Twenty-seven year old Anna carefully dabs turquoise paint on a clay form she’s created. She stands around a table with a group of other women, all in rehabilitation at Calder Centre, all participating in a pottery class at the Albert Community Centre, operated by the Saskatoon Potter’s Guild. The program isn’t so much about creating a mug or a vase as it is about the unique impact leisure activities can have on recovery. “It helps with the cravings, it helps manage the cravings,” says Anna, not her real name. “It makes you realize that you have other opportunities.” Another of the women jumps in, “There’s more than just getting high and drinking.”

Participants, led by a Pottery Guild volunteer and accompanied by Recreation Therapist Francis Cashin (right) paint their creations.

Participants, led by a Pottery Guild volunteer and accompanied by Recreation Therapist Francis Cashin (right) paint their creations.

Anna admitted herself to Calder after her baby was born and she’d hit a point where she knew she had to battle her addictions. “I’m looking forward to seeing my baby and I want to make a better life for us.”

She’s one of the reasons this program exists. “I was looking for a way to enhance the recovery of clients battling addiction,” says Francis Cashin, recreation therapist at Calder. “Recreation and finding new leisure activities is an integral component of recovery.” Recreation therapists use recreation activities to help clients improve health-related outcomes including physical and mental health. February is Recreation Therapy Month.

Francis Cashin, recreation therapist, wanted to find a way to incorporate another leisure activity in the Calder Centre’s recovery programs.

Francis Cashin, recreation therapist, wanted to find a way to incorporate another leisure activity in the Calder Centre’s recovery programs.

Cashin connected with the Potter’s Guild and they created a program where a number of clients could participate in pottery classes run by guild members. The guild is a local non-profit organization that provides pottery lessons and shares its passion of pottery with the community. The pottery program was funded in part through a grant from the Royal University Hospital Foundation.

One of the participants in the pottery program dabs paint onto a vase.

One of the participants in the pottery program dabs paint onto a vase.

“We really believe that creative expression is important for a person’s self-confidence,” says Norma Fairburn, president of the Potter’s Guild. “Clay is one of the most immediate and flexible of art mediums with many simple but creative stages involved. It is a growing process with real keepsakes at the end which can be functional or symbolic.”

Twelve clients have already participated in the program and another six are in the current class. The first participants gave high praise to the program for helping improve their self-esteem and their fine motor skills. They also said they enjoyed the opportunity to be creative and to keep their hands busy as a form of managing their addictions.

Anna hopes when she leaves treatment, the feeling of accomplishment in the pottery program will help her find new strength to stay clean. “I’m really grateful we have a program like this in Saskatoon. I’m so grateful for this program,” she says.