank piece of paper. Instruct the patients to draw the outline of a tree with whatever style of trunk they desire (You can instruct them to design it according to their personality i.e. Make a twisted trunk if they are a complicated person, or a straight branch if they are sure of themselves etc.). Then allow the patients to color in the trunk and branches of their tree. After they are done, allow patients to tear tine pieces of tissue paper of whatever colors they choose to create the leaves for their tree. Instruct the patients to glue the leaves on their tree.

*If you have a significantly low functioning patient, you can print out a picture of a tree, have them color it, and assist them in gluing on the tissue paper.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sensory Hands


submitted by Cynthia Soucy, CTRS of Harborside Healthcare Willowson April 30, 2005 

Size: any size, but preferably no larger than 14
Equipment: washcloths, lotion (regular from facility or sometimes I use aroma therapy lotion from Bath and Body Works), music for calming and relaxation, a basin, warm water, and small garbage bags, Purel
Objective: Objective is to calm the patients down in the morning after breakfast and treatment and for more individualized attention.
Description: The activity is simple but rewarding. At my facility I do this on Tuesdays and Thursdays with my dementia patients. This was started by one of my co-workers.

Put on the music in a private room, preferably a room with a sink.

Next fill up a large basin with very warm water. Put in your washcloths to get them nice and warm. Place one of the garbage bags next to the basin/sink for used washcloths.

Then, one patient at a time, take a washcloth and cover the persons hands for about a minute. You will instantly see their faces relax. I also use this time to orient them to what day it is. Put the used washcloth into the "garbage" bag. Then put lotion on the patients hands and give them a hand massage. If you are using the aroma therapy lotion, allow them to smell it. I like the relaxation or awakening lotions because they really seem to have a good effect on the patients mood.

Continue this until all of the patients are taken care of, and then return them to the activity room. Make sure to wash your hands between each patient or use Purel! It is all about infection control. Also have fun! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The "Um" Game

Brinda Green, CTRS also found this activity for our facility, but it was originally submitted by Anna Mallard (Activity Therapist at New Hope for Children - Jedburg, SC).

A small bag of random, familiar items

-Sitting in a circle, have each individual take turns describing an item given to them from the bag.  The person has one minute to describe the item.
-If the person says the word "um" or pauses for more than five seconds, they will sit down and wait until the next round to participate.
-If the person successfully describes the item, he/she will receive a point.
-Peers will be encouraged to use the horn/buzzer or make a buzzer sound if they hear "um" or count five seconds of silence.

There are several different ways to process this activity:
-Anxiety/public speaking
-Listening Skills
-Expand vocabulary

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Butterfly Circus

The Butterfly Circus
“The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.”


Watch the short film “The Butterfly Circus” with patients (23 minutes).  Afterwards discuss the film with the patients and talk about overcoming obstacles to find joy in life.

Depending on the theme of the day, this video can be used for either Finding Joy in Life or Knowing Myself.  Adapt the questions to meet the theme and the needs of the group.

Some questions to consider:
·         What character do identify with the most?  Why?
·         What does will believe about himself at the beginning of the film?  At the end?
·         Have you experienced something that changed how you view yourself, for better or for worse?  What was it?  Explain…
·         What challenges have you had to overcome in your life?
·         What does the ringmaster of the Butterfly Circus represent to you?
·         Have you ever known anyone like the ringmaster?  Who?  How has that affected your life?
·         How can we change what is negative in our lives? 
·         How can we find joy in life, even amid depression and other difficulties?
·         How can you help others change their lives for the better?