Art is my life, my passion and my healing, and I use Art therapy to help others.
Art therapy harnesses creativity as a therapeutic technique
Traditional therapy uses words, spoken – “talking therapy” with a professional or a group, or written – as in many self help scenarios. It’s a powerful tool, but other non-word forms – dance, meditation, play etc – can be of great assistance alongside it, or even a good stand alone experience for those interested in trying something different.
Words are often problematic. For one – we don’t all share a language. I may speak fluent English, but was born in Russia and first learned words and the feelings associated with them in Russian. The word “mother” may not awaken the same emotion in me as it does in you. Through our lives, words become tangled, complicated, filled with new meanings, based on our experiences. Basically – any two people can sit in a room and have two very different conversations.
Then there are emotions which are hard to put into words too. I’m sure we’ve all felt those. I personally struggled with emotions. I would do a spontaneous artwork, so as to actually see my emotions from the outside and to relate to them. It was such a powerful eye opener that I wanted to share it with others.
Art uses our dominant sense – sight, our most direct way of relating to the world. Art taps into a major factor that separates humans from the animal – our ability to create, to transfer what happens in our mind outwards, to create meaning.
Art therapy is suitable for everyone. I do art therapy with mental health patients, addicts, children or any people with an interest in expressing themselves in a new way.
You don’t have to be “good at art”, nor is there such a thing. Many of my clients don’t think of themselves as “artistic” – and tend to surprise themselves. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to expression. It’s about the experience of making it, and making it your own. The value lies in the space between your feelings around creating it and my feelings (as the therapist and an outsider) around seeing and interpreting it.
Typically, a session is a couple of hours. I give an introductory lecture, facilitate the process, encourage discussion and usually end off with a “show and tell” and a feedback session. It’s important to me that the setting is comfortable and informal, and that experience is organic, catering to the general feel of the group.
I work with various mediums – paint, clay, chalk, found materials etc. The group can work on individual pieces, but in the right environment it’s fun to encourage a group to create something together. In some cases I choose a topic or leave it open. No two sessions are ever the same.
I first started doing this a few years back in a drug rehab center Foundation Clinic. I worked mostly with addicts in their first month of recovery and really got to see the power of Art in action. It was always an interesting, varied group of people from all walks of life. I had the privilege to hear their stories, learn their struggles and share their joy. I got to see the light come on in their eyes as life returned. And I got to see that all expressed in their art too. I think I learned more from them than they ever could from me.
I got to do art in orphanages too, a heavy but powerful experience. I started doing sessions in various venues for different crowds. I’m also working on starting online courses, although that’s still in planning stages.
My ultimate vision is to get sponsorship and create free therapeutic environments, involving other professionals and make that available to the public that really needs it and don’t have the funds.