ART THERAPISTS MAKING THINGS HAPPEN!
“Peggy” Margaret Gulshen is a board-certified, registered art therapist and a California licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Peggy received her M.A. with a concentration in art therapy in 1981 from California State University, Sacramento under Dr. Donald J. Uhlin, ATR. She was employed by Sutter Health in 1981 and her clinical art therapy experience began with child and adolescent psychiatric inpatients. She was recruited that same year to join Sutter Hospice, serving the child/teen members of Hospice families. This Hospice work led her to develop the Children’s Bereavement Art Group (CBAG) in 1985.
Peggy resigned as the director of CBAG, a nationally recognized program that serves grieving children of the greater Sacramento area through peer support groups integrating art and grief therapy. She remains as a per diem staff and consultant for the program. In 1991, CBAG received the Point of Light Award by President George H. Bush. Peggy has produced a program manual that is now registered with the Library of Congress. In 2020, CBAG celebrates the program’s 35th anniversary and has served over 13, 000 grieving children and teens. Peggy founded, developed, and currently facilitates an art therapy group for adult cancer patients called “Healing Images”. She also facilitates the Children’s Art Therapy Support Group (CATS), a peer support group for children & teens facing cancer in their families.
Children’s Bereavement Art Group (CBAG)…over 35 Years of Caring for Grieving Children and Teens
By Peggy Gulshen, ATR-BC, LMFT
Peggy Gulshen, LMFT, ATR-BC founded and developed the Children's Bereavement Art Group (CBAG) program in April of 1985. The first group of five latency-aged children were grieving the deaths of parents and siblings. Peggy worked for Sutter Hospice, serving the child family members of hospice patients. Many of these bereaved kids would inquire about other children that Peggy visited, also grieving the death of a loved one. It was clear that they were seeking out the camaraderie of other children experiencing loss. Groups increased exponentially until Peggy sought out and created volunteer support. The program was entirely funded by philanthropy dollars and remains so to this very day. At one time the CBAG program was a collaborative, region-wide project by several healthcare organizations. Pre-pandemic, CBAG offered ten groups between Sutter Care at Home Roseville Hospice and Sutter Care at Home Sacramento Hospice. CBAG also served local schools with on-campus groups, reaching out to underserved children who might not be able to attend the evening sessions at the Hospice sites. We now offer online groups to children in lieu of the in-person sessions. Art materials are delivered to the kids by our invaluable volunteers.
To date, the program has served over 13, 000 children/teens and their families.
CBAG provides a safe, comforting place for children to come and express fears, worries, confusion, and loneliness. Participants are given the healing language of art to draw out the story of how a Dad died, to paint all the feelings experienced when attending grandma’s funeral, to sculpt anger and sense of loss into a mask of clay.
CBAG enables bereaved children the opportunity to sit side by side with someone else who is seven or ten or fifteen, to realize that they are not alone but are part of a universal family facing grief.The last CBAG session gathers the children and their families for a family night art show and potluck, coming together and sharing the artwork to remember deceased loved ones, to never forget.
CBAG’s goal is to guide children and ultimately whole families through healthy grief, better preparing them to deal with change in general and hopefully helping them to thrive, nor just survive, life’s most painful challenges.
CBAG is possible because Sutter Health has remained compassionately committed to keeping the program here for the children of the greater Sacramento and Roseville communities. We receive referrals from schools, counselors, physicians, other healthcare organizations like Kaiser, UCD Medical Center, and community organizations, i.e. Lion’s and Rotary Clubs.
The professional CBAG therapists are supported by screened volunteers, men and women in the community who work at their jobs all day, who go to school, who tend to their own families and still give of their time and energy and, most importantly their heart and soul. CBAG has had up to 37 volunteers serve us since 1985. In 1991, CBAG received the Point of Light Award from President George H. Bush.
2020 marks the 35th anniversary of CBAG. A community celebration was postponed due to the pandemic restrictions.
NorCATA's feature: "(Student) Art Therapists Making Things Happen", is envisioned and curated by Robin Valicenti. She profiled Nancy MacGregor in Fall 2019.
Please contact Robin with your feedback, questions, or if you know of an art therapist whose art and projects deserve mention in this space.
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