The Therapy Side of Tender Heart

Imagine feeling sick to your stomach. You can’t sleep because you can’t shut your brain down. You have this feeling of looming doom, but you can’t always point specifically to the cause of this. You often replay conversations, wondering if you said the right thing, if you handled the situation correctly. You get nervous in large crowds, meeting new people and doing new things, despite wanting to engage in more. 

Now imagine you have no idea what is the cause of this or how to fix it. 

This is exactly how many of our group members have felt throughout their lives, not knowing what, if anything, can be done to reduce their symptoms. Through conversation with one of our social workers, a group member recently shared that she had dealt with anxiety her entire life and “never knew there was something that could help it.” While this can be attributed in part to the stigma regarding mental health [more on this in an upcoming post!], this realization is exactly the purpose and goal of Tender Heart Therapeutic Arts and Crafts. We are first and foremost, therapists, who work to provide mental health education and symptom reduction to each group member we work with. 

Often, people see the engaging activities we are working on and believe that is our session’s goal. However, there are a variety of mental health goals we, as social workers, are working on.  We use the craft, art project, game, etc, as a tool to engage with group members. 

Crafts are picked by our staff with goals in mind that include: 

  • Positive interactions
  • Sharing emotions
  • Cognitive processing
  • Focusing on group/team work 
  • Modeling positive behavior 
  • Memory recall
  • Anger management
  • Group environment as a therapeutic tool 
  • Relaxation skills
  • Changing maladaptive patterns of behavior 
  • Increasing confidence
  • … and many more! 

Today, we are going to take a closer look at a few of these to show you exactly how our projects assists us in monitoring and improving each goal we have for our group members.

Cognitive Processing: 

When someone is struggling with his or her mental health, their cognitive processing abilities can be impacted. Think about the last time you experienced great sadness or a moment of anxiety. Now think about how well you functioned at that time; to make decisions, speak with others calmly, to feel comfortable and happy in your own skin. It can be extremely difficult and with symptoms that could have been going on for decades.  Our group members ability to process can be impacted greatly. Our projects often include multiple steps and require group members to follow a process. By following these directions, we are creating new neural-pathways in group members’ brains. We are teaching them they can complete and excel at creating, engaging and sharing their thoughts and feelings.  We see this each time our clients complete a project.

Memory Recall:
Many of our group members are dealing with a form of dementia, and struggle to make new short-term memories. Often, they rely on their long-term memories, and can become frustrated when they cannot recall things as they used to. Through our projects, group members practice making new short-term memories, including recalling instructions. We also tap into their long-term memories of materials and previous projects they’d used and completed in the past. This work between their short-term and long-term memory is what we refer to at Tender Heart as “memory maintenance” and can help slow down the progression of the disease.

Group Environment:

There is a specific reason we have groups.  Group environments are therapeutic when led by social workers and have many benefits. One that has been vital for our group members is to combat isolation and show them that they are not alone. Through group discussions facilitated by our social workers, groups have discussed their changing abilities, the sadness in losing loved ones, dealing with their symptoms, their new living situation as they transition from their private home to a facility, and many more topics. We work on communicating in a positive, respectful manner, even when dealing with symptoms of anxiety, depression and dementia. We forge relationships between group members that offer support and kindness far outside of our group sessions. 


Often one of the impacts of dementia, schizophrenia, anxiety or any other mental health condition is the loss of confidence for our group members. They begin to doubt themselves, feel as though they cannot do what they once did. We’ve often heard them be critical of themselves, share they won’t be able to complete their work, or have nothing interesting to share. Through our expertise as social workers, we are able to work with them to improve this. Completing a project they did not believe they could, creates a burst of confidence for our group members. Discussing and practicing ways to change the way they view themselves, gives our group members long-term confidence and has been observed while outside of group as well. 

As you can see, Tender Heart’s purpose goes far beyond our exciting activities, and is based solely on the mental health of our group members. Through the process of creating and engaging with our social workers, we have seen growth and comfort with our group members. 

Have a question about what we do? Contact us! We’d be happy to help!