(1) How many people will there be in the groups?
The maximum number of people in the group is 12. We aim to keep our groups small to allow for a quality experience.
(2) How do I get involved?
To refer yourself onto the programme please download and complete the online self-referral form. Alternatively you can call Helen Holden, Project Coordinator on 07745 590 698 and/or email ([email protected]).
A health care professional can also refer you by downloading and completing the professional referral form. We will then be in touch to have an informal chat to see if we are the right service for you and to invite you to a creative taster session. Once you have attended the taster session you may have to wait for a place on your chosen workshop group, but once a place is available you will be invited to a Welcome Meeting which will get you started on your journey of creative activities and self-expression
3) How many sessions can I take part in and how long do they last for?
We offer our clients a minimum of 7 or a maximum of 12 weekly sessions which last for 2 hours a week. Either option includes a Welcome Session at the start and a Moving Forward workshop at the end and once you start on the programme you can decide whether you want to do one or two 5-week blocks of the creative sessions. If you decide you’d like to access the full 12 weeks there will be a break in between the blocks of a couple of weeks.
4) When and where do the groups take place?
We currently offer 2 groups each week of a Thursday afternoon and a Friday morning. Creative Alternatives is part of the Cultural Hubs – Arts in Libraries programme and sessions used to take place in St.Helens Central Library in the town centre. However *Central Library has not yet re-opened so we have been using alternative town centre venues nearby the library, primarily St.Helens Town Hall or St.Helens Music Service in the YMCA Beacon building.
*Information regarding Central Library closure provided as of February 2018
5) Are the groups ‘drop-in’?
We feel that being part of a regular group and committing to a weekly process is the best way to improve your mental wellbeing and help you feel better. For this reason we do not advocate Creative Alternatives as a ‘drop-in’ service but ask you to really commit to the full course, whether you take part for 7 or 12 weeks. Regular attendance deepens your experience of being part of a group, seeing and working alongside the same people each week and it also supports you to complete an art project from start to finish, increasing a sense of pride and achievement.
6) Who will be running the sessions?
The creative sessions are run by 2 professional and experienced Artists trained in community arts. They each have a specific artistic skill set which they bring to the workshops. The Tuesday group has a focus on both expressive writing and art, whereas the Friday group is more focused on visual art forms. Both workshops are carefully designed to work in harmony with the Creative Alternatives promise to provide you with opportunities to experience play, a sense of achievement, relaxation, a deeper connection and opportunities for self-exploration . Welcome Meetings and Moving Forward workshops will be led by the project team, Helen & Sheryl, whom you will have already met during your taster session.
7) What will I be asked to do when I’m there?
On the first day of your workshop the Artists will introduce you to a themed project which you will explore over 5 weekly sessions. Within the theme you will then be guided through a particular art medium and then talk about the possibilities the Artists have for an art/writing project with you. The process is the most important element of engaging with the workshops so we emphasise that you focus on this rather than the end product however, the Artists will support you to complete one art project over each 5 week period. The sessions also include a small element of mindfulness, (facilitated either at the beginning or end of the workshop), where the Artists will guide you through a 5 minute breath-based mindfulness meditation. *see Q14 for more information
8) What kind of art projects will be included?
Creative Alternatives is founded on the principle that the arts are integral to good health and well-being and that taking part in therapeutic art processes can really help to relieve the symptoms associated with anxiety, depression and stress. Each workshop is carefully structured and graded in a way to allow you to experience therapeutic art activity that fits your ability, encouraging you to fulfil your potential. Some of the mediums you may explore include; sculpture, wood-work, glass and/or silk painting, textiles, book making and much more. Each workshop block will focus on one of these mediums to allow you to really become familiar with a particular art form, developing both your skills and confidence. Our creative projects have included; wire sculptures, clay tiles, memory boxes, textile hangings, shadow puppets, mandalas painted on glass or wood and silk painted aromatherapy pillows. One of the groups also includes an element of expressive writing such as poetry so if this is something you’d prefer to do just let us know. All of our projects are carefully tailored to suit the needs of the group.
9) Can I bring a friend/family member/health care professional with me as support?
We appreciate starting anything new is a daunting and sometimes anxiety provoking thing to do. While we understand that you may need support settling into the group, we ask you to try to be independent when you start on the programme so that it gives you the opportunity to find your own way of being part of the group which in turn will help to build your confidence. However it’s fine if you would like to bring a friend/family member or health care professional with you when you attend one of our taster sessions if you can just let us know beforehand.
10) Do I need to be ‘arty’ to get involved?
An interest in art/creativity may help you to feel motivated to attend the workshops however you do not have to have a creative background or a certain level of artistic ability to participate in our workshops, only a willingness to get involved in a creative group activity.
11) Are the groups for all ages and for both men and women?
The workshops are open to all ages from 18 onwards and to both men and women (there is usually a mix of both). However once a year we will be offering a group that will just be for men and at least one of the artist facilitators will be male who leads it. This is to address some of the issues around men not feeling as comfortable taking part in arts based activities to support their mental health and wellbeing.
12) Is Creative Alternatives art therapy?
Although the workshops are therapeutic in nature, Creative Alternatives is different to art therapy because we do not discuss feelings in the group in a psychodynamic way. The process of making the art work and the support from the general interaction and development of friendships during your time on Creative Alternatives is the most therapeutic element of being part of the programme.
13) Will I be asked to talk about myself?
Whist on the programme we may invite you to use the creative workshops to gently explore certain aspects of your life in order for you to reflect on experiences and focus on any positive changes. The workshops provide a safe, non-judgemental relaxing space which provides an opportunity to share things. However it is important to stress that we not asking you to talk about yourself in any therapeutic or analytical way whilst on the programme and you never have share anything with the group if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.
14) Do I have to take part in the mindfulness meditations?
The mindfulness element is an optional opportunity for you to help you arrive into the session, supporting you to relax and increase your receptivity to the creative process. Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to have extensive benefits for the human mind, body and quality of life and performance. As a result it’s becoming a part of main-stream medicine. The evidence in support of mindfulness-based stress reduction is so strong that three-quarters of GPs think it would be beneficial for all patients to learn mindfulness meditation skills. To find out more about the benefits of mindfulness please watch this fantastic short video by Professor Mark Williams (Oxford University) on the benefits of mindfulness, or this Alef Trust article on 3 Facts About Mindfulness.