Gerontological Chronicle article

Dr. Bagan was featured in Arizona State University's Gerontological Chronicle. The newsletter came out in Fall/Winter 2007-2008.
You can download the newsletter in PDF format, or simply read the article below:

The Spotlight’s On ...
Certificate Student Barbara Bagan

One of the joys of being part of the ASU Gerontology Program is getting to know our fascinating and diverse students, and one of our recent graduates fits both categories.

Barbara Bagan, PhD, is both a psychotherapist and an artist. She has worked in art therapy for over twenty years, and developed the Expressive Arts Therapy program at Ottawa University, where she continues to teach. In her application to the Certificate program, Barbara wrote, “Being able to not just survive, but to thrive and flourish during the second half of life means facing life honestly, resource-fully, and creatively.” Barbara was able to experience, and encourage, all of these attributes during her internship with the Fountain Hills Parkinson Support Group. She conceived, developed, and taught a ten-week course in Expressive Arts for people with Parkinson’s. To say it went exceedingly well would be an understatement!

Before she began teaching the course, Barbara first had to become up to date with Parkinson disease. Then, she had to apply her extensive knowledge of art therapy to the needs and limitations of people with Parkinson’s. As part of this process, she wrote a manual for future use in training others to work in art therapy with specific populations.

Her first meeting was an indication of the excitement the class would generate for her and the eight students, several of whom insisted they were “not creative at all.” On the first project, the students were asked to write their name in big letters on a piece of paper, and then decorate their name using images that described them. One “not creative” man had a beautifully decorated name, with a little spider hanging above it. He described his Parkinson disease as a spider, and he as caught in its web. The spider was always there. The other members of the group became quiet, nodding in agreement. Barbara called this “the black spider moment,” and added “this is what this work is all about.

In two short weeks, Barbara noticed a “strong feeling of increased camaraderie, with laughter and lightness in individuals and collectively.”

During Week 4, the group made a “self box,” a type of three-dimensional collage, with the outside representing the outer self, and the inside the inner self. One woman “left her box empty, because that is how she feels and what her life is like now, compared to what it was.”

In each week, the students in the class gained insights about their own relationship with Parkinson’s, and learned from others’ art projects. Barbara summed up her experience thus: “Having this unique opportunity to conceptualize, design, and implement an entirely new program was truly amazing! This was an incredible experience, from when I first began reading about the use of art with Parkinson’s in the UK, to the final class, and realizing the immense impact and multitude of benefits of such a program. I experienced a tremendous sense of validation from this internship, and it has stimulated me to continue working in this area.”

(Barbara, who completed her Certificate in December, was offered a position as a contract employee to develop more programs with the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.)