Frequently, I come across patients with low self-esteem, a feeling of boredom, and ineffective social skills. 

Some patients feel loss of self-control. Some have lost the purpose of life. 
Others even forget how to smile. 

Many of them are lacking motivation and out of touch with reality.
 Some do not believe that they can learn a new skill.

My origami experience in psychiatric wards

To interact with patients, I usually start with something simple and interesting e.g. a fish. In a friendly atmosphere, the art of origami can be shared for fun. 

Patients have the choice of learning the skill or just observe. When their interests increase, they become more involve and more relax.

For this purpose, I usually choose a quiet corner in the ward. The interaction is reality based. The focus is on the steps of folds.  Step by step this interaction creates an atmosphere for promoting social skills and personal hygiene.

When conducting an origami group, participants are encouraged to help each other. 

During this group, patients' mental states can be assessed by observing their response to instructions, their interaction with each other, their level of concentration and their general behaviour. 

Usually, at the completion of the last fold, there is a sense of joy and excitement in the group. It is very satisfying to share our joy. When I see someone smile, I know my efforts are worthwhile. Before I know it, a trusting relationship is developed among my patients and me.

I usually conduct an origami group around a table. 

There are occasions when they feel bored during the weekends or public holidays and origami can be an option. 

Sometimes, I need to use origami on an one-to-one situation.    For example, I have to keep a close observation on one patient, or to escort a patient to the other hospital for an appointment. It is handy to keep some paper in my pocket. An unplanned origami session can convert a long and boring waiting time into an interesting experience.

One day in the hospital

On Valentine's Day 1999, I was on duty in a locked ward in the hospital. I noticed that a young man became increasingly agitated. He was pacing up and down, very grumpy and making noises by slapping the wall. He was very upset that he could not go home. I knew if I did not do something right there the situation would escalate.  That means more work for the staff and a longer stay for the patient in hospital.

I invited him to sit down and see if anything I could do for him. 

He told me that he wanted to go out to buy a present for his girl friend. However his condition was not well enough to allow him to go home. I gave him time to ventilate his feelings. Then I told him that I like to fold him something which might be helpful. Sitting next to me, he watched with curiosity. A few minutes passed quietly as I made folds after folds.  He was quite amazed to see the heart when I completed the folding and gladly accepted the origami heart.

With the heart in his pocket he phoned his girl friend cheerfully. He told her that he got something special for her when she comes. For the rest of the shift he was calm and co-operative with no more complaint.

After my intervention with an origami model this young man regained control of himself.

Origami as a bridge of communication

Origami acts as a bridge of communication between me and my patients. 

Usually, they appreciate the time I spend with them. They feel that they get a fair share of attention from the staff. 

Most of them are delighted to take something away after the session. These may be samples of their favourite origami models folded by me or the products of their efforts.

The origami session can be an opportunity for them to realise their potential to learn a new skill. 

Learning to fold a fish or a bird may be a small step towards learning a new skill. However, this small step provides a feeling of acceptance. The taste of achievement helps to rebuild their confidence to face the reality when return to the community.

Origami can become

a beneficial hobby for patients and a useful therapeutic tool for the professionals.

To see examples of application by other professionals -  Click  here.

It is a pleasure to share with you what I learned from practical experience.

George Ho - origami  1993 - 2018 C