Week 4:
A Test of Patience


Karin L. Bostrom Fellow in Art Therapy

Institute for Therapy through the Arts | Evanston, Illinois

July 7, 2019

One of my favorite parts of being an administrative intern at the Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) is all of the opportunities I have for learning new skills and discovering hidden talents. This week was no exception.

Part of making clients feel respected, comfortable, and safe during therapy is keeping therapy rooms clean and supplies orderly and in working condition. This is especially true in art therapy and with clients who may have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or OCD tendencies. I witnessed this for myself when a client spent their session sorting beads by color rather than working on their art project because the beads were so disorganized. After the session, I was asked to organize the beads. Although this task took me close to eight hours, I discovered I have a talent for quick and detail-oriented organization, and I’m proud that because of my work, clients will be able to focus on their healing during sessions.

A satisfying photo of the color-coordinated beads

ITA emphasizes applying the interns’ skills within each of their assigned tasks, so later in the week, our office manager Julie assigned me another organizational project. I rearranged the contents of some storage lockers, placing paperwork and books in one and fundraising supplies in the other. I was very happy to once again help keep ITA a clean and organized office in which therapists and clients can focus on healing.

The newly-organized storage lockers

At the music therapy camp for kids with Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I learned about the difficulties of group therapy and assessment tools. During our first few sessions at the camp, Brad, the music therapist, completed an initial baseline assessment using the Music Therapy Social Skills Assessment (MTSSA) and taught another intern and me how to use the MTSSA,  which I thought would make measuring the kids’ progress easy. I could not have been further mistaken; it was much harder than I expected. Watching the behavior of 15 to 20 kids at once and assessing them using a Likert Scale led to some confusion and mismatched scores between Brad, the other intern, and me. This difficulty observing a large group of people, paired with the mixed scores, led me to question the validity of assessing clients. If we each had different scores for each camper, does that mean the assessment tool is invalid? Brad explained assessment scoring is subjective because the scores are up to the assessors’ judgment and, that there is a movement  to eliminate this subjectivity by training every scorer to assess in the same way.

Finally, I worked on compiling a spreadsheet of responses to ITA’s annual client satisfaction survey. Clients rated their level of satisfaction in their involvement in goal setting with their therapist,, the level of progress they’ve made in therapy, how they are greeted by ITA staff, and whether they would refer ITA to their friends, colleagues, and/or family. They also had the opportunity to add comments about their growth and their therapist.  I was impressed by how much ITA values the opinions of their clients. Indeed, clients who like their therapist and feel they are making progress will recommend the ITA to their friends and family. But, more importantly, I realized that clients who feel ownership of their therapy and are satisfied work harder and have fewer barriers to healing. I will have to keep this in mind when dealing with my future clients. A bad therapist will have no clients, but a great one, like the ones at ITA, will have a full caseload and will see clients making the most progress.

Me with some blank satisfaction surveys and the spreadsheet of responses

 

Alexa Ferenzi '20

Alexa is a psychology and studio art double major and art history minor from Chicago, Illinois.