A Body-Mind-Spirit Art Therapy Intervention for Stress Reduction in Firefighter Spouses

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Sutrick, Andrea
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
Spouses often sense when their firefighter had a “bad call.” With no words spoken, the spouse can suffer an ambiguous loss, witnessing their firefighter’s presence but emotional absence (Regehr, Dimitropoulos, Bright, George, & Henderson, 2005). Over progressive shifts, spouses experienced compassion fatigue, unable to maintain empathy for the continual stressors. As seen in spouses of veterans with PTSD, symptomology can evolve into psychological distress, posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, marital conflict, and adjustment issues (Renshaw, Rodreigues, & Jones, 2008; Kees & Rosenblum, 2015). To exacerbate problems, spouses worked full-time or firefighters have second jobs to supplement public service pay. Firefighters work days apart, leaving the spouse to act as a single parent, shouldering the demands of family life. Fire couples may grow apart leaving spouses resentful of the constant energy required to support the lifestyle (O’Neill & Rothbard, 2017; International Association of Firefighters [IAFF], 2017, December 26). Adapted from Ng, Boey, Mok, Leung, and Chan’s (2016) holistic intervention, this qualitative study analyzed a Body-Mind-Spirit Art Therapy (BMS-AT) intervention to reduce stress with firefighter spouses. Informed by the Expressive Therapies Continuum, a client-centered focus helped spouses own their role in the family and find creative methods to achieve positive well-being (Kagin & Lusebrink, 1978; Raskin, Rogers, & Witty, 2014). The holistic artmaking directives embody mindful approaches that helped to identify symptoms, connect with others, and focus on goals as coping strategies (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.).