As this was my first time at conference I was keen to try the occupation stations on offer, and I jumped at the chance to attend this Tuesday afternoon session. This hands on mindfulness session was facilitated by Christine Urish, Occupational Therapist and Professor at St Ambrose University in the United States (find her on Twitter @curish).
Mindfulness as a therapeutic approach is becoming increasingly popular in the occupational therapy paradigm. This was clearly reflected in the the large numbers of delegates keen to attend this session! Although I arrived early I had to sit on the floor as the session was jam-packed! I have used mindfulness both personally and professionally in my own practice with service users on a mental health placement, and was keen to hear from Christine how this approach might be applied to different client populations.
Christine explained how she has worked within psychiatric services and with university students, identifying the need for effective interventions to combat stress and anxiety. She undertook specialist training and has now used mindfulness approaches with clients for the last two years, explaining how mindfulness involves being present in the moment, free from judgement.
Christine briefly introduced us to the Koru Mindfulness Program. This is an evidence-based course designed to teach mindfulness, meditation and stress management to college students and young adults. Christine guided us through one of the strategies within this training – diaphragmatic breathing. This technique is useful in calming the mind and body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. She uses strategies such as this to encourage clients to become more mindful and centred, in preparation for engaging in Zentangle.
Zentangle is a creative and artistic occupation in which the participant draws a beautiful image from repetitive patterns. Christine explained how clients with stress and anxiety respond particularly well to this occupation, as it enhances self-esteem and self-efficacy. Patterns are called ‘tangles’ made up of dots, lines and curves. These patterns are drawn onto small pieces of card or paper called ’tiles’ which can then be assembled into mosaics.
This occupation can be used with almost every population group, including children and older adults. We were provided with our own Zentangle materials, including a selection of tiles and pens. We had a go at creating our own tiles and Christine encouraged us not to compare ourselves and reminded us within Zentangle, there are no mistakes! Although I am not particularly artistic I found myself becoming absorbed in the activity and lost track of time, suggesting this occupation has the power to facilitate flow for service users. The client is encouraged to take the activity at their own pace and the philosophy of Zentangle is anything is possible…one stroke at a time! This was reflected in the relaxed and informal ethos of the session.
So how does it relate to occupational therapy? Zentangle has important implications for many areas of practice. Within paediatrics it can be used to improve fine motor skills, concentration, attention, sequencing skills and sensory and emotional regulation. For older adults it can be used to facilitate reminiscence, provide opportunities for social interaction if ran as a group session, and provides participants with the chance to engage in a creative and meaningful occupation. With palliative care it can foster a sense of positivity, by encouraging the client to be creative and share their creation with loved ones.
Christine explained how after being introduced to Zentangle many clients pass on the activity to friends and family, which encourages them to undertake meaningful roles. Zentangle also provides occupational therapists with a useful tool for their own self-care by enabling reflection and relaxation, and reducing the risk of professional burnout.
Written by Cathy Roberts @CathyARoberts