Sunday, April 9, 2017

Therapy for caregivers

In March 2017, I conducted a survey about self-care for caregivers of children with differences. This survey is part of my action research project that aims to bring awareness to caregivers about the importance of looking after their emotional needs. As a caregiver of a child with ASD  for the past nineteen years, I am all too familiar with the highs and lows of raising a child with special needs, the toll it can take not just on the primary caregiver of the child but also the entire family.

The survey revealed three things:

  • Approximately 90% of the caregivers are aware of what self-care means and how it impacts their caregiving.

  • Almost all caregivers agree that their well-being is directly related to the well-being of their child, meaning that if they are mentally and physically well they will be better at caregiving (quality of caregiving has implications for the prognosis of a child).

  • The majority of caregivers take time out some time for exercise or leisure and around 37% indulge in holistic and spiritual practices but only 20% seek any kind of psychological help through counselling or psychotherapy.

Stress impacts everyone varyingly. Likewise, each of us copes with it in a different manner and not everyone needs to see a therapist for counselling or psychotherapy. In fact, some degree of stress is not necessarily a bad thing because it alerts us to situations within our bodies and in our environment that may need to be taken care of. However, when stress reaches a level where it is a constant companion, impairs daily functioning and begins to effect relationships, it can be detrimental to the individual suffering from it as well as their family and friends. Left unaddressed, extreme stress may lead to mental health issues and manifest as anxiety disorders, depression, agitation, frustration, pessimism, guilt and so on.

I myself suffered for many years with chronic anxiety before seeking psychotherapy and counselling and I am so, so glad that I did. I can only say that not only did therapy save me from potentially disastrous consequences, it equipped me to achieve things in the future that I could not have imagined. I am grateful to God for guiding me through this time.

Today I am an art psychotherapist. My son is 19 and interning at a restaurant as a waiter. He wants to work in a café. I tell him one day he will own one. I do art therapy with children and adolescents with ASD, developmental issues and psychoemotional problems. I am in the process of establishing my private practice in Singapore where I hope to run therapy groups for caregivers of children with special needs.

Though I am an ardent advocate of art therapy, be it for children or adults, the point of this writing is not to sell art therapy to you. In fact, I am fully aware that for many of you art therapy may not even be an option since qualified art therapists are not be found everywhere. However, I urge you to seek help in any form that is available to you and not to ignore your mental well-being especially if you feel you are having difficulty coping with the stress of caregiving. Go see a mental health professional, join a support group, reach out to others in similar circumstances. There are many professionals who offer online sessions for those who are unable to leave their homes for mental health services or may not have access to them.

If you want to know more about what art therapy can do for you and would like to connect to art therapists in Asia, write to me at

Note: You do not need to have any artmaking skills to do art therapy.