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Earlier this month, Friendship Village of Schaumburg held its Art of Friendship-Intergenerational Art Show. The 5th annual event featured artwork by residents, families, and friends of Friendship Village, as well as by students of Hoover Math and Science Academy, St. Hubert Catholic School, Schaumburg Christian Academy, and St. Peter Lutheran School.
The exhibit marked the culmination of Friendship Village’s art therapy internship program for the 2018-2019 school year. Chaplain Shawn Kafader, who is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and is in the process of becoming a Certified Art for Healing Practitioner, launched and oversees the program. This year, Kafader supervised two student interns, Nicole Nepote and Rachelle Barmann, who are both earning their MA Counseling Art Therapy from Adler University in Chicago. Since last fall, the students have been spending 20-25 hours each week at the senior living community, facilitating art therapy groups as well as working with individual residents in all levels of care.
“Many older adults have never received mental health counseling because of a stigma that was attached to it when they were younger,” said Kafader. “In art therapy, we offer our residents a way to process their journey in life. This may mean actively engaging in loss and grief, facing the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams, examining family dynamics, redirecting old behavioral and cognitive patterns, and looking toward the future with new possibilities.”
Kafader said that many of the residents have not engaged in art making for many years. Consequently, when approached about the art therapy program, they will initially protest because they don’t view themselves as being artistic. “Art therapy is not about creating a masterpiece of art. It is all about the process of art making with no judgment of the final product. Art therapy allows the resident to be creative while experiencing the challenges of the aging process,” he said. “When a resident is beginning to create something, and is talking at the same time, the art-making disengages the thought process of the residents, allowing them to explore life at an ever-deepening level.”
When the art therapy internship program was first launched at Friendship Village, it became evident that beautiful pieces of artwork would emerge. The decision was made to hold an art show exhibiting these, and other pieces of work by residents of the community. An intergenerational component was added as students from area schools were invited to participate.