MSW Student Stephanie Unruh Goins Assist Clients in Exploring Their Creativity

 Stephanie Goins

UALR MSW student Stephanie Goins was highlighted in the GAINConnection Newsletter, Spring 2009 issue with the following story. Special thanks to Martha Curtis for providing the story to the School of Social Work. The School of Social Work is proud of Stephanie and all the MSW students for the work they do in their field placements. They make such a different in the lives of so many! 

A new 12-week group of GAIN ­clients is taking advantage of ­social work ­intern Stephanie Unruh Goins’ art back­ground and talent. 

Jim Hickman, Ms. Goins’ field instructor, is co-leader of the group that is meeting each Thursday afternoon this spring at Greater Assistance to those In Need, Inc. in downtown Little Rock. Mr. Hickman is a licensed social worker and GAIN case manager. Ms. Goins is in a first-year placement at GAIN in 2008-09 as a student in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) Graduate School of Social Work. 

GAIN is an assertive community treatment program serving adults with severe and persistent mental illness. “The group is not so much recreational time, or even painting and drawing,” Ms. Goins said. “It’s about exploring all kinds of three-dimensional art, which is what I prefer, and using art to express concepts such as feelings, strengths and hope for the future.”Ms. Goins has a minor in studio art from UALR as an undergraduate. “We appreciate Stephanie’s enthusiasm and are happy to put her talent and interests to good use while she is placed here,” said Dennis Wells, ­Executive Director. “GAIN has a long tradition of encouraging clients to express themselves through art. Over the years, some have discovered they are very talented, and art has become a creative means of expression.” Over the spring, the group of eight clients will work in mixed media, and plans are to make and decorate shadow boxes, collages, cards, flags and “dream bottles,” among other things. “We will also go on field trips, and each member will have a disposable camera with which to take photographs,” Ms. Goins said.Each week, the group will work on one project linked to a discussion of a particular topic: peace, safety, security, compassion, hope.One of Ms. Goins’ goals for the group is to help members become “grounded” in the present ­moment, rather than thinking about the past or the future—”to get them to focus on breathing and what they are seeing, sensing and feeling right now.” 

Other goals include exploring the members’ creativity and awareness. What the group does each week as a project will help the members ­focus on their strengths and bring out their positive feelings, she said. The group has as members a mixture of clients and skill levels. A few have demonstrated talent and skill in art. “But the art is about the abstract, so there’s no right way or wrong way to do things.”At a recent group, the topic was feelings, or moods, as Ms. Goins asked members to capture on paper what moods look like to them—what marks or images represent anger, sadness or other moods. 

Each member has his or her own personal box of supplies: scissors, glue, crayons and items for projects. Then there is a supply of other materials for projects: fabric, laces, ribbon, beads, ­sequins, feathers and special textured papers.  The final project will be a dream bottle, which members will decorate and in which they will put their hopes and dreams for the future.   

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