Inside the System or Outside?
I've had the pleasure and challenge of dialoguing on this topic recently with a colleague who goes into hospitals that serve wards of the State of Illinois as a member of an oversight team of the Department of Psychiatry at University of Illinois The UIC is contracted by DCFS (Dept. of Child and Family Service) to monitor care.
This work is making headlines across the country as reports of rapes and other forms of violence in these settings are uncovered by the UIC team. The team is comprised of multidisciplinary professionals who have the best interests of both the patients and the staff at heart and know what a high functioning psychiatric unit should look like. Still, while the team can point to the flaws, they can't wave a magic wand and make it all better. Some of the institutions they audit are likely to experience even greater chaos in the process of meeting mandates of safe and appropriate care. Where do the patients in their care go then? How does the staff cope with the added stress of fearing job loss on top of an already stressful workplace?
Do art therapy educators have a role to play in refusing to place students in questionable sites? Should art therapists refuse to work in such settings? Can we begin to publicly issue statements as a professional association advocating for fair and safe working conditions for our members and those we serve? While the direct service art therapists do is the heart of the profession, the advocacy function may be our soul. The Social Justice Caucus was formed as a means to direct, support and channel the energy of art therapists into building capacity for this advocacy function. Let us know what you are doing in your community to stand up for those who are suffering, and how we can help. Changing the world is a collaborative project and one in which we all have a stake. Share your struggles, ask for help, post your images here and let's invent some new ways to put our creativity to use. If you have walked away from a dysfunctional system, tell your story. If you continue to stay tell us how you manage. These stories are how we will create what's next. If you are planning to attend the AATA conference in July, plan to attend the Social Justice Caucus Open Forum and made your views known.
"This is how it looks, my child, the world you were born into...if you do not like this world, then you will have to change it". (Friedl-Dicker-Brandeis from an anti-capitalist poster, circa 1930-34, cited in Kaplan, Art Therapy and Social Action, 2007, Gerity and Bear p. 235)