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Therapeutic scrapbooking

Therapeutic scrapbooking groups at St. Jude shown to increase caregivers’ ability to cope with their child’s illness

Nearly a decade after St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital began offering therapeutic scrapbooking as an alternative to traditional support groups for patients’ parents, researchers have demonstrated that the sessions promote hopefulness, in part by helping families recognize their strengths and by expanding their support network. The study on the effects of therapeutic scrapbooking were published in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology.

The activities are facilitated by St. Jude social workers who organize informal evenings each month for parents and families of children undergoing treatment for cancer or other life-threatening diseases. With free supplies on hand, participants are encouraged to bring personal photos and mementos of their child at diagnosis and throughout treatment. Caregivers use the scrapbooks to tell their stories and highlight both the patient’s and family’s strengths.

“I think caregivers come to the sessions because they see scrapbooking as a fun, normal activity,” said Paula McCarthy, a social worker at St. Jude and lead author of the study. “The atmosphere makes it easy for participants to relate to each other and feel supported by other caregivers who truly understand what they are experiencing.

“Even though the craft of scrapbooking is widespread, its use as a tool for mental health professionals is just developing. I hope our experience at St. Jude encourages others to try it in diverse settings with a variety of different groups, both young and old,” McCarthy said.

For many caregivers, adding comments to different pages validates their experiences. Working in a group gives participants a chance to share their efforts, which McCarthy said leads to further recognition of a caregiver’s experiences. Sharing also provides learning opportunities for others in the group and a chance for caregivers to build a peer support network.

“I have seen how scrapbooking bridges languages and cultures,” McCarthy said. “It gives me a change to provide immediate support to struggling parents and build connections that sometimes make it easier for caregivers to seek support later.”

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