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Art therapy, a way to build faith

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Outlet: art is part of the life skills therapy Elizabeth Tuzo is offering to clients of the Salvation Army Harbour Light Addiction Programme (Photograph supplied)

Elizabeth Tuzo is breathing new life into the Salvation Army Harbour Light Addiction and Life Skills Programme.

The life skills counsellor has been implementing a new approach to the existing framework since starting with the organisation in January.

Ms Tuzo provides life skills therapy to residential clients as well as those who are in the transitional phase of the recovery programme.

“The idea is that we develop an individualised life plan that addresses whatever our clients’ unique needs are to ensure their re-entry into the community is as smooth as possible,” she explained.

“We look at employment, academic development, financial management, housing, social support, health and wellness and post recovery maintenance.”

The Harbour Light treatment facility is run by The Salvation Army church and offers a six to 12-month programme for males aged 18 to 65. There are currently seven residential clients enrolled in the programme and five who are participating in ongoing aftercare.

The programme is holistic in nature and incorporates a spiritual element in their approach to recovery. It focuses on four phases – assessment and orientation, recovery, relapse prevention and reintegration.

Bible study and weekly church attendance is also a requirement for clients.

“Faith is a vital part of who we are as an organisation. Being connected on a spiritual level is a core feature at Harbour Light and you can’t really find that in any other treatment programme on the island,” Ms Tuzo added.

She recently introduced an art therapy component to the programme.

Intended as a mental health tool, the therapy is used to activate sensory responses and generate imagery that is directly connected to emotions. The process helps clients to connect with their emotions and past experiences and communicate them through creative expression.

“Art therapy is a newly developed piece. I built on what was already existing in the programme. I engage them in a creative way, that not only looks at the addiction piece but some of those underlying unresolved areas that still need to be worked through.

“The key is to do it in an unconventional way.”

One of the most impactful exercises so far has been a funeral planning activity.

Elizabeth Tuzo: life skills counsellor at the Salvation Army (Photograph supplied)

“I tasked them with creating their funeral programme. They had to create an entire order of service, including hymns, scriptures, pallbearers and their obituary. This work took place over several weeks.

“The crux of that was to have them consider how they want to be remembered and what legacy they want to leave behind.”

Ms Tuzo then organised a mock funeral service for the clients, including a casket and eulogy. While some may consider it morbid, she believes it was a transformative experience.

“It was intentionally uncomfortable, but I definitely feel that the objective was achieved. It was emotional. Tears were shed. It was a matter of everyone thinking about what they want their legacy to be.”

The addition of the art therapy component has been well received by clients and Ms Tuzo is looking forward to building on it.

“It enhances the structure. These guys are in class every day in treatment. The addition of art therapy allows them to tap into their creative sense and simultaneously dig deeper into their emotions.

“To see what these men create is mind-blowing. They are so talented and detailed. We have their art on display at the facility.”

The combination of spirituality and holistic therapy is the cornerstone of Harbour Light’s approach to addiction treatment and ongoing recovery.

“One is not more important than the other, both parts go hand in hand.

“The faith element strengthens the programme because it keeps our guys grounded and connected to God. Being in line with God and the purpose He has for their lives is so important.”

She continued: “Spirituality is a part of the support system that we are creating with our clients. They know that they are not alone because they have a spiritual confidant.”

For more information on the Salvation Army Harbour Light Addiction Programme: 292-2586

Expressing themselves: some of the art produced by clients of the Salvation Army Harbour Light Addiction Programme (Photograph supplied)

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Published November 27, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated November 29, 2021 at 7:59 am)

Art therapy, a way to build faith

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