By Anne Foy.

Art Therapy for those Suffering from Compassion Fatigue
Those who spend their entire lives giving to others often fail to exercise due compassion on themselves. This neglect lies at the root of ‘Compassion Fatigue’, a term first coined in 1992 to describe nurses who were worn out psychologically from tending to patients in an emergency ward. Compassion is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others and a wish to help them.” It is the cornerstone of the successful patient-therapist bond yet fatigue can lead to burnout, with negative results for both carers and patients. Consequences in the carer can include detachment, suffering from traumatic memories or suffering the physiological consequences of chronic stress. Greater support is needed for those who are traumatized or psychologically worn out by the continuous demand to give; one of the many ways this issue can be approached, is through the creation of art.
The many benefits of self-compassion
In order to recover from compassion fatigue, the first step for health workers and other persons suffering from this condition, is to realize that they, too, are worthy of care and compassion. Research indicates that the practice of self-compassion boosts self-esteem and lowers levels of stress hormone, cortisol (chronically high levels of cortisol are linked to heart disease, cancer and diabetes). To develop self-compassion, carers need to learn a number of key skills, including focusing on self-growth as opposed to self-improvement, being less self-critical and learning to forgive oneself for errors committed. Since the creative arts are so cathartic, they provide an excellent avenue through which to express pent-up emotions such as repressed anger, frustration and sadness; those suffering from compassion fatigue often feel they have to be infallible, strong and positive; they can find it difficult to admit that they, too, feel vulnerable, hopeless and isolated by the circumstances of their day-to-day life. Art allows those who are most silent, to find their voice.
Art as stress release
An artwork can provide the perfect backdrop to express ideas and emotions that cause anxiety. In a typical art therapy session, client and therapist often use work created by the client, as a starting point to approach topics that can be difficult or traumatic to bring up ‘out of the blue’. During these discussions, the therapist can use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to enlighten a patient on the destructive thoughts and patterns that can keep them in a rut, and to suggest new ways of tackling these thoughts and feelings before they become manifested in depression, anxiety or fatigue. In this sense, the possibilities of art are endless, as noted by Heather L. Stuckey in a groundbreaking report on the subject: “Art can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness. There are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways of expressing grief. In particular, molding clay can be a powerful way to help people express these feelings through tactile involvement at a somatic level, as well as to facilitate verbal communication and cathartic release and reveal unconscious materials and symbols that cannot be expressed through words.”
The many ways art can heal
In the above-mentioned study, the researchers note that there are so many ways that art can heal those facing intense experiences such as cancer. First, it can help patients focus on the positive; second, it can enhance self-esteem by allowing them to demonstrate achievement; third, it allows the artist to build an identity which is separate from illness; finally, it allows them to express their grief symbolically, which is specially powerful when they are not ready to express themselves in words.
Art and one’s own private Idaho

Studies have shown that the arts can reduce distress, lessen the need for pain medication and to promote well-being. Additionally, the creative process provides a unique environment that many persons suffering from compassion fatigue crave: space, and silence. When an artist becomes fully immersed in a project and enters ‘the Zone’, it can seem like time and space are frozen, and all matters extraneous to one’s artwork, suddenly take on far lesser importance. In a sense, creation can be similar to mindful meditation, which focuses on the present and shuns negative and anxious thoughts, so that the process itself leads to a state of lasting calm.



Today I was looking back at this mural I painted at the Veterans Village of San Diego. This is a section of the mural not quite finished. This  mural is painted in the Montage Style . The imagery is a very emotive and delicate subject to portray. The mural is about the current conflicts in the middle east, and the American people  that serve in the United States of America's Armed Forces. The colors are expressive of the desert conditions, tans pale yellows with a hint of pale blue sky at the upper area across the entire mural. The burnt orange hazy sunset with violet cool mist were used to capture the  respect, sadness, and honor this imagery evokes. This is one of two murals I have painted for The Veterans Village of San Diego. Both can be seen on my website   Or you can go to there and view this mural in person at 4141 Pacific Highway, San Diego, They are large murals approximately 20 feet high 30 to 40' wide. they are located in the dining area. This place is a sanctuary for the veterans who have served their country and lost their way in society. Miracles happen there!


Recent Mural.

  • This is me painting a section of my mural in Honey's Bakery and Bistro in Encinitas Ca. The Mural is made up of some of my favorite images in Encinitas, blended together in the' Montage' technique and style , sharing a common background in light and color, creating a seamless flow. Joining the  imagery together in visual harmony, size, and size relationships are exaggerated, as well space and placement of familiar local scenes.  This mural is now completed and ready for viewing. Other  sections of the mural can be seen on my website home page.                                                  
Comments (1)


Today,  perfect weather for painting. Tomorrow to Del Mar, Dog Beach.

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This mural is about 50 feet long. 

Hi from Kevin Anderson

This mural is in Leucadia Ca. on Pacific Coast highway. The Mobil gas station on the west side of the road.

Artist Kevin Anderson's online store - purchase original art.

"Pumpkins Swamis Ocean View". Original Acrylic 12"x36"- $400.00.
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