An international award winning therapeutic art program was established as part of collaboration between Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (CHW) and RMHC Eastern Wisconsin (RMHC), with the unified goal around family support.
Art therapy involves more than simply having a child or family color a picture or complete a craft project. Though all art making is considered to be therapeutic on some level, a skilled and experienced art therapist uses the creative process to guide families towards a place of healing, reconciliation, and hope. Art making is a universal language in which children of all ages, including adults, can participate, understand, and even enjoy. The results have been inspiring: our families have opened up their hearts, explored their fears and sadness, and allowed their emotional needs to be heard while rebuilding a sense of well-being and hope.
Music therapy goes beyond the standard music appreciation as it works to creatively address physical and emotional health and wellness of patients and their families. Music therapists utilize music to help facilitate self-expression, build self-esteem, create positive interactions with others, decrease stress and anxiety, and normalize the hospital environment. Techniques include using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, imagery, performance and learning through music. Through the collaboration between Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and RMHC Eastern Wisconsin, music therapy is offered on both campuses. A dedicated Music Therapy Room was designed during the recent RMHC expansion, allowing families to open their hearts, minds, and ears to the power of music.
All families staying at Ronald McDonald House have a story to tell. Interwoven into their stories about their child or children, come the stark realities of the magnitude of their situations. They begin to use words like “overwhelmed”, “falling apart”, “coming undone” and “unraveling at the seams”. In our House, these words are heard.
Tucked in a corner of the Chapel, sitting quietly and unassumingly next to a basket of yarn and strips of fabric, is a loom. Families use the loom one-by-one, creating a piece about the community of healing that happens here in the House. It is there because a loom allows families to weave the fabric of their lives back together. They weave in messages of hope and of perseverance. Intertwined between the yarn and the messages are named ribbons of why families come to the Ronald McDonald House. There are bows tied like reminders, cloth remnants, and soft yarns all woven together into a message of healing; of coming back together; of telling their story in the gentlest of ways. Families come at any time, but most often in the middle of the night, to weave on the loom. They weave, “Cherish every moment”, “One day at a time”, “Never give up on hope”, “I love you”. Slowly, quietly, softly, and with great thoughtfulness, mindfulness and care, the loom fills, the weaving grows, and the families feel a bit better having woven back together a part of themselves that felt as though it was coming undone.
The success of the loom is exhibited in how quickly it grows and when it grows the most. The loom is there when a mother can’t sleep because her child is ailing. She weaves to calm herself at three in the morning. The loom is there when a father struggles to find the right words to share with his child. He weaves to express himself as day settles into night. The loom is there for the sister, who by day might punch her medically challenged brother in the arm, but on the loom she tells him she loves him. She weaves to honor him whenever she has the chance. The weaving grows most readily and steadily between the hours of “I can’t sleep” and “I have to get up”. Families work to weave it all back together as they weave through the medical journeys they are all on.
Stephen Campbell, ATR-BC, LCAT is employed as an art therapist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Through the generosity of a grant from Kohl’s Cares, Stephen bridges art therapy between the hospital and Ronald Mc Donald House Charities of Eastern Wisconsin offering afternoon groups to children and families. Art therapy supports the whole family: children who have been hospitalized/experiencing multiple clinic visits to parents with a baby in the NICU. Stephen uses technology for families to create 3 Minute Movies. Movies, like stories, have a beginning, middle, and end, allowing children to rewrite their stories. Stephen is a licensed and board-certified art therapist. He holds a master’s degree from the College of New Rochelle and previously worked at Bellevue Hospital in NYC.
Together, we will make art and process art when good things happen and when challenging things happen to brothers/sisters; hospital patients; parents; and your family.
Jessie Magyar, MAAT, ATR, serves at RMHC Eastern Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin through the generosity of a grant from Kohl’s Cares. Jessie works from a person-centered approach and enjoys helping her clients find their creative voice through art. Jessie is also a paper and book artist and enjoys incorporating bookmaking, papermaking, and printmaking techniques in her practice with children and families. For Jessie, making art is about sharing a piece of oneself, creating something that can contain, honor, and present one’s stories. Jessie earned her undergraduate degrees in Studio Art and Psychology from Smith College in Massachusetts and her Master’s of Arts in Art Therapy (MAAT) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Jessie’s past experiences include working with patients and families in pediatric and adult hospitals, hospice and palliative care, art museums, and older adult care.
Melissa Neitzel, MT-BC serves at RMHC Eastern Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin through the generosity of a grant from Kohl’s Cares. Melissa is a board certified music therapist who provides an evening music therapy group once a week at RMHC for patients and their families. Alongside RMHC, Melissa provides music therapy throughout CHW conducting individual bedside visits. Melissa believes in the power of music and that can be used as an outlet to express the unspoken, support emotions, distract from pain, and relieve stress. All are welcome to join in music group- no experience is necessary!