Recreation therapy is playing an important role in helping Valynn recover from anxiety and depression.
The 35-year-old Toronto artist has been in
and out of hospital for the past 10 years and found that a piece of the
treatment puzzle was missing; one that medications and talk therapy were
not addressing adequately.
“I felt I had so many avenues of therapy,”
Valynn says . “Some were working and some were not. I was getting well
but I still felt very isolated in my illness. I lost my creative spark
and felt blocked. I had no motivation.”
New Treatment Plan
During a recent stay in the Women’s Inpatient
Unit at CAMH, Valynn added Recreation Therapy (RT) to her treatment
plan. RT promotes play, recreation and leisure and other activity-based
interventions as a means to psychological recovery.
Working with Recreation Therapist Julianna
McLeod, Valynn took part in leisure education and counselling programs
focusing on healthy living and participated in a variety of activities,
including art and music.
proudly displays a painting she made after leaving CAMH. “It was my
transition piece from feeling like I couldn't cope to knowing today I
can now manage. It is a celebration of the tools I have gained working
“RT lets clients explore enjoyable activities
that they can later use to quickly and safely reduce strong emotional
responses,” says Julianna. For clients like Valynn, “distress tolerance
is a particularly important skill to develop.”
Valynn says RT is providing her with benefits that medication and medical support alone could not provide.
“Physical activity is helping reduce my
symptoms of depression and anxiety. I am feeling more motivated and am
accomplishing things that I thought were not even possible. I’m also
feeling more of a sense of belonging in the community.
“Through Recreation Therapy I was able to
reconnect with my creativity and passions, which were often lost to my
depression and anxiety”.
“RT played a big role in Valynn’s current
recovery because it gave her the opportunity to explore coping
strategies,” Julianna explains. “Through play, connecting with the
community in a safe way that involves gradual exposure to
anxiety-producing situations, and art, she was able to replace
maladaptive coping strategies with constructive ones.”
Road to Recovery
Valynn believes Recreation Therapy should be a mandatory part of any treatment plan.
“Leisure is an extremely important part of
our overall well-being; but it is often overlooked or dismissed as
unimportant. I have been in and out of hospital for ten years. This is
the first time I feel like I am living. I believe it was because of
“Many people like me are used to isolation
due to stigma and illness. I am now filling time with things I enjoy and
not sitting around with empty time left open for negative thinking and
“I am taking out time to do what feels good. I’ve incorporated fun back into my life. It is a huge awakening.”