Making Comfort More Complete during Treatment

Posted on 03/08/16 02:45:pm

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Since childhood, many of us have known that it’s important to be a good host—whether that means offering a refreshing beverage or the softest seat in the house. When children, teens and adults seek treatment at any of our locations, we strive to treat them as we would want our own friends and family to be treated. A team of care providers at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer felt that they could do more to be hospitable to children and teens when experiencing difficult times during treatment. 

When youth are enrolled in programming in Brown Deer, WI, and various other locations, a “comfort room” is available for patients as an environment to wind down in and practice coping skills learned in treatment. “The idea of the comfort rooms are great, but the rooms at our location had blank white walls and made some patients a bit nervous,” says Josh Larson, an art therapist at Rogers–Brown Deer. “We wanted the kids to enjoy being in the room and feel like it was a safe space, but the room’s appearance wasn’t allowing that to happen.”

So, a team of four art therapists, one recreation therapist and one mental health practitioner came to Heather Hodorowski, manager of experiential therapy at Rogers–Brown Deer, with a proposal. “Staff expressed that they wanted to create purposeful murals in the comfort rooms,” says Hodorowski. “I was proud that they wanted to fit the project into their regular work schedule and I was impressed with their initiative—so, I gave them the tools to run with the idea.”

The planning process incorporated the entire treatment team at Brown Deer. “I sent out a survey for naming the child and adolescent treatment tracks and the team decided on “Lotus” for the children and “Phoenix” for the teens. Then those involved with creating the murals naturally incorporated those images into the comfort rooms,” says Hodorowski. “We often use the metaphor that even though lotus flowers flourish in the mud, they still have the ability to rise above the surface. The phoenix represents regeneration, growth and technique development for moving forward with anxiety, depression or psycho-social stressors.”

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Once the mural ideas were decided on, staff were eager to get to work. “We agreed that using bold, cool-colored earth tones would be more likely to offer a calming effect than other colors,” says Larson. “We each took turns picking up a paintbrush whenever we had spare time and after 110 hours of painting, the project was complete.”

Hodorowski explains that staff have already seen a major impact in the way children and teens accept the rooms. “The comfort rooms finally live up to their name and are actually popular among our patients,” she says. “We’ve found that they’re more willing to speak up and ask for ten minutes to spend in the room until they feel more prepared to continue treatment than they were before.”

“The comfort room also offers another way for patients to interpret their therapy and connect what they hear in group throughout the day,” adds Larson. “Visualizing what is discussed in therapy can be beneficial for children or teens who learn better with imagery.” In the future, staff at Brown Deer hope to create murals in the comfort rooms of the child and adolescent day treatment and adult inpatient programs. 

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