Sometimes a picture is worth even more than 1000 words according to visual artist Cara Lampron, BA, MS. As the Program Coordinator, Cara facilitates the new therapeutic arts program for the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. Art at a diabetes center?
Said Cara, who has a Masters degree in art therapy from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan: “The objective is to treat the emotional or psychological side of diabetes. A lot of feelings and thoughts come up when you have diabetes that is hard to explain in words. Sometimes you don’t have the vocabulary—but sometimes the feelings are so complex, there aren’t really words for it. Art is a way to express—and accept—complex feelings in a visual way.”
How do you feel about your treatment? What’s going on in school? What’s happening at home?
These are important questions to answer when you’re treating children and teens with diabetes, said Cara, who works with patients as young as 2 years old—and “It’s a lot less threatening coming at the child with art materials than asking how he or she is feeling.”
Last year Cara interned in the art therapy department at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital as well as the Berrie Center where she implemented a pilot program (her own creation) introducing art into individual sessions with children with type 1 diabetes (T1D). “I was surprised how open and honest the kids really were in sharing their experiences with me,” said Cara, who ended up writing her Masters thesis on the work she did at the Berrie Center.
"In my thesis, I explored just how much information can be gleaned when you only have 30 minutes together and may not see each other ever again. For a one-time session, it was really impressive how much they brought to the art and the process. It was amazing that sometimes I’d get more information about someone in one session than I would from someone I’d been seeing for weeks.”
Cara will be leading group art projects through “Berrie Connect” a monthly afterschool program for teens and preteens with T1D. (Sharing an experience can be validating, she said about the power of a group project and they can combat feelings of isolation for the participant.) But the bulk of Cara’s work, at least initially, will be with recently diagnosed kids with T1D and others who have been flagged as someone who might benefit from the session with Cara.
Sessions with Cara will look different depending on the patient—and the art project. “Specific projects may be patient-led,” she said, “where a variety of materials are offered to the patient, allowing them to explore their thoughts and feelings through the art. Others are directive based—where art materials and projects are based on the patient’s emotional needs.” As an example, Cara mentioned that making “worry dolls” is a great project for many ages. “They can be wrapped in yarn, a process which can be meditative and relaxing, promoting mindfulness.” Shield-making helps kids feel strong and protected and can be used in play.
“I’ve wanted to work in art therapy since I first found out about it in high school,” said an exuberant Cara who grew up in Rhode Island where she showed an artistic side from a very young age. “Growing up, I wanted to be an artist or a doctor,” she recalled. Cara developed her own art practice by studying painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She took a year off upon graduation (and worked for six months of it as an au pair in Spain) before entering graduate school.
Said Natasha Leibel, MD, who heads the pediatric program at the Berrie Center: “Cara offers us a unique vision for improving the physical, mental and emotional well being of our patients. She’s extremely talented at what she does.”