Using the Art Therapy Dream Analysis as a Self-Care Practice for Nurses

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Riedl, Susan
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
Occupational stress is a significant concern for acute care nurses. A nurse’s work environment consists of a fast-paced, competitive work day with a full spectrum of stressful situations. Leaving these occurrences unexamined can lead to emotional turmoil resulting in burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and vicarious traumatization. These professional fatigues have a profound effect on those working as caregivers in the helping industry and the quality of care patients receive, often resulting in increased medical expenses. Considering the occupational stressors and time sensitivities of a nurse’s work schedule along with the critical need for daily self-care practices this study explored an alternative art making activity for nurse’s to help process daily interactions by looking at dreams and the content within them. The Art Therapy Dream Analysis (ATDA) is an art therapy assessment which promotes personal reflection and encourages one to process waking life experiences by analyzing dreams, nightmares or daydreams through an art driven directive. The use of ATDA provided insight about dreams and was considered a helpful tool for self-care among the participants. Examining personal reflections through the participant’s dreams, symptomatic descriptions related to BO, CF, STS and VT were identified. Participants provided feedback in surveys, questionnaires, and during the process of reflecting on their dreams. The participants recognized benefits for future applications of ATDA as a self-care practice with positive feedback. The use of ATDA was favored by participants as a helpful tool for processing dream experiences.