By Susan Winter Fledderus
As a psychotherapist, I have come across many different models of therapy, from cognitive-behavioural to emotionally-focused. But I had never heard of Crochet Therapy until I found a book with this title in my local library.
And since I have recently picked up my crochet hook after many years of neglect, I was immediately drawn to the book.
It turns out that “crochet therapy” is not a systematic approach to formal psychotherapy that you can get from a therapist, but rather this author’s way of combining mindfulness-based stress reduction practices with crochet projects to help people carve out some self-care time and “use the calming rhythmic practice of crochet to inspire a more mindful way of life.”
This resonated with me deeply. I had resumed crocheting myself during a time of heightened stress and found the new patterns and the need to count stitches a great distraction from over-thinking and ruminating, as I am prone to doing when stressed. Instead, I was pouring over crochet patterns and playing with colours and textures, creating useful and beautiful things that were keeping me busy and distracted and making me happy.
The Crochet Therapy book helps make these benefits explicit. It suggests that being a two-handed, cross-body activity with complex movements, crocheting takes up a lot of brain activity so that you have less brain capacity for mulling over problems.
The author provides mindfulness activities including guided instructions for meditations and relaxation strategies that can be done separately from crocheting, as well as some designed to be practised while crocheting. And she provides instruction for making yarn creations, including lovely “calming mandalas,” “no stress balls,” “meditation seat pillows” and “friendship quilts.” The crochet projects are designed to be beautiful, calming and creative, and to promote self-care.
Of course, there are many ways to incorporate mindfulness, creativity and self-care into our daily lives. From walking mindfully in nature to coming up with new, tasty supper recipes, there are many ways besides crocheting to live mindfully. Many people have let me know that finding ways to incorporate mindfulness practices in their lives has been very beneficial.
Research confirms that meditating regularly and cultivating mindfulness bring a range of emotional and physical health benefits. And there are many resources to get you started, from books such as The Mindful Way through Depression, Full Catastrophe Living and Bouncing Back. There are also websites and apps that can help you incorporate mindfulness into your day.
So, while I won’t be bringing my yarn and hooks to work or asking my clients to start crocheting during their psychotherapy sessions, I will continue to create space to grow my own creative and mindful activities, including bringing more mindfulness to my crocheting.
Perhaps you might consider whether some form of mindfulness stress reduction approaches might be useful in your life as well.
Susan Winter Fledderus is a Clinical Therapist with Shalem Mental Health Network