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Q&A with Lindsay Edwards, MA: Director of Creative Arts Therapy Department, Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University

August 27, 2015

The Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University operates as a patient-centered, integrated, and trauma-informed model of care.  Integrative health care creates a seamless engagement for patients, most of whom represent a vulnerable population and are residents of public housing, and caregivers in the full range of physical, psychological, social, preventive, and therapeutic factors known to be effective and necessary for the achievement of optimal health throughout the lifespan.  The center is a nationally-recognized model of nurse-managed, community-based care for the education of health professions students and for faculty practice. 

A new wing, which added 17,000 square feet of space to the practice, opened to patients on June 29, 2015. The new addition accommodates the expansion of primary care services, and includes space for nursing, nutrition sciences, couple and family therapy and creative arts therapies.

Lindsay Edwards, MA, Director of Creative Arts Therapy Department at Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services offers some insight on the impact the new space for creative arts therapies is having on staff and patients, alike.

Q:   What creative arts therapies services do you offer patients?

A:    We’re in a wonderfully unique situation at the Stephen & Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services (11th Street) because we can build and evolve Creative Arts Therapies  (CATs) services according to client needs, community partners’ initiatives, staff & student expertise and socio-political-cultural issues that occur nationally and locally.  Our creative arts therapists and students offer individual and group work to clients, as well as individual and group support to staff.  We infuse CATs into psychoeducational groups, such as Power over Pain for chronic pain patients, and embed CATs into assessments for other disciplines, like offering a regular and periodic AT assessment to physical therapy patients.  A picture is worth 1000 words to show the patient’s initial level of pain, and then help the PT represent the patient’s growth.  Additionally, we serve as leadership on center-wide teams, and present to community organizations because we offer a unique lens to the healthcare perspective.  For example, when a client with dementia scores high on a mental status exam, despite their obvious decline, a dance/movement therapist can present videotaped sessions to the treatment team to actually demonstrate the reality of the client’s decline with spatial orientation, alertness, planning/preparation and pattern recall.  Or an art therapist can conduct specific assessments that help a parent understand the sense of overwhelm that their child is experiencing by witnessing repeated violence, since it is hard for the child to talk about it.  A music therapist can help a group of staff calm, synchronize and increase appreciation for everyone’s unique voice before holding a meeting to discuss controversial challenges, like we often do within our Sanctuary Model.

Topics of youth & adult DMT, AT & MT groups we’ve led include 1) building resiliency after trauma; 2) fostering bonding & attunement prenatally and between child-caregiver; 3) drumming circle for vitality & self-confidence; 4) quilting to foster socialization and to improve skills with compromising and team building; and 5) sensitizing a desensitized, over-stressed body so that one can better identify & manage emotions as well as feel their way to enjoyment of life; and 6) substance abuse prevention.  An example of responding to national conversation & teaming with local partners is to address the notion of incarceration being modern day slavery, since it highly affects our 11th Street families.  I’m interested in working more closely with The Center for Returning Citizens to develop an art therapy group that supports the transition of our formally incarcerated clients, and their families.  

The more we collaboratively work with the other excellent health professionals at 11th Street, the more we can focus on filling a void of treatment so that we can sincerely compliment, and help create, a holistic wellness plan for our clients.

Q:   What are some of the features of the new space for creative arts therapies?

A:    The new wing includes three separate studios for creative arts therapies (art therapy, music therapy and dance/movement therapy) and for community arts programming.  Each studio was designed a bit differently to accommodate aspects of each modality. For example, the dance movement therapy studio has a mirror so that we have another way to receive movement feedback.  The art therapy studio has a ton of beautiful natural light to highlight the art that can be displayed within the studio.  The music studio was designed to absorb acoustics more effectively.  We also have a conference room in the new wing where students or staff will be able observe sessions in each creative arts therapies studio via camera/video software once it is installed.  This is great for clinical supervision, students to observe clinicians without having to be in the room which could compromise safety of the client, and research purposes.  There is also gallery space in the waiting areas that we plan to use for rotating exhibits of professional art and clients’ therapeutic art if they would like to display it.

Q:   How does the new wing impact the creative arts therapies services offered?

A:    Now that we have space, we can see more patients.  With space, we can host student interns and initiate hiring processes for creative arts therapies staff once we generate funds to support salaries.  Because of the design, the creative arts therapies are more visible to patients - they are inquiring more about what they are and how to access them.  The space also implies the importance of creative arts therapies in health care.  When you see the size of the studios, one assumes that patients have been positively affected by their creative arts therapies treatment.  We are one of the first, if not the first, primary care setting to build a creative arts therapies suite (named in honor of James Widener Ray) and embed the services into patient wellness (treatment) plans.  In other words, the space sends a message to clients, staff, funders and nation-wide/international health centers that the creative arts therapies are effective and necessary!

Q: How are patients reacting? Staff?

A:    My clients have been astonished by the beauty and sacredness of each space.  We shared a room with three other disciplines before the new building opened.  So, to have a room dedicated to dance movement therapy only helps the client feel more important, more organized and safer. Plus, it's really great for them to have somewhere really nice to come, away from what often times is a chaotic, depleted home environment.  As a staff member using the spaces, I feel more respected because I am now equipped with the space and props to do my work as it was intended. When we have something nice to value (like a new space), we typically value ourselves and our work within it more.  A huge success to attribute to the spaces is the props and materials that we have to do our work (instruments, art supplies, etc.), and this is attributed to the Legacy Foundation.  I'm so fortunate that they understand the importance of that in our work.