Mary Kim Kaylor, AWA Affiliate, leads an AWA workshop at Oregon State Hospital, a high–security psychiatric hospital with the vision to provide hope, promote safety and support recovery for all.
As an Occupational Therapist and AWA Affiliate, she provides writing groups to adults who are recovering from mental illness. Her groups include both male and female patients. Both the patients and the hospital have embraced the AWA Method. The benefits for all are amazing. Patients are able to regain a sense of humanity while building community and reducing the stigma that haunts them. She feels very fortunate to be able to use the method at this setting.
In her own words, Mary Kim shared this article about the group’s beginnings in the August 2014 AWA Newsletter:
I have been developing a writing group at the high-security section of Oregon State Hospital (OSH), a hospital that treats clients who have mental illness and have committed a crime. As I was setting up for the workshop, two guards entered with a female patient. The patient requires guards because of her violence towards peers and staff.
I politely informed the guards that they needed to write with the group or sit outside. They were not happy and explained to me that they didn’t join patient groups and they needed to be in the room. We went back and forth for a little while and finally one guard sat down away from the group. I again asked him nicely to sit with us.
I have four patients who attend the group regularly in addition to the woman who requires guards. The instant the guard pulled up a chair, the other group members gave him paper and a flex pen (can’t have real pens). We reviewed the AWA guidelines, and I gave my first prompt, which was to write for six minutes starting with the phrase: I wish…
The members love the writing group, and when it came time for reading and responding we went around the table. When it was the guard’s turn, who is huge and rather mean looking, I expected him to pass. He didn’t. He read that he wished the patients knew how much he cared for them, how much he wished they would work and grow and become the best they could be. The other guard took his turn and said he wished people knew about the war his country was raging against illiteracy using books and pencils. He said how important it was to know how to read and write. It was magical.
Two days later, the woman who needs the guards, attended the group without any guards and demonstrated more spontaneity and engagement without violence. She has begun to share her writing in the group and is more relaxed and at ease.
I hope this story inspires you as much as it did me. I had no idea what to expect when I began the group, but trusted the process that we were taught and went with it. Fifty minutes of magic. Power and authority had a heart.”