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6.6.6 Psychosocial rehabilitation case study: Michael - art therapy

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Last amended 
13 April 2017

Michael has an accepted PTSD condition. He has become very socially isolated and is finding it difficult to control his anxiety and anger. This is limiting his ability to participate in community and social activities and to maintain positive relationships with his family and friends.

Michael's rehabilitation goals include learning to understand his anxiety triggers and to find a more constructive way of handling his emotions, particularly his anger. A contact from his ADF days has forwarded him a link about art therapy. The program involves working with an artist and trained art therapist to learn to express his emotions through painting and drawing. The course runs for 12 weeks with weekly classes.

Michael has not accessed evidence-based treatment for his PTSD for some time. He is taking medication to assist with the management of anxiety. Michael is hoping that the art therapy course will help him to express his emotions in a more constructive way. The rehabilitation provider has made contact with Michael's treating psychiatrist and Michael has agreed to attend an appointment with him, to start the process of developing a PTSD treatment plan.

Can this request be approved?

Criterion: Is the activity or intervention.....Example: art therapy
This table outlines issues to consider when determining whether an activity is reasonable

1. … likely to achieve progress towards an agreed rehabilitation goal?

Yes. Michael's rehabilitation goals include finding more constructive ways of managing his emotions and processing his experiences. The art therapy classes are likely to assist him to do this.

2. …likely to be effective?

Art therapy is being used in a variety of different settings to assist people to express their emotions in a creative way and to process traumatic events. The artist running the program has professional qualifications in this area and is accredited with ANZATA, the Professional Association for Arts Therapy in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

3. … appropriate for the client given their medical restrictions?

Michael's psychiatrist is comfortable with him attending the program, and has discussed with him, some options he can take if his participation triggers his PTSD symptoms. The psychiatrist is also working with Michael to develop a PTSD treatment plan.

4. … likely to improve, or at least not impair, their independent functioning?

Yes. Michael is motivated to undertake the program and to start learning to manage his PTSD symptoms more effectively.

5. … time-limited rather than a long-term or ongoing activity?

The course runs for 12 weeks.

6. … cost-effective in relation to other equally effective interventions or arrangements?

Yes. The cost of the course is comparable to other similar art based programs in the community. All materials are covered in the cost of the course. 

7. … in line with community standards and expectations?

Art therapy is becoming increasingly well-known and acceptable in the community and has been successfully incorporated into programs run by Defence to assist ADF members who are participating in the extended transition program.

8. . … unlikely to compromise the client’s personal safety?

Michael has re-connected with his psychiatrist and they have discussed some strategies that Michael can use if his PTSD is triggered by his participation in the program. These include contacing VVCS and using the PTSD Coach Australia app.

9. … in line with the client’s preferences?

Yes. Michael has spoken with other veterans who have benefitted from undertaking similar programs and is committed to participating.

10. ... any other relevant matters?

A PTSD treatment plan is being developed with Michael's treating psychiatrist. The psychiatrist is hopes that the art therapy program will enable Michael to start learning to express his emotions in a more positive way, and that they can build on this through the PTSD treatment plan.

The provider will make regular contact with Michael over the course of the program to make sure that he is maintaining contact with his psychiatrist and seeking assistance if his symptoms are triggered.

Outcome: Michael's participation in the art therapy course was approved.