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Art-Making for Teachers: How Can Art Therapy Combat Teacher Burnout? Open Access

Objective: Human services professionals have a higher rate of burnout than most occupations. For teachers, exhaustion and stress are exasperated by increases class sizes and reduced budgets. High rates of teacher burnout can lead to high teacher turnover and early retirement rates, as well ass, lower levels of behavioral tolerance in the classroom. Since art therapy can be used to help relieve stress and foster positive communication, it may be especially helpful in promoting teachers’ sense of wellness and expressing the burdens of teaching. Method: A one-time workshop conducted with a group of teachers in a Christian school in the Midwest U.S. incorporated art therapy protocols to investigate the benefits of art making. The teachers created 1) art about the upcoming school year and 2) response art to another participant’s artwork. Participants completed a questionnaire about their process for creating each piece of artwork and joined a discussion about the overall process. Findings: The workshop explored feelings of isolation and stress, along with feelings of relief and empathy for others experiencing similar feelings as evidence by the themes that arose in the art, questionnaires, and discussions. Thematic analysis revealed six major themes throughout the original and response artwork: stress responsibility to educate, empathy, acknowledging differences, relying on God, and support. Implications: This workshop demonstrated the effectiveness of art making for increasing support amongst teachers and fostering communication about problems in the school. Participants felt more comfortable conveying their concerns through artwork. In addition, participants felt heard and supported as fellow teachers responded to their concerns and needs visually. The results of this workshop show that art making infused with art therapy protocols can be an effective tool for helping teachers express concerns and receive support as a way to help combat burnout.

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