SDTA Participants with Chabora (top left) and Moses (1st row, 2nd from left)
Self Discovery Through Art
June 2013 APNA Member Profile
Nidhi Chabora, APRN-Rx

Last year, Nidhi Chabora, an APRN working on the big island of Hawaii, won the APNA Award for Innovation for her program Self Discovery Through Art (SDTA). SDTA is a collaboration between Chabora and Nancy Jo Moses, BS, MA, who is an accomplished public school visual art educator with 37 years of teaching experience.

During the month of May this year, the community of Hilo, Hawaii celebrated Mental Health Awareness month with a special art show entitled “Self-Discovery” at the Wailoa Arts & Cultural Center. The participants of the SDTA program and others associated with care Hawaii inc. (a psychiatric and case management services agency) were invited to show their art work at the Center. The exhibit highlighted the “art as medicine” approach of SDTA. In a special opening reception, community members mingled with the artists, who were bedecked with leis.

SDTA is a structured psycho-educational studio art program designed by Chabora. It provides a safe avenue for participants with or without formal training in art to express themselves visually and through the process achieve more sense of self, increase their self esteem and recognize their own worthiness. SDTA uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques to highlight cognitive distortions and then to produce art work that illustrates these distortions and transforms them closer to reality. Engaging in the creative process produces an experience of “awakening” that enhances healing and sustains recovery from mental illness.

The exhibit had a broad impact, reducing stigma, creating a sense of connection, and communicating concepts which were otherwise difficult to articulate. "This exhibit is more than a colorful, whimsical and informative display; it can be a revelation to an open mind,” said the Director of the Wailoa Arts & Cultural Center, Codie King. “I am very pleased and proud to host this important exhibit.  I see visitors walking away, thanking me, saying, ‘I can relate’ I think we all can.” Of the exhibit one viewer wrote, “This is an example of our shared humanity", in the guest book and a participant said simply, “This is my space of grace.”  

The SDTA artists derived their inspiration from a quote by American artist Georgia O’Keefe: "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way-things I had no words for." The group members are all men and women, ages 18 and older, who meet for two hours once a week. One group member, who plans to keep developing his/her art and take more classes said, "The program has helped me because I tend to isolate myself. It has done wonders for my morale. Nidhi helps us get through fallacious thinking and get over our negative feelings." Said another participant, "I love the class and it helps me with my inner self. I feel wonderful after and don't want to leave.  It helps bring our emotions out. We go in there sad and leave happy.  It really helps relieve the stress too."

Pictures courtesy of Sarah Anderson

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